Nota bene: this is the final volume in the series and, thus, my blurb will be peppered with a number of spoilers. This is difficult to avoid in light of the fact that is the conclusion, the wrap-up. If you have yet to read ‘Do Androids Dream…’, and wish to, then you may want to skip this until you have.
In this concluding segment of my series of blurbs on this graphic novel version of DADOES?, I will separate my commentary in three parts: the content of this volume, the book vs. the movie, and this particular interpretation of the material. It’s not an in-depth analysis; it’s just one person’s impression.
DADOES?, part 6: Chapters 21 to 24
In part six of this comic book adaptation of the Dick classic, we finally get to the end of Deckard’s interminable day of bounty hunting. Prodded by his superior, he makes a suicidal attempt to catch the remaining andys, of which there are three – and he, only the one.
The showdown with the andys was much shorter than expected and nothing like the ‘Blade Runner’ version. Clearly, while his hunt is the vehicle driving the story, this wasn’t the book’s focus. I believe that the core of the story is human connection, and how empathy fuels it; Dick suggests that we feel the need to care and be cared for.
And this is where the cold, clinical cruelty of some androids comes to the fore. Being that they don’t actually feel empathy, their emotional detachment is not only what differentiates them from humans, but it’s also why they can never be accepted in humanity’s midst as equals. At least, in this version of the future.
The androids that Deckard has to hunt down question this so-called empathy, and believe that humans have invented it as a pretense to keep them down, so to speak. And that is why they relish the ultimate deconstruction of Mercerism, the religion that humanity has been clinging to as it struggles to survive.
I’m not wholly clear exactly what happened with respect to the discrediting of Mercerism in this part of the book. I may need to read on this, because not sure of its impact. In fact, I never really understood the concept of Mercerism, aside from the fact that everyone can be connected empathically through the central figure of Mercer.
For me to understand it, I would need to know how it was discovered, how it took hold and flourished. And, if it is being disputed as a fraud by the media, what kind of repercussions it will have. What would that mean to people, ultimately? And why would people so docilely believe this new data when the connections they’ve felt through Mercerism should tell them otherwise?
I also wonder why are the andys are so unintelligent that they can’t recognize their own lack of empathy. Perhaps, by never having experienced it, they couldn’t know what they were missing? And how is it that, in the end, they suddenly can’t tell one human from another? (Deckard pretends to be Isidore and, for some reason, it actually works – even though they look, and -I suspect- sound, nothing alike ).
Similarly, I wonder how it can be that humans have difficulty recognizing a robotic animal from a real one. Surely they must feel different. Is it because they’ve never seen real ones before (the whole planet is pretty much extinct in this dystopian vision of the future)? Or is it because they so strongly want to believe that it’s alive that they trick themselves? I couldn’t say.
This particular book ends in a bittersweet way, with Deckard’s hopes for himself and humanity dashed – and yet, feeling relief at being at the end of his journey and finding himself reconnected with Iran, his spouse, after a long period of distance between them. Thankfully, it’s neither gushingly sweet nor soul-crushingly bleak; Dick brought a balance to the end that feels realistic.
DADOES? vs. Blade Runner
Now, based on this graphic novel rendition, how does ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ compare to ‘Blade Runner’?
-Firstly, ‘Do Androids Dream…’ has a mordant, but unquestionably uncool title. “Blade Runner” oooooozes cool. Look at the words, the way they sound, …etc. That’s probably why the filmmakers chose it, even though it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever (seriously, what’s a blade runner? ).
-I’m surprised by the religious/spiritual aspects of the book, seeing as there is no hint of this in the film adaptation. I don’t even recall the term Mercerism being referred to at any point (but, not being a huge fan of the film, I am trivia-challenged). This completely changes the flavour of the story and its focal point: ‘Blade Runner’ is about a quest for humanity, whereas ‘Do Androids Dream…’ is about empathy. Both are good themes, but they’re quite different.
-‘Do Androids Dream…’ is a much bleaker story, in that it shows earth in its final throes, with extinction so close that humanity is reaching for the stars. ‘Blade Runner’ is dark in a different way: while it also touches on extinction, it presents an overwhelmingly powerful corporate culture, and one gets the sense that everything and everyone is a product, is disposable. They’re both nihilistic and offer much food for thought.
-‘Do Androids Dream..’ doesn’t question Deckard’s humanity the way ‘Blade Runner’ does. It is very clear that he is human and that he is suffering from rekindling some of his humanity. In ‘Blade Runner’ we have to wonder if Deckard feels at all; Ford’s interpretation of the character is so bland he may very well be a replicant. I prefer the book’s version, even if Deckard remains unappealing.
-Most of the characters are different and Deckard’s hunt takes him to different places. I found neither more interesting than the other; to me, they’re both valid. But they are very different indeed.
Basically, I liked both about equally – but for different reasons. Ultimately, the reason that ‘Blade Runner’ trumps ‘Do Androids Dream…’ is strictly from an aesthetic perspective: ‘Blade Runner’ is eye-candy all around, whereas this version of ‘Do Androids Dream…’ is an eyesore. I’m sure that both of them, stripped of visual stimuli, would be quite good on paper. And a graphic novel version of the book could easily be rendered in such a fashion as to rival the film.
Boom! Studio’s version of DADOES?
I must say that I applaud Boom! Studios’ decision to keep the text intact, and I found that letterer Richard Starkings did a sensational job of making it all coherent, given the amount of material he had to plow through. I’ve since discovered that he’s an award-winner many times over. Frankly, I’m not at all surprised; color me impressed.
I was less impressed with these hardcover books that Boom! Studios put out, however.
The series was spread over 24 comic books and compiled into six volumes. That would be all fine and good if the danged books weren’t padded with TONS of written commentary at the back. Essentially, 60% of the hardcovers are ‘Do Androids Dream…’ and 40% are padding – which is only of any use to die-hard fans of the novel and/or author. Personally, I would have compiled it in four volumes, maybe even three and removed the commentary. But, my guess is that there were financial considerations involved.
In the end, I appreciate what Boom! Studios attempted to do, but I don’t much like the end result. I would have loved to see something more professional-looking, that doesn’t have an aura of exploitation, of making a quick buck on a cult classic. But it did achieve one thing: it made me familiar with the original material and it actually managed to make me consider reading the novel some day. Not bad.
DADOES?: The end?
Well, that’s it, then. This volume effectively closes the book on “Do Androids Dream…”. A sequel, ‘Dust to Dust’, has been penned and produced by the same studio, but I’m not sure that it will be respectful of the original work. I may or may not take a chance on it. À voir…