Comics and music go hand in hand, and there’s nothing quite like putting on that perfect playlist, sitting down with a good story, and getting lost for a while. We’ve tasked our best writers with crafting the ultimate mixtape to complement their favorite comics, to hopefully introduce you to comics you might not have tried and artists you might not have heard.
Insexts, the AfterShock comic by Marguerite Bennett and Ariela Kristantina, mixes gothic and body horror to tell a feminist story about women monsters in love. Lady Lalita Bertram (she just goes by Lady) is a rich widow, and Mariah is her maid. Except that they're actually lovers and devoted partners, and even have a child together. They're also insectoid monsters, especially Lady, who has a tendency to sprout deadly bug-parts when she's stressed out. And thanks to the expectations Victorian society places on women, she gets stressed out a lot. And yes, some men die along the way.
These songs were chosen because they reflect some combination of the monstrous feminine, the gothic violence, and the unapologetically queer themes of the comic.
Grim AugurySparklehorse and Vic Chesnutt (Dark Night of the Soul)
Created in collaboration with David Lynch, this song is from a whole album that plays like a horror movie. The opening lines describe a horrific and violent birth, which is exactly how Insexts begins as well, even if the details are different. Vic Chesnutt sings in the voice of a man profoundly unsettled by what he’s seen.
JD Samson and MENWho Am I To Feel So Free (Talk About Body)
From a song of horror to a song of celebration, Samson is singing here about finding the freedom to be exactly who you are, no matter what your queer nature might be. What question in the title is important – the surprise that Samson feels in her own ability to lead her life as she sees fit can only be stronger for Lady and Mariah, being who they are a century earlier.
St. VincentBirth in Reverse (St. Vincent)
Just what did St. Vincent see through that window? The song is really about the weird secrets that exist behind closed doors in every household, which is certainly applicable to Insexts, but it helps that the evocative title – an incompletely description of just what she say – also suits the abject feminine body horror of the book.
StarbloodCranes (Wings of Joy)
I believe this is a love song, but it’s a little hard to be sure. Like most Cranes songs, there’s something unearthly pushing against the simplicity of the lyrics. This is a love song, sure, but is it about the love between two humans, or is that assuming too much?
The horror of this song goes beyond the lyrics. There’s a sense of something unseen writhing between the spiraling music and Peter Murphy’s inarticulate grunts. As he sings of disguises and transformations, there’s a beast inside clawing to get out. Lady would identify with this song, in other words.
ButterflyGrimes (Art Angels)
After the creepiness of the last couple of songs, it’s time to let things lighten up. Grimes, as always, is building more complex narratives in her pop songs than you’d suspect on first listen. This one uses butterfly imagery to talk about how it’s not always possible to be the woman you’re expected to be. Maybe you’re restless; maybe you’re queer; maybe, just maybe, you’re a literal butterfly monster.
Q.U.E.E.N.Janelle Monáe feat. Erykah Badu (The Electric Lady)
This is another song about being different, and Monáe is taking her usual sci-fi angle where being different is framed as a conscious rebellion against an oppressive regime (which actually seems less sci-fi than it used to). This is also a song about women coming together, at least as allies and possibly as more than that.
Chick HabitApril March (Paris in April)
Maybe this song seems like an odd fit. It’s retro but not retro enough for a Victorian setting. But it’s about turning the tables on predatory men, which Lady and Mariah do throughout Insexts. This the song I imagine being in the redband trailer if Insexts was a movie. Each of the tripled musical stings in the song accompanied by an actual insectoid stinger ripping through a man’s flesh. But it’s okay, he certainly deserved it. Don’t they all?
If you want to check out this mixtape at home or on the go, we’ve assembled a playlist of all the songs available on Spotify to make it even easier. Make sure to follow ComicsAlliance on Spotify and keep an eye out for more comics-themed playlists in the future.