It’s a poignant, darkly humorous tale, as is to be expected from the irreverent illustrator whose deadpan comedy regularly graces the pages of the Guardian, the New York Times, and The New Yorker. This new graphic novel, published by Drawn & Quarterly, tells the tale of a lonely cop stationed on the moon when the lunar colony’s population is slowly dwindling. As every day passes in blue darkness, life gets quieter and lonelier for the faceless police officer with no crimes to report or mysteries to solve.
“Living on the moon… Whatever were we thinking? It seems so silly now,” says an old lady to the Mooncop as he makes his daily rounds and searches for her lost dog in dusty craters. Gauld’s sullen, simple illustrative style is uncomplicated and unglamorous—the perfect aesthetic for the tale’s theme of unmet expectations and dashed fantasy.
“Since I was a boy, I’ve dreamt about being a cop and living on the moon,” the Mooncop says as he eats a donut in an empty lunar café protected by a bell jar-shaped dome. “But now I’m here, it seems like the party’s over.” His bleak terrain is of space-age nostalgia, filled with R2D2-like robots, clunky moon-apartments that look like oversized floppy drives, and hover cars straight out of The Jetsons.
The widely praised 2012 book Goliath is a testament to Gauld’s deft ability at reworking familiar narratives to great effect. The graphic novel imagines the tale of David and Goliath from Goliath’s point of view, turning the tables to subtly meditate on the power of spin and the absurdity of war. Similarly, Mooncop subverts science fiction, a genre that’s a consistent favorite of illustrators and graphic novelists. Gauld’s power lies in the way he uses his own medium of the comic against itself—his work consistently shatters the typical comic set up of fantasy, science fiction, or historical adventure tale.
For Mooncop, a sad blue tone envelops most of the panels, hinting at how the story is not just about the unadventurous life of lunar police officer, but is actually a tale of depression—of being stuck in a rut and feeling like the world is moving on around you. In a time when so many magazines carry stories of excited recruits dreaming of the glory of being the first in a supposed Mars Colony, Mooncop’s melancholia reveals the realities of a bleak future of boredom and isolation that awaits some of those whose dreams come true.