Thursday, December 3, 2015

David Bowie and Blackstar

David Bowie remains steeped in science fiction.

The video for his latest song "Blackstar" is testament to that. It opens on a desolate planet or moonscape. An eclipse hangs above in the darkness of space. A woman approaches the form of a dead astronaut, spacesuit shell containing naught but dusty, skeletal remains. Then there's Bowie, singing while wearing a blindfold with painted on eyes. There's also a woman with a tail. It's creepy as hell and you need to check it out:

Against all my willpower and literary judgment, I can't keep myself from making an association that I can only hope won't sully the work of this genius. I mean, it's an association with the lowest of culture. Well, maybe not the lowest but you can pretty much see the bottom from there. God help me I can't hold it back. Here goes.

Remember an awful cartoon from the early 80s called Blackstar? At the time of its airing, I was playing Dungeons & Dragons rather regularly and found myself checking out a few episodes. I found it was nowhere near the quality of Thundarr the Barbarian, so I didn't stick with it. Anyway, Blackstar was a hodgepodge of a great deal of science fiction sources, most prominent among those being Edgar Rice Burroughs' "John Carter of Mars" series. In fact, that might be evidenced in the name of the cartoon's lead character.

John Blackstar is an astronaut. His spaceship is sent through a wormhole and he ends up crashing on the primitive planet of Sagar. It is a planet with a sword and sorcery culture. It is also ruled by a Darth Vader-like character called The Overlord. He is in possession of a mystic sword called the Powersword. If this weapon should ever be combined with its other half, a blade called the Starsword, then the two would form the ultimate weapon: the Powerstar.

Of course the Starsword has somehow fallen into the custody of John Blackstar and Blackstar is leading a rag-tag group of fugitives in a rebellion against the Overlord. Among these rebels is a sorceress named Mara (scholars of Buddhism, feel free to chime in on that), a shape-shifter named Klone, and the obligatory "cute little guys" called the Trobbits. Yeah, you can just imagine the latter tossed in by the suits in marketing who demanded to know "where are your Smurfs?" so the show could be competitive with other properties. Actually, rumor has it that the name "Trobbits" is a concatenation of "tree hobbits" in a ripping off of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.

And Blackstar rode a dragon.

What would any of this have to do with David "the genius" Bowie? Nothing. Except that which has unfortunately infected my heat oppressed brain. It's the song title "Blackstar" that does it, really. What if Bowie is showing what really happened to John Blackstar?  Blackstar does indeed go through the wormhole and crash on Sagar, but Sagar is an utterly dead and desolate world. There may be weird natural formations and green skies as depicted in the cartoon, but there is no fantasy epic for Blackstar to become a part of.

No, that all plays out in his mind. It's all wishful, day-dreamy thinking as John Blackstar lay dying slowly from starvation, the sole inhabitant of dead Sagar. Foudroyant with despair and unable to embrace grim reality, Blackstar's mind turns to the absurd and trobbits is what he gets. That and all the assorted, delicious weirdness of the Bowie video set to the electro-minimalist ambiance.

"Can you hear me, Major Tom? Can you hear me, Major Tom?"

Bowie's vision is at once a more realistic and more fantastic interpretation of John Blackstar than the cartoon. Yes, I'm well aware that I am reading far too much into all of this. But please, someone get to work on a Thundarr film adaptation.

There's something wrong with me.

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