Christopher Marlowe (The Wasteland)

Created by Martin Rowson

British cartoonist Martin Rowson’s The Wasteland, a 1990 graphic novel, is a surrealistic mash-up of — and cockeyed tribute to — T.S. Eliot’s The Wasteland and the work of Raymond Chandler.

But don’t let that scare you away…

T.S. Eliot was, of course, a literary big shot (and a crime fiction buff), and if you don’t know who Chandler is, boy, are you on the wrong site.

But I digress…

In the course of the story, L.A. gumshoe CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE must slog through a piled-on morass of literary references and question a whole slew of authors, living and dead, everyone from Robert Frost, Norman Mailer, Edmund Wilson, Henry James, Aldous Huxley, Mickey Spillane, Richard Wagner and Ezra Pound to Eliot himself. Not to mention the usual PI shopping list of lies, despair, lust, crooked cops and murder. All this to avenge his partner’s murder. Oh, and the Holy Grail makes an appearance too.

It helps if you’re very very familiar with not just The Big Sleep (and The Maltese Falcon), but also something about the making of the Eliot’s The Wasteland (Pound’s influence, for example). Being able to read Greek and Latin wouldn’t hurt either…

If you’re an English major, and your mouth is watering already, you should note that there are two editions. The American edition is the unexpurgated one; the British edition, published by Penguin, had a bunch of changes made to remove direct quotes from The Wasteland because they couldn’t get rights to do this outside of the US. Also, possibly, just in case it was too easy to follow.

Lucky me, I have the U.S. edition, and there are even a few explanatory notes at the back of the book, which may help some of us duffers plow through the mass of allusions, winks and nods.

Me? I just like to look at the pretty pictures. 🙂

But there are an awful lot of people who seem to love this thing, and it’s proven to have remarkable legs. In 2011, , Throwaway Horse released an iPad app adaptation of Rowson’s version of The Wasteland, and in May 2012 the University of Chicago Press re-released the graphic original novel.


  • “Cunningly contrived, this irreverent graphic parody is inspired in equal parts by the classic modernist poem and by the American noir novels of Raymond Chandler.”
    blurb for the University of Chicago Press edition.



Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

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