‘Mary Tyler Moorehawk’ Takes a Pop Culture-Drenched Trip Into a Graphic Novel Conspiracy | Exclusive Preview

Cartoonist Dave Baker promises a meta narrative that “[crosses] the streams between fiction and reality”

Art from "Mary Tyler Moorehawk"
Art from "Mary Tyler Moorehawk" by Dave Baker (Top Shelf Productions/IDW)

“Mary Tyler Moorehawk” is a new graphic novel from IDW comic imprint Top Shelf Productions that comes out this week, with a title obviously inspired by legendary comic actress Mary Tyler Moore. The psychedelic retro-futurist story, which the publisher characterizes as “Jonny Quest” meets “Infinite Jest,” was written and drawn by Eisner Award-nominated cartoonist Dave Baker.

The book mashes up prose and art, all beautifully illustrated in an indie pink haze as its mystery unravels. The publisher calls it “equal parts sweeping action-adventure graphic novel and dystopian detective story,”which explores “everything from corporate personhood to mutant shark-men to the meaning of fandom and reality itself. It’s a show you don’t remember… and a book you won’t forget.”

Baker himself is part of the book’s world, taking the role of a journalist investigating… an obscure comic called “Mary Tyler Moorehawk.”

Whoa.

But Baker himself gets obsessed as he discovers the artist behind the book he’s investigating is also named “Dave Baker.” (Double whoa.)

In the graphic novel’s world, Mary Tyler Moorehawk is a reclusive genius whose TV show was canceled after nine episodes — and who also battled to save her world from a multiverse-traveling madman. The meta, reality-bending nature fo the work extends to an alleged legal warning on the book from Top Shelf’s legal counsel, complete with a clause about it being unauthorized by the holders of the underlying IP.

Baker, who’s previously worked on licensed comics himself as a writer for a “Star Trek: Voyager” comic series, invokes “Ghostbusters” as he promises his latest “[crosses] the streams between fiction and reality.”

“Like Mark Z. Danielewski’s ‘House of Leaves’ and David Foster Wallace’s ‘Infinite Jest,’ this book playfully and suspensefully uses footnotes to build multiple layers of story and setting,” the publisher’s Leigh Walton explained in a statement. “While we cheer for our gee-whiz cartoon heroine to beat the bad guys, we’re also piecing together addictive glimpses into how ‘intellectual property’ gets turned into comics and cartoons and the real creators who get hurt in the process.”

The book has received praise from fellow creatives, including “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai” writer/creator E.M. Rauch. Beyond the story, it has also received acclaim for the artist’s “energetic and detailed linework,” as comic creator Bryan Talbot described it.

Baker shared an exclusive excerpt with TheWrap and explained the pop culture influences behind it..

“I’m a massive fan of Doug Wildey and his work on ‘Planet of the Apes,’ ‘Rio,’ and ‘Jonny Quest,’” Baker told TheWrap. “I wanted to start this first issue of ‘Mary Tyler MooreHawk’ with a quintessential ‘Adventure Comics’ sequence that would both pay homage to the greats of the genre and harken back to Wildey’s impressive body of work specifically.”

“This sequence was also influenced by the opening of Guy Hamilton’s seminal ‘Goldfinger,’” Baker continued. “I don’t honestly know which is my favorite Bond film, because I love them all so much, but the opening of ‘Goldfinger’ holds a special place in my heart. The transition between the stand-alone adventure and the opening theme is maybe the best the franchise ever got.”

“OK, I lied. My favorite is probably either ‘You Only Live Twice’ or ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.’”

“Anyway, back to the topic at hand. So, after the crescendo of the temple chase, the debut of Cutie Boy, and the revelation of who Mary Tyler MooreHawk’s mother is… I wanted to have a comic book equivalent of a brash iconic credits page,” Baker added, pointing to the cinematic effect he puts into play. “And what better way to do that than to showcase the world the book takes place in. Cast portrait, baby. I love a good sprawling in-universe cast portrait. There’s a great CC Beck Captain Marvel family portrait that was also a big inspiration for this idea.”

You can read that exclusive excerpt below. “Mary Tyler Moorehawk” is available in stores Tuesday, Feb. 13.

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