Amongst the misspelt words, and bright, felt-tip penned pictures of Daniel Johnston’s first comic book is his under-credited genius. It is certainly a genius warped by mental illness and religious delusion; yet ‘Space Ducks’ still manages to be an impressive work.
The plot (admittedly is a little hard to follow) is the story of the Space Ducks vs Satan and his devils. In ancient times, the devils have overrun Earth, until the Space Ducks arrive and eradicate them.
However, for me the illustrations are the vital part of the book. They are brightly coloured; with an energy created by quick strokes. Particularly impressive is an image of the devil’s face held up by pitchforks, in a Dali-esque style (Johnston signs the picture ‘Dali Johnston’).
Although Johnston could be considered an outsider artist, he is obviously well self-educated about art; as well as comic books. Nevertheless he still maintains his own distinctive style, an attribute common to most outsider artists.
According to the blurb, all Daniel Johnston has ever wanted to do is write comic books. He has written many that have gone unpublished, and sold his drawings in the past.
The biographic film about him (called ‘The Devil and Daniel Johnston’) shows Johnston exhibiting his work in an art gallery, and instantly selling the whole lot to one buyer.
However it was music that brought Johnston fame. He has written over 20 albums, and he briefly appeared on MTV in his youth. Yet it was Kurt Cobain wearing a T-shirt with one of his album covers on it, during a broadcast performance, that brought him to most people’s attention.
Johnston suffers from bipolar disorder; although this has obviously not affected his productivity, it has limited his functioning so much that he has spent years in mental hospitals.