Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Book Review: George's Run

George Clayton Johnson was an up-and-coming short story writer who broke into Hollywood in a big way when he co-wrote the screenplay for Ocean’s Eleven. More legendary works followed, including Logan’s Run and classic scripts for shows like The Twilight Zone and Star Trek. In the meantime, he forged friendships with some of the era’s most visionary science fiction writers, including Ray Bradbury, Theodore Sturgeon, Richard Matheson, and Rod Serling.

Later in life, Johnson befriended comics journalist and artist Henry Chamberlain, and the two had long chats about his amazing life and career. Now Chamberlain pays tribute to his late friend in the graphic novel George’s Run, which brings Johnson’s creative milieu to life in vividly illustrated color panels. The result feels less like reading a conventional biography and more like sitting in on an intimate conversation between friends as they recollect key moments in pop culture history, as well as the colorful band of writers known as the “Rat Pack of Science Fiction.”

George's Run: A Writer's Journey Through the Twilight Zone by Henry Chamberlain will be released on May 12, 2023. Rutgers University Press provided an early galley for review.

The summer of 1976 was when I saw a film that would further solidify my lifelong love of sci-fi. No, not Star Wars (that was the next summer). I am talking Logan's Run. As wonky as that film was, eleven-year-old me was mesmerized. I was not, however, aware of the contributions to that story and the genre of George Clayton Johnson until now.

I think the graphic novel format is a solid way to go with this story. As the author notes, there is a "touch of strange" involved that is better conveyed in a visual medium. Older fans of classic sci-fi (both books and other mediums) will enjoy it. It will also appeal to a younger reading audience - those who might not know anything about sci-fi of the 50's and 60's.

Chamberlain's style is very clean and approachable. It is deceptive as well. It might come across as simple or cartoonish, but he includes a lot of detail on each page. I very much enjoyed comparing his artwork to pictures of classic locations that are referenced throughout. The coloring choices are also minimal, but when colors beyond black lines and white space are used it is often done so for shading and other effects. The lettering is also very clean. It reminds me of when I would work up my own comic strips in the back of the classroom during high school. Something about hand-done lettering feels more personal.

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