Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Comes to Graphic Form

Fear and Loathing front 300dpi

Cover of the graphic novel

Photos: Tom Abbott

Nov 7, 2015 (San Diego) IDW publishing and Top Shelf Productions are bringing this classic Hunter S Thompson book (later made into a movie) to Graphic Novel form. Troy Little, a Canadian artist, to the graphic form, adapted the book and every word in the graphic novel is also word for word in the original 1971 book.

The book (and now the graphic novel) gives the reader a look into the country that President Richard Nixon ran. It gives also a view of the counter culture, and the failure of the movement. It is also a good look at a time that has been long gone.

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Thompson believed in becoming part of the story, and looking at the story from within. Why he wrote an extensive book on the Hells Angels, He spent a year living and riding with them. He wrote a story that was both griping and revealing. He also broke journalistic ground when he did that. This has become far more common these days, but wasn’t the standard at the time.

He also wrote some of the first political reporting following candidates around. He covered the Nixon 1972 campaign in a way that would be familiar to modern-day reporters, but was ground breaking back then. We could ask if he would have liked the end result of rallies on TV over the 24\7 networks, but that is another story.

He wrote essays for multiple media publications and was a regular at Rolling Stone. Some of his essays detailed the fear of an age, while others showed the ridiculousness of things like the Kentucky Derby.

Troy Little took this story, a classic book of both journalistic abandon and drug abuse and put images to the words. There are details in the book that we noticed immediately. The type face used in narrative (which is word for word what you can find in the book, though some sections were cut for clarity), is the same font as that of the typewriter used by Thompson, all the way to relying in rich color to illustrate the times and Thomson’s wild imagination.

You can also see the drug induced imagination of the protagonist, and his lawyer, called Gonzo. This is why Thompson is called the father of Gonzo journalism.

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We talked to Little about the work, and what attracted him to it. Little said the story “is a story that always comes back in cycles. The idea of the death of the American Dream and how that reflects the current state of America doesn’t seem to go away.”

This is a strong theme of the book (and graphic novel, the search for that mythical state of mind.) This is the search for Horatio Alger, which can never quite be achieved. This is the self made man which “is still a very strong idea in America.”

Little added that the book can be discovered at any age. “and kind of find in an era that doesn’t exist anymore but it is still relevant all the time.”

He also went into the creative process. IN the beginning he did some character sketches and the first sample he sent was of the hitchhiker and Thomson looking at his skeleton. It is early in the book, both the novel and the graphic novel. “It is a good intense scene.”

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In many ways this is a book set in the early 1970s, when Nixon was President, and we were at war in South East Asia. There are references to the invasion of Laos, and also to the Press Conferences in Saigon during the Vietnam war. These conferences were called all kinds of things by the working press and later the public, since they were never quite honest as to the route of the war. In Thomson’s words, they were lying.

We are living in a different age, but some of what is in the book applies to today. The book is about Nixon, but it is also about the present and the future. Thompson was the self made man, who did not graduate High School but became one of the most important journalists of his era. Some of his techniques, such as embedding himself in the story, are present today, to the point that we might question the objectivity of the reporter.

The adaptation from little is loyal to a fault to the original text. The words in the graphic novel are all Thomson’s. The drawing is very good, and the novel comes in a hardback in this initial release, for $24.99. They also have a special edition with a special silver plate at the front and a dust jacket, which will be a limited run and is $50.

If you want to take a peak at a country that no longer exists, this is a good way to dive in. If you want to take a look at the idea of the self made man and the constant crisis of the American dream, this is also a good way to do it. Some of the themes in the book will even be familiar. This includes the conference on drug abuse, covered by Thomson and his lawyer, and how even drugs like marihuana are portrayed as extremely dangerous.

If all you have seen is the movie, this graphic novel is far more detailed and loyal to the original work. So this would be a good dive into the book, which happens to be one of Little’s favorite works. He also avoided seeing the movie while working on the book. Though he said that after the launch in Canada they watched the movie.

He said that the movie emphasized different aspects. They were far more static into a country in trouble. This is far closer to the original work. While there are some things in the novel that are part of the Thomson legend, we would never know if this was a description of events as he imagined them.

Little expects this to be received well by fans. It is a new way to learn of the old work, and perhaps a gateway to other Thomson works.

We also talked a little about the politics of the era. Our country is very divided. As Little put it, these days we talk of “political themes on the internet, a Woodstock of the internet,” instead of happenings such as well, Woodstock.

This is a very enjoyable read, and if you are Thomson fan, or a fan of Americana, this is definitely a book worth picking up. If you want to take a peek at that period of history, this is also a good book. If you are a Thomson fan, definitely pick up a copy.

We also talked with TJ Shevlin, the manager of the San Diego Comic Gallery where you can buy the novel, other works, as well as art work. They opened in June and he said that part of the plan is to show to San Diegans that “comics are more than just one week a year. We are an art form, we are a literary form, It’s the only true medium where both of them come together.”
He added what Harlan Ellison said about American entertainment. There are three forms, Jazz, baseball and comics books. Ellison believed that the last one was the superior form.

The gallery has the following hours:

MONDAY: Closed
TUESDAY: 12 noon – 4pm
WEDNESDAY & THURSDAY: 11am – 6pm
FRIDAY, SATURDAY & SUNDAY: 11am – 5pm

Currently they are also running an exhibit with Kevin Eastman, who created the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

If you want to pick up a signed copy, they have some at both the Gallery and across the way at Comickaze Comics.

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Categories: Entertainment, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, history, Little, media analysis, Thomson

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