Mike Allred's Got It Covered: Creating Bowie's 'Moonage Daydreams'
Nov 14, 2019
by Troy-Jeffrey Allen
"One of my earliest memories is waking up in a hospital bed, blanketed in comic books," artist Mike Allred begins, recalling how comic books entered his life and, ultimately, never left. "Turns out I was dancing on a card table, but not fast enough to my brother's liking. So he shook the table, causing me to fall on my head - getting a concussion. And that initial brain damage is what put me on the path to drawing comics obsessively," Allred quips. "They were always around."
The same could be said for Mike Allred. It sort of feels like he has always been...comics. With a career that spans about three decades, his unmistakable artwork has graced the covers and pages of everything from Sandman to Watchmen to Spider-Man to (his co-creation with Chris Roberson) iZombie. In many ways, the Allred "look" is American comics. Walk into a comic shop any day of the week and you're likely to encounter one of Mike's characters gazing intently at you. Bewitching and unflinching as they pull you towards pop reality.
That's not to say that comic books are the only piece of pop artistry that has followed Mike Allred around throughout the years. A certain starman-singer-songwriter by the name of David Bowie has also served as Allred's creative catalyst. One that has finally come full circle with the release of Bowie - Stardust, Rayguns, & Moonage Daydreams. "Some aspects of a Bowie or Ziggy Stardust comic was always in my pipeline," Mike explains. "[The 1997 Dark Horse Comic] Red Rocket 7 is my unofficial version of a Ziggy Stardust comic. I continued to daydream about doing a biographical Bowie graphic novel while constantly creating cameos and references in my work. But any serious approach kept its distance - with overlapping projects taking up all my time."
Until Stardust, Rayguns, & Moonage Daydreams, a full-length graphic novel from Insight Editions. Written by Steve Horton and featuring Allred's art, the book has Bowie conversing with his fictional stage persona - "Ziggy Stardust." All while chronicling the true-life events of the performer himself.
"[Steve Horton] emailed me out of the blue - with great confidence - that he and his agent could put a deal together that would give me everything I needed to get it done," Mike Allred says, describing how the Bowie project came together. "He and his agent came through. Hooking us up with Insight Editions. And, from there, [we] found a perfect simpatico relationship with my editor Mark Irwin."
For a project this astronomical, one cover wasn't enough. Mike Allred produced both a regular book market cover and a PREVIEWS Exclusive version for comic book stores (below). And just like how we started this interview, the PREVIEWS cover takes Allred back to his earlier days for inspiration. "My explosive introduction to David Bowie was seeing him in his full Ziggy 'rock star from outer space' regalia on the cover of CREEM Magazine," Allred remebers. "That was my 'in'. So I wanted to recapture that first pre-pubescent impression of something I would have drawn then, but with my current skills amping up the whole sci-fi aspect. With the curtains opening on 'other-worldliness', and his guitar made from a Buck Rogers ray gun."
The pop sensibilities don't end with Mike. His wife Laura often collaborates with him. She expertly manicures his images, giving them a sort of Warhol-ian flare. "Laura scans the line art and gives me back the original," Mike says of their process. "At which point I do gray tones with ink washes and graphite for texture. Laura then scans the original again and, using photoshop, is able to separate out all my gray tones and modeling and turn them into whatever colors she chooses - giving it a hand-crafted pop-art vibe."
In other words: The Allred "look" that has helped define comics for years.
About Bowie - Stardust, Rayguns, & Moonage Daydreams:
Inspired by the one and only superhero, extraterrestrial, and rock and roll deity in history, Bowie: Stardust, Rayguns, & Moonage Daydreams is the original graphic memoir of the great Ziggy Stardust! In life, David Bowie was one of the most magnetic icons of modern pop culture, seducing generations of fans with both his music and his counterculture persona. In death, the cult of Bowie has only intensified. As a musician, Bowie's legacy is remarkable, but his place in the popular imagination is due to so much more than his music. As a visual performer, he defied classification with his psychedelic aesthetics, his larger-than-life image, and his way of hovering on the border of the surreal. Bowie chronicles the rise of Bowie's career from obscurity to fame; and paralleled by the rise and fall of his alter ego as well as the rise and fall of Ziggy Stardust. As the Spiders from Mars slowly implode, Bowie wrestles with his Ziggy persona. The outcome of this internal conflict will change not only David Bowie, but also, the world. Introduction by Neil Gaiman.
Bowie - Stardust, Rayguns, & Moonage Daydreams (NOV191779) hits comic shops on January 8, 2020 and is available in both a regular edition and PREVIEWS Exclusive hardcover edition.
Troy-Jeffrey Allen is the producer and co-host of PREVIEWSworld Weekly. His comics work includes BAMN, Fight of the Century, the Harvey Award-nominated District Comics, and the Ringo Awards-nominated Magic Bullet.