Elephantmen: Dr Moreau meets apocalyptic noir science fiction comic

I'm late to the party on Elephantmen -- the comic has been running since 2006 and there've been three collections to date. I've just read the first one, Wounded Animals and I've got that happy, warm feeling that comes from discovering something great, finishing it, and realizing there's plenty more where that came from (I discovered the series on a visit back to LA's Secret Headquarters, where the curated collection of comics never lets me down).

Elephantmen (which spun out of Image Comics's Hip Flask) is the a Dr Moreau-esque story of a race of human-animal chimeras created by a mad, savage doctor who wants to breed superwarriors to fight in an African war. The Elephantmen (who are not just elephant-human hybrids, but also hippos, rhinos, crocs, etc) are rescued from their maker and brought back to human society, the living brutalized evidence of the horrors of 23rd Century warfare. They are rehabilitated, given jobs and stipends, and eased into "normal life."

But life can never be normal for the Elephantmen; they were brainwashed to be merciless killers, they are traumatized and stigmatized. Some are cruel, some are wounded -- some are hunted.

Full of pathos and told in a series of disjointed, flashbulb vignettes, Elephantmen is great apocalyptic noir fiction, and the pulpy, over-the-top artwork (half EC comics, half Metal Hurlant) is a perfect complement.

Elephantmen Volume 1: Wounded Animals


  1. Finally some BB love for Elephantmen. This is the best comic I’ve read in almost 10 years.

  2. I was introduced to ElephantMen at my local shop a few years ago, when the first volume was released. Thank goodness they look out for me; ElephantMen is such a moving series. Gorgeous illustration, dense, soft, full of emotion. As is the storyline, sweet and sad. Bravo to Richard Starkings and to Moritat, Henry Flint, Tom Scioli, David Hine, and Chris Bachalo. ElephantMen is yet another way to get adults to consider comic books to be capital A Art.

    And, once again, bravo to BoingBoing for shining a light on the beautiful things in the world.

  3. Being German, I now have a notion of childhood hero Benjamin Blümchen being the Elephantman on that cover…

  4. I’m so glad you liked the first volume. I chatted you up about this series back in September 2009 when you were in Ottawa for the writers festival. I’m a bit jealous that you still have volumes 2 and 3 ahead of you.

  5. Here is a link to the comic’s site as opposed to just a “buy me” link to Amazon. The site has one free issue so you can check it out, plus back backstory and character info.

    You can also buy it via Amazon link on the Hip Flask site and give the publisher a bit of support via their affiliate link.

  6. I wonder if the “disjointed, flashbulb vignettes” work better in the collection than in the individual comic issues. I finally stopped buying this book years ago because I was sick of getting only six pages of story for my $3. Maybe I’ll give it another shot, I always loved the art and the concept.

    I actually met Starkings at Comic Con a while back, and tried to talk to him about the Moreau books by S. Andrew Swann, which is about almost the exact same concept, with a different execution. Major faux pas. I was just really excited about finding more stories about genetically engineered animals, but I guess he had been dealing with people accusing him of a lack of creativity or something.

  7. I enjoy it when animals are used creatively for telling a story – ok, yeah, I’m a furry – and the sad thing is that stuff like this often gets completely overlooked by furry fandom, when ostensibly it’s right up our street. Yet it’s been coming out for over 4 years and this is the first I’ve heard of it. (In retrospect, the only reference I can find to it within the fandom is from a largely-ignored fellow who goes through the Diamond catalog and lists potential titles of interest.)

    Thank you BoingBoing, for doing a better job than the fandom on this!

  8. Concept looks kinda cool, but is ruined by the idealized and objectified women. SO cliched. I mean, hey, you’ve got your Blond, your Asian, and your African ‘Hot Chicks’ (and she of course has to be the ‘unwanted daughter of an African crime lord’. Gag.)- one for each fetish! How sexist and boring. Are there no female ‘Elephant Women’ and the human men who love them? No… of course not. I won’t be picking this up any time soon.

  9. I gotta go with the Anons, I’ve been reading it since it came out and meaning to cut it from my list for months. At least in individual issues you’re only getting half a book for your money, which does making following the story hard.

    Plus the way they were numbering and titling the covers can sometimes be utterly unreadable.

    And then there’s all the mostly naked women.

    Early issues are definitely the best.

    Might also check out The Red Star collection, written illustrated by the guy who came up with Darth Mauls double-sided lightsaber.

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