JUST THE TITLE of Tom Gauld’s new book suggests action and adventure, lunar style: “Mooncop! He’s the law out there in space!” it teases. But the reality is something altogether different. The graphic novel is actually far more subtle, amusing, and haunting than its title suggests. Inspired by old-school toys and Star Wars, it comes complete with both fun, pathos, and wonderful art. Here are five reasons this graphic novel will be your new favorite thing.
Despite the jokes—and it is a very funny book—Mooncop has a particular melancholy to it, reflecting its creator’s feeling about the way scientific exploration has fallen out of favor with the general public. “When I look back at the years of the Space Race it feels as though there was such an optimistic wonder about space, the moon, and generally about how technology would improve everyone’s life,” Gauld explains. “Amazing things are still happening in science, but I feel there isn’t the same unreserved positivity about it.”
The Idea for Mooncop Came from a Wonderfully Unlikely Place
While the title suggests a police force on some Blade Runner-esque off-world outpost, the actual physical inspiration for Mooncop was far more quaint. “The idea of a cop on the moon came from a 1960s tin toy I saw, which was a car with ‘Space Patrol’ on the side and a robot driver in a glass dome wielding a laser cannon,” Gauld says. “The packaging showed the car on a deserted moon, with the Earth in the black sky above. The toy suggested a future where not only had we colonized the moon, but the enterprise was successful enough that it required a heavily-armed police force. I began to imagine the life of a lonely policeman patrolling the moon and the story grew from there.”
OK, It’s Kinda Inspired By Star Wars Too
One of Mooncop’s best characters is its therapy robot, a well-meaning droid whose helpfulness is somewhat undermined by his need to be carried everywhere his wheels can’t take him. One guess where that concept came from. “I loved Star Wars as a kid, and always liked the robots,” Gauld admits. “I suppose other films had done it before, but I like that the robots on Star Wars aren’t objects of wonder, they’re everyday things which do menial work, get ignored, annoy people, and break down.”
Another influence, according to the cartoonist, is Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. “It’s just such a perfectly designed vision of a 1960s-tinted future,” he says. “I wanted my moon colony to be a bit like a 20-years-later version of the world of 2001, where things have started get worn out and fall apart a bit.”
Mooncop Refuses to Resign Itself to Pessimism
Just because there’s a sadness to the book, don’t mistake that for a lack of hope. “I think many speculations on our future can be a bit too binary: Either the world will be a wonderful utopia or a horrific dystopia,” Gauld says. “I think it’s more likely to be in between, with some things getting better and some worse. That’s not so dramatic, but I actually think it’s more interesting. So, maybe in the story the moon colony is winding down but somebody’s working on a teleport link or a time machine.”
Gauld likens the state of his moon colony to the so-called “new towns” of his native Scotland. “The architects and planners had the best of motives and were striving to make something new and better, but, in general, these places haven’t aged well, with many being knocked down or left in disrepair,” he explains. “I wanted my moon colony to feel a bit like this: a brilliant idea which just hadn’t worked out.”
Mooncop Is Beautiful
As if Gauld’s take on the forgotten world of tomorrow isn’t enough of a selling point, there’s also the fact that the book is visually stunning, with Gauld’s deceptively simple line work backed up by an amazing sense of page layout and character design. But don’t take our word for it; watch the official animated trailer for the book, making its debut on WIRED.