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Mike Grell
Tor Books, 352 pages

Mike Grell
Mike Grell was born 1947. He attended the University of Wisconsin and the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. He worked in the advertising industry and for such companies as the Encyclopedia Britannica and World Book. In 1972, he began his comics career as an assistant to Dale Messick on her Brenda Starr newspaper strip. The next year, he worked at DC Comics on titles such as Aquaman, Green Arrow, Phantom Stranger, Batman, and The Legion of Super-Heroes. His own creation, The Warlord, has been published continuously since 1976. In 1981, he took over the writing, pencilling, lettering, inking, and colouring of the Sunday Tarzan newspaper strip. He and his family live in the Idaho panhandle.

ISFDB Bibliography
Mike Grell Tribute Site

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Lisa DuMond

The debate on comics vs. novels looks to be badgering us for a long time to come. Can the writing compare? Where would comics be without the pictures? Let the argument rage on; I've found someone who can't be pigeon-holed in either media. If you only know Mike Grell from his countless comics, you are in for a splendid surprise with his first novel, Sable.

Sable (for those who are not in the comics loop) is a Vietnam vet, pentathlete, mercenary, safari guide, game warden, and writer. When a savage attack by an unknown enemy wipes out his family, he becomes an animal set on vengeance. The lengths he goes to find his enemy edge just past the border of sanity. Finally, these exploits will result in his exile from the Africa he loves.

You can just picture the illustrations that would tell that story, can't you? Well, take the artwork away from Grell's work and he paints every detail with intense strokes. Without the brush in his hand, Grell is still every bit the artist, laying down the words that conjure the images in the reader's mind. It's a gorgeous canvas to experience.

Through Grell's words, we get a chance to see Africa in all its pain and glory. It becomes one of the strongest characters in the novel, surpassed only by Jon Sable in a cast of diverse and fascinating people and animals. The portrayal of Africa cannot be accurately described as anything but a character analysis.

Why else would we feel so deeply every injury inflicted on the continent, its people, and its creatures?

Sable's wounds mirror Africa's, both external and internal. Some of the attacks leave behind scars, marring the face of the man and the place. The deepest damage is often buried too deep to see with the naked eye. These wounds are the ones that threaten the very life of man and land. These are the killing blows.

The question that propels Sable is not so much whether he will find his prey, but whether he can survive the hunt. He emphasizes the necessity of a clean kill; never leave an animal alive but wounded. The animal may eventually die, but until it does, a wounded beast is the most dangerous enemy.

Grell does an impressive job of conveying the ravishing of the land and keeping Sable's story moving at a tense pace. It's a difficult juggling act, but the author makes it look effortless -- perhaps because Sable and Africa are so much a part of each other.

If you are getting some weird looks on the Tube, the bus, or any other human sardine contraption, and you think it might be the physiologically impressive but impossible characters that adorn the comic you are carrying, keep the graphic stuff at home for awhile and sink your teeth into Sable.

There's nothing wrong with comics, but be aware that there is more out there. And you will get the same charge out of it. No question.

Copyright © 2000 Lisa DuMond

In between reviews and interviews, Lisa DuMond writes science fiction and humour. DARKERS, her latest novel, will be published in early 2000 by Hard Shell Word Factory. She has also written for BOOKPAGE and PUBLISHERS WEEKLY. Her articles and short stories are all over the map. You can check out Lisa and her work at her website hikeeba!.

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