David Blandy, Adam Rutherford and Daniel Locke, Helix (2014)


The first human to live for 500 years has already been born. So suggests a digital graphic novel by artist David Blandy, illustrator Daniel Locke and writer Adam Rutherford.

Helix launches next month and promises users the chance to interact with spider goats, DJ Kool Herc, Crick and Watson and the Great God Pan. But let me expand on that.

Spider goats are one of the finest achievements of the burgeoning field synthetic biology. They can spin web from their udders and this, apparently, has commercial applications.

DJ Kool Herc, a predecessor of this natural history mash up, features here as the inventor of hip hop. Professional fan Blandy has dropped him into the convoluted story of DNA.

As you may know, Francis Crick and James Watson also feature in that tale. But before uncovering the structure of genetics they worked on the Manhattan Project, another twist.

(Blandy and Locke also quick to give props to Rosalind Franklin who, despite her contributions to her colleagues’ discovery, missed out on the Nobel Prize.)

Pan comes into it as a foreshadowing of the goat story. He makes for a great illustration, in homage to Goya, holding court with worshippers complete with evil horns.

Locke drew inspiration from 1950s text books and and has worked up the four chapters of history and narrative in a flat, approachable and lucid style.

And what with the A-bomb, the hip hop, and the barefooted wanderer, who here lives to be 500, the project enfolds much of Blandy’s previous work as thoroughly as a double helix.

The pair were speaking at Lighthouse in Brighton on Thursday evening, along with a rep or two from Storythings, the digital agency which has brought the project to life.

But the two visual artists are keen to see a print version of their saga and hinted that the story could grow and grow, getting progressively more cosmic as it goes.

Graphic novels get a hard time in mainstream culture. Neither fine art nor works of literature they are often viewed with suspicion by traditional artists and writers.

But I found that after tapping through Helix on an iPad, just once, it really sunk in. This is surely a medium, given our web-fried memories, whose time has come.

Helix is a commission by Lighthouse and launches on April 8 2014. For more info on David Blandy visit his site, and watch a few of his films. Daniel Locke, meanwhile, is awaiting the publication of another graphic novel, 311 Ditchling Road, from Nobrow Press.

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