Despite the obvious merits of the comic books I enjoyed many years ago such as Sin City, Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns and so on (I lost touch with things in the mid-nineties) comic books have unfortunate baggage that accompanies them. If you ever look up the word “Geek” in the dictionary, there tends to be a reference to Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, or simply a picture of someone walking out of a comic book shop. Not of me, obviously. And anyway, those were graphic novels, not comics… for a friend… honest.
Despite the inherent perils of looking about as cool as, well, a middle aged man in a comic book shop, a number of rock and pop stars have flirted with comic books. Perhaps revealingly not all of these rockers have themselves been the hippest souls. Take Coldplay, for example. They have recently released a series of comic books based upon a character called Mylo Xyloto – the name of their last album. Indeed they had a rather nice picture disc 7″ and comic book package on Record Store Day on sale for a *cough* mere £14.99. For a seven inch single and a comic book…
This raises two points (aside from the nosebleed price): firstly whose idea was this and thus which one of Coldplay is the geekiest, and secondly, isn’t it just as well Fiona Apple didn’t do the same with her last album? * In a slightly cooler way, earlier this year, Paul McCartney contacted The Dandy to ask if he could achieve what appeared to be his childhood ambition to appear in their pages – he featured in their last ever issue, which promptly sold out (no, I couldn’t find a copy).
Mystery Jets also built a comic book around a character Emerson Lonestar who featured in their last (concept) album “Radlands” whilst Rush produced a comic book for their Clockwork Angels concept album – clearly concept albums lend themselves well to the medium.
Whilst these recent attempts might point to the start of a trend, a quick look reveals that it was ever thus.
There was that “Story of Elvis” strip in Look-in magazine:
And didn’t both George Michael…
…and Spandau Ballet’s Tony Hadley appear in a My Guy comic strip story before they were famous?
Kiss are perhaps the most famous example of rock n roll comics. They had the bright idea of mixing in their own blood with the ink on the first issue (something The Flaming Lips did with a recent vinyl offering – according to a Wayne Coyne tweet the record featured blood from Nick Cave, Ke$ha and Coldplay’s Chris Martin). Nice. When asked if he would do the same as Kiss, Alice Cooper replied “Sure – I’d like to use all of Kiss’ blood in the ink!”
But just when I thought my brief bout of enthusiastic research had exhausted all known examples, I stumbled across some damning evidence of my own geekdom in my loft, whilst searching for a Batman comic book to give to my 7 year old: a very nice set of a series of “Rock n Roll Comics”.
Published by Revolutionary Comics these came out over twenty years ago (1989 onwards) so I was definitely old enough to know better, and it is fair to say they won’t have won too many awards for historical accuracy (or indeed literary merit) – but hey – this is what we did for entertainment and education before the Internet and Wikipedia, kids. After the first issue, they were served with Cease and Desist orders by Guns n Roses, then Bon Jovi, Mötley Crüe and New Kids on the Block. Revolutionary Comics won, and for a time this was a huge-selling phenomenon.
I’ll share them with you from time to time when the opportunity arises – I have been meaning to complete my beginner’s guide to hard rock that has nestled on Every Record Tells A Story for over a year now and there’s a fantastic telling of Whitesnake’s story in these pages that will perhaps help you see them in a new light…
In the meantime, by way of a taster, here’s a sneak peek of one of rock’s most pivotal events:
PS. If you have accidentally stumbled across an example of rock stars turning up in comic books, why not tell us about it below…?
Record #194: The Kinks – Picture Book
* Apple’s last album was snappily entitled “The Idler Wheel Is Wider Than The Driver of The Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do” which might have led to a lack of room for the artwork to really breathe.