Charles Burns Bootlegs Himself with “Johnny 23”

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Charles Burns’ most recent graphic novel, X’ed Out, appeared a couple of months ago. The story of a young punk with a little tufty hairdo who has, or imagines, an alternate life in a terrifying, apocalyptic landscape, the Black Hole cartoonist’s new book owes a lot to Hergé’s classic Tintin series–the cover, for instance, is a parody of the cover Hergé drew for the Tintin volume The Shooting Star.

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Hergé’s books were printed in innumerable editions around the world–some of them bootlegs that took a lot of liberties with their design and contents. And, in fact, there are a few thousand copies of a “bootleg” edition of X’ed Out floating around out there, too: Johnny 23, available from the French art-comics publisher Le Dernier Cri.

Johnny 23 is mostly panels from X’ed Out, chopped up and rearranged (William S. Burroughs’ cut-ups are another point of reference for Burns’ original book), printed in purple rather than X’ed Out‘s full color, and reformatted. They’re also “translated” into an alien alphabet that appears to be a cryptogram for English (although nobody yet appears to have risen to the challenge of solving the puzzle for the whole book–and the dialogue isn’t the same in the English and alien versions).

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Perhaps most enticingly for fans of Burns, about a quarter of Johnny 23 is entirely new artwork–including its cover, which riffs on another Tintin book, The Black Island. Burns currently has a show at Galerie Martel in Paris with even more Hergé-inspired, Johnny 23-themed nightmare visions, including this horrific variation on the cover of The Broken Ear.