Out in October from Knockabout is Alpha by Jens Harder, a new graphic novel the publisher is describing as “the most ambitious piece of work in comics since the beginning of time.”
It’s a stunning, award-winning, work spanning some 350 pages of gorgeously drawn comics work that will take the readers on an operatic journey from the beginning with the nano-seconds following the Big Bang and onwards through the next 14 billion years, from the moment our infant universe as it rapidly expands, formed by black holes.
Previously published in French by Actes Sud and in German by Carlesen, Harder uses a cinematic style to show every step, a mind blowing selection of images to try and give approachability and relevancy to the casual read, taken from popular culture, archaeology, science, film, and art sources. He take us through the formation of our solar system and the Earth itself, charting the long course of biological evolution.
Alpha is the first in a trilogy covering the world and mankind’s evolution and the starting point of Harder’s investigation into the pre-history of Earth, from just a speck in the sky to the birth of life that we cherish so much today. It is the ‘greatest story in the world’.
The book won Angouleme’s Prix de l’Audace and the Max und Moritz-Preis for Best German Comic in 2010.
It should be noted that the work is not without controversy. I’m told that Harder’s art is strongly influenced by the work of Czech artist Zdenek Burian, a painter and book illustrator whose work played a central role in the development of palaeontological reconstruction. (There’s a museum dedicated to his work).
Some have suggested more credit should have been given for the source of some of the work. Judging from some of the comparison art posted on German sites debating this controversy (for example, these two dinosaur images found here, the first by Harder, clearly homaging Burian’s work).
I suspect this English language publication may well reignite the wider debate (a la pop art) about what is homage and what is plagiarism. that said, from the pages I’ve seen of this massive tome, I’d also argue that while some images may well arguably be ‘borrowed’, it’s still a unique creation in itself, and a remarkable piece of comic art.
Born in 1970 in Weisswasser in East Germany, Jens Harder studied graphic arts in Berlin. In 1999 he founded an art group called “Monogatari”. He published Ruwen Strips Naked and Aéra in 1999 and Hotelführer Neue Mitte and Electricité Marseille in 2000. His other work includes: Leviathan (2003) and The City God (2006).
• Alpha by Jens Harder will be released on 22nd October 2015 ISBN: 9780861662456 Price: £29.99
• Here’s a promotional video for Harder’s project (in French)