Martin Rowson Does T. S. in Different Voices


Some contextualization, from a blog at http://www.geegaw.com/archives/0007.shtml#000346:

July 7, 2000
blah blah handful of dust
Re-read Martin Rowson's The Waste Land, which is Eliot's magnum opus done up as a hard-boiled Raymond Chandler detective story in comic book form. I love it!
   Eliot:
Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
   I do not know whether a man or a woman
--But who is that on the other side of you?
   Rowson-as-Chandler:
"Hey, Burbank... Who's that on the other side of you?"
"Don't push it, Marlowe! That's the oldest trick in the book!"
I found this hilarious, but apparently Rowson was out for blood. I guess he wanted to expose Eliot's poem as the dolled-up goose chase it can seem to be. He admits as much in this 1990 essay gunning for the multi-million-dollar comic book industry -- seems especially ironic to me now that said industry is in a shambles --
   "The purpose of the exercise as far as I was concerned was to mercilessly take the piss out of this gruesome, pretentious and incomprehensible behemoth of Modern Literature. The chief method of achieving this was to turn so precious and respected a work of art into something as low-brow and tacky as a comic book. (This worked - Eliot's widow was as mad as hell about what I did to her dead husband's masterwork).
   "Anyway, I sold the idea to Penguin, and, as a perk, was invited to a Penguin piss-up held to launch one of their new series. There I was introduced to a fat publisher in a suit. Standing next to the Cajun Band (we're talking dead trendy here), he asked me what I was doing. I said I was working on a comic book version of T.S. Eliot's The WasteLand, 'What?" he shouted. I repeated my reply, and this exchange carried on for several minutes until understanding finally struck him. "Oh!" he cried, "a GRAPHIC NOVEL!" And as the pound signs lit up in his eyes, he continued. 'Christ! I'm so fucking cross! We just missed buying the VIZ annual! Jesus! That's going to make MILLIONS!'"