Does Music Belong in Comics?

Douglas Wolk (you should be familiar with him--he's one of the best writers on both music and comics) just published in Techland a review of the most recent installments of the comics Phonogram and Hellblazer.

Both Brit-centric stories combine a post-Alan Moore melange of occultism and politics with riffs around music and the people obsessed with it (Britpop in the case of Phonogram, punk for Hellblazer).

Wolk argues that "it's nearly impossible to evoke the sound of music in images. Like a record or a CD, the comics that try always seem to have a hole at their center."

Some more interesting thoughts from Wolk's article for Techland (definitely worth reading, as are the comics he reviews):

Not many have tried harder [to combine music and comics] than Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie's Phonogram series, whose second--and probably final, it seems--collection, The Singles Club, came out this week. It's a clever conceit, nicely executed: seven intersecting stories that all happen over the course of an hour or so at a Britpop-focused dance club, whose playlist becomes the timeline and backbone of the whole thing. (Gillen kindly provides the song sequence in the collection's back-matter.) Some of the characters are "phonomancers," who channel magic through pop songs; all of them are obsessed with pop, and define themselves by their particular cross-sections of NME-reader taste.

[T]he cleverest idea behind Phonogram--the conceit that the magic of pop could be an actual kind of magic--ends up backfiring on it. We only see the characters of The Singles Club on their night out, but the fact that they're all constructed personae, one way or another, means that they don't go much deeper than indie-club-kid archetypes.

One chapter centers on a self-injuring character named Laura who's obsessed with the Long Blondes and quotes their lyrics ceaselessly. Those quotes, though, don't tell us much about her, because the Long Blondes are performers rather than poets. There's more insight into both the band and the character in the panel where Laura notes that Kate Jackson "sings like the slave girl on her knees whose eyes are raised in a way which makes men reach for the whip" than in all the actual lines from Long Blondes songs that appear here.

This week's Hellblazer #265, by Peter Milligan and Simon Bisley, is literally about a rock 'n' roll totem: John Constantine encounters a punk rock cult built around an effigy of Sid Vicious that incorporates artifacts touched by the Sex Pistols' bassist himself--"The syringe he killed himself with. The knife said to've been used on Nancy Spungeon" [sic]. The cult's members are being drawn away (and drawn into violence) by Britain's Conservative Party, in what becomes a symbolic conflation of the death of first-wave punk rock, the rise of the right-wing street-punk scene, and the 1979 ascendancy of Margaret Thatcher.

Read more: http://techland.com/2010/03/26/emanata-one-chord-wonders/#ixzz0jIiGTnjI


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