Who's Who in the Forever War Graphic Novels
-NBM Publishing= Started in 1976, this importer of European graphic novels and publisher of various American graphic novels became the leader in graphic novel publication by the late 1980's working with the best and brightest in the industry. Since the original graphic novel was published by a European company, it was right up NBM's alley. The company is still around today, publishing all manner of title that the more mainstream comic companies will not.
-Marvano= is a Belgian artist that became well known for his work with Joe Haldeman and drawing historical comics. They have worked together on two other comic ventures since these graphic novels.
-Dupuis= This is a Belgian comic publisher that was founded in 1922 and publishes mainly in the Dutch and French languages. In 2004, Dupuis was bought by the giant Media-Participations company that also owns Dargaud. This is why the Dargaud and Dupuis names appear on the Forever Free graphic novels.
-Joe Haldeman= Vietnam Veteran, fellow Oklahoman, and has a BS in physics and astronomy. His best known work is 1974's The Forever War.
The Historical Context of The Forever War Graphic Novels
The Forever War: Volume One "Private Mandella"
When you open Volume One, you are met with several pages of the author and artist explaining how they became involved in the world of The Forever War. I found the section on Joe Haldeman's genesis story with the story very compelling and powerful, especially with the rarely seen pictures of the author in Vietnam. Volume One covers from page 1 to page 80 in the Eos 2003 trade paperback edition that I own. This details the harsh and unforgiving training on Charon (called Cerberus in the graphic novel) all the way to the Aleph Campaign, from 2007-2036. Out of all three graphic novels, the first volumes is likely the most "true" to the novel and is the most striking in terms of events and art. The iconic image of William Mandella in his space combat suit with his laser rifle and the might of the UNEF that dominates the graphic novels is from these volume and speaks to the power of this volume. Throughout Volume I, we read mostly the text of the novel set with Marvano's peerless art. Much like the original text, it ends with the first encounter with the aliens being a slaughter and William's depressed mood about this new war.
The Forever War: Volume Two "Lt. Mandella"
The Forever War: Volume Three "Major Mandella"
Volume Three covers from page 189 to page 278 in the Eos 2003 trade paperback edition that I own. This details the Sade-138 Campaign, the longest Collapsar jump made by a manned vessel in human history and it eats up over 700 years of relative time for William. He leaves Stargate with Strike Force Gamma in 2458 and returns in 3143. This graphic novel is forced to cover the most ground and some of the most difficult subjects and concepts in the novels. Here we see the new human species, called "Man", the completely homosexual crew, and even the similar looking humans, while the "old queer" commands them to the most distant battlefield. Overall, this covers the end of the novel with grace and beauty, especially the beautiful ending. One concept that is more difficult to under in the novel, the "Stasis Field", is presented here in the 3rd graphic novel with more easy and a wonderful artistic representation. Once again, the combination of Marvano's art and Haldeman's works sing beautifully together.
The Difference Between the Novel and the Graphic Novel
In the novel, the backstory with the contact being Earth and the aliens is handled via William's narration while he is boot back on Earth, just before leaving for Charon. The scene is the one about "there 8 silent ways to kill a man". In the graphic novel, a TV report summarizes the events leading up to the UNEF and the Eternal War. I actually prefer the graphic novel set up much more. So much so, that I used it has an inspiration for the opening of my own novel Endangered Species.
"You Can Never Go Back"
The Weaponry of the UNEF
The Fighting Suits of the UNEF
The "Teddy Bears" on Aleph Aurigae
The first volume of the graphic novel does an expert job at showing the first encounter being the UNEF on Aleph and the native beings. the so-called "Teddy Bears". While the events are similar, the Teddy Bears have been replaced with telepathic Apatosaurus. I never understood why Marvano changed this...what was the problem with the Teddy Bears from the book?
The Fuck-Buddy System and Sweet Lady Mary Jane
Is that an American Space Shuttle?
