The last policeman on the moon | ‘Living on the moon? What were we thinking’ The lunar colony is winding down and the last cop’s beat is getting steadily smaller. In the plaintive, pared-back style of his popular Guardian cartoons, Tom Gauld’s new graphic novel Mooncop is a story that beautifully captures the realities facing a dying community.
“I’d been thinking of doing a story set on the moon.”
Tom begins by showing two alphabets he worked on, the wonderful future and the dreadful future. In fiction people either picture the future as a utopia, or a dystopia. The wonderful future A-Z includes aerial cities, bionic limbs, droid medics, food for all, jetpacks, kindly aliens, quantum computers, robot servants, VR and xeno pets. The not so wonderful future atomic wasteland, cannibal gangs, evil corporations, giant worms, killbots, pollution, sinister new religions, weaponised animals.
The point? Well, his is neither, really.
“I’d been thinking of doing a story set on the moon,” he explains, talking through many of his influences. Originally it featured a robot, but that seemed a bit twee, and so his bot became a human. He reads a small section, showing his simple, charming and funny illustrations alongside it. The moon’s almost a silent character. He was inspired by a photo book of the moon from the Apollo missions – they were so crisp and beautiful. “The atmosphere in them was so incredible.” It was atmospheric, expansive – you assume they’re all in black and white but once in a while there’s a bit of colour.
“One of the most wonderful things humanity’s ever done.”
He devoured things to do with the space missions, including speech logs – there’s lots of funny moments, like Buzz Aldrin saying to Neil Armstrong “Don’t lock it on the way out.”
His sci-fi isn’t a glittery metropolis, it’s sparse houses and coffee shops, like a desert US town. “I wanted the idea that the plan was for it to fill out more,” he explains, but only the early adopters remained. The idea was a grand noble aim. He believes the moon landings were “one of the most wonderful things humanity’s ever done” but we’ve not really gone back, and it’s “not quite coming off as hoped.”
There’s a melancholy to his work – his mooncop is a little disappointed, he feels a bit flat. It’s not saying it’s sad a moon colony never truly happened, but it is a melancholy thing for his characters. The hour talks of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and its influence, writing a full book vs his weekly comics, and self publishing vs traditional, taking us all over Tom’s work, with a particular shout out to his publisher Drawn and Quarterly for being great.
If his pictures say what he wants, he’ll remove the words. It’s interplay how they work together. “There are very few thrills and spills,” he says of his work, “but I find that interesting. It’s all minimal, I like that. A moment is a quiet pause rather than something less interesting.”