The Story of Lester Quartz’s Fantastic Journey, Volume 1
|A youngster finds himself physically inside the city of another person’s brain, links up with urban terrorists trying to destroy that mind, and finally takes control of the mind in order to become a rock star.
Writing and art by Michael D. Smith
Lester Quartz’s rowboat strands him at the end of his spherical soul, at radius infinity. Opening the hatch at the plastic wall marking the end of himself, he walks into the city of another person’s brain, but soon finds himself in thrall to urban terrorists trying to destroy that mind. Yet when the revolution inexplicably converts the mind to Cosmic Unity, Lester is invited to speak with the Board of Directors, which in turns persuades him to assume direct control of the human being in question.
Taking over the computers, joystick, and throttle of another entity, Lester now becomes Akard Drearstone, a burned out executive trying to figure out how to celebrate his fortieth birthday. Still reeling from his unexpected encounter with Cosmic Unity, Akard distractedly murders a pesky subordinate, then is forced to flee the country on the most expensive BMW motorcycle he can buy. Pulled over for speeding, Akard is distraught as the state trooper proceeds to execute his motorcycle by pistol fire. But when the cycle explodes, killing the trooper, Akard decides he must pilot the newly-abandoned police car south. He winds up in Freeport, Texas, buying a dangerous ultralight airplane which he intends to fly to Mexico.
As his airplane develops engine trouble, a beautiful woman flying her own ultralight swoops in, sheds her bikini, leaps to Akard’s plane, and makes love to him. But knowing she’s badly needed back in Dimension Z, she then thrusts her torso into Akard’s propeller. Horrified, Akard clings to the plane’s fuselage as it spins out of control, then realizes: “Wait a second! I don’t need all this hassle!” and simply finds himself on his feet, safe on the ground.
He hitches a ride to Miami, where he voices his despairing question to every passerby: “Hey, man, wanna start a rock and roll band?” Akard’s band soon becomes so famous that the CIA decides he must be assassinated. Shot to pieces at his definitive eight-hour concert, Akard struggles to hold his body together. His lady from Dimension Z visits him in the hospital and explains how human beings are constantly coming to the end of their infinite soul radius, then entering new minds to explore. She makes love to him again, but explains that he’s suffered a pre-frontal lobotomy in reverse, meaning that he’s lost everything except his pre-frontal lobes. She tells him he cannot rely on her to constantly recharge his psychic battery, and steps out of the hospital window into the path of an oncoming car in order to return to Dimension Z.
The damaged, disillusioned Akard takes a bus to Dallas, buys more than enough six packs of Drunken Farmer beer, gets sloshed in an alley while reading Aldous Huxley, and is mocked and kicked by bored Dallasites during lunch hour. Then he sees a hatch in the wall labeled: “You have come to the end of your soul-shell, at radius infinity! You will now enter into the inside of a stranger’s brain! To operate handle, operate handle!”
Akard vows to resist that hatch, to die here forever, but a motorcycle gang arrives to forcefully suggest otherwise …
Shortly after arriving in the new brain, Lester buys a motorcycle and has a cosmic time until he comes to the Chasm of Existential Doubt. Though he survives the crash, he’s now ripe for indoctrination into the Psychosis Liberation Movement.
|Destroy the Universe!!!! Destroy! Death!!!! A-A-AAAAAAAAAAAAHH!
Despite the Synapse Strike and the takeover of the brain’s television network at gunpoint, the PLM collapses of its own insanity after its demands for the suicide of the organism are thwarted by secret agents of Cosmic Unity.
|What a Trip!
Driven mad by the revolutionaries, Lester hurls himself from the television network’s high-rise office building, but secret agent Pablo zaps him with “Let not this sparrow fall!” Pablo and sidekick Pedro then send Lester to the Cerebral Cortex on a mission for Cosmic Unity.
|So This is the Cerebral Cortex! At Last!
At Nerve Cell Building 53 Lester is introduced to the Board of Directors of this organism. The Board has been converted to Cosmic Unity but says it needs Lester to assume direct control of the master human. “Only an outside organism can do this sort of thing,” they tell him, and reluctantly Lester agrees.
Lester comes to as businessman and CEO Akard Drearstone on his fortieth birthday. But in the aftermath of the revolutions and counterrevolutions in his brain, Akard is burned out, able to write only messy approximations of his realizations, and, consumed by despair, considers killing himself.
He falls asleep instead.
|Conference Rooms A and B
The next morning Akard comes to work as if nothing had happened. Yet one of his puppy subordinates, full of plans for his own department’s expansion, won’t leave him alone, and Akard, reeling with memories of Cosmic Unity, lashes out with a knife and kills him.
|What About My Bike!!!!
The rest of the Akard’s colleagues force him out as CEO and tell him to leave the country in return for their covering up the murder. Akard heads to South America on a motorcycle but is stopped for speeding on I-35, somewhere in a Midwest that looks suspiciously like the Southwest.
The arresting officer takes it into his head to fire a few rounds into Akard’s top of the line BMW motorcycle.
In the deep night Akard knows he’s fated to pilot the dead officer’s cruiser south through Texas, through the Bayou City and on to Freeport on the coast, where he buys an ultralight airplane with a plan to flee to Mexico.
|What’s All This Fuss About Anyway?
Akard is boarded in midair and vigorously loved by a fetching damsel muse, who proceeds to enter Dimension Z by way of Akard’s propeller. Akard loses control of the aircraft–then realizes he doesn’t “need all this hassle.” Just letting the plane crash, he wonders: “What’s all this fuss about anyway?”
|I Must Seek … To … Understand my Own Body, in … All its Infinite Permutations!
With no other options left to him, Akard founds a rock band, but the CIA targets him for assassination midway through his ultimate eight-hour concert.
|Akard! It’s Me! I’ve Come Back from Dimension Z!
Shot to pieces, Akard survives as a zombie, but all is explained by his lovely airplane muse, who seduces him in his hospital bed, then leaps in front of a passing car to head back to Dimension Z.
|You Have Come to the End of Your Soul-Shell, at Radius Infinity!
Abandoned and exiled, drunk in the alleys of downtown Dallas, reeling after reading every book Aldous Huxley ever wrote, Akard is given a chance to enter a stranger’s brain–one more time.
I began the drawings in a black Canson journal as I ended my college days at Rice in May 1974, gluing in lined writing paper from the initial session, drawing a few panels at the beach at Freeport while my girlfriend Nancy tested the cold Gulf of Mexico, and finally completing the comic by December 1974, a few months after Nancy and I were married. Most of the drawings were done at my desk at Praetorian Mutual Life Insurance Company of Dallas, Texas, and most are in black, blue, or red ballpoint. I recall happily reading/displaying the first completed third of the book to an enthusiastic drunken audience. I added color through summer 1976, only in a few cases correcting drawing errors. Here I learned that black ballpoint does not mix well with crayon, and that the resulting drawings are prone to severe bleedthrough. The comic is a preservationist’s nightmare, but has held up well so far in its cool dark filing cabinet home.
All panels are 8 3/8” x 10 3/4”, ballpoint or Higgins ink, colored with crayon, watercolor, and tempera paint. Both sides of sheets are used, for a total of 280 pages in a black Canson journal.
The offhand, prosaic title of the comic suggests that the images were more important to me than the words. At the time the designation “graphic novel” was unknown to me.
All words and images copyright by Michael D. Smith