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Laika

by Nick Abadzis
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Product Details

  • Publisher: First Second
  • Publishing date: 04/09/2007
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9781596431010
  • ISBN: 1596431016

Synopsis

Laika was the abandoned puppy destined to become Earth's first space traveler. This is her journey.

Nick Abadzis masterfully blends fiction and fact in the intertwined stories of three compelling lives. Along with Laika, there is Korolev, once a political prisoner, now a driven engineer at the top of the Soviet space program, and Yelena, the lab technician responsible for Laika's health and life. This intense triangle is rendered with the pitch-perfect emotionality of classics like Because of Winn Dixie, Shiloh, and Old Yeller. Abadzis gives life to a pivotal moment in modern history, casting light on the hidden moments of deep humanity behind history. Laika's story will speak straight to your heart.

Questions for Nick Abadzis

Jeff VanderMeer for Amazon.com: What inspired you to pick this particular topic for a graphic novel? And why, for example, a graphic novel as opposed to a strictly written account?

Abadzis: I'd known it was a good story since I was about six years old. It had always been at the back of my mind as a story to tell. In 2002, new information came to light about the Sputnik II mission and specifically Laika's death. That was the spark, although back then I envisaged something much shorter. It, uh, grew. Why a graphic novel? Well, comics are my language. It's the medium that I'm most familiar and comfortable...so it was first choice.

Amazon.com: What most surprised you while researching Laika?

Abadzis: There were a few things. I had no idea there were so few Soviet engineers and scientists involved in the nascent space program--not to trivialize their incredible achievement but, in many senses, they just winged it, borne along in great part by Korolev's force of will and political maneuvering. Also it was interesting to find out how much the Soviet scientists cared for their cosmodogs. Events conspired to make Laika a sacrificial passenger on board Sputnik II, but they really did honor their canine cosmonauts. There's even a statue of Laika in Moscow. Perhaps this book will go some small way to re-establishing her position in history: whatever the circumstances, and whether you agree with what they did or not, she was the first earthling in orbit around this planet.

Amazon.com: Was there anything that didn't make it into the graphic novel because it just didn't fit?

Abadzis: There was quite a bit, actually. I could have done with another hundred pages. But I'd taken a bit of time to write and thumbnail it (which I do at the same time) and when that stage was finished, the publisher and I realized that the 50th anniversary of the Sputnik launches was fast approaching. When I first pitched the idea to Mark Siegel at First Second, neither of us realized that it was so close. It felt like we needed to be a part of that, so I drew it extremely fast--two hundred pages in a little over eight months. It's an understatement to say that it was extremely hard work. What got left out was a longer explication of Laika's origins; the scenes with Mikhail, her first owner were much longer.... Originally, I did have an idea of doing three books: Laika would be the first, Gagarin the second, and a full-on comic strip biography of Korolev [the driven engineer on the project] would be the final part that would bind together events seen in the first two. Maybe one day. Certainly, elements of Korolev's life that I felt were important to the story made it into the final version of the book.

Amazon.com: Did you worry about the sentimentality inherent in the situation? How did that affect your decisions in creating the graphic novel?

Abadzis: I suppose it would have been easy to make it another cutesy, twee, and overly saccharine dead-dog story but that wouldn't have been true either to my taste or to the socio-political system and culture I was attempting to portray. Laika--the real Laika--was a cute dog, as photographs attest. There's no getting away from it, and there's plenty of evidence to suggest her owners thought so, too. I didn't want to anthropomorphize her, at least not to the extent that she was spouting speech/thought balloons like, say Tintin's Snowy (which works just fine for those books). Having made that decision--which I didn't really feel was an option, in any case--I knew that to really do it justice, I'd have to do a lot of research. The sentiment of the story, such as it is, would take care of itself and be implicit in certain character's actions or words (or not, as the case may be).... All that said, it'd be disingenuous to suggest that, in dealing with a true story that involves dogs and their owners (even if they happen to be scientists in a Soviet cosmodog program), there wouldn't be a bit of emotion. There's plenty (and I hope the reader feels it). But there's also the harsh reality of the time, the place and the confluence of events that put Laika into space.

Amazon.com: What are you currently working on?

Abadzis: I'm currently working on a new graphic novel for older readers called Skin Trouble, which is also for First Second. I'll leave it to your imagination as to what that's all about, suffice to say it'll be an ensemble piece, character-wise. I've also got a children's graphic novel in the works. Can't say anything about that at all, but I'm looking forward to drawing it.


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  • Poignant and entertaining
    From Amazon

    This tender graphic novel deals with the birth of spaceflight from the point of view of Laika, the first dog in space, who went aboard the Soviet Union's Sputnik 2, in late 1957, in a flight that was never meant to return to Earth. As the story is told here, after the success of the first Sputnik in October 1957, Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev wanted to capitalize on the propaganda value of the world's first satellite and pushed for a new launching for the anniversary of the Russian revolution, just a month later, this time bringing into orbit for the first time a living being into space. There was little time for preparing a proper satellite, so a non retrievable rocket was launched. Thus, the moral of this tale is that a dog's life was sacrificed for the honor of the nation (there was little scientific value in Sputnik 2). The story here has three protagonists: Laika, the female stray dog turn sacrificial space pioneer (a moving, presumably invented story about her troubled, wandering life as an unwanted dog before being caught for the Soviet space program is presented here in the first chapters), Korolev, the driven and ambitious chief designer and a former gulag inmate during Stalin's time, and the fictional Yelena, the female lab technician in charge of Laika's health who, despite the advice of her superiors, comes to care for her personally. With drawings that are attractive without being flashy, this is a very entertaining book. It is also quite poignant, without being overtly sentimental.

