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Nick Cave: Mercy on Me
A Graphic Novel by Reinhard Kleist
Chosen by Mark Ross

My fascination with Nick Cave began in the early 1980s when, as a student, I discovered post punk band The Birthday Party. Cave was their innovative and menacing frontman. In late 1983, when The Birthday Party disbanded, The Bad Seeds were formed and my love affair truly began.

Reinhard Kleist is an artist and comic strip artist who was born in Cologne, and studied at the School of Graphic Design in Münster. In truth, when the graphic novel was released, I was far less intimate with Kleist’s work as an artist than with Cave’s work as musician, singer-songwriter, author, screenwriter, composer and occasional actor.

What Kleist manages to do so successfully is weave mythical characters from Cave’s writings and songs, like Elisa Day (Where The Wild Roses Grow) and Euchrid Eucrow (And The Ass Saw The Angel), and blend them with lyrics from his extensive back catalogue of songs such as, Jangling Jack, Love Letter, Tupelo, Hallelujah and Higgs Boson Blues.

The resulting novel is an outstanding piece of work. The illustrations are powerful and full of energy, capturing the character and mannerisms of Cave perfectly. Anyone who’s witnessed him live will provide testament to what I mean. An engrossing read, the book flits effortlessly between reality and fantasy and picks up the story of his childhood in Warracknabeal, Australia and then takes us on a, sometimes morbid, sometimes sentimental, but always enthralling, journey through the highs and lows of his life and career thus far. From frontman of The Birthday Party to the extraordinary success enjoyed with The Bad Seeds, taking in love, loss and addiction along the way.

I’ll leave it to the man himself to have the last word. As one of the greatest living songwriters, he manages to articulate the success of the novel far better than I ever could.

“Reinhard Kleist, master graphic novelist and myth-maker has – yet again – blown apart the conventions of the graphic novel by concocting a terrifying conflation of Cave songs, biographical half-truths and complete fabulations and creating a complex, chilling and completely bizarre journey into Cave World. Closer to the truth than any biography, that’s for sure! But for the record, I never killed Elisa Day.”
Nick Cave

 


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