Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Sgt. Fury's Lonely Hearts Club Band

(Wow... I would buy that album in a heartbeat. But I digress. Already. That's gotta be some sort of record, even for me.)

I was thinking about music in comics the other day, thanks to a book I'm in the midst of reading for an upcoming review. And I know that this is no great epiphany, but it struck me as strange that for all the bands and performers we've seen depicted in the funny books over the years, we very rarely get an idea of what they're supposed to sound like.* But until they start putting sound chips in comics (and please, Comic Book Industry, feel free to avoid doing that at all costs), we have to derive our idea of the sound from visual cues - the look of the band, the people in the audience, the font the song lyrics are printed in, and so forth. And I don't know why, but I'm fascinated by the whole idea of having to hypothesize conclusions in the absence of the one sense that would firmly establish the facts.

So here are a handful of musicians/bands I've read about in comics over the years, and what the visual cues lead me to believe they'd actually sound like if they were real. And we'll start with the most obvious:

Dazzler - Be-skated mutant singer. Clearly light opera. The disco thing? That just pays the bills. Seriously though, I kinda always imagined she sounded a bit like Yvonne Elliman (Saturday Night Fever Yvonne, not Jesus Christ Superstar Yvonne).

Rick Jones - Every Marvel hero's BFF. To this day, Rick is still firmly stuck in the 70s. His dream gig would be playing sidekick not to another superhero, but instead to Peter Frampton, I'm sure.

Lila Cheney - From various X-books. The big hair, the vests, the flying-V guitar... I'm thinking Joan Jett or Lita Ford. She definitely got her start in 616's version of the Runaways (no, not those Runaways).

Cats Laughing - Kitty Pryde's favorite band in Excalibur, IIRC. Looked sort of folk rocksy, and the lead singer was supposed to be an author, too, so I'm thinking somwhere between Edie Brickell and early 10,000 Maniacs. UPDATED - Commenter Matthew E tells me that Cats Laughing was, in fact, a real live band with actual people in it and everything. I couldn't find any song snippets online, but the Wikipedia entry informs me that my folk rock guess was pretty much on the money. So I've got that going for me, which is nice.

Great Frog - Speedy's band. Psychedelic rock, but probably with an anti-drug message. Probably toured high schools as part of the "motivational assembly that makes kids actually wish they were in Algebra class" circuit.

Scare Tactics - From the book of the same name. I'm thinking either The Misfits if they had ever appeared on Scooby Doo, or else maybe "Phantom of the Park" era KISS.

YEAH! - From the Peter Bagge/Gilbert Hernandez book of the same name. I'm thinking a lo-fi cuddlecore type of sound, a la Gaze or Cub, but with more spacey elements to appeal to their alien audience. Either that or the "...in Outer Space" season of Josie & the Pussycats.

Riot Grrls - This all-girl punk band appeared in early 90s Superman books, and I think Jimmy Olsen dated one of the band members. And one of 'em was a vampire, I think. Maybe the one Jimmy dated, I don't remember (it'd make sense, though). Anyhoo, they probably sound like what the Superman editorial folks thought angry girl punk sounded like (Really watered-down Bikini Kill? Bland Sleater-Kinney wannabe? U Decide!).

That Griffin Guy They Always Talked About in Strangers in Paradise - Strives for Morrissey, maybe reaches the level of a James Blunt. Maybe.

Sex Bob-omb - Scott Pilgrim's band. Can you describe what is probably Pure, Unrefined Awesomeness with mere words? Well, okay, you probably can - and I think those words would be along the lines of "kinda New Pornographers-y" - but whatever the case, almost assuredly the greatest comic book band ever.

This list is nowhere near exhaustive, obviously, and there's a lot of stuff left out because I either can't remember them right now, or I just haven't read their books yet (like the band from Garage Band, or the Amazing Joy Buzzards). But these are my guesses. Feel free to add your own, either on any of the above or on your own suggestions.



*There are exceptions, obviously. We know what The Archies and Josie & the Pussycats sound like thanks to their cartoons and the albums "they" released. And of course, a large number of real musicians have appeared in comics over the years (KISS, Alice Cooper, Kid 'n Play, New Kids on the Block, and just about everyone in between).
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