Bowie Stardust, Rayguns & Moonage Daydreams - Advance Review

by Olivier Roth on December 02, 2019

Screenplay by: Steve Horton & Michael Allred

Technicolor Cinematography: Laura Allred

Directed by: Michael Allred

Color Assists: Han Allred

Published by: Insight Comics

Cultural Icon

I have a confession to make before I begin this review of Bowie Stardust, Rayguns & Moonage Daydreams: I have only a passing knowledge of David Bowie as an artist, let alone a musical artist. I know who he is, that is a cultural icon that has marked the entertainment industry through his music, his artistry, his very distinct look that is still found in various entertainment from comics to video games. What I didn’t realize until I read this biographical graphic novel by Steve Horton and Michael, Laura and Han Allred, was the extent that his influence is still felt today. 

For the life of me, I wouldn’t have been able to name you 5 songs that David Bowie has composed, sang for, or composed. I knew some of them before now, like Life on Mars and Under Pressure (with Queen) as they are omnipresent within the entertainment industry while I was growing up. For reference, I am an 80s baby, so I grew about a decade too late for the David Bowie boom as it was. 

So, sitting down to read this advanced copy of Bowie Stardust, Rayguns & Moonage Daydreams, the first thing I did was open up Spotify on my computer, searched for David Bowie, and started playing the “This is David Bowie” playlist. Once I realized that this particular biography was going to be centring around David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust character, taking a cue from the graphic novel, I switched over to “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars” (2012 Remastered Version). I highly recommend doing this once you get your own copy!

The Graphic Novel

Now that I have that I had selected a soundtrack to listen to, I started on the graphic novel itself. And what a graphic novel it is. The first thing that anyone who begins reading this should know, this is not a complete retelling of David Bowie’s life. Once I was about halfway through, I realized that Horton and the Allreds had decided to concentrate their work on the creation, the impact, and the ending of Bowie’s legendary character Ziggy Stardust. 

To do this, as Michael Allred explains in his afterword, Horton and Allred chose to use Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars’s last performance as a framing device. At points, throughout the novel, they would include a page or two of Bowie, on stage in full Ziggy regalia.

From there, Horton and Allred, at a pretty brisk pace, go through the early life of Bowie as we get to see some of his early friends, his choice of the name Bowie as a stage name, some early influences on his art, his training as an artist, his multiple attempts to break through in showbusiness, and so on. It takes a little bit of getting used to the pace that Horton and Allred set, as it is quite different from a typical story structure. I was able to get used to it pretty quickly once I realized that each page was dedicated to a moment in Bowie’s life that was leading up his creation of Ziggy Stardust. 

What came as a surprise to me, but probably shouldn’t have, is the number of connections he had with other artists. I am vaguely familiar with how the music scene worked in the 70s, but seeing it on the page as Bowie collaborated with the likes of Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Alice Cooper, just  to name a few, it put into context that the artistic world back then, and probably still today to be honest, was very interconnected. 

And that’s what the character of Ziggy Stardust is in fact: an interconnectedness of many different artistic influences from sci-fi, to fashion, to just plain showmanship. This graphic novel showcases it all and you can see where every little aspect comes from.  

The Art

Full disclosure, the Allreds have been in my Top 10 artists for probably going on a decade now. When I see Michael and Laura are attached to a project, my desire to buy the comic or graphic novel increases considerably. As I follow Michael Allred on Instagram, I have anxiously been awaiting the release of this graphic novel as he’s been posting a bunch of work in progress and final pages on there. 

So, does it live up to the hype? Yes, and more so! I truly believe that this might be Michael’s, Laura’s and their son Han's (that’s right, a big old family affair!) magnum opus. This is the best I’ve seen out of the Allreds as they surpassed an already incredibly high bar. 

The character work in this graphic novel is some of the best I’ve ever seen in any comic. As all of the people depicted are real, living people, it would be too easy to light box and trace preexisting images and call it a day. Though very photorealistic, you can tell that Michael is fully inspired by classic images and goes on to reproduce so many that I lost count, his distinct style shines through. Lots of referencing, but it is all Michael Allred. 

The composition of most pages can sometimes feel a little busy at times, as the script calls for a very brisk pace (as mentioned earlier), but because of this, it forces you to slow down and admire and take in everything that appears on the page. This is a graphic novel that will reward repeated readings as you’ll definitely spot something new every time. 

Complementing Michael’s line work as usual, and with great success, is Laura Allred’s colours (with assists from their son Han). Laura is probably one of the top colourists in the industry today, and like Michael’s line work, she is working on another level with exquisite colour and shading choices throughout the book. Bowie was, as I’ve learned, ever colourful in his clothing choices and Laura and Hans make these pop off of every single page. 

This book, if nothing else, is a feast for your eyes throughout. 

Who is the graphic novel for?

This is honestly a good question, and the answer is very simple: everyone! As I mentioned in my opening paragraph to this review, I wasn’t the biggest David Bowie fan before reading and yet, despite this, I really enjoyed this graphic novel biography of the rise of Ziggy Stardust. David Bowie fans are sure to like this as it is a nice peek at one point of Bowie’s career; Allred fans are going to love every single panel and page of this book and comic fans should love it as it is a perfect encapsulation of the art form. 

So, pick up the book, put on some David Bowie on your listening device of choice, and let Major Tom and Ground Control bring you on a journey!

Our Score:


A Look Inside