  • A Tender and Engrossing Work
    From Amazon

    Laika was just a mutt wondering the streets of Moscow when she met with destiny. She was brought into the burgeoning Russian space program and became the first living thing from Earth to be launched into space, onboard Sputnik 2 in November 1957. Unfortunately, the dog would only live about four hours in the rocket, before excessive heat killed her. She might have lived had the Russians taken more time to design the capsule inside Sputnik 2, but the shuttle was rushed into production in just a month--Nikita Khrushchev was so impressed by the success of Sputnik 1 that he called in top scientist Sergei Pavlovich to rush the next launch to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. Laika remains one of the most famous dogs to ever live and a symbol of the Cold War aggression between Russia and the United States. In Nick Abadzis's graphic novel of the same name, Laika becomes so much more, as do the human beings who catapulted her into history. Abadzis, a British writer who spent months researching this book, even journeying to Moscow, starts his story with Pavlovich's release from the Gulag in the late 1930s. From then on, Abadzis jumps back and forth in time with wild yet precise abandon, going from Pavlovich's near-death trek to safety after his release from prison to the day of the launch of Sputnik 1 and back in easily followed vignettes. He also gives Laika a backstory that parallels Pavlovich's. Since so little is known about Laika--even her breeding heritage is debated--it's conjecture on his part, but it's wonderfully imaginative and fitting. Laika deserves a story of her own for the advancements in technology and space exploration that she helped make possible. Abadzis has a soft, reserved style, a rare gift for subtlety and understatement. In an age of overcrowded pages and panels stuffed full of long dialogue balloons, it's refreshing to read a graphic novel that is not overwhelmed by wordiness. It's clear, too, that Abadzis has done his research. Laika is filled with fascinating details on the Russian space program and the people inside of it. Pavlovich, still bitter about his false imprisonment and treatment in the Gulag, had a near-impossible task laid out for him when he was commanded by Khrushchev to not only construct a second rocket to launch but to also make it even more news-worthy than Sputnik 1. The only way to top the first event was to put a living thing in orbit. Pavlovich lived up to his end of the bargain, but the cost to him is clearly shown in Laika. It's a tender and engrossing work that deserves praise for shedding light on one of the most noble and steadfast victims of the Cold War. -- John Hogan

  • Laika: "For Your Own Good" Lies I am sorry I believed
    From Amazon

    November third, 1957 the Soviet Union sent Laika (a.k.a. Kudryavka) a female part-Samoyed terrier into space aboard Sputnik 2 with no plan for recovery, Laika would die in space. What was told to children of the 50's and 60's (myself included) was that the Soviets had made every effort to ensure she was as comfortable as possible during her flight, that she was "put to sleep" before her supplies ran out after ten days in space and that she "did not suffer." Nothing could be further from the truth. The book Laika by Nick Abadzis is the the book I wish I could have created. A graphic historical novel rendered in just 205 pages, Abadzis re-creates the Cold War Era and the frenzy of the Space Race. Of all the creatures great and small that would die in this effort to "conquer space" Laika/Kudryavka was the only one I know of who was deliberately sent on a one-way mission. With astounding detail brought by fantastic research (including at the house of Sputnik's Chief Designer, Sergei Korolev) the author presents not only the story of the dog the world would come to know as Laika but the lives of the people intwined with her fate in the context of the 50's, the Cold War, the Space Race and all that that implies. It has taken decades and the collapse of an entire nation state for facts of this story to come to light. This is not a happy story but it is a story that needs to be told nonetheless, for the sake of all good dogs everywhere and for ourselves.

  • Laika - Dog with Courage
    From Amazon

    Illustrated novel (comic book?) about Laika, the first dog in space (probably still there). Really not a kids book, although it does tell about this particular dog and how the choice was made to send a dog into space. Not bad - sad (outcome) but ok. Kids liked it - I choked up. But good history, and fairly good perspective.

  • Beautiful novel of human achievement (and its cost)
    From Amazon

    This lovely independent is drawn and written by Nick Abadzis, who painstakingly researched the (shockingly depressing) topic of Soviet space-flight for years before putting pen to paper. The story centers around Laika, the first dog in space, but in following the adorable mutt, Abadzis reveals a broad cast of characters all involved in the program. Scientists, politicians, ordinary people are all caught up in the dramatic race to accomplish one of mankind's biggest achievements - against impossible odds, and no matter what the cost. This is a beautiful book and perfectly illustrated. I'm curious to see what else Abadzis is producing - he has a unique style that fits this story perfectly

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