Space Warriors – Stewart Cowley

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Boots Walker and his colleague Rory are two galactic patrolmen who find themselves facing the mysterious overlord Phantor Gorth in a series of increasingly dramatic encounters. If you’re familiar with the classic sitcom Red Dwarf, you should imagine Boots Walker as Ace Rimmer played straight. The important thing here is Space Warriors is bursting with some great pictures.

The story underwhelmed me. Maybe it was because Space Warriors is set in a previously established universe that I knew nothing about. Perhaps it was because dialogue was handled awkwardly, lacking line breaks at the end of ever line of dialogue, presumably so the book designer could fit more pictures. But I think the main reason was that few stories could outshine the brilliance of the pictures used in Space Warriors.

Mars Rover.jpg

Look at that. Just put aside all the worries of your day and let your corneas absorb the vividness of the image. I know that it looks like something from a child’s encyclopedia of space, maybe of Mars, but I think it still bears an air of plausibility even at our current constipated stage of space exploration. Be honest reader, if you were told be the news that NASA was considering building something like this that you’d believe them. Here at Super Novel we believe that fantastic artists deserve credit, which is why we’re telling you that Eddie Jones drew this fine rocket.

elrond's space hood.jpg

While Stewart Cowley would have us think that this was just another unearthly ruin in which Boots Walker fought Phantor Gorth’s robot aliens, I remain convinced that inside this beautiful white tower there lurks some of Tolkien’s elves, being all smug and environmental-like. I know that my incompetence as a book photographer obscures some of this image’s wonder, but even so, that blurred pyramid in the foreground does an impressive job of camouflaging with the sandy dunes of the space-age desert. But the best bit is that great bit white ringed planet above the tower’s tip. I’ll bet you nothing that the elves inside built their palace just for that effect. Blair Wilkins made this picture.

lapurtans with lazers

Although this may look like the cover of a Robert Heinlein, it actually depicts the scene where Boots Walker removes his shirt before running amok in an alien city, while being attacked by an angry platform. I’d call the Heinlein book Laputans With Lazers. Is that man’s hair blonde? In the other pictures Boots’ hair is grey, so I’m a-thinking that Cowley wrote the story after most of the pictures were drawn. This is the only Eric Ludd picture included in Space Warriors.

moody landscape.jpg

Again my terrible photography, lighting and cropping skills fail to prevent you seeing a landscape image worthy of being your next background. I’d describe it as smooth as a baby’s bottom, on account of the prominent horizontal line down the middle where the two pages of the spread are drawn together. You’d think this an ordinary image of some desert at sunset, but then you realise that moon is just little too cool for Earth. It’s the curved colour gradient that makes it ‘pop’, as they say. Another of Eddie Jones.

phantor gorth.jpg

Here’s a picture of Phantor Gorth. Not a particularly clear one, but it’s surprisingly creepy for such an unrepentantly corny book. I was never sure whether this character was an alien or just a really terrible human, but judging by this picture he might have a pig snout. Paul Lehr drew this image from Hell.

phantor forth.jpg

When I look at other fantastic painting of Phantor Gorth by Paul Lehr, I see a dark wizard who’s grown sick of hiding from the Muggles he despises and decides instead to move to Mars where he intends to lord it over a bunch of Martian demons. That’s the best explanation I can come up for the retro headgear, leggings and the giant magic wand. I can hear demonic choirs just looking at it. And speaking of that pink shaft:

somebody call doctor freud.jpgI haven’t seen such subtle imagery since Moses visited the Pharaoh.

it's not easy being green.jpg

Phantor Gorth knows how to project holograms, and does so to unnerve Boots Walker and Rory. While I understand that seeing any face float in the air would be distressing, I think Phantor Gorth could’ve done a lot better to use a Buddha look-alike. Everyone likes Buddha. Still, I find the juxtaposition of science fiction and religious imagery pleasing. Eddie Jones also did this one.

the only black guy in space warriors

Phantor Gorth’s second hologram looks like someone Dr Strange would know, or something from The Sandman. He’s also the only black guy in the book, which is pretty concerning. Now that I think about it, there were no women either. It makes sense that a a hologram would be partially transparent, maybe Phantor Gorth was using a scratched DVD. Carl Lundgren did this one.

Space Warriors makes me think we need more of these glossy illustrated books aimed for readers capable of more than simple story book. Good examples of this sort of thing are Dinotopia and Terry Pratchett’s The Last Warrior. I understand why we don’t see more illustrated novels – it’s cheaper to narrate a scene than to draw a picture of it – but it would be absolutely brilliant if someone received a prestigious literary award for a short novel including copious amounts of colour illustrations, and if the pictures were widely considered to be an inseparable part of the text itself.

As far Space Warriors itself, get the book for the pictures, not the story. And you can probably get most of the pictures from google images. Still, for two and a half dollars, the experience was totally worth it.

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