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Laika the Space Dog Survives in Alternate Happy Endings by Nick Abadzis

It’s frequently the case that the best graphic novels are also the most heartbreaking, and perhaps no graphic novel fits that scenario than Laika by Nick Abadzis. Published by First Second in 2007, the book tells the story of the earliest days of the Russian space program, partly from the perspective of Laika, the stray dog who became the first Earthling in space. Sadly, she was also the first Earthling to perish in space, hence the heartbreak. The conclusion to Abadzis’ Laika story was dictated by the true events upon which they’re based, but the author finally acquiesced to his readers’ profound sadness and created a series of alternate happier endings for Russia’s plucky space dog.Not an anthropomorphization but more like a documentary, Laika has won numerous awards including the Young Adult Library Services for Teens’ Great Graphic Novel prize and the Eisner award for Best Reality-Based Work. Abadzis discussed reader response to the original work in a blog post in July.

It’s come to my attention over the years since my book LAIKA was published by First Second in 2007 that the ending upset a lot of readers.

The truth is, even if they’ve never heard of this little book, anyone who’s heard of Laika has googled her and found out how her story ends. But somehow, we wish we could change it. We wish we could change the way things happened by writing about them.

Many people still contact me, wondering about that ending, wondering why I told the story the way I did, about how much of it was real and even whether there might be an alternative ending to the story… Filmmakers often get in touch, wondering whether there might be a way of presenting a version with a more positive spin to it. Well, of course there is, but then you’d be changing history, or at least blunting the truth of what took place that day in 1957. And unfortunately, you can’t change history, not one line.

Fortunately, for fans of his work (and not to mention forlorn animal lovers everywhere), Abadzis was persuaded to create new Laika strips in support of Big Planet Comics, a Washington, D.C. area comic book store who’s celebrating its 25th anniversary, a true landmark in the comics retailing market. Among the new endings for Laika is one that will be familiar to all who’ve seen Stanley Kubrick’s film, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Big Planet Comics will organize a competition to win one of Abadzis’ original strips from this series of alternate Laika endings, and you can find out more about that at the store’s Facebook page.

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