Search This Site

Monday, January 27, 2014

Rock N' Roll and Comic Books!

No, this post isn't about Rock N' Roll comic books, although I'll be giving a nod to some. This post is about two of my many favorite subjects - Rock N' Roll and comic books -  and how they've linked together in my childhood as well as, most likely, many of yours also.

I should actually say Metal instead of Rock N' Roll. I pretty much grew up with Hard Rock, Metal, Glam Rock, and what was called Thrash at the time (now just known as Metal). As a kid, I didn't much care for New Wave or Madonna pop crap that the preppies listened to, although I did geek out on Aha's "Take On Me" video because it was comic book-esq. 

But aside from that, there was one band back in the day that had pretty much all awesome covers that reminded me of comic book artwork and that was Iron Maiden. Maiden's The Number of the Beast was one of the very first album cover my wee eyes laid upon, and just like some of the comic covers at the local comic shop I'd later browse through, this album cover definitely got my attention. My older brother even let me listen to a few songs, and I liked them enough to bring it to my 5th grade music appreciation class, where the teacher assigned each of us a day to bring in a song from a musical artist we liked to play for the whole class.

I chose to play the song "Number of the Beast" off that album. Needless to say, few of my other peers liked it. Then again, those pansies were bringing in like Debbie Gibson and Tiffany. Later I would bring Motley Crue's Shout At The Devil and play the album title track for the class. After that, my music teacher stopped assigning me music appreciation days.

Back to the subject at hand, the horror character of Eddie The Head was almost like a comic character himself, and every Iron Maiden album cover had their mascot in a different scene with a completely different theme. It was hard not to capture one's imagination with just the cover alone, and each album cover was very much like a comic cover. 

The cover art for Iron Maiden's albums went beyond just looking cool. It captured a story and presented the album's theme in one panel, giving you a glimpse of what to expect when you popped that sucker open and played it. Very few musical artists from that time era did that, or had such kick ass album cover art. Derek Riggs was the artist who provided most of the illustrative work that would become some of Iron Maiden's famous album covers from the 80s to 92, and I'm pretty sure his work inspired many comic book artists then and probably still even now. 

To be perfectly honest, I was more a fan of the album cover art than the actual band. My brother was a huge fan and had every single album. Oops, I should say cassette!

I'm not sure whether the lads from Iron Maiden ever claimed that they were fans of comic books, but there are two bands I know of while growing up who had at least one or more vocal comic fanatics within their group. The first one that I first heard about was a band from Marvel Comics' home city of New York. Metal fans, can you take a guess?

You got it! It's Anthrax, and this band I was a fan of. Not only did Scott Ian hold up his freshly bought copy of The Killing Joke during a segment of Anthrax's first home video N.F.V.: Oidivnikufesin that came out in 1991, the band also wrote a song about and dedicated to none other than Judge Dredd called "I Am The Law"

Once again my brother would be the one that would introduce me to the ear splitting sounds of Anthrax, and "I Am The Law" would be the first song I ever heard that was actually about a comic character, though I wasn't a fan of Judge Dredd. My brother was a huge Judge Dredd fan, but I still thought it was awesome a song was written about the character. Even cooler was when Anthrax put the character of Judge Death on one of their t-shirts.

The other band is also a native of New York City, and is one of the most popular and recognizable Hard Rock acts in the universe. Yes, it's KISS, and those guys in costume actually look like comic book characters. 

I'm not sure if Gene Simmons got the idea to dress up as these other-worldly characters from comic books or not. I wouldn't doubt it, because the guy has been an outspoken lifelong fan of comics. He, however, admitted to basing his costume off the character of Black Bolt from the Inhumans, which he's a huge fan of. He even wrote, edited, and published a popular comic book fanzine when he was younger. 

I'm not sure whether KISS based a song off of a comic character, because according to Gene, the other members hated comic books. However, they did appear and would later star in their very own comics beginning in 1977. 

