Friday, May 12, 2023

George’s Run, Graphic Novel

The Twilight Zone was prestige television before prestige television. Rod Serling wrote a heck of a lot of it, but George Clayton Johnson was one of a handful of regular writers who also contributed. Johnson also co-wrote one of the most ripped-off dystopian novels of all time (looking at you, Hunger Games). He was never as well known as his colleagues, but Johnson inspired hipper fans, like Henry Chamberlain who tells his life story as the writer and artist of George’s Run: A Writer's Journey Through the Twilight Zone, which goes on-sale today.

Johnson came out of obscure poverty in remote Wyoming (as Chamberlain tells us multiple times), but somehow in Hollywood, he talked his way into a group of genre writers fittingly known as “The Group.” Members included Richard Matheson, Robert Bloch, and Johnson’s eventual co-writer on
Logan’s Run, William F. Nolan. Charles Beaumont was their unofficial leader and Ray Bradbury was their godfather. Serling was the boss, who produced some of the best work of Johnson, Matheson, and Beaumont on The Zone.

By far, the best stuff in
George’s Run describes the behind-the-scenes camaraderie of his Twilight Zone years. Chamberlain also nicely covers Logan’s Run, Roger Corman’s The Intruder (in which Johnson played a supporting role), and the screenwriter’s big break, the screenplay for the original Ocean’s Eleven. However, some readers might be confused by the references to Icarus Montgolfier Wright, the Oscar-nominated animated short he and Bradbury co-adapted from Bradbury’s short story. On the surface, the 1956 story has been rendered obsolete by the advance developments of the U.S. space program, but the short film remains an eerily powerful allegory.

There is a lot of cool name-dropping for fans, but Chamberlain is not as gifted as a storyteller as Johnson and his circle were. He frequently repeats the same points and periodically interrupts the flow with his own political commentary.
George’s Run could have been a lovely tribute to Johnson and the legendary projects he was involved with, but it needed a much stronger editorial hand to tighten it up and sharpen its focus.

At least Chamberlain helps shine the spotlight on Johnson, who is often overshadowed by his better-known
Twilight Zone colleagues, Matheson and Beaumont. This project means well, but the writing lacks style and punch. Only recommended for die-hard Twilight Zone and Logan’s Run fans, George’s Run is now on-sale, wherever books and comics are sold.