Saturday, 21 September 2013


I have been reading Poul Anderson since the 1960's. In those days, I also read American comic books. I got back into comics twenty years later. Usually, the only graphic element in a novel or short story collection is the cover illustration -  although some hard back editions do not have one. Novels republished several times over the decades can have a few different covers whereas later novels, even when reprinted, tend to stay with a single cover.

In Poul Anderson's The Byworlder (London, 1974), the character Skip takes two pages to describe a mural of the Revelation of St John the Divine that he himself had painted on the walls and floor of a Bible-belt diner during a week when it was closed. Any screen adaptation of the novel would have to show this mural even though it is described only in a flash-back. The graphic content is vivid and cannot be reproduced here except by quoting the entire passage which I am not about to do.

However, the main highlights are:

the Father's face "'...was half human, half lion'" (p. 87) (this connects with CS Lewis and Hinduism);
"'...his long white hair and beard tossed in the storm of destruction...'" (ibid.);
Gabriel was a jazz trumpeter;
the floor underfoot was Earth with tombstones falling and graves opening everywhere since, by the time of Judgment Day, bodies have been buried everywhere;
different stages of the reconstitution of resurrecting bodies;
"'...a distant view of burning cities, floods, earthquakes...a lightning bolt...'" (p. 88);
the saved "'...whirling upward like dry leaves in a cyclonic wind...,'" all naked (ibid.);
the damned falling and starting to burn;
Satan making a defiant, offensive hand gesture towards God;
"'...the number of the beast in binary'" (p. 89) (?);
the Great Whore of Babylon glad-eyeing the Antichrist...'" (ibid.)

Skip, not a believer, had enjoyed literally interpreting Revelation and had been so engrossed in creativity that it had not occurred to him that the locals would not appreciate it. But they need to ask themselves whether this is what they believe.

A comic script writer would verbally instruct his penciller, inker, colorist and letterer whereas Anderson, a prose novelist, verbally addresses his readers. I am sadly lacking in visual imagination but I expect that most readers can visualize Skip's apocalyptic mural to some extent.

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