In Volume One and Two, we see the UNEF using the NASA Orbiter design for their own assault shuttles! It clearly is the American Space Shuttle with the same cockpit, coloring, booster rockets, and shape, but it has abilities that the discontinued Space Shuttle possess, like lifting off from the surface of an exo-planet, a laser cannon, remote piloting, and smooth endoatmospheric flight. Given that the graphic novels were created in 1988, at the apex of NASA's STS program, Marvano may have fancied the design and used for the UNEF assault shuttles...but it makes little logical sense and appears out of place when reading the graphic novel today. In Volume III, we see new assault shuttles that bear no appearance to the American Space Shuttle.
The Forever War Graphic Novel/Cheval Noir Connection
Volume One: #8-#12
Volume Two: #13-#18
Volume Three: #19-#23
Volume One: #8-#12
Volume Two: #13-#18
Volume Three: #19-#23
The Special Editions of The Forever War Graphic Novels
The Leather-Bound Editions
The Forever War: Complete Edition
Here is the Norma Editorial hardcover edition:
Given that the graphic novel was released in pre-internet days and the original country of publication was Belgium, information is scarce on sales numbers of this comic adaption. At the time, much was made of the release in publications like Comic Shop News and even copies of Volume One graphic novel were proudly displayed at my local Tulsa-area comic book shops. The first volume was praised by various reviewers like the New York Time and Publishers Weekly. But then...Despite going to comic book stores around the same time and being interested in these graphic novels, I never laid eyes on Volume II or III. While there is nothing to support this, I do believe that Volume I was met with weaker sales than expected and Volume II and III also saw a decrease in sales as well. This would account for the rarity of Volume II and III on secondary markets.
Will the Graphic Novels be Re-Issued by NBM?
What About the Sequel to The Forever War: Forever Free?
Here is the link to the FWS topics blogpost about Libre A Jamis:
The Impact of The Forever War Graphic Novels
Anytime that a work is translated into another media form, say book to film, it increases the exposure of that work to a wider audience. For example, fans of the Blade Runner film sought out the original book that the film was based, PKD's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. The same is true of the graphic novel adaption of that icon work of military science fiction. This is especially true in the pre-internet years. New adaptations into different media allowed for new markets to be discovered. Since graphic novels were en vogue during the time period when the Forever War Graphic Novels came out, this helped a new audience discovery the 1974 book and its author.
This also helped artist Marvano gain new fans of his talent in the comic book art arena. Given that the original publisher of the graphic novel was European, this also helped European fans of science fiction discovery the American novel as well. However, given the rarity of the graphic novels today and the few internet entries on it, I am assuming that it was not as successful as planned nor had widespread impact.The various articles on FWS about these graphic novels are some of the few in-depth articles available on the internet. However, the fans of the graphic novels are out there (like me) and passionate. So much so, that stripinfo.be members voted the original Dutch version of the graphic novel number 9 on their top 100 graphic novels of all time.
The Forever War Graphic Novel and the Long-Awaited Film Adaption
My Experience with the Forever War Graphic Novels
The Bottom Line on The Forever War Graphic Novels
During the writing of this important blog article here on FWS, my wife was hospitalized, giving me long hours to research and read. Over the course of the week she was in hospital, I reread The Forever War novel and graphic novels, giving me a new understanding of these works; how they are different and how they are similar. For the most part, the graphic novels are extremely effective at transmitting the world of William Mandella and the Eternal War to the reader. Marvano's art only adds to the favor and seems rather organic to the text of the original 1974 novel. Despite a few changes, the bulk of the novel is in these three European graphic novels, and these may be one of the best adaptations from novel to comic. Personally, I think these are a great piece of military science fiction comic literature that rises above the normal superhero bullshit found in most comics of the time. These might the best military science fiction comic of all time. Even if you have read the novel and a fan of the novel, you owe it to yourself to read these graphic novels. I, as an author, would be relieved if my books were transformed into graphic novels of this caliber.
Next Time on FWS...