Rock'n'Roll Comics #32, Revolutionary Comics, August 1991
Biographical comics. There aren't that many of them. Autobiographical comics could cover every square inch of this planet like so much litter box liner, probably, but strictly biographical? Not so much. Here's where I wish I'd picked up that John Paul II comic back in the late 80s. It was on sale at the local Book Mart for what seemed like forever. Couldn't bring themselves to take it off the rack without risking an eternity in hell, I imagine. So Rock'n'Roll Comics will have to do. I only have one issue: the Frank Zappa bio.

Discovering Zappa, I find, is like participating in a chain letter. Someone turns you on to his music, usually when you're in college, and then you in turn do the same. Each adept is apparently responsible for the recruitment of one other adept, and so it goes*. Some like the early experimentation, some like the humor, some like the studio work, some only the guitar solos, others the later modern music. Me? I like the live stuff. But if there's one common thread in Zappa, it's the stories.

There are tons of funny and downright weird anecdotes about the man, many thrown into songs or onto the stage, so he's a particularly good subject for a comics bio. Fact and myth probably mix here, but it's nonetheless a well-researched piece. The writer isn't afraid of being stylish, with some narration being in "ballad" form (you could easily sing it to the tune of Joe's Garage, for example), which certainly makes a change from the infodumping you'd expect from a comic like this. The art is also stylish, though haphazard. Likenesses are well done, but some characters are barely more than cartoons. It's a little random. Here's a selection:
One thing you should know about me is that I hate drugs. I mean I fucking hate them. I don't take them, and I don't like to be around people who are high. There seems to be no real reason for my revulsion other than having grown up on comics where morality is rather black and white. By the time arcade machines were telling me to stay in school and not do drugs, I was already sold. (Plenty of other vices anyway. Booze rocks!!!)

Anywho, Zappa's attitude in the comic made me go a big "oh yeah, oh yeah, take that Pink Floyd!" (They once opened for Zappa's Mothers of Invention.)

Something else that's fun in this comic is the letters page where editor Todd Loren basically calls DC Comics chief and Legion of Super-Heroes guru Paul Levitz a wimp for not supporting First Amendment rights. Fun stuff, I guess inspired by the fact some artists were off-limits to the comic because Revolutionary didn't pay royalties for using their names. An interesting discussion that completes this package well considering Zappa's own role in First Amendment battles. Oh yeah, and there's a lame reader who wants Rock'n'Roll Comics to cover the New Kids on the BlockTM.
*My initiator was frequent commenter and schoolhood friend Doctor Mi.


Anonymous said...

My parents had the John Paul II comic book, they might still have it. It's in French I believe.

Siskoid said...

I remember there were copies in both official languages.

I bet you could buy it around the world in every language.


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