The Legacy of the Long Tomorrow

Share this post

The Long Tomorrow by Dan O’Bannon and Jean “Mobius” Giraud is a 16-page comic from 1975 that changed science fiction forever. It became a visual reference for some of the most famous science fiction films ever, which themselves perpetuated the influence forward inspiring other films. It is a story that fused the hard-boiled detective stories of Raymond Chandler with science fiction’s vision of the future and influenced the Zeitgeist that spawned Cyberpunk as a distinct genre.

car chase long tomorrow

The story follows the private detective Pete Club, who is hired to retrieve a box from an unsavory level of the city by the attractive Dolly Vook Van Kattarbar. He retrieves the package against mild conflict with the city’s shady elements. When he returns to Dolly, he learns from robotic police forces that she has been killed, seemingly for her involvement as the lover of the President and the President’s brain has gone missing. On his way back to his office a hired assassin attempts to kill him, but Club manages to defeat and kill him. Upon returning to his office safely, he opens the box and confirms that the box does, in fact, contain the President’s brain. The slain Dolly Vook Van Kattarbar appears and seduces Club. While they are enjoying each other intimate company Club receives a call from a contact on the police force who informs him that there is an Arcturian spy on earth and Dolly reveals that she is the spy. Club learns that she has been manipulating him and hired the assassin to kill him. Amidst her protests, Club kills her dispatching the spy. He returns the President’s brain to the proper authorities and declares, “One more case for the files… That’s all…Just another story…There are 100 million stories in the city. This was twelve of them.”

long tomorrow kick

The Long Tomorrow came about because the minds of Dan O’Bannon and Jean Giraud were brought together to work on Jodorowsky’s Dune. O’Bannon had been brought on to the project to do special effects, and Jean Giraud had been brought on to do the character designs and storyboarding. Because O’Bannon had to fill his time waiting for the film to come to a point where his special effects talents would be used, he filled his time doing drawings and writing stories. One of those stories was The Long Tomorrow. He showed the story to Giraud, who immediately saw its potential and asked if he could illustrate it himself. And so The Long Tomorrow as we know it today came to be, even though Jodorowsky’s Dune evaporated into the ether.

The comic was serialized in two parts in the French magazine Metal Hurlant 1976 and again in the American counterpart Heavy Metal in 1977. When Dan O’Bannon went to work on the film Alien (which he wrote) with Ridley Scott, he recommended that Jean Giraud be brought on to do designs. When Scott began work on Blade Runner he invited Jean Giraud to contribute designs again, but he had to decline because of scheduling conflicts with the film The Ti me Masters. Regardless, The Long Tomorrow was used as the primary visual reference for the film. Blade Runner’s aesthetic went on to inspire countless other science fiction films. William Gibson wrote in the introduction to the graphic novel adaptation of Neuromancer,

So it’s entirely fair to say, and I’ve said it before, that the way Neuromancer-the-novel “looks” was influenced in large part by some of the artwork I saw in ‘Heavy Metal’. I assume that this must also be true of John Carpenter’s ‘Escape from New York’, Ridley Scott’s ‘Blade Runner’, and all other artifacts of the style sometimes dubbed ‘cyberpunk’. Those French guys, they got their end in early.

Even Star Wars drew influence from The Long Tomorrow, copy and pasting the design for the probe droid in the opening of The Empire Strikes Back.

star wars probe droid mobius long tomorrow

Even now, 40 years after The Long Tomorrow’s first printing, the comic has tremendous influence over science fiction media of all kinds. The visual style of the comic has infected films from Blade Runner to the Fifth Element. The storytelling style of mixing hard-boiled detective fiction with science fiction elements has become a mainstay of cyberpunk media of all sorts, like Neuromancer itself or Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan as a more modern example. Dan O’Bannon went on to work on films like Alien and Screamers, which have heavy cyberpunk elements. Giraud went on to work on more cyberpunk films like  Alien, Tron, and the Fifth Element. The Long Tomorrow is an important piece of cyberpunk history.

city bridge long tomorrow

4 Responses to “The Legacy of the Long Tomorrow”

Leave a Reply