Updated: Aug 26, 2019
Music and Comics - the pillars of pop culture. What happens when they collide?
Here are five musicians that have either ventured into creating original comics story arcs or have been featured in other comics.
1. Swarathma and an album full of stories
Swarathma are pioneers of Indian folk rock. The Bangalore based band has been inspired by serval personal incidents and social issues that reflect in their song writing. Besides their showmanship, music and support for social causes Swarathma is also known for its unique album art, most of which was done by frontman Vasu Dixit. For the release of their acclaimed third album Raah e Fakira, the folk-rockers turned to a new storytelling medium - graphic novels.
Eight songs of this album were adapted into a collection of eight stories in a graphic novel format. “Most songs have stories behind them — inspired by an incident or a thought. So, in the absence of CDs (who listens to them anymore?), we decided to collaborate with another kind of storyteller, graphic artists, to tell these visually,” says bass player Jishnu Dasgupta. Each story features art from a different illustrator adding diversity to the comic panels. The band's work with comic style illustrations still continues as their recent lyrics videos of songs like Kaash and Jiya Lagaye from the album Raah e Fakira are in the form of animated stories, complete with comic panels and human emotion.
2. Eminem versus The Punisher
The Detroit rapper has demonstrated his love for comics on many an occasion. Dressing up as Robin, rapping "I'm Superman with the wind on his back and she's Lois Lane", writing a song for the Marvel film Venom, Em is a full-blown comic geek.
Eminem in fact made an appearance in an issue of The Punisher, written to promote Em’s album Relapse. For those unacquainted with the character, Frank Castle aka The Punisher is an ex-soldier turned vigilante who "punishes" gangsters with his own brand of justice. In 2009, Eminem took on the Punisher in a comic titled Eminem/Punisher: Kill You. The story starts with Castle targeting Eminem's concert crew for some reason. After this, Em loses his cool and all hell breaks loose. Later on as the plot thickens, the two team-up in true comic book fashion.
3. Steve Aoki's Future in Comics
Korean-American DJ Steve Aoki is an artist with a passion for science fiction. His futuristic concert sets and music videos bear testimony to this. After a string of albums titled Neon Future, he created a limited comic book series of the same name. While many comics set in the future imagine a ravaged dystopia, Aoki's Neon Future is a time where humans and technology live in harmony.
“A general plot is that technology is destroying humanity,” Aoki said. “The robots are going to make us their slaves, or the human species is going to be exterminated by technology. But in this case, we are going to become augmented. ... We use technology for the good. It’s a different kind of story.”
The lead character is a long-haired Asian man called Kita Sovee (an anagram of Steve Aoki) who fights a futuristic government that is intent on banning all advanced technology.
4. Gerard Way’s Umbrella
Of all the musicians involved in creating comic books, Gerard Way is probably the most acclaimed. Besides writing comics, the lead singer of punk rock band My Chemical Romance is also the founder of Young Animal, an imprint of DC comics. With his music, fashion choices and persona, Way has had an eccentric vibe. And this look is replicated in most of his characters; the stories being bizarre drama comedies.
He wrote the mini-series The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, which was a sequel to one of the albums of his band. More than Killjoys, Way's magnum opus remains The Umbrella Academy.
The Umbrella Academy is a series by Dark Horse Comics which won him the Eisner Award. It deals with a set of superhuman children adopted by a strange billionaire, living in an institution which lends its name to the comic book. When their father figure dies mysteriously, the members of the Academy (now grown up) unite to save the world in their funny, weird ways. The Umbrella Academy is set to be a part of the pop culture zeitgeist, with a successful Netflix adaptation that premiered this year to much acclaim.
5. Michael Jackson's 3-D failure
The king of pop, Michael Jackson was obsessed with superheroes and heroines. He used to dress up as Batman and had an intense desire to play Spiderman on the big screen!
In 1989, he tried releasing his original comic book avatar. This was the year he had dropped his musical film, Moonwalker. It was a dystopian story but it was the movie's dance and music sequences which were more popular. The iconic Smooth Criminal video also debuted in this. Jackson's decision to convert this into a "3-D comic book" was ambitious. Enormous licensing fees were paid to Blackthorne Publishing but it proved to be a loss in the end. The magic of Jackson's moves and voice couldn't be replicated in comic pages.
But MJ never gave up his obsession with comics and acting as comic book characters. Reportedly in 2000s, he tried approaching Stan Lee of Marvel comics to buy all properties owned by Marvel. "If I buy Marvel, you'll help me run it, won't you?'" he asked Lee. The deal never worked out.
Shaurya Singh Thapa