Moonhead and the Music Machine

Fresh from the always-great Nobrow Press and comics creator Andrew Rae is Moonhead and the Music Machine, a surreal all-ages graphic novel that tells the coming-of-age story of Joey Moonhead, whose head is a moon, and whose freak-flag is just starting to fly. Cory Doctorow reviews a fine, funny and delightful tribute to album rock, outcast liberation, and high school social dominance.

By Cory Doctorow

Moonhead and the Music Machine is a beautiful and beautifully told all-ages graphic novel from Andrew Rae, published by London's excellent Nobrow Press. It's a surreal parable about Joey Moonhead, a high-school aged kid whose head is a free-floating moon, which has a tendency to drift away when he's distracted. Joey's kind of a loser at school, and his only real friend is Sockets, a brainy girl who's also a social pariah. Both are tormented by the popular, rich kids, and both are adrift in the echoing halls of their school.

But when Joey discovers his parents' stash of classic album-rock on vinyl, he realizes his destiny: he will build a crazy, avante-garde electronic instrument in the school shop and play it in the talent show, winning popularity, fame, and the attentions of the most popular, most beautiful girl in school. His first attempt at this is a bust, but when he meets another freak -- Ghost Boy, who wears a sheet at all times, and who no one ever seems to notice -- the two of them raid a local junkyard for parts and make the ultimate musical instrument.

By the time the talent show rolls around, Joey and Ghost Boy have perfected their set, and alienated poor Sockets. Then Ghost Boy is a no-show at the gig, leaving Joey alone on stage, where he rocks, bringing down the house and transforming the student body into surreal freaks like him. But even though Joey now has the popularity he's craved, his adventures are just getting started.

This is one of those pinkwaterian stories about alienated, weird, creative freaks coming of age in schools that are not nearly so soul-destroying as they believe them to be that I just love. It's a great chapter for a happy mutant bible, with lots of nuance and ambiguity that makes it more than just a tale of Breakfast Club estrangement. Rae makes great use of the surreal touches here, never quite treating the moonhead (and the mutated students) as pure literary devices, nor making them quite literal either. The visual humor and ambiguity are just delightful.

And as this is a book from Nobrow, it is gorgeous, from its endpapers to the spot-inks and textures on the hardcover's boards. Nobrow consistently turns out some of the best and best-made books in the industry and this is no exception.

Moonhead and the Music Machine [US]

Moonhead and the Music Machine [UK]

Moonhead and the Music Machine [Nobrow]

Moonhead and the Music Machine [US]

Moonhead and the Music Machine [UK]

Moonhead and the Music Machine [Nobrow]

Published 10:04 am Mon, Jun 16, 2014

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About the Author

I write books. My latest are: a YA graphic novel called In Real Life (with Jen Wang); a nonfiction book about the arts and the Internet called Information Doesn't Want to Be Free: Laws for the Internet Age (with introductions by Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer) and a YA science fiction novel called Homeland (it's the sequel to Little Brother). I speak all over the place and I tweet and tumble, too.

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