November 19, 2007
Posted by: Mark Siegel
Categories: :01 Stop: Watch
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From the Drawing Board of Gabe Soria

Gabe_soria

Comics and music have been inextricably linked
in my head since the beginnings of my fascination with each art form. Where did
it begin? Nelson Riddle’s goony score and songs for the 1960s live-action Batman
series? Spider-Man’s catchy themes from his Ralph Bakshi animated days and his
later mute incarnation on The Electric Company? That first fateful day I read an
issue of Heavy Metal while Physical Graffiti droned on majestically,
coincidentally in the back ground? Whatever it was, I can’t imagine NOT wanting
to put on some sort of record to accompany kicking back with a comic, and I’m
astounded that more comics don’t have soundtracks.

The purists out there might
cry that pure comics don’t need music to complete them. Well, they’re right. You
don’t NEED music to make a complete comic book experience, but the right mood
setter can make a great comic book even better. Artist and writer James
Kochalka’s band James Kochalka Superstar makes music that could be the pop music
his violent robots and horny elves listen to on their radios; Craig Thompson’s
award-winning doorstop graphic novel Blankets actually has a very commendable
original soundtrack of atmospheric instrumental indie rock by the Oregon band
Tracker; and many comics creators are hip to the idea of listing the records
that have informed their work in the back of the newest issue of whatever
they’re working on (Paul Pope’s comics, with their name-checking of Nick Cave
and being titled after pretty good boogie rock songs ("Heavy Liquid" by Thee
Hypnotics) come to mind).

But I’m digressing. My point is: Why not more?
Why aren’t there more original soundtracks to comic books? Why aren’t more
creators listing the records that inspire them? Why don’t more comics come with
suggested listening?

Well, there’s no reason why, which is why I’m
suggesting the following recommended listening for some favorite comics (I’m
stopping at two, because otherwise this erstwhile music journalist would go on
forever).

Jack Kirby Comics

Jack_kirbys_fourth_world

Unsurprisingly, the heavy-duty head
trip comics of Jack Kirby (especially, but not exclusively, his Fourth World
stuff) lend themselves to being sound-tracked by prog rock, doom metal and the
like. I have no idea why more of his art wasn’t featured on the side of custom
vans in the mid-70s. Vaughn Bode and Frank Frazetta won THAT battle, I guess.
The great stoner rock/acid metal band Monster Magnet wrote possibly the
greatest, most to-the-point rock lyric about the world of comics in "Melt", the
lead track from their 2001 album God Says No:

"And I was thinkin’ how
the world should have cried/
On the Day Jack Kirby died/
I wonder if I’m
ill"

How awesome is that? Monster Magnet rontman/songwriter Dave Wyndorf
LOVES to sprinkle the band’s records with not-so sly references to "classic"
(pre-emptive quotes for the contrarians out there) comic books and characters,
including the utterly bizarre Marvel Comics villain M.O.D.O.K. It’s a great
lyrical conceit, since these references tend to make one remember some comics
more fondly than they deserve, perhaps, and in essence make the listener
actually CREATE beautiful Platonic-ideals of psychedelic comics from the 70s in
their heads. Hopefully one day this will come full-circle and somebody will
actually make comic books inspired by this stuff. (For the record, the world
SHOULD have cried on the day Jack Kirby died.)

Recommendations: In the
Court of the Crimson King by King Crimson; Dopesmoker by Sleep; Ladies and
Gentlemen, We Are Floating in Space by Spiritualized; Spine of God, Dopes to
Infinity, Powertrip, God Says No, by Monster Magnet

The League of
Extraordinary Gentlemen

Loeg

I’m currently reading the long-delayed hardback
graphic novel The Black Dossier, the second and a half volume of Alan Moore and
Kevin O’Neill’s history of the creative world/literary superhero opus and am
marveling at its formal gymnastics and pure storytelling chutzpah. It’s really a
marvel, well worth the thirty dollar (!) cover price on re-reading value alone,
but I’m feeling a little bummed upon realizing the promised flexi-disc of a faux
fifties rock song was not included. I’m assuming the twin boogeymen of enormous
cost and lack of readers actually possessing a turntable on which to play the
thing scotched the idea. Anyway, here’s to it appearing online one day, or being
issued by a VERY smart indie record label as a limited edition seven-inch. In my
mind, the LOEG musically lends itself to the theatrical, the baroque and the
circus-like, so with that in mind:

Recommendations: Orphans: Brawlers,
Bawlers and Bastards by Tom Waits; a nice recording of The Threepenny Opera,
preferably in German and featuring Lotte Lenya; Working for the Man by
Tindersticks; Vol 1: Soft Emergencies by the New Orleans Bingo! Show; Trouble is
a Lonesome Town by Lee Hazlewood

[UP NEXT WEEK: TANYA MCKINNON]

One Comment on “ Four Color Rock and Roll ”

  • Simon | November 21st, 2007 5:35 pm

    Is there any record of what Kirby actually listened to himself? I doubt his own soundtrack would have been as …contemporary.
    I’m quite keen on the idea of The 4th World being scored with Matt Monroe and Count Basie.
    Are you ashamed of your feet, that you don’t draw them?

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