"Ah Pook is Here": Unseen William S Burroughs Graphic Novel Art Show

Richard Metzger is the current Boing Boing guest blogger.
When "Ah Pook is Here" was published in 1979, it was in a form greatly diminished from the authors' original intent. Originally conceived as a graphic novel in the pictographic format of the surviving Mayan codices, the project --eight years in the making-- consisted of over 100 illustrations by Malcolm McNeill, 30 in full color and about 50 pages of text. "Ah Pook is Here" would have been prohibitively expensive to publish at the time. As Burroughs wrote “over the years of our collaboration Malcolm McNeill produced more than a hundred pages of artwork. However, owing partly to the expense of full color reproduction, and because the book falls into neither the category of the conventional illustrated book, nor that of a comix publication, there have been difficulties with the arrangements for the complete work. The book is in fact unique…”
The illustrations from "Ah Pook is Here" have been rediscovered after 38 years and are traveling the world, displayed in various art galleries. On April 4, the exhibit opens at the Track 16 Gallery in Los Angeles. I can't wait to see this! One of the paintings is 25 feet long! Hopefully the attention the work has received lately will see "Ah Pook is Here" published as Burroughs and McNeill envisioned it.
Malcolm McNeill interview about working with WSB "Ah Pook is Here" --a quite incredible short film, with Burroughs own narration.


  1. This looks fantastic.
    We should start a list of horrible things publishers have done to authors and good things they failed to do.
    I recently heard of a text that sells for $145 a copy. The author nets 45 cents.

  2. I am so happy you blogged this. Malcolm is a wonderful artist and this deserves to have the recognition it is receiving. I’m glad the Burrough’s estate is working with Malcolm on this.

  3. Looks like a natural for nice PDF distribution, you can zoom in on the art as much as you like and no big printing costs! You could even build in some Burroughs reading audio of certain passages..

  4. That video was insane for 1994. You look at the style and texture… amazing. Made my day. Now to find out what this Pook thing is all about.

  5. Epic stuff:

    “Question: If control’s control is absolute, why does control need to control?”
    “Answer: Control needs time.”
    “Question: Is control controlled by its need to control?”
    “Answer: Yes.”
    “Why does control need humans, as you call them?”
    “Wait! Wait! Time, a landing field. Death needs time like a junkie needs junk.”
    “And what does death need time for?”
    “The answer is so simple: Death needs time for what it kills to grow in, for Ah Pook’s sake.”
    “Death needs time for what it kills to grow in, for Ah Pook’s sweet sake, you stupid vulgar greedy ugly American death-sucker.”

  6. I saw that video at a film festival back in 1994. It was probably the trippiest thing I experienced during high school. (Granted, I never did drugs in high school).

  7. Touched to see someone remember my dusty old film Ah Pook Is Here in relation to this show – Thanks for that Richard, and to some of the comments posted above. Great to get a mention on Boing Boing too…!

    Meanwhile, I hope the exhibition comes to the UK at some point..

  8. Awesome! I beleive I have seen some of this before…cover art, for the Road to the Western Lands, maybe…

    That half-finished one, at the bottom, makes me want to break out the felt-tip pens…maybe they could publish it as a coloring book?

  9. Hey Richard – thanks for posting this, just when I thought I knew everything about William S. Burroughs.. something new pops it. Love it.

  10. Yes, please, can Richard or the rest of the crew at BB keep us informed of future gallery showings?

    As a long time lover of Burroughs and McNeill (living on the East Coast), I’ve been dying to see the Ah Pook artwork in the flesh, so to speak, for ages! But I didn’t see a calendar at the Ah Pook/McNeill site or anywhere else. Knowing it’s traveling but having no clue when or where I may get to see it is driving me crazier than the thought of never seeing it at all.

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