Thursday, March 7, 2013

FILM THIS: Leo's Aldebaran

FILM THIS – Graphic Novels That Should Be Made Into Feature Films

Writer: Leo
Artist: Leo
Year: 1994-1998

Aldebaran is a sweeping science fiction graphic novel that fantastically depicts what would happen if Earthlings ventured out into the great unknown of the universe in search of inhabitable planets to colonize. Derived from the imaginative mind of Leo, a Brazilian born engineer, this epic story painstakingly details an entire planet's flora and fauna, as it touches on some incredible and out of this world notions, while diligently focusing on man's inherent ability to control, destroy, and inevitably corrupt. As usual, I must warn you that spoilers for the graphic novel are abundant in this write up so proceed with caution.

The story begins in the year 2179 along the coast of a small village on Aldebaran, a fairly young colonized planet which has been cut off from Earth for over one hundred years. Seemingly abandoned to their own devices, the Aldebaran colony becomes one of corruption, power and greed, as an autocratic society rises up in Earth's absence to reign in the population. With the stage set, we are introduced to two central characters named Marc Sorensen and Kim Keller, who live in a small fishing village called Arena Bianca. After the inexplicable destruction of their village by the violent act of a mysterious sea monster, the two set off for the capital city of Anatolia, a bustling metropolis where most of the population of Aldebaran resides. Though starting a new life is never an easy task, it gets far more difficult when the two get caught up in a grand adventure after meeting up with two illusive biologists named Alexa Komarova and Driss Shediac, and a resourceful old man named Mr. Pad.

Wanted by the police for possessing a secret knowledge that could change the planet and quite possibly topple the authoritarian regime, Alexa and Driss recruit Marc and Kim into their inner circle and inform them that the creature that destroyed their village is actually a complex, protean creature called a Mantrisse, which has begun communicating with humans, specifically those it deems worthy. Intrigued and shocked at the prospect of an intelligent form of life, aside from the human race, Marc and Kim accept the invitation and in the process change their lives forever.

What I find most compelling about the prospect of a live action adaption or motion picture version of Leo's Aldebaran graphic novel, is that the world that Leo brings to life is incredibly believable and teeming with life, literally that is. Leo goes into great detail on describing the various flora and fauna of the planet Aldebaran and he revels in the outlandish nature of each savage beast and deadly predator. Designed in an otherworldly sense, the creatures that inhabit this strange new land are fantastical and thought-provoking as each are given imaginative abilities and genuine functions which serve them best in this untamed environment. The first thing that comes to mind when reading through this epic science fiction tale and presented with all of these out of this world beasts, is that one special moment in Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park when we are introduced to our first glimpse of an actual living, breathing dinosaur. That moment is an iconic one and Leo's Aldebaran novel is drenched with these same kind of instances, the ones that make you sit back and gape in awe.

As Mark Sorensen and Kim Keller trek across the Aldebaran landscape, we're introduced to a plethora of mind-boggling creatures that really make an impact on just how grandiose this world that Leo imagined up really is. Larger than life sea monsters, carnivorous lizard like behemoths, venomous insects, deadly birds, and gargantuan flying beasts of burden, are just a few of the diverse animals that inhabit this wild land. None are as impressive though as the Mantrisse itself for it changes form as the story moves along, switching from one imposing visage to the next, in the most splendid of ways. It's a testament to Leo's creativity that he can make such an intriguing and curious creature up, while still giving it that believable edge to make it feel genuine and natural within Aldebaran's environment.

Of course this can be said for all of the creatures that Leo concocts for this graphic novel. From the land beasts all the way to the various ones that inhabit the ocean, they all have a unique look, yet they still manage to coexist visually on the same plain of existence, albeit a loopy and frightening one.

As for the human characters of the story, they are all well thought-out and genuinely engaging. This is even true for the lesser known characters of the novel, as they pop in and out of the narrative, effecting the flow of the story and the lives of the main cast. When it comes to the central players of the piece, Marc, Kim, Alexa, Driss, and Mr. Pad, they are living breathing beings with their own wants and needs who interact beautifully with one another in the most naturalistic of ways. It's refreshing to see such a humanistic approach to the characters, especially when they are being placed in the most unusual of situations and inhabiting such an unfamiliar landscape as Aldebaran and its autocratic society.

It is these five main characters that hold the story together and the believability of this world is essential to their validity, which Leo just absolutely knocks out of the park. Their chemistry is just so natural and heartfelt that it makes you yearn to be able to see these fascinating characters in a feature film with all the trimmings and scope of a blockbuster opus. Marc and Kim especially are given a fabulous story arc where they begin as timid and contrasting youths and slowly over the course of the novel begin to build a relationship because of the perilous situations that they, together, survive through. Their story is endearing and particularly enjoyable to see unfold amidst all the chaos of this brave new world.

Another aspect of Aldebaran that deems it worthy of a cinematic adaption is its well thought-out world and society, and the cruel harshness that it possesses. Being a book that centers around the corrupt nature of humanity as a whole, it wears its warning of autocratic societies on its sleeve, highlighting the inhumane nature of these volatile regimes who gleam power from their people's suffering. Falling into the realm of totalitarianism and military dictatorship, the civilization of Aldebaran has turned to a system that allows the state to control every aspect of its citizens lives, from brutally forcing women to procreate with or without their own consent, to monopolizing the existence of knowledge if it enables them more power over the people. It's a savage view of what could happen if left to our own devices, but one that is so authentic that you can't help but get wrapped up in.

