The Puma Blues Book One: Watch That Man

The Puma Blues Book One: Watch That Man
The Puma Blues Book One Watch That Man review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Mirage Studios
  • Volume No.: 1
  • Release date: 1988
  • Format: Black and white
  • Contains adult content?: yes
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no

In 1985, a couple of casual acquaintances showed Cerebus the Aardvark creator Dave Sim the opening instalment of something called The Puma Blues. It was an eerily beautiful, disturbingly pensive oddment, marrying then-escalating ecological concerns and tropes of science fictive paranoia with torturous soul-searching and the eternal quest for place in both family and the world. This 1988 paperback gathers the first dozen issues.

Stephen Murphy and Michael Zulli set their gentle epic fourteen years into the future at the millennium’s turn when government agent Gavia Immer is tasked with monitoring changes to flora and fauna in the wilderness reserve around Quabbin Reservoir, Massachusetts on behalf of the US military. Gavia’s job is not simply clerical. His mission is to periodically test fluctuating PH levels of the lake in between the state’s continual chemical readjustments of the body of water and, whenever he discovers a mutant species – whether “animute” or “biomute” – he has to utilise state-of-the-art technology to instantaneously ship specimens to a US-Sino laboratory Reserve somewhere in China.

Gavia’s only contact with the rest of humanity is his TV screen. It delivers reports, interviews and pep talks from his superiors and permits conversations with his mother: allowing the solitary agent plenty of time to brood about his father’s death and their unresolved issues. The fanatical film-maker has been gone four years now, but Gavia is still drowning in unresolved conflicts, which is probably what prompts his mum to forward tapes of all the strange documentaries he neglected his wife and son to make.

Is Gavia imagining it or is he actually gradually divining some inner cosmic revelation from his dad’s tapes and theories? Their examination of recent historical events draws solid links between the declining state of the world and a (frankly baffling and seemingly implausible) connection to patterns of UFO sightings. Surely though, his father’s clearly growing obsession with the strange “alien” creatures popularly known as “Greys” must only have been his metaphorical way of searching for incontestable Truth? Nonetheless, they slowly begin to have a similar effect on the thinking of the equally soul-searching son.

Zulli’s ever-evolving realistic art gives life to the weirdness of Murphy’s concepts in a volume named after one of David Bowie’s stranger 1970s songs. It continues in Sense of Doubt, but has been superseded by Dover Books’ 2015 hardcover (and ecologically preferable digital equivalent).