Their first appearance in a comic book was Marvel's Howard The Duck #12. The comic was published in May of 1977, and the story was titled "Mind Mush." The band also had an appearance in Howard the Duck issue #13 as well. Although the other members of KISS may have not been too fond of comic books except for Gene Simmons, their first appearances in the Howard the Duck comics was just the beginning for the band in the world of sequential art.

Soon after in the same year, KISS appeared in A Marvel Comics Super Special #1! This is the infamous comic where each member had blood drawn, and then it was mixed in with the red ink used to print the actual comics. The comic was a huge success, and still not an easy find to this day. There's a lot of KISS fans who are hard pressed to let the comic printed in the band's own blood go. However, if you can find a NM copy, they're around $225-250 unslabbed. Lower grade copies are below $50 bucks.

Only a year later, in 1978, KISS would once again be featured in a comic book and appeared in Marvel Comics Super Special #5, but this comic was less successful than the #1 issue. Since then KISS comics would be published in comics numerous times and by various comic publishers. The most notable is the Todd McFarlane's Kiss: Psycho Circus series published by Image Comics. The series ran for 31 issues, and it's no surprise to me that Todd McFarlane opted to do this comic based on KISS. The comic artist is a noted rock fan, and even when he left drawing comics and started McFarlane Toys, he would produce action figures based on KISS, Motley Crue, and Metallica to name a few.

Dark Horse Comics, IDW and even Archie Comics would print comics that featured KISS as well.

And, of course, if KISS has been in comics, then you can be sure that The Beatles have been in comics as well. A lot of comics. Like KISS, they were also in the Marvel Comics Super Special series. 

Here's something I did not know about The King of Rock N' Roll, Elvis "The Pelvis" Presley: He was a huge superhero and comic book fan. In 1971, Elvis was named one of the Jaycees' Ten Outstanding Young Men in 1971, and said, "When I was a child, I was a dreamer. I read comic books and I was the hero of the comic book…So every dream I ever dreamed has come true a hundred times."

Apparently Elvis was a lifelong fan and greatly influenced by the character of Captain Marvel Jr. It was rumored that he even got the idea to wear capes during his later career in Vegas from comic books. The Lauderdale Court apartment where Elvis grew up with his parents in Memphis, Tennessee is now a preserved historic spot. Because of his love for the character, a copy of Captain Marvel Jr. #51, cover dated July 1947, sits on a desk in Elvis' old room.

Dave Mustaine of Megadeth admitted to being a comic fan as a kid, and would say that the song Holy Wars  "was based on me putting myself in a situation as a comic book figure based in Ireland." 

As a kid, Mustaine's favorites were Captain America, Iron Man, and, not so surprisingly, The Punisher. In the late 90s, Chaos Comics even came out with a comic called The Cryptic Writings of Megadeth. There were only 4 issues to this series.

Another well-noted Metal musician Rob Zombie is a horror fan and comic fan, actually writing a few comics such as Rob Zombie's Spookshow International. It's not that surprising since most of his earlier albums has featured his own artwork, which a comic book influence is extremely visible. He has also been reported saying he wished he was Stan Lee. 

His love for comics was even more evident in the artwork contained in his Rob Zombie Hellbilly Deluxe, his debut solo album away from his old band, White Zombie. Much of the inside booklet art was done by comic book legend Gene Colan, as well as artwork by comic artist and creator,
Dan Brereton.

Dan Brereton would also be enlisted to work on Zombie's album art for Hellbilly Deluxe 2, along with other comic artists such as Alex Horley of Image Comics and DC Comics. Brereton has also done album artwork for bands like Toto, Fireball Ministry, and Ghoultown.

Remember Tower Records? Remember seeing Rock N' Roll Comics by Revolutionary Comics there? I surely do. 

Yep, there's actually a comic book called Rock N' Roll comics, and they featured the unlicensed and unofficial biographies of some of the most popular music acts from 1989 to 1994. The first to get featured was none other than Guns N' Roses, whose lawyer Peter Paterno sent publisher and Revolutionary Comics founder Todd Loren a cease and desist order. However, they did not sue when the first issue was printed and released.

