YOUNG GODS AND FRIENDS is one of those books where the story-behind-the-story is just as interesting, if not more so, then the story itself. Granted it's an unfinished work but from the start, creator Barry Windsor-Smith makes no bones about it: this book is as much a testament to his ongoing struggles with the comics industry as it is about the space-faring adventures of Princess Adastra of Orgasma.
In a brutally honest epilogue, Smith succinctly summarizes his thirty-five year tenure in the comics business, citing "gross mismanagement", "executive stupidity", "malfeasance", "blatant disenfranchisement", and "managerial malpractices" for all but destroying what many consider an accomplished and distinguished career. He concludes: "I love comics as an art form, but as a business it fills me with disgust."
YOUNG GODS is an ode to those woeful experiences; painstakingly documenting his most recent outing: a creator-owned comic book series titled, appropriately enough, Barry Windsor Smith: Storyteller, that was cancelled by its original publisher after twelve issues, with only nine ever seeing the light of day. Essentially a send-up of Jack Kirby's classic New Gods series from the seventies, YOUNG GODS tells the tale of a trio of interstellar super-gods torn from the fabric of Barbarella that drink, fuck, and brawl their way through the cosmos.
One of three ongoing serials in the pages of Storyteller (with the other two appearing in future collections), YOUNG GODS was left unfinished mid-story, mid-cliffhanger, until Gary Groth of Fantagraphics offered to commission the conclusion of the saga. Unfortunately, the original experience -- the final nail in a litany of publishing horrors -- left Smith in a near state of nervous breakdown, making the task all but impossible.
So, what we have here is the original nine installments of YOUNG GODS, plus nearly fifty additional pages of unpublished material, a plot synopsis of the remaining storyline, and an enormously entertaining running commentary from Smith, marking the most comprehensive edition of the YOUNG GODS that will ever be. A terribly poignant reminder of the pitfalls of a fragile industry.
Peter Aaron Rose is a writer, producer and technologist who lives and works in San Francisco, CA. Under the pseudonym "Peter Siegel", he recently authored Killing Demons, a graphic novel available from Engine Press and Platinum Studios.