Moderator Patrick Reed (ComicsAlliance) began the WonderCon 2017 panel, “Discover the Music of Comics,” on Saturday afternoon, April 1, 2017, by explaining that music and comics go way back, back to at least the 1960s in which popular bands, such as The Beatles and The Monkees, crossed over into comic books. In the 1990s, Prince was based on a concept pitched and approved by the musician, Deadline introduced the character of Tank Girl, and Michael Allred created Red Rocket 7. More recently, music has been featured in The 5th Beatle and The Wicked & The Divine; however, it’s not all just rock ‘n’ roll: the 1986 Rappin Max Robot featured hip-hop culture, and the period comic book, Stagger Lee, had a blues focus.
Reed introduced his first panelist, Simon Spurrier, who wrote the blues/rock-a-billy Godshaper with art by Jonas Goonface. Set in the late 1950s, Spurrier revealed that he fused many musical styles and as a result “created an entire musical culture” that represented the story’s stagnant society.
Matthew Rosenberg (Archie Meets Ramones) was asked about his work on Archie Meets Ramones. Per Rosenberg, because he was working with the estates of the original band members who understood the value of crossing over into comics, he had an easier time selling the idea. He said that it is a challenge to translate heard and visual mediums to each other, because they are polar opposites. Instead, Rosenberg tried to capture first impressions of having listened to the Ramones.
Reed asked Amy Chu what it was like to work with Gene Simmons on Kiss. Chu said that Simmons is a huge fan of comics; however, she stated there was an editorial layer between her and Simmons. She said she has been fortunate; Simmons/Kiss own their lyrics, so she was able to incorporate the band’s lyrics into the comics. This is not always the case for other creators working with music in comics. Overall, Chu said it has been a very good experience.
Music has a collaborative nature about its medium according to Jasmine Amiri (Editor, BOOM! Studios), so working with musicians on comics has worked well. Amiri has edited The Amory Wars (Evil Ink Comics) written by Claudio Sanchez, the frontman for the band Coheed and Cambria, and she edited the six-issue mini-series, Clockwork Angels, which provided the comic version of Canadian band Rush’s epic concept album.
Rounding out the group of panelists, Reed introduced Sam Humphries who wrote the four-issue series, Jonesy, with artist Caitlin Rose Boyle. The colorful romantic comic follows matchmaker Jonesy who happens to enjoy listening to riot bands.
Reed asked the panelists to talk about their first experience of comics and music. Rosenberg mentioned that Love and Rockets was the only comic book that was located in both the comic book store and music shop. He said that he could identify with the characters. Humphries said that the black-and-white art and behind-the-scenes music comics published by Revolutionary Comics showed potential and were full of rock ‘n roll vibes. For Spurrier, working at 2000 AD corresponded to the music he was listening to at the time.
Chu shifted the focus and said that she finds music to be a big part of her creative process, evoking moods for characters. In fact, she creates playlists. Humphries concurred; he makes playlists and used the example of listening to ’70s butt rock while working on Star-Lord. Reed asked Spurrier if he listens to music, and he said no not really and especially when working on dialogue. Rosenberg explained his creative process is similar to Spurrier; he creates dialogue in silence.
In the last few minutes of panel, Reed asked the panelists about the occurrence of comics in music and/or instances of super “comic-booky” music. Rosenberg mentioned Alice Cooper while Amiri commented on a Death Cab for Cutie music video, and Rosenberg responded that Bill Sienkiewicz’s Marvel covers as being intense and cool. Spurrier commented that the visual language is yet to discovered.
Panel photography courtesy of Michele Brittany.