The title of Paul Cornell and Tony Parker’s new, incredibly entertaining, cheeky book, This Damned Band, says it all and in ways that I won’t reveal.
Paul Cornell is a writer that has only recently been added to my list of writers to watch due to his deft handling of Wolverine leading up to his death. He’s a writer with intelligence that understands why we read comics. He actually gave Wolverine an arc, a journey to follow that tested who he was as a person. In This Damned Band the journey is a bit different. We’re introduced to a hard rock band circa 1974 called MOTHERFATHER (who may just be more popular in Japan), which, in and of itself, encapsulates the homogenized, money-making machine that the band actually is. They’re edgy, but in a safe way. If you don’t get the joke in the band name, imagine me calling you a Motherfather, and what “F” word might make it worse.
We’re introduced to the different band members through the use of a documentary-style set up, allowing us to see the act they put on for the camera and who they actually are. The lead singer, Justin Parish, shirt always off, revealing his typically slender lead singer body, his long, wavy locks hanging over his shoulders or flying through the hair, looks into the camera and talks about how they sold their souls to Satan, how they believe in their occult religion, how their band is one – meanwhile we watch as their lead guitarist is so high he hilariously walks off stage while playing, and as Justin Parish slips out of character for the camera. Alex Lodge, the bass guitarist, dressed in a purple suit, tiny mustache, and perfect short hair, has one of the best lines in comic book’s this year (Is there an Eisner for that? There should be!) concerning a pound of butter, his tight, purple pants, and an offer to the adoring fans lined up at the edge of the stage. This book is slyly hilarious in a way no other book on the stands are right now.
Cornell digs into what “hardcore” rock and roll became when the execs saw it could make money and lovingly pokes fun at it without demonizing the humanity of the characters. He walks a fine line, and it pays off in dividends.
Can I talk about Tony Parker (Elephantmen, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?) for a second? His character designs and approach here are flawless. The personalities of the very colorful characters jump off the page with every pencil stroke. It’s not satire or parody, but it’s not photorealistic. We’re not watching Spinal Tap, but we’re also not delving into something as realistic as Gimme Shelter (although the band no doubt would like to think they are!). Like Cornell, he walks this line of keeping the balance between exaggeration and human emotion perfectly. These guys are realistic parodies of themselves. They’ve become what every money-grubbing executive wants them to be: mediocrity. Enjoyable, not great, but not terrible. You’d listen to them, but not keep a single note in your head.
Of course, the boys love the backstage life – Bob Robson on drums, Kev is lead guitar, Alex Lodge on bass, Clive Stanley on second guitar and creator of Motherfather, and by the end they are treated to a surreal experience. Could it be the mushrooms or something so insane that you want the second issue to be in your hands immediately.
Lovern Kindzierski’s colors are brilliant from the first page and quite familiar to me: Lobo and Lobo’s Back defined a portion of my impressionable teenage years, but Lovern’s list of work is extensive and rightfully so. The way lights in the night sky burst and speckle across the page gives you a feeling of epic excessiveness and how it actually feels to be under the spot light.
Kudos to everyone on this book.
*This Damned Band will be released in August. Be sure to pre-order your copy at your local comic book shop by Monday, July 13.