Not Really That Essential: The Originals: The Essential Edition Review
Story and art by Dave Gibbons
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Dark Horse is set to release The Originals: The Essential Edition. It’s essentially a re-release of The Originals, but with 32 pages of development art.
I read The Originals for two reasons. The second reason was that Dave Gibbons, co-creator of Watchmen, was behind it. The first, though, was very definitely the cover. You see a squadron of youths riding scooters adorned with an absurd amount of mirrors. They have to be mods. They are mods, sort of. They’re the Originals. However, Dave Gibbons constructed the Originals from his recollections of how it felt to be a mod.
But some might be wondering: what is a mod? The shortest answer would be to say, “Watch Quadrophenia.” That, though, tells you nothing.
The mods were a youth subculture in nineteen sixties Britain. Dave Gibbons actually gives a direct and good description of them in his introduction:
Just so we start on the same page, here’s what ‘Mod’ DOES NOT mean: Herman’s Hermits, Psychedelia “Lite” or Austin Powers, baby. And here’s what Mod DOES mean: Italian clothes, black dance music, fights, French haircuts, Lambretta scooters and amphetamine sulphate.
Dressed in tailor-made suits, the mods fought against the greaser-styled rockers in now mythologised brawls. Gibbons sees this mythic status of the first generation of youth culture and attempts at an archetypal version. To do this, he does away with the culture’s specifics and assembles the Originals from his description of the mods.
Now that we know the origin of The Originals, we can see how well it goes.
The story is solid, like a poorly designed minimalist chair. It works. It strips a lot of unnecessary details, but fails to achieve a stark simplicity. Rather, it offers a simple simplicity. As Lel, our protagonist, and his friend Bok join the Originals and experience the cultural tribe, it hits each beat. There is the initial intoxication, the girl, Viv, and the rising conflict between the Originals and the Dirt, this world’s version of the rockers. Each piece works as a familiar part of an adolescent subculture story. But The Originals misses it’s archetypal aspiratin by being rather generic. That said, the ending is well done, albeit in a way that has been well done before.
What is really well done, though, is the world building of The Originals, except that it’s unnecessary. For it, Gibbons recreated the mods in a way that was ever so slightly off. The parkas became mantles, but the inspiration is always obvious. You could ask if the effort of creating the Originals was necessary if they just ended up resembling mods anyway. For instance, this world contains hover-bikes but everything else in it is from nineteen sixties Britain. You could argue that that’s how being a mod felt, but it still doesn’t quite work.
The art style follow a similarly unremarkable approach. Again, it’s well done, but underwhelming.
The additional pages consist of parts of the annotated script and developmental sketches. If you are like me in that you find these things interesting, then you will find these interesting — surprise! However, the edition is only essential as the original work is, which in this case is not very.
Would I recommend The Originals as essential reading? Not really. Would I recommend you to actively avoid it? Again, not really, because it isn’t bad, just not particularly good.
What then would I recommend?
Some photos of mods randomly pulled from a Google for you convenience.
A few bands to start with: