In October 1969 David Bowie, not yet the Bowie you and I know, moved into the ground floor of 42 Southend Road, Beckenham. He painted the ceilings silver and set about inventing the pop star he would become.

His time in Haddon Hall, as the now demolished building was known, is celebrated in a graphic novel by French-Tunisian graphic designer and illustrator Nejib. It originally appeared in France five years ago, but the first English edition has just been published by SelfMadeHero.

“I insist on the fact that my book is not a documentary, but a fiction,” Nejib tells Graphic Content. “It is based on real facts, but it’s a recreation, a mix of many things and I hope, a sensitive portrait.”

It’s also a loosely woven, loving hippy tapestry of mood and patterns that takes in Marc Bolan, Angie Bowie and the birth of Ziggy Stardust. It’s our favourite graphic novel of the year so far.

So here’s Nejib on Bowie, the swinging sixties and the golden age of comics.

The Herald:

Nejib, what made you think of creating a graphic novel based around David Bowie’s years at Haddon Hall rather than, say, the Ziggy Stardust years?

I read many biographies of Bowie and I didn’t find a satisfying one. But one of his biographers admitted that maybe it was rather impossible because Bowie is a fiction created by David Jones, a very secret man. I loved that idea and I consider Bowie as one of the most powerful fictional creations of this period. That was very liberating for me to make this “portrait” of Bowie in a graphic novel.

I am more interested by fragility and doubt than success and stardom. Furthermore, the Ziggy period is known too well by the public. The period I chose is a gap. The man is close to becoming the genius we know, but he is full of doubt. I was inspired by an interview in which he said that he felt that all his influences were merging and he felt that it was the moment for him to make the big jump!

Did you come to London to do your research?

I spent a lot of holidays in London, exploring the city of my favourite bands (Kinks, Bowie, Beatles, etc). I was impregnated by this city for a long time before I began to work on the book.

I used a lot of research looking at photographs of the old London or looking at movies of that period (such as Ken Loach’s Poor cow). I discovered a boring but beautiful town. We have the cliché of the swinging London, but when you pay attention to movies and testimonies of the time you see that life was boring and as a consequence, any little gig in a bar was an event, an escape.

The Herald:

Why does David Bowie matter to you?

I am not a fan anymore. I’m not the guy who covers his bedroom with poster, but I'm a real admirer in the same way as I can admire artists like David Lynch or Picasso.

I always felt that Bowie was an incredible artist. He opened so many doors. Any album of his could be the material for an entire career for another band.

I am fond of all he did in the seventies. What he made after contains a lot of great songs but he lost the ability to make complete great albums, I think.

Who are your own artistic influences?

As a graphic novelist, it’s very eclectic. For the drawing and colors, I am clearly influenced by British and American illustrators : Saul Steinberg or Ronald Searle. For the colours, the Pushpin Studio, a great graphic studio of the 1960s and the movie Yellow Submarine. For the story, I don’t know. I tried to be as impressionistic and delicate as the work of Mick Rock, the photographer of Bowie in the early 1970s.

The Herald:

Why do you love comic strips?

It’s a very free medium. You have very few constraints, you are only limited by your imagination. Also, we are in a golden age. We can explore any type of format, pagination, graphic style. The audience and the publishers are very open to new directions. It’s a blessed time for comic strip artists.

Haddon Hall: When David Invented Bowie, by Nejib, is published by SelfMadeHero, priced £14.99.