Rock Stars in Comics: Coldplay, McCartney, Elvis and Kiss

rock n roll comics Rolling Stones

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

Mylo Xyloto Comic on Record Store Day

Mylo Xyloto Comic on Record Store Day

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).

Paul McCartney Dandy comic

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:

Look in Annual 1982

And didn’t both George Michael…

George Michael...

George Michael…

…and Spandau Ballet’s Tony Hadley appear in a My Guy comic strip story before they were famous?

Tony Hadley....

Tony Hadley….

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!”

kiss cover comic 1977

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”.

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.

Nuke The New Kids legal defence fund rock n roll comics

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:

rock n roll comics mick Jagger keith richards meet rolling stones 1

The first time Keith Richards met Mick Jagger

mick jagger keith richards rolling stones rock n roll comics

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.



Categories: Music

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36 replies

  1. i remember they did one on marc bolan in 1971/72..it was in one of those jackie type things,only i’m not sure if was actually jackie..anyway..it was cute…walked the reader through his first release[hippy gumbo]..his pre t-rex life as a hippy and poet,and some seer/wizard type cohort who was life changing for marc…….then there’s those jarvis cocker ones where they used photos instead of sketches..teen romance type things with text balloons….jarvis did those very early on,but is very recognisible…a real hoot.

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  2. this isn’t it…but it’s still quite funny..the ones i was looking for were in ‘oh boy’ or ‘my guy’ or something. http://www.angelfire.com/ego/jarvis_cocker/Jarvis__Cartoon.jpg

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  3. Great post.

    I have a collection of the “Rock n Roll Comics” as well.
    Yes…I’ve been a geek for quite some time now.

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  4. They did one with the Pistols, too, didn’t they? I was a comics geek, but more of a Marvel fan than DC. Gave it up like you in the ’90’s, then picked it back up again once I snagged a wife and didn’t hide to hide my geekiness anymore. More of a collector now, with pre-code EC’s, MAD Mags, Creepy, Eerie and underground stuff like the Freak Brothers taking up the majority of space, but still have a ton of longboxes with 60s and 70’s Marvel. Even those prime DC’s you speak of at the top, had those too. Great post.

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  5. I have a vague memory of there being an Elton John comic book or at least comic panels in my brother’s “Captain Fantastic…” album.

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  6. There exist some rare comic books featuring real-life heavy metal hero Thor (also known as Jon-Mikl Thor) from the early 80s. The only heavy metal singer known to ever blow up and burst a hot water bottle with his own breath on stage….

    http://www.thorcentral.com/mp_redesign/html/memorabilia.html

    Thor also featured in a photo strip in an issue of ‘Kerrang!’ alongside his busty sidekick Pandora (not Pandora Peroxide) and Cronos from Venom in the mid 80s. Talking of Pandora, loads of rock stars were featured in Ray Zell’s brilliant Pandora Peroxide strip in ‘Kerrang!’ in the 80s and 90s…my favourite being Anthrax’s Scott Ian depicted with a goatee beard that was actually a talking hamster….

    Alice Cooper issued a Marvel comic book based around his ‘Last Temptation’ album. The first part of the three part story was issued with the album.

    There was also a promotional comic book produced by Capitol Records for the US release of ‘Attention Shoppers’ by Starz in early 1978. Starz, of course, had the same management (Aucoin) as Kiss.

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  7. I never had the Kiss comic. Always wanted it. I have it in some kind of graphic novel compilation now, but…not the same.

    I also have some cool comics of Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath. The Alice was a Neil Gaiman tie-in to his Last Temptation album, a 3 issue limited series. Very cool.

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  8. I find the whole Rock Comics thing hard to get my head around. Obviously, a group like Kiss makes sense, but otherwise is the same kind of strain as Star Wars toothpaste: nothing you loved about the original, how can you resist!?

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  9. And, of course, there’s the comic motif of a-ha’s video for “Take on Me”!

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    • A classic! It did cross my mind when writing this. Speaking of which have you seen the “literal” version of the YouTube A-ha video of Take On Me where the lyrics describe what happens in the video rather than the words to the song? If not, you are missing out:

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  10. The New Jersey based rock band Trixter also had a comic book tie-in to the release of their self-titled debut album through the MCA affiliated Mechanic label in 1990. The comic book was a promotional tool only. I have it somewhere. I believe that it was inked by artists affiliated with Marvel.

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    • Given I hadn’t heard of Trixter until now, does that mean the promotional tool wasn’t quite as successful as they were hoping?

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      • Trixter came out in 91 hyped to be the next Bon Jovi. Grunge put a stop to that. Their album cover was a comic, hence the connection. They were all teenagers but stopped in their tracks by Cobain.

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      • Ah! Thanks Mike. And that’s interesting because I am currently thinking about a list of bands that Nirvana especially put paid to. Looks like these guys were also collateral damage…

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      • Cobain and co put paid to the careers of pretty much every band I had been writing about in ‘Kerrang!’ by that point. Ironic, given that the riff to ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ is a rip-off of Boston’s ‘More Than A Feeling’.

        The first Trixter album actually sold really well in the States. They were on the rise. However, the follow up, actually a far better record, unfortunately wasn’t. Cobain had taken over. MTV didn’t want to know any more.

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