In 1987 a crime was committed in Argentina, the consequences rocking, first France before engulfing the rest of the west. The weapon was best seller The Alchemist, the guilty party, Paulo Coelho, the crime, the deliberate perversion of ancient wisdom and scripture to serve a philosophy of self-servitude.
As if this was not enough, all of creation and every ancient myth and tradition are held to ransom, at the sharp end of Paulo’s pen, and are made to grovel before his vapid ideology. Religion, superstition, occult knowledge and the universe are all cast down at its feet, to acknowledge Mr Coelho as the guru, the rabbi, the teacher and messiah, or our epoch.
His doctrine is that each of us has a ‘personal legend’, which the whole of nature conspires to bring to fruition, if we can only listen to our heart and follow the omens. Self-gratification is thus ennobled, and, a pathway that much of humanity is already on, is dignified. This philosophy is perfect for western civilisation, where self is God.
Mankind does not learn from its mistakes, and in 2010 another crime was committed, this time by comic book artist Daniel Sampere and writer Derek Ruiz. The Alchemist is now available in graphic novel form.
Daniel Sampere does a good job in illustrating the story – well researched, the illustrations are slick, confident and detailed. He is an excellent draftsman, in the mainstream comic book style, and, accompanied with its beautiful colouring, the artwork will satisfy many comic book readers. The adaptation is also good, although it feels at times as if the production was slightly rushed. I do not feel the storyboarding is very accomplished, and as series of images, I have seen much better.
Mainstream comic book style and ‘spirituality’ are strange bedfellows. Two goddesses are portrayed as large breasted beauties, with lush curly hair, cascading down their naked shoulders, and the men are all rippling torsos. However, the more I think about it, if our personal desires are elevated to the spiritual realm, why not include every desire we have. However, if I was commissioning an artist to tackle a spiritual book, I would find someone with a more lyrical style. Apparently Moebius was commissioned to do some pages initially, but Paulo Coelho was not convinced. This is a shame, as I think his book would have been both beautiful and interesting.
In his foreword, artist Daniel Sampere writes that his personal legend was to become a comic book artist. As much as I applaud this ambition, I cannot think of this as spiritual in any way, and if The Alchemist encourages us to elevate our desires and ambitions to this realm, then it has done an enormous disservice to mankind.
I also found the production and typography of the book careless. Some speech bubbles are sitting on top of characters’ heads, and captions seem to be placed randomly at times. Also some image borders are too close to the edge of the page, and are crooked. I also found it odd that images bled off the page, but were done in a rigid grid format. I would have liked to see, either a white border, or a more fluid graphic style employed (like Arkham Asylum for example).
The review on Amazon says that this book “continues to change the lives of its readers forever”. The Alchemist is loved by people who already have this philosophy, and are glad to find literature that justifies this selfish and materialistic way of life.
Written by Mike Stonelake, illustrator, cartoonist and designer. See www.mikestonelake.com