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Graphic novel writers feel the music

Alan Moore's not the only one to dip into the musical world. Percy Carey, Archer Prewitt, Ron Regé Jr., Zak Sally and Bryan Lee O'Malley mix it up with bands and side projects.

August 16, 2009|Tobias Carroll

Alan Moore, the writer whose comics work includes "Watchmen" and "From Hell," is collaborating with avant-hip-hop artist Doseone (Subtle, Themselves) and Andrew Broder (Fog) on music to accompany his upcoming graphic novel "Unearthing." This is far from Moore's first foray into music: He has collaborated with Tim Perkins and David J from Bauhaus.

Looking back to R. Crumb's album cover for Big Brother and the Holding Company, it's clear that comics art and music have a long, interweaving relationship. The following artists work in both disciplines:

Percy Carey's "Sentences: The Life of M.F. Grimm" (DC Comics, 2008), a collaboration with artist Ronald Wimberly, is a memoir of Carey's decades-long involvement with hip-hop, acting and the illegal activities that landed him in prison. It has the feel of an illustrated monologue and is presented as a cautionary tale. Carey emphasizes his own wrong turns, specifically his inability to choose music over the allure of maintaining a small drug empire.

Gerard Way's series "The Umbrella Academy" (begun in 2007) boasts the surrealism of Grant Morrison's "Doom Patrol" and the emotional heft of Chris Claremont's "X-Men." It's not surprising that the vocalist for My Chemical Romance has a sense for the grandiose and a morbid sense of humor. Interior artist Gabriel Ba ably handles the absurdity, angst and heroics on display in Way's scripts, while James Jean, the cover artist, also provided illustrations for My Chemical Romance's "The Black Parade." Publisher Dark Horse recently announced that Way and co-writer Shaun Simon would be teaming with artist Becky Cloonan for a new series, "Killjoys," debuting in 2010.

Best known for his solo records and work as a guitarist for the Sea and Cake, Archer Prewitt's work as a writer-artist -- in the relentlessly optimistic "Sof' Boy" -- has earned him acclaim from the comics world, including a 1998 Eisner Award nomination.

Ron Rege Jr.'s ongoing series of dispatches, "Yeast Hoist," have a similar surreal brightness to them. Even if Rege's name isn't familiar, it's likely that you've seen his button-nosed characters somewhere before; it's the artwork for "Imagine Our Love," the 2006 album from Lavender Diamond, on which he plays drums.

Zak Sally's musical resume includes playing bass in Low and Enemymine. Sally's surreal and compelling series "Sammy the Mouse" is a kind of existential Bloom County. Sally recently released his first solo record, the impressively moody "Fear of Song."

Bryan Lee O'Malley's ongoing "Scott Pilgrim" graphic novels feature a manic pop-influenced sensibility, and his graphic novel "Lost at Sea" ably translated teenage melancholy into words and pictures. -- Tobias Carroll

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