Thursday, February 17, 2011

Comic Shop Rockers

I am an unapologetic fan of comic books. Not "sequential art" or "graphic novels" or any of those other terms that folks use to try and sidestep the seemingly geeky nature of the pastime, mind you, but regular old comic books.

Oddly enough, I actually got into comics approximately the same time I got into music – at around age ten. The mid-1980s were a strange and wonderful time to be a fanboy on both fronts. It was an era of Watchmen and the Mutant Registration Act. A time that saw the death of The Clash and Black Flag as well as the birth of Geto Boys and The Dead Milkmen.

Stranger still was the odd intersection of both my passions, which also occurred nigh simultaneously. Metallica thanked (alongside The Young Ones and Absolut Vodka) a then virtually unknown Mirage Studios title called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the liner notes for their landmark 1986 release Master of Puppets while Anthrax unapologetically repped UK comic icon Judge Dredd in the single "I am the Law" from 1987's Among the Living.

I provide this brief little history lesson so that when I arrive at the topic at hand you have a bit of context. For you see the music/comic book connection didn't die with American thrash metal. Today geeky musicians are still embracing comics not simply as inspiration, but as yet another vehicle for their creativity.

An obvious mainstream example comes to us compliments of prog rockers Coheed and Cambria. Each of the band's concept albums ties directly to frontman Claudio Sanchez's epic sci-fi tale The Amory Wars, which is simultaneously being published by Evil Ink as an ongoing if admittedly loose print series.

But if you're looking for something a bit less convoluted expansive, there are subtler options.

Geek rockers Americans UK regularly release their own free digital comics via the Literate Machine community in both PDF and CBZ formats. (Holler at some ComicZeal regarding the latter, iPhone users, and you'll be glad you did.) Part sci-fi murder mystery part illustrated lyric sheet, each issue packs in ample action and snark due to the efforts of frontman Jef UK, who is also the writer behind Oni Press's Odd Schnozz and the Odd Squad.

More recently the mad scientists behind FuMP act The Consortium of Genius launched a similar product tied to their most recent release Music for Supervillains. Though the album itself does a solid job or relating the story concept through skits interspersed between each song, Music for Supervillains: The Comic really brings the story to life amid visual interpretations of key plot points, illustrated song lyrics and comic strip-style non sequiturs.

Still, my favorite (vaguely) music-related comics project in recent memory comes from Halifax hip-hop superhero SJ the Wordburglar. Burg's love of comic books is well documented in verse, as is his predilection for the action-heavy pastiche of classic G.I. Joe, and the Snakor's Pizza project leverages the two nicely. Written by Burg and skillfully lettered and illustrated by Kody Peters and Dave Howlett, it has a surreal and distinctly urban feel to it that I immediately equate with the great Jim Mahfood. Following the life of the deposed leader of a snake-inspired terrorist organization turned restaurant manager, it refuses to take itself too seriously. The creators themselves, however, are obviously firmly committed to producing a high quality product despite its laughable premise. You can check out the story up to this point in full color online for the very low price of free, and a limited black and white print run of issue #1 was made available to Nova Scotian geeks through Strange Adventures Comix & Curiosities.


Stevie D said...

I did not know about Metallica mentioning TMNT in the "Master of Puppets" liner notes. That's awesome! Might actually make me like Metallica again. Haha.

Z. said...

Now let's not go crazy about this shit, Stevie! ;)

Jef UK said...

Hey, thanks for the mention, Z-man!

Z. said...

My pleasure, Jef!