Heavy Metal magazine graphic novel
In January of 1980, Heavy Metal editor Tim White decided to emulate the magazine's French counterpart (i.e., Metal Hurlant) and add monthly review columns for books, comic books, music, and films. The 'Muzick' column was assigned to Lou Stathis.
[Note to modern-day readers: nowadays, the occupation / pastime of 'Rock Critic' has all but vanished from the cultural and media landscape. But back in 1980, 'Rock Criticism' was still a major component of pop culture. Although the genre would not survive the arrival of the Internet in the 90s, in the 80s, the magazine shelves contained a number of titles devoted to the topic. The foremost, and still surviving, example was Rolling Stone, but there also were Creem, Circus, and a sizable, ever-changing lineup of other, more fleeting titles.]
Stathis (1952 - 1997) wrote columns that were not very different from those being produced by other rock critics of the era. Like those other critics, Stathis adopted an arch, too-hip-to-be-fully-understood tenor in his writing (for example, he used the word 'rok' in place of 'rock'); and his columns were less about actually reviewing music, and more about showcasing Stathis's exquisitely jaundiced, world-weary attitudes regarding a variety of cultural topics.
Stathis - like every other rock critic of the late 70s - early 80s - routinely praised performers in the Punk, New Wave, Electronic, and avante-garde genres, while disparaging 'mainstream' acts.
Stathis was particularly prone to showcasing 'alternative' rock groups that were laboring in (often well-deserved) obscurity, since for him, searching out and showcasing these bands was a potent reminder to readers as to just how cutting-edge Lou Stathis could be.
Here's an excerpt from his column for the May, 1980 issue of Heavy Metal, in which Stathis waxes eloquent about a single from the New Wave band 'Fad Gadget', issued on an obscure UK label called 'Mute Records'.
Note Stathis's use of phrases such as 'electrotunesmiths', 'manic minimalism', 'aggressively optimistic electropop', and 'counterpointed synthesizer melodies.' That's how Rok Criticism is done !
Sheldon's ability catches the attentions of the Director of the Coca-Farben conglomerate. The complex life-extension treatments that have kept The Director alive are failing, and his only hope for survival is to collect various tissues and essences from a number of the galaxy's races. Once collected, the tissues will be extracted to create a formula for eternal youth.
Sheldon has misgivings about the assignment, but the pay - and the prospect of getting her own dose of the rejuvenation formula - lead her to accept.
The bulk of the story deals with Sheldon's efforts to acquire the needed specimens from some of the galaxy's more bizarre, and unpleasant, worlds. These efforts require Sheldon to adopt the forms of lubricious teletubbies, robots, fish, and insects....
Stathis's writing isn't very original, using the first-person narrative of the world-weary private-eye who is taking on what they know will be a dirty job. There is a determined effort to mimic the writing style of Burroughs; most of the dialogue is a stream of cynical quips, and tart one-liners. The plot also shows the influence of the Cyberpunks, which isn't surprising.
The artwork in 'Venus' is, overall, pretty good. Arthur Suydam's contributions are particularly noteworthy.....it's yet another case of outstanding draftsmanship and coloring buoying an underwhelming story.
Mark Pacella also contributes some pleasing artwork.