Last but not the least: Mooncop, a short and bittersweet sci-fi graphic novel about a lonely lunar cop

Gautham Shenoy October 14, 2017 4 min

If there’s one thing I must be thankful to The Guardian for, it’s for introducing me to two of the finest and funniest cartoonists currently active, David Squires and Tom Gauld. While David Squires and his fiendishly clever, and caustic cartoons about the game of football (the one actually played with only the foot) are a tad outside the purview of a sci-fi column, Tom Gauld is not.

Left: The title cartoon of Tom Gauld’s 2013 collection of cartoons from The Guardian, You’re All Just Jealous of My Jetpack. Right: Another cartoon from the collection.

Dark humour meets deadpan delivery, with impeccable timing in the artful and delightful cartoons of Tom Gauld. From wry takes on the impact of technology on life, and whimsical depictions of the future, to hilarious representations of writers and literature, Tom Gauld’s cartoons cover a wide spectrum of topics, in a distinctive style has been as widely praised as his takes on human behaviour, making him one of the most celebrated cartoonists of the present time. And you can see his work adorning not just the pages of The Guardian, but also The New Yorker, and New Scientist magazine.

Two cartoons by Tom Gauld for the science magazine, New Scientist

In the 2016 graphic novel, the Eisner-award nominated Mooncop, Tom Gauld brings his trademark wit, artistic style, and visual storytelling to bear in a story that depicts the life of a lunar policeman in a colony on the moon.

Left: Tom Gauld (via Wikimedia). Left: Gauld’s full-length 2016 graphic novel, Mooncop.

Before there was talk of colonising Mars, our planet’s only natural satellite was the port of call for science fiction authors, and bringing this together with the spirit of golden age sci-fi’s space exploration and moon colonies, Gauld depicts a future where the exploration didn’t stop, but humanity went ahead and established a lunar colony. As exciting as that sounds, it can also get a little boring and not a less lonely, especially if the colony is losing people to earth. In his words, the world of Mooncop is ‘a bit like a 20-years-later-version of the world of 2001: A Space Odyssey, where things have started to get worn out and fall apart a bit’.

A panel from Tom Gauld’s graphic novel, Mooncop.

Mooncop is a deceptively simple tale about a policeman on the moon, and his ennui in a time when his fellow colonists are returning home; leaving him with all the free time in the world to live with his thoughts, sleep under the stars and do exciting things like look for a lost dog, and bump into a malfunctioning Neil Armstrong automaton. The upshot of this is that with hardly any crime – the obvious side-effect of there not being any more people – our unnamed Mooncop’s success rate with crime is 100%. And yes, there are lunar donuts. Machines still face glitches, bureaucracy still exists, and automation well, it works when it does. Each day, the Mooncop’s life gets a little quieter and a little lonelier.

Wonderfully sparse and subtle in its details, in Gauld’s minimalist style (sparing dialogue, and stark landscapes) Mooncop is melancholic and hopeful at the same time.  It’s almost poetic with a lot left unsaid, and, to your imagination. It’s a commentary on humans as social animals and the small existential ironies of our life, of scientific progress, space colonisation, as it is about friendship and new beginnings. The R2D2-style robots, spacecraft, living quarters and space modules are a lovely visual return to their depictions in classic sci-fi movies. There’s fun and wonder, and moments that alternatively make you smile and think (and many times, both at the same time), but it’s also tinged with a sense of being bittersweet that lingers in your mind, long after you’ve turned the last page. Speaking of which, and for all this, Mooncop clocks in at just under 100 pages (94 to be exact).

One hardbound physical copy of which can be yours in this week’s New Worlds Weekly giveaway! So if you’re a reader from India, who’d like to stand a chance win a copy of Tom Gauld’s awesome Mooncop, here’s what that you need to do: Tweet (or post on your FB page) which one of the New Worlds Weekly pieces on SF did you find most interesting and why; link to that piece along with your tweet or post, and don’t forget to tag it with #NWWonFD. That’s it! We’ll be doing a lucky draw of all the entries and announcing the winner in next week’s edition of New Worlds Weekly. All the best!

So until then, and beyond, Live Long and Prosper!