The most interesting thing about this society is that it was built out of necessity, and quite possibly innocent in its efforts to keep the human race alive on Aldebaran. After losing contact with Earth one hundred years ago, the isolation and lack of structure must have driven the colonial people, now stranded on a new and dangerous world, mad. It would seem logical that the leaders of this troubled society would want to control every aspect of their lives in order to reassure the survival of their numbers, but what at first was a necessary first step of survival quickly became a play for power as the population's numbers began to swell over the course of the next 100 years. It's intriguing to say the least that this oppressive society could have been born out of such innocent times, and the sheer fact that Leo even gives us this much of a detailed back story, while still juggling such overwhelmingly complex concepts, is a perfect example of how fleshed out this world of Aldebaran really is. It's an idea that I would love to see on the screen at some point in time and I think Aldebaran would be the perfect vehicle to display this provocative concept.

Brutality and boldness is another aspect of Leo's Aldebaran that I absolutely love. Not only does it have an intellectual structure at its story's core, but it excels as a daring action adventure with a huge bite. No doubt about it, the world of Aldebaran is a dangerous place, filled with violence, pain and suffering. Leo demonstrates this perfectly with his frequent habit of putting his main characters in harms way and also not shying away from showing a good deal of death, destruction, and devastation. For all intensive purposes, Aldebaran is still a savage planet having only been inhabited by mankind over the last one hundred years. There are carnivorous creatures a plenty and an enormous portion of the planet's surface is literally uninhabitable because of the terrain and beasts that live there.

There's a wonderful moment in the graphic novel, which showcases this fact to perfection, where Marc, Kim, and the crew are flying an airship over a territory of land that has been labeled a death zone. Far beneath them lies a primordial wasteland of viscous creatures and blood-thirsty gargantuans, waiting for anyone foolish enough to tread on their grounds to end up a tasty snack. As in most cases, luck is not on the groups side for they are slowly losing altitude because of a prior incident with their airship and soon end up crash landing into this very real nightmare. What follows is a series of events that vividly portray how dangerous Aldebaran can be as beasts begin coming out of the woodwork to make quick meals of our unfortunate crew. It's a moment that I would love to relive in the cinema, because it really is the direst of situations and you feel every foreboding second of it.

Another aspect of this ridiculously accomplished graphic novel is the sensational visuals that are on display. The look and feel of Aldebaran is without a doubt some of the most eye-pleasing spectacles that I've ever come across. With picturesque Caribbean like vistas, lush jungles, primitive metropolises, expansive crystal-clear blue oceans, unsettling and savage swamplands, and unbelievably beautiful aerial views, the presentation is simply striking. To top it all off, the diverse nature of all of these various locations are connected succinctly in that same breath-taking style that Leo has infused within this entire well thought-out novel.

It makes my mind spin at the prospect of seeing these finely penned environments brought to life through the magic of the cinema and I can't for the life of me imagine why such a project has not been produced in either a live action format or as an animated feature yet. I guess the existence of this tightly designed little international graphic novel has eluded the masses on a whole, but I'm willing to bet that as more people become aware of this imagery laced gem that talks of a feature film might someday bring this dream to reality. Bewilderment and daydreaming aside, Leo's Aldebaran is definitely a feast for the eyes as it visually replicates the provocative storyline with its wild illustrations and vivid color palette.

Of course all of these elements are beautifully crafted together, but at the very core of this story is the tremendous mystery of what the Mantrisse really is and what its intentions are for the human race. When we are first introduced to this creature, we see the destruction that it has caused after wiping out an entire coastal village. Our initial reaction is that it is an unruly monster that only brings death. Then as the story unfolds more, Alexa and Dress inform us that the Mantrisse goes through cyclical stages of reawakening, first starting in unpredictability, as with the destroying of the village, then with oceanic anomalies, and finally with human contact. As we find out from Dress and Alexa, the Mantrisse gifts the people that it comes into contact with, with immortality in the form of tiny capsules. These capsules prolong life and give the person who consumes them a symbiotic relationship with the Mantrisse, that in hind sight is both a blessing and a curse.

It's all very unbelievably surreal and Leo does an outstanding job in capturing the wonder of this concept, as he marvels us with this highly unexpected premise. With all of this business with the Mantrisse being wrapped up in this exceptional mystery, you really can't deny the pull it has on you when reading through each frame of mind-boggling visuals and thought-provoking text. If produced as a motion picture, I'd imagine that the film would be an euphoric cinematic experience that would instantly be a classic. 

Even with Aldebaran's impressive scope and engaging story, the reality of having a feature film that captures the raw, savage, but spiritual nature of the graphic novel is at the moment only a heavenly dream, one that takes us to a world of unimaginable creatures and unfathomable realms. If every a graphic novel begged to be retold through the cinema, this would be it. It has all of the ingredients that make a film worthwhile, from action, mystery, violence and heart, but most importantly Leo's Aldebaran has humanity. For better or worse. Now will someone get off of their ass and.....


  1. Thanks for pointing out this graphic novel, I'd never heard of it, but the artwork is obviously amazing, it kind of reminds me of something Jean Giraud might have done. I love this type of graphic novel, so different, there's obviously a lot of dedication and love that went into making it, this isn't your monthly crappy stuff.

  2. It definitely has that Jean Giraud style, which is a plus. There are two more entries in the series and I'll be posting the second one soon. Just trying to gather up enough courage to get to writing it. Glad you dug it.

  3. A international film adaptation in preparation

    Hope the life enchant you