Tom Gauld is a Scottish cartoonist based in London. His work appears regularly in The Guardian and New York Times. The second printing of his short graphic novel Mooncop is scheduled for release later this month. The book is funny, touching, a bit sad, yet still completely charming in its monochromatic coloring and simple style. Gauld’s deadpan storytelling lends humor to the book, much as it did for his earlier work Goliath published in 2012. That story was a reimagining of a certain biblical behemoth as a tool of military commanders and a gentle giant who would rather be doing admin duties than warrior work.
Mooncop looks not to the past but to the future, or actually the past’s version of it. Gauld says the story was inspired by an old tin space patrol toy car he saw somewhere once. He imagined the occupation of moon patrolman as a lonely one. A lonely job, yes, but someone’s got to do it. Or do they?
The mooncop presented in this story seems pretty resigned to his solitary fate, although he does request a transfer. Instead of granting this request, his bosses back on Earth send him a robot therapist to help him deal with his depression. They fail to send the correct plug to keep the bot powered up, however. Mooncop is not depressed or stressed because of a high crime rate and the pressures of the job. On the contrary, his crime solution rate is 100 percent, but that’s only because there are few left to break lunar law. Having successfully prevented all crime in this fashion, Mooncop does the occasional good deed during his patrols. He helps an elderly woman find her dog, tells a young girl to leave a restricted area and gives her a ride home. He also finds and returns a Neil Armstrong automaton to the moon museum.
As the colony winds down, Mooncop’s loneliness worsens. The worker at the convenience store he frequents has been replaced with a robot and four levels of his modular compartment building have been removed. A bright note, oddly enough, occurs when his coffee and donuts machine is replaced by a Lunar Donuts Mini Cafe, which is staffed by an actual human female. Will romance bloom on the deserted moon as the two cruise the lunar landscape together?
Mooncop is funny and charming but may also leave you with a feeling of sadness. The desolation is palpable as Mooncop’s patrol car zips past the mountains, valleys and craters one would expect, but also aging colony structures and bubble-enclosed trees and shrubbery. When everyone eventually does leaves the moon colony, who should be the last one to turn off the lights? It just might be our hapless hero.