New Kids on the Block, however, did sue but lost in court, as the verdict gave comic book biographies the same protections as other unauthorized biographies. Why they decided to feature New Kids on the Block for a comic book series entitled Rock N' Roll Comics is beyond me. I even refused to bold the boy band's name cause I didn't like them then and still don't like them now.

Other rock acts that sued the comic book publisher were Motley Crue and Bon Jovi. Major disappointment since I've been a Crue fan for a long time. Bon Jovi I could care less about. Frank Zappa and KISS were some of the only cool musicians who were supportive of the comic book publisher back then. 

I know some of you may be Rock N' Roll and comic book fans alike. I know Gerry is one, and another reader of Total Comic Mayhem is the guitarist and vocalist in a rock band called Zen Kura hailing from Syracuse, New York. You may have seen his comments under the name L.K. or Loren. Zen Kura's music is exactly the sound I grew up listening to, straight up rock! If you're a rock fan, you should check them out and give 'em a listen.

Rock N' Roll and comics have always been a huge part of my life, then and now. I know comic fans stretch across a wide array of musical tastes. Eminem is a notoriously huge comic book fan and collector as well as many Hip Hop artists like Wu Tang Clan, and Public Enemy, but this post isn't about Hip Hop and comics.

But whatever you're musical taste, comics and music are suppose to be fun and they are. So to all the rock musicians and comic artists and creators and comic fans grinding it up out there everyday then and now, I'm holding up this beer and toasting to you, "Thanks for all the great memories and the one's to come. Keep on rockin'!"


  1. Wow! Thanks for the plug! I was reading your post and thinking "Man this guy has good taste in music". I have all the KISS Records, Motley Crue, Van Halen, Ozzy and love all the Iron Maiden Covers, and even have the KISS Blood Comic, lunch box picks, megos etc.. Then I saw Anthrax and was going to mention that the singer lives in my home town and even plays in a cover band less than a mile from my home. Then I came across your mention of my band and I almost fell over. I have come to truly value your advice and visit your page daily and recommend it to everyone who talks comics with me. Your observations of the industry are spot on and I always tell my brother what is the latest Hot Item and we both put our $$$ where you recommend. We are working on our Next CD "THE IMMORTAL" and You will get the very first CD off the presses.
    Thanks Again....YOU ROCK!!! L.K.

    1. You ROCK, L.K.!!! Great tunes you guys are blasting out on the East Coast! Keep grinding out those rockin' sounds!

      Hey, I must say you got great taste in music as well, and that's freaking awesome you're from the same hometown as the singer from Anthrax. I'd probably lose it if I ever met any of the guys from Anthrax.

      You have the KISS blood comic? You're making me ubber jealous, that's a definite keeper. You still have those lunch boxes too? You must have an awesome collection of some great memorabilia in both comics and rock n' roll.

      I've always appreciated comments from you, and you've been one of the first regularly comment here so thank you. I totally got excited when I clicked your name link and found your website. After listening to some of your tunes, I was like, "No wonder I like this guy."

      The Immortal sounds like a bitchin' title for an album. I'm definitely intrigued! How many songs you got on it?

      Rock On!


  2. Yup. You nailed it. I love me some rock and roll. I grew up listening to more punk rock and skate thrash, but I totally agree with what you said about Iron Maiden's album covers. There was something about them that I really enjoyed. Maybe it was because they look like comic book covers. I never really put that together until now.
    I enjoyed this post. It's nice to hear about other peoples experiences and love of both comics and music. and it's nice to get away from the investing aspect of collecting for a bit and go back to the love of the hobby.

    1. Whoa, Gerry actually commenting and letting him be known?

      Ha Ha! I know you love some rock n' roll, Gerry. I hear the stuff you play on the Juke Box when we at da bar. There must always be one Ramones's mandatory!

      I agree. It's great hearing about others' love for the hobby, and we all are just one big comic lovin' community. Least that's how I see it. You know, come to think of it, that's probably another reason I was drawn to rock n' roll albums, their covers, though might not be comic book-like, had some really great artwork that sparked the imagination before ever even listening to the songs.

      Get geared up for Eastbay Comic Con, I'll probably need ya to take some pics for me.