Sometimes the best beginning is the simplest. Elephantmen is a sci-fi comic about a bunch of animal/human hybrids cloned in a lab in Africa for the sole purpose of war. The comic centers on their adjustments to civilization after the UN finds out about the unethical experiments. Who would guess creators Richard Sarkings and Moritat would introduce their story with an Elephant man talking to a little girl? No action scenes. No villains. No origin story. Just an anthropomorphic elephant conversing with a little girl. It’s surprisingly simple, but creators Richard Starkings and Moritat bring poignancy and hope into 22 pages while being thought provoking.
Set in 2259’s Santa Monica, the issue introduces Ebenezer aka “Ebony”, a trench coat laden elephant/human hybrid. He stands in front of Hooters smoking a cigarette in the rain. Then a little girl name Savannah asks him, “Are you allowed in there?” For the rest of the issue, Savannah asks innocent questions like, “Do you wash behind your ears?” Though low key and short, this simple conversation is actually really sweet and warms your heart.
But underneath the happy conversation, Ebony is troubled. Through their conversation, he has painful flashbacks of his past. The worst are his memories of killing innocent people in northern Africa. He also recalls his rehabilitation with the help of a woman name Sahara. This takes the story to another level. First, it adds depth in the character of Ebony, a reformed soldier still haunted by the horrors of his action. Ebony has learned to fit into society and become a good person. But it’s clear he is still traumatized by his actions. He has just learned to live with it.
This story explores the ethics of genetic manipulation and not as much about the animal/human hybrid. Judging by the fact the creator is a megalomaniac 1, it’s clear what side the he is on. The real central message is how to deal with the experiments after the damage is done. What place do these hybrids have after being born in an unethical manner? After being exploited all their lives, what does it take to adjust to civilization? What prejudices will they face? No matter the question, what really matters is that they are here and have a right to live with respect and dignity.
The artwork is beautiful. The streets look lived in with gritty buildings, reddish skies and the world soaked in rain. Ebony looks realistic enough to be appealing. Each panel flows with dramatic storytelling. All ending in a child’s drawing.
Bringing a lot of heart and drama within its dramatic tone, the first issue of Elephantmen breathes of soul. It would be interesting to see the direction Starkings and Moritat take with later issues. So far they have over 50 issues. I will be heading to Calgary Expo with a keen interest in seeing what they have in store for the future.
1) “Nature falls under my command now” states that megalomaniac.