Hellraisers by Robert Sellers & Jake

Hellraisers: A Graphic Biography
by Robert Sellers & Jake
Self Made Hero, 2011

An interesting approach to the increasingly-popular graphic biography genre featuring four awful role models: Richard Burton, Peter O’Toole, Richard Harris and Oliver Reed, famous for their acting, drinking, rogering and fighting (in approximately that order).

There’s a framing story featuring Martin, a violent drinker on the verge of losing his family who is visited in the night by his dead smoker father, his head studded with cigarettes like Pinhead from Hellblazer. Martin is warned that he is to be haunted by four spirits (“Spirits being the appropriate word”) who will show him the error of his ways. Instead of being the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future, they turn out to be four undeniably charismatic but dangerous alcoholic thespians, who take Martin on a fairly comprehensive cautionary tour through their lives.

Sellers has assembled many entertaining anecdotes about the actors, and part of the joy of this book is working out what film they’re involved with from their costumes. Jake’s artwork (probably best known from his work with The Prodigy) is thick-lined and craggy, but completely appropriate for the subjects. Amazingly, Keith Moon doesn’t turn up until page 113.

Understandably, as the only living subject*, O’Toole’s life is recounted in a slightly less lurid manner than the others, but the details are still unsparing. It’s hard to tell what moral to derive from this work – basically, they all lived great excessive lives, did exactly what they pleased, utterly ruined the lives of any women they encountered, and (mostly) died prematurely and messily from the consequences of their hedonism. Oh, and made a few films as well. Good biography material, in other words.

* His survival is attributed here to having most of his stomach removed in the 1970s, which slowed down his drinking just a tiny bit.
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