The Journey, Man 05 – Sweet Soul Music
Guest columnist Wayne Rée shares his discovery of comic books, from his start as a super-hero fan to his evolution into a believer of the power of the art form of comics.
Comics, in my opinion, are music’s slightly odd, but still pretty cool out-of-town cousin. From The Archies’ “Sugar, Sugar” to My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way co-creating The Umbrella Academy, the relationship between the two mediums has, at its best, resulted in some really cool stuff.
Last month, I mentioned that Chynna Clugston’s Blue Monday introduced me to The Jam, but that music/comics connection manifested a little earlier for me.
Gabba gabba hey
The first Ramones song I ever heard was, ironically enough, one of their last. Their cover of the Spider-Man theme from the 60s cartoon was featured both on their final album ¡Adiós Amigos! and the deliciously ’90s alt-rock compilation Saturday Morning: Cartoons’ Greatest Hits. Anyone familiar with this column knows what a Spidey geek I am, so for the longest time, this rendition was the definitive Spidey song for me.
It wasn’t, in fact, till this year that nerd-rock band Kirby Krackle usurped that throne with the incredibly kick-ass and heartfelt “Web-Slinger/Hope-Bringer”.
But that music/comics connection continued on after the Ramones. In the late ’90s, around the same time I was discovering indie books through Oni Press, I also stumbled across Red Rocket 7 by Mike and Laura Allred, a comic about the history of rock n’ roll as seen through the eyes of the clone of an alien. (Side note: I do so love how comics can not only get away with these utterly bizarre ideas, but pull them off so damn well.)
Now, remember: I was in my late teens at this time and trapped in a world without iTunes or Wikipedia. Like anyone at that age, I was desperate for music beyond what I’d heard on the radio—so, naturally, RR7 had me hooked, if not because of the insanely cool story and art, then for the educational value of it.
The fact that Mike Allred’s band The Gear released an accompanying album to go along with the comic was just the icing on the proverbial guitar-shaped cake.
Sunshine in a bag
Then, there was that time in 2001, when I found myself staring slack-jawed at one of the screens in the local HMV, watching a video of an animated band fighting zombie gorillas, thinking to myself, “Man, that’s cool. And… wait, isn’t that Jamie Hewlett’s art?”
The Gorillaz were probably, at the time, the best way for me to validate the coolness of comics to my friends. “Look! This guy did the Gorillaz — and he also did this!” I’d say, waving my copy of Tank Girl around.
Of course, I didn’t factor in the stink of the Tank Girl film from the early ’90s, but nevertheless, I’m still a huge fan of what Damon Albarn and Hewlett have been doing with the band.
Ohh, make me magnificent
But a couple of years later, I did find a new way to preach the good word of graphic literature. And it’d come in the form of a little book called Phonogram by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie. Not only was it, at its core, about how music was literally magic, but it also had all these really cool references that I knew my music nerd friends would get.
A particular story in the second volume of Phonogram called “Konichiwa, Bitches” (any of you out there who immediately shouted “Robyn!” get 50 cool points) stands as one of my favourite demonstrations of the storytelling power of comics — and the perfect love letter to music itself.
And the band played on…
There’s a whole lot more that I could espouse on this particular topic — Jim Mahfood working with Ziggy Marley, Watchmen’s Dave Gibbons doing cover art for Kula Shaker’s K, MF Doom’s stage name being a reference to Doctor Doom, Jamie S. Rich and Joëlle Jones’ noir comic You Have Killed Me taking its title from the Morrissey song of the same name — but Corey’s giving me the editorial stink-eye, as it is (no mean feat, considering that I’m writing this from Singapore and he’s in LA).
But, before I do sign off, I’d just like to rewind back to Chynna Clugston again. Last month, I met her while I was in San Diego and thanked her for her comics and for introducing me to The Jam. She was incredibly funny, cool, and nice — and she signed my copy of Blue Monday with the phrase “Vive Le Rock!” A fitting reference, since that issue was about the main characters trying to get to an Adam Ant concert, yeah — but also a pretty fine thought to end off this edition, I do think.
So, yeah, vive le rock, folks. And vive le comics too.
Wayne Rée’s been writing professionally for about ten years. He’s worked in everything from advertising to publishing, and was even part of the team that created Singapore’s very first tattoo magazine. He dabbles in screenwriting and photography, travels way too much, and is currently putting together his very first short story collection.
Posted on August 17, 2012, in Columns, The Journey, Man and tagged ¡Adiós Amigos!, Blue Monday, Chynna Clugston, Chynna Clugston-Flores, Damon Albarn, Dave Gibbons, Gerard Way, Jamie Hewlett, Jamie McKelvie, Jamie S. Rich, Jim Mahfood, Joelle Jones, Kieron Gillen, Kirby Krackle, Kula Shaker, Laura Allred, MF Doom, Mike Allred, Morrissey, My Chemical Romance, Oni Press, Phonogram, Ramones, Red Rocket 7, Spider-Man, Sugar Sugar, Tank Girl, The Archies, The Gear, The Gorillaz, The Jam, The Ramones, The Umbrella Academy, Wayne Rée, Web-Slinger/Hope-Bringer, You Have Killed Me, Ziggy Marley. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a Comment.