Often overlooked for her contributions to modern technology, Hedy Lamarr is not necessarily a name the average person would recognise. This new entry in Humanoid’s Life Drawn imprint, Hedy Lamarr: An Incredible Life, seeks to remedy that.
From her native Austria to the limelight of Hollywood, Lamarr was constantly bombarded with societal limitations and personal obstacles — including her own beauty. Only through courage, ambition, and intellect would she rise to become both a cultural icon and an unparalleled inventor whose creations would alter the course of history.
With a limited amount of pages at their disposal, William Roy and Sylvian Dorange have put together a perfect look into the key moments of Lamarr’s life. Her years in filmmaking and Hollywood highlight the difficulty women have always faced in the entertainment business, to the point where even her good looks worked against her. The controversial film Ecstacy, which she acted in early on in her career and was one of the earliest examples of nudity in film, made things particularly difficult for her. Despite being seen as an example of arthouse in Europe, the film was banned in several places and led to people placing a greater emphasis on her body than her acting. This comes full circle as her desire to hold onto her looks leads her to make some ill-advised decisions involving plastic surgery.
But the most interesting parts of the comic are the ones that focus on Lamarr’s skill as an inventor. In particular when she co-creates with avant-garde composer George Antheil an idea that would lead to the invention of a radio guidance system. Originally pitched to the military as a counter to Axis jamming technology, it would later be adapted into technology that evolved into Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and was key in the creation of the internet. Despite showing a brilliant mind and being constantly thinking of new ideas in her spare time, she is still dismissed as just a pretty face and even Howard Hughes (who encouraged her invention hobby and even funded some of her projects) couldn’t get past her looks.
Dorange’s art is a perfect fit for this comic. Evoking a retro style that wouldn’t be out of place in classic 1940s advertising or newspaper strips, his Lamarr is classic pin-up girl in appearance but there are nuances to his storytelling that bring out whole other dimensions. His design work and showcase of her invention skills also assist in the contrast between the glamorous world Lamarr occupies and the brilliance of her mind. He also hits some heavy notes with Lamarr’s later years and seclusion being particularly hard to digest after the more light-hearted feel the art has for the majority of the story.
This is a fascinating look at a Hollywood icon and an overlooked figure who was instrumental in the development of technology as we know it. Roy and Dorange have paved the way for Hedy Lamarr to be introduced to a whole new generation.
Hedy Lamarr: An Incredible Life is published by Life Drawn on 6 November (9781594656194, p/b, £14.99)