1983 promotional poster
"This burg’s produced more freaks and weirdos than any other city, old or new…"
Urban living takes its toll of many of us, but what does an architect do when the very city he has designed drives its inhabitants insane? As its creator, wouldn’t he become the maddest of all? Canadian imagineers Dean Motter and Paul Rivoche unleashed Mister X, their architect turned enigmatic anti-hero, in 1983. I was so struck by their first iconic promotional poster, I had it framed on my walls for years. Our first glimpse revealed only his long raincoat, eyeless round spectacles and bald head, like some cracked Le Corbusier. He is staring out at us from deep shadow in front of the retro-future city of his dreams, now the city of his nightmares, its towering, inhuman skyscrapers swathed in arcing searchlights.
What wonders Motter and Rivoche might have conjured up if they’d continued working together on this very Eighties, "new wave" designer comic book on the theories of psychetecture. Instead, after setting the series’ colour palette in the first issue and providing covers and lettering for the first three issues, Rivoche made way for Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez, Seth, Dave McKean, D’Israeli and other talented contributors. Together they developed Radiant City and its dark doppelganger Somnopolis, as much a character as Mister X himself, out of a blend of architectural aesthetics, mixing Art Deco, German Expressionism and Bauhaus style, with the mood and bleakness of classic film noir and yesterday’s visions of tomorrow, from science fiction pulp covers, movies like Metropolis and Blade Runner and European comics masters such as Yves Chaland, François Schuiten and Jean Giraud/Moebius. Mister X in turn strongly influenced major directors, including Terry Gilliam on Brazil and Tim Burton on Batman.
Twenty five years on, Mister X emerges again from the shadows in the pages of Art Review, written and drawn by Motter himself, who contextualises his fantastical architect within the dreams of real architects, past and present. If this resumé intrigues you, there’s a chance to plunge into a deluxe, re-mastered hardback of the entire series from Dark Horse, complete with Motter reworked finale. Next year brings Motter’s solo "reboot", Mister X: Condemned, a stand-alone four-part series restoring his concept to its original setting and sensibility. It seems the mysteries of Mister X have only begun to be unravelled.
Mister X by Dean Motter
appears in the November and December 2008
edition of Art Review magazine.
WEB EXCLUSIVE EXTRA:
Through email correspondence while preparing this feature for Art Review magazine, I got some interesting extra insights from Dean Motter:
What revisions and improvements have you made to these new Archives?
Mister X: The Archives collects the colour issues from the 80’s along with some rarely seen material and my own new finale. The series was collected a few years back by the now-defunct iBooks, but suffered from poor rescans, duplicated, omitted and out-of sequence pages. This edition corrects those editorial oversights, is also printed on archival paper and features a new intro by Warren Ellis.
How does your new 4-issue mini-series fit in with the original story?
Continuity from the previous series is history. Mister X: Condemned reboots the franchise and is designed for new readers as well as those who remember the original. The last issue appeared 25 years ago, so I felt many readers may not recall the byzantine story a quarter century ago—and the Archive edition is expensive enough that I don’t want new readers to be dissuaded from reading the new series if they haven’t yet invested the book. More importantly I "closed the book" on that storyline with my new finale. Yes, this was redone for the technically flawed iBooks collection but an affordable version of the finale alone can be purchased at www.lulu.com. Plus, in the ensuing years my work has improved, the character and his mythos has evolved, times have changed. I would compare it (in nature) to the relation of Christopher Nolan’s Batman to Tim Burton’s.
My friend Matt Bookman read your Mister X In Slumberland and pointed out to me that Mister X’s flame Mercedes now describes herself as a waitress in the 9th Academy, whereas in the original series she was a mental patient.
Yes, in this iteration Mercedes did work in the cafeteria at the academy at one time. As you can see in Mister X In Slumberland, my 8-page webcomic prologue/homage to Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo In Slumberland, which can be downloaded from Dark Horse’s myspace site, the academy is a different sort of place. It isn’t somewhere where an average person with mental problems would wind up. They’d have to be both a genius AND disturbed.
Posted: November 30, 2008
Mister X: Archives hits stores on November 26, 2008, and Mister X: Condemned is scheduled for monthly release from Christmas Eve 2008, both from Dark Horse.
This article originally appeared in the November 2008 edition of Art Review magazine, a monthly publication dedicated to contemporary art and is essential reading for a global community of artists and gallerists, collectors, curators and indeed anyone with an interest in art. Every issue of Art Review is available to read free online here.