cover image The Twilight Man: Rod Serling and the Birth of Television

The Twilight Man: Rod Serling and the Birth of Television

Koren Shadmi. Life Drawn, $22.95 trade paper (168p) ISBN 978-1-64337-571-7

This sharp graphic biography mimics Rod Serling’s gift for mordant trickery without descending into parody as a martini-downing Serling spills his life story to a flirty seatmate on a nighttime PanAm flight. Shadmi (Highwayman) approximates Serling’s clipped and portentous style: “This particular specimen is Private Rodman Serling, age eighteen. A Jewish boy from small town Binghamton, New York,” he writes, describing Serling at the time of his WWII paratrooper service. Crushed by the “futility” of combat, Serling nearly succumbs to PTSD. But the success of his 1956 teleplay Patterns sparked a streak culminating in the 1959 launch of his groundbreaking anthology show The Twilight Zone, whose scripts were fueled by the fears swirling in his “night terrors.” He declares his intent is to dig into America’s subconscious, “harvest dark matter, reshape it, disguise it, and serve it back to the masses.” Shadmi’s art evokes the show’s signature hard lines and stark framing. The subversive series ended in 1964; Serling’s later years were a struggle, lightened by the surprise hit of his Planet of the Apes screenplay. While the book introduces the kind of dramatic final twist its subject would have approved, less attention is paid to the psychology behind why Serling so often concocted them. Nevertheless, it’s a perceptive take, which celebrates and illuminates one of early television’s true artists. [em](Oct.) [/em]