Bell’s Theorem (comics)

Bell’s Theorem (original German title The Shelter , “The Truth about Shelby”) is a three-volume sci-fi horror graphic novel by German comic artist Matthias Schultheiss that originally published between 1985 and 1988. It was Schultheiss’s breakthrough work as a graphic novel artist. The title references Bell’s theorem from quantum mechanics .

It was first published under the title The Bell’s Theorem in Serialized in the Franco-Belgian comics magazine The Echo of the Savannahs from 1985 onwards, before being published as a standalone volumes in Germany and France . It has been published in English (with a translation by Tom Leighton) as Bell’s Theorem by Catalan Communications , with the English-language volumes titled Lifer , The Connection , and Contact , respectively.



In Volume 1, Lifer , we’re Introduced to US American career criminal Shelby Who has-been condamné to life imprisonment . The prison management makes it easier to reduce the burden of suffering for “mostly harmless” medical experimentation for a few years. Shelby agrees and is transported to the privately owned, high-security research facility, where it soon turns out that the tests are retroactively. None of the criminals tested are known to survive long enough to be released.

While Shelby is recovering from where he has been severely injured by a laser gun, he is one night secretly visited by Frank, one of the facility’s inmates, who himself is already so damaged by himself, as he is already half dead, half of the bionic implants He gives shelter to Shelby and to escape from the facility.

Shelby flees into the desert and arrives at a highway where he can hitch-hike. But his wounds are starting to bleed again and he collapses near a rest stop, where he is found unconscious by a woman who takes him home and tends to his injuries. Once in a lifetime, he has recovered from his wounds and the fever after a few weeks, he rapes the woman, steals her money and her car, and flies across the border, hiding in the wilderness near Canada ‘s Arctic Circle for a few years until they won ‘t be looking for him anymore.

During his wanderings in Labrador , Shelby one day comes to a deserted cabin by the Atlantic Ocean where he finds a man’s corpse in a wide-hooded parka and sleeping bag. Searching the body, he finds the man’s identity papers to find out que la Looked dead His spitting picture and That He Was GermanScientist Amselstein, which explains a lot of mysterious appearances in the cabin mostly made of wood, strings, wire, and cans. (Amselstein’s researches in quantum physics and the nature of reality, and his mysterious disappearance.) Amselstein’s body is still wearing a set of fake earphones made of materials, and Shelby finds out what noises come from when they whales appear in the sea near the cabin.

Shelby decides to take over Amselstein’s identity and go to Germany. With him, he takes Amselstein’s notes and the mysterious set of earphones. He goes back to civilization, buys himself, and books for the flight, but he arrives at the airport, he is approached by two FBI agents who send him back to the research facility. He kills them at the airport’s men’s room and boards his plane just in time, but he has a seat and the plane is going into lift-off, he has a frightening vision of Amselstein’s rotting corpse in parka and sleeping bag to him. End of volume 1.

The Connection 

Cover of English-language edition of Bell’s Theorem # 2: The Connection , originally published in 1988. Cover art by Matthias Schultheiss, copyright by Matthias Schultheiss and Catalan Communications

Arriving in Hamburg , Germany, Shelby locates Amselstein’s apartment by looking into the phonebook, but it does not stop there. Shelby finds a different address in the dust on one of the windows and leaves. Shortly after he has left, the flat is searched by a group of government agents in search of Amselstein as they have been informed by somebody at the airport that he has returned. One of the agents comes to the scribbled on the window, but before he can read it out, mysterious flashes like from Shelby’s vision of Amselstein appear, the window bursts, and the agent dies from wounds to his guts and throat within seconds before he can tell the others what was the address.

Shelby arrives at Amselstein’s secret home, a houseboat full of Amselstein’s mysterious trademark contraptions, on the shore of the Elbe river, towered by Hamburg’s darkly looming Köhlbrand Bridge . His tormenting nightmarish visions increase, as he reads more about Amselstein’s mysterious notes on quantum mechanics, is being visited by Sarah, a prostitute who used to be Amselstein’s girlfriend, and is on the run of government agents who would like to hope for the US government, willing or otherwise, or make dead sure what they think is a brilliant scientist will not work for anybody else.

Amselstein, Shelby visits Paul, to train co-worker of Amselstein’s who has gone mad and is now in a lunatic asylum. Throughout volume 2, we have seen shots of Paul in the asylum, causing some of the events helping Shelby, apparently by some means of telekinesis. Paul is not surprised to see Shelby, explaining to Shelby’s disbelieving that Shelby really is Amselstein (or a variant of him) and that it is all part of a quantum experiment, which is also why he can not remember being Amselstein. Paul’s incoherent speech resembles elements from Amselstein’s notes in their continued reference to quantum mechanics and Amselstein’s suspicions of being connected to an alternate version of himself.

