10 Forgotten Comics From Real Musicians [Music Week]
Music and comics have a long history of influencing one another, whether it’s story titles borrowing lyrics, band names taken from dialogue, or that one time that Matt Fraction had a Britney Spears analogue punch a bear in The Order. Sometimes, though, that connection goes beyond nods and winks, and a band or artist releases their very own licensed comic.
It happens more often than you probably realise. It’s no secret that, say, My Chemical Romance have their own official comic. (A comic, lest we forget, featuring a villainous cravat-wearing Grant Morrison.) But there are plenty of other artists with comics you may have never even known existed. Artists like, oh, I don’t know…
Chris Martin et al don't actually appear in this comic, which instead follows the adventures of the titular character. See, Mylo Xyloto is not just the record on which Coldplay apparently learned about neon and dancing, it's also an old-school concept album about a dystopian science-fiction world, Silencia, where fun things (like neon and dancing) are banned.
The comic follows Mylo — a capable of summoning musical graffiti, which spews out of his hands like the contents of a smashed glowstick — as he leads a Footloose-meets-Hunger Games rebellion against the tyrannical Major Minus.
It ran for six issues, plus a #0 issue that was actually the music video for single Hurts Like Heaven.
The Wu-Tang Clan was always intended as a multi-media world-dominating mega-corp. At the height of their powers, there were Wu-branded clothes, a video game and, inevitably, this being the late '90s, an Image comic book and accompanying action figures.
The Nine Rings of Wu-Tang cast the Clan members as mystical martial artists in ancient Spain. The RZA was reinvented as "Prince Rakeem," Ol' Dirty as "Osirus," Ghostface Killah as... well, "Ghost Face" but he did at least gain cool shadow-boxing powers in the process.
The comic ran for five issues before it was cut short, without wrapping up the adventures. A decade later, there a comic based on the Wu-Massacre album was planned but never saw the light of day. The comic was to be penciled by Chris Bachalo, who did at least get to provide the record's cover art.
It’s probably not news to you that Kiss have their own comics. As you probably know, they met Archie at one point. You might have even heard the myth about them mixing in their own blood with the ink for their 1970s Marvel series.
But did you know that Dynamite is currently publishing a Kiss comic written by Amy Chu, which aims to seriously adapt the lore of the band's poorly-received 1981 album Music From The Elder into a dark science fiction tale?
Yup. The comic is set in an apocalyptic, war-torn and tragically post-Kiss wasteland. It is a world ruled by Sentinel-esque robots wearing that black-and-white make-up. A world where the Great Sphinx of Giza has somehow been relocated, alongside the Tower of London, to an underground city, and finally been given the one thing the Sphinx has been missing all these millennia: giant plastic sunglasses. Okay, maybe it's not an entirely serious adaptation.
The weird thing about Eminem/The Punisher is not that it co-stars Marshall Mathers and Frank Castle. It's not even that the comic's Big Bad is a parody of the Parents Music Resource Center. It's that it came out in 2009, by which time surely all but the very hardest core Eminem fans had given up on Slim.
The best thing about Eminem/The Punisher, however, is that it means some beautiful genius created a Marvel Wikia page for Em. So know we know that Eminem is from Earth-TRN194 and is blessed with 'above-average human strength and above-average human intelligence'.
Look, it's easy to just point at the ICP and go "LOL." Let's approach this project with the academic rigor it clearly invites.
The Pendulum, a 12-issue comic series from the turn of the millennium, wasn't the Posse's first foray into sequential art. Three issues were published a year earlier, with titles like "Raze the Desertz of Glass" and "The Upz & Downz of the Wicked Clownz." The Pendulum is notable, however, on two fronts. Each bumper 32-page issue came packaged with a new single from the duo, and was written by Jumpsteady, older brother of the Posse's own Violent J.
The 12-issue miniseries is a remarkably Spawn-esque piece of work, with J and Shaggy 2 Dope working together to save one "Father Jesus", blessed with miraculous healing powers, from demons. It's a plot that reads very differently in light of the pair's recent unveiling as evangelical Christians.
"The DeLucas pressed Tony's remains into 12 vinyl records. One for each member of the family. But little did they know, he would return..."
Ignore the music connection for a moment, and tell me that's not the greatest pitch for a comics series you've ever heard. On Twelve Reasons to Die, Ghostface and Adrian Younge (yup, him of best-thing-about-Luke-Cage fame) lay out the story of a mobster, Tony Starks (no relation). After his murder, Starks' ashes are used to create 12 records which, when played, summon his vengeful ghost.
Based on that synopsis, it's probably no surprise that a comic was released alongside the album, published by Black Mask Studios (which, in another comics-music connection, is co-owned by Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz).
What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Fall Out Boy's music? Is it a cyberpunk future of robotic wives? Because if so, you're in luck.
Of all the titles on this list, Fall Out Toy Works is the most tangentially connected to the band behind it. Co-written by Pete Wentz, the comic claims to be "inspired by the ideas and lyrics of Fall Out Boy," in particular Tiffany Blews, an album track from 2008's Folie à Deux.
Although the comic does feature the emo-fringed teddy bear boy from the album's cover, it's hard to see any concrete link with the song, which is about chatting up a girl at a party. I guess technically, the song never strictly rules out that the girl is robotic and the party is in the future.
Like Kiss, Alice Cooper is no stranger to comics. In the nineties, Neil Gaiman adapted his Last Temptation album into a three-parter for Marvel. Just last year — in a crossover baffling even by the high standards of Dynamite Comics — Cooper went to war with characters from long-defunct comics publisher Chaos!. But the specific comic I want to highlight is this self-titled joint from 2014, penned by Joe Harris, the writer of Tooth Fairy slasher flick Darkness Falls.
Alice Cooper posits that, as well as being Alice Cooper, the rock star, Alice Cooper was secretly the Lord of Nightmares. I'm just going to mention Gaiman's name one more time, paste an excerpt from the official plot synopsis below, and leave you to draw your own conclusions.
"He watched over us while we dreamed, and delivered horrors unto the deserving. Only someone took it all away from him, cast him out of his realm and locked him away... until now. And if he's going to reclaim his dark throne, he's going to need all the help he can get!"
When Darryl "DMC" McDaniels made the move into comics, he didn't just to lend his name to a book or even write one. He founded his own publishing house, Darryl Make Comics.
Admittedly, to date it has only put out a single title — DMC, which casts the man himself as a superhero in '80s New York. But the move is indicative of McDaniels' genuine love for comic books.
That shines through in the DMC anthologies, which feel like an attempt to build their own superhero universe, with the help of a frankly incredible line-up of comics talent, including Tula Lotay, Ronald Wimberly and Jeff Stokely.
Let's end on a comic that isn't actually out yet. Slayer's Repentless is due next week, based on the music videos from the band's album of the same title. It's an interesting departure from most of the sci-fi, fantasy and superheroic comics above, in that Repentless is nominally set in the real world.
The comic is written by Jon Schnepp, director of the Metalocalypse and Venture Bros. cartoons, but looks unlikely to be packing in the laughs, telling as it does the story of Wyatt, a man who escaped the Neo-Nazi group he was raised in, before falling in love with a Black woman.
How sensitively this subject matter will be handled by the comic, given the source material's emphasis on blood-spattered gore, remains to be seen.