This summer we’ve resurrected one of our favorite features, I ♥ Comics, and each Wednesday comics bloggers and creators will discuss the things they love about the medium.
This week, our guest contributor is Jamie S. Rich, the writer of Cut My Hair, The Everlasting and 12 Reasons Why I Love Her, Have You Seen the Horizon Lately?, Love the Way You Love and You Have Killed Me, all from Oni Press. He also edits Madman Atomic Comics and writes movie reviews for DVDTalk.com.
CONDEMNED TO ROCK ’N’ READ
Comics nearly lost me once. Rock ‘n’ roll found me and brought me back.
We had pretty much broken up. I lived in a town with no comic book store, and like most teenagers, I was finding other things to occupy my time than what had made me happy only a short time before. I was still too much of a nerd to get into anything that was really and truly bad for me, so it wasn’t drugs or sex or crime that took over for my four-color addiction. It was movies and literature and, most importantly and passionately, music. Like most misfit adolescents, that music tended to be on the more cultish side–strange, dark bands that sang about strange, dark things. Being into those kinds of bands was like learning the password into a whole new social circle. Unlike comics, which had largely been a solitary hobby for me, listening to the Smiths and Depeche Mode and the like provided me with a dual outlet: I could listen to my music alone or I could listen to it with friends and get two totally different things out of it.
Since this was the late 1980s, one of the bands we all really liked was Love & Rockets. In obsessive music circles, much like obsessive comic book circles, knowledge is a top commodity. The things you know that nobody else knows determines your coolness. Then, I was the guy that knew that the band had stolen their name from the Hernandez Bros.’ comic book. I had a handful of well-read issues and a couple of the early Jaime collections that I could show around and use to impress my friends. One of those issues was Love & Rockets #24 (Fantagraphics Books), which I remember because the cover of that comic is still one of my all-time favorites. It’s of Ape Sex, Hopey’s band, up on stage, taken somewhere from the back of stage right. You see the performers, and they look like they can really play, but more importantly, you see the audience. There’s all kinds of different people in there, including a girl’s legs sticking up over the stage and some dude leering at them. Another guy is in the background flipping the band the bird. All you see is the arm, the hand, the finger rising up above everyone else’s heads.
I hung onto my Love & Rockets even as my interest in the X-Men and Spider-Man waned because of covers like that one. I could look at it and see something that was recognizable to me, an existence that, even though far removed from my own (where I lived in Southern California might as well have been a galaxy away from where Hoppers would have been), touched my own. I could know those people. I could maybe be one of those people. They were interested in the same things I was, and from what I could tell, so were the Los Bros Hernandez. Love & Rockets was, as far as I know, the first comic to include a soundtrack in every issue, listing the tunes the guys were listening to when they created their comics. It’s a practice that has since been adopted by the likes of Paul Pope, Jim Mahfood, Chynna Clugston and even me. Whenever I see one of us criticized for doing it, the accusation is usually that we are being self-serving and conceited about our own musical tastes; really, though, we just want to be like the Hernandez Bros.