Paul tells Shelby to take a closer look at the Elbe river, and that Amselstein awaits Shelby “in the bowels of the earth”, which is an old subterranean World War II bunker inaccessible for decades a broken lift as its only entry. End of volume 2, as Paul is maniacly attempting to convince Shelby that he is Amselstein and Shelby insisting that he is crazy.


Cover of English-language edition of Bell’s Theorem # 3: Contact , originally published in 1989. Cover art by Matthias Schultheiss, Matthias Schultheiss and Catalan Communications

Shelby leaves the asylum disgruntled, thinking it was a bad idea to even just go there and talk to what is an apparent madman. Upon his departure, Paul asks him to kill the asylum staff that help him Shelby, Shelby goal just brushes Paul’s plea off, as he does not take him seriously.

As he sees it, he visits Sarah at her workplace at Herbertstraße and kills her pimp. The couple then flees from the police across St. Pauli Piers and, taking a motorboat, through the Port of Hamburg , followed by regular police and port authorities. Meanwhile, the hunt for Shelby turns into the US government agents have determined that they will not be killed in the future. The same with Shelby, and Paul from his asylum cell seemingly further influences the events by means of telekinesis.

Paul pilots the mysterious black tugboat to ram the port authority’s ship and sink it, as the US agents shoot down the police helicopter overseeing the hunt for Shelby and Sarah, and the wreck on the tugboat that Shelby has entered, setting it on fire. The tugboat rams a bridge with the US agents on it and apparently kills them. Desperate to find out who is piloting the mysterious tugboat, Shelby further wrecks the pilot with an axis. The only person on the tugboat at last is Frank, the part- cyborginmate from the medical research facility from volume 1, severely injured when the helicopter crashed on the boat. He gives Shelby a bag, telling him that he’ll need it’s inside, and bloodily kills himself by ripping off his prosthetic skull cap. Paul in the asylum meanwhile has died from an apparent heart attack due to exhaustion.

The tugboat brings back to the world of WWII bunker that Paul has been telling him about the mysteriously working. Deep within “the bowels of the earth”, Shelby finds a shed with a colossal WWII U-boat . Inside, he finds more of Amselstein’s mysterious contraptions, and shouting angrily at Amselstein, where he is hiding, he breaks open a door, only to find the insides of Amselstein’s cabin in Labrador. In shock and disbelief, Shelby steps through the door, whereupon the portal immediately closed behind him.

The spot where Amselstein ‘s body lay is empty. Left to no food, no sufficient clothing for the cold of the Labrador wilderness, and a few-weeks to the next outpost of civilization, Shelby checks on the bag Frank has given him, only to find a certain large parka and a sleeping bag Inside of it, both of which he knows all too well from his continuing visions of Amselstein’s corpse. Amselstein’s reciting Amselstein’s final note about life as a dream, he puts them in, puts on Amselstein’s mysterious tincan headphones, and lies on the ground to die, ending up as Amselstein for his younger self to soon find.

English-language reviews

“Intense, complex, lyrical, contemplative yet still excessively violent and scarily sexually charged, this gripping, mind-bending fantasy keeps the tension in mind. reissue – preferably in one extra-long, adults-only single serving … ”

-  Win Wiacek, Bell’s Theorem volumes 1-3 , [1] in “Comics Review (UK)”

“This is a work that moves slowly, despite the scenes of violent action.” The watercolor art is cool and sparse exceptionally effective in its portrayal of the bleak atmosphere. ”

-  D. Aviva Rothschild, Review of Volume 1, “Lifer”, in “Graphic Novels: A Bibliographic Guide to Book-Length Comics,” p. 158 [2]



  • Die Wahrheit über Shelby
    • Lebenslänglich , Carlsen 1986
    • Die Verbindung , Carlsen 1987
    • Der Kontakt , Carlsen 1988


  • Bell’s theorem
    • The Bell theorem , Albin Michel 1986
    • The contact , Albin Michel 1988
    • The solution , Albin Michel 1990


  • Bell’s Theorem
    • Bell’s Theorem # 1: Lifer , Catalan Communications 1987 ( ISBN  978-0874160376 )
    • Bell’s Theorem # 2: The Connection , Catalan Communications 1988 ( ISBN  978-0874160628 )
    • Bell’s Theorem # 3: Contact , Catalan Communications 1989 ( ISBN  0-87416-074-X )

Further reading

  • Coogan, Pete (1987) “Time, Effort, and Expense”, p. 49-62, The Comics Journal, no. 117 (Sept. 1987). (Review of volume 1, Lifer .)


  1. Jump up^ Wiaced, Win (2012). Bell’s Theorem volumes 1-3
  2. Jump up^ Rothschild, D. Aviva (1995). Graphic Novels: A Bibliographic Guide to Book-Length Comics , p. 158

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