Jeffrey Lewis Indie Music Blog

In this week's Indie Music Blog, Chris Parkin examines the relationship between musicians and comics and comes up with some eye-opening examples of those that have swapped axe for pen.

Musicians spend a lot of time alone in their bedrooms learning power chords, listening to records, navel-gazing, and doing a lot of other bedroom things such as... drawing and reading graphic novels. It’s little surprise, then, that there’s a very close relationship between pop music and comics.

Soul Jazz Records’ latest compilation release, Invasion of the Mysteron Killer Sounds in 3-D, is a brilliant reminder of this. The album, curated by Kevin Martin’s The Bug (hear his RBMA show below) and Soul Jazz chief Stuart Baker, is a jumping journey through digital dub and comes with a limited-edition graphic novel from Paolo Parisi.

Parisi is an Italian artist who's written about John Coltrane and Chernobyl. But Invasion of the Mysteron Killer Sounds – a strange sci-fi vision of the future of digital music – is his strangest work, featuring as it does real-life dub and dancehall producers King Tubby, Steely and Clevie and Prince Jazzbo, plus fictional superheroes Alien Sound Lord Abductors and the Digi-Dub Voyagers.

It’s a fairly common occurrence, this cross-pollination, whether it’s graphic novels about musicians, or comics written by them. I once walked the streets of Soho in London with comic addicts and Warp Records signings Born Ruffians as they looked for rare issues. Along the way we found comics about Kiss (rumour has it they poured their own blood into the printers’ ink vat on the first run), Vanilla Ice and Prince, plus Peter Bagge’s Hate, a sardonic comic book reportage on grunge.

And, as if on cue, terrific music inky The Stool Pigeon recently announced that it is hosting a month-long exhibition of the strips that feature in its pages, some drawn by Babak Ganjei of the bands Absentee and Wet Paint and others featuring Charlie Parker, Bob Dylan and The xx. The exhibition is free and runs until September 18.

These are just a few of the musicians who’ve been known to swap axe for pen...

The Amory Wars by Coheed & Cambria's Claudio Sanchez
You’d think Sanchez would have his hands full what with him fronting one of the world’s biggest metal bands, Coheed and Cambria, but he still finds time to ink this series of comic books. The Amory Wars is a fairly bonkers sci-fi work set in Heaven’s Fence, a collection of 78 planets that are held in place by a beam of energy, and featuring dastardly plots to wreak havoc and rule the ‘galaxy’ as an autocracy.

Fuff by Jeffrey Lewis
New York’s anti-folk storyteller Jeffrey Lewis is as much a comic book artist as he is a musician and regularly accompanies his live shows with comic drawing. He also describes The Watchmen as 'the Ulysses of comic books'. You can find his work, Fuff, here. He also has a brand new album, A Turn in the Dream-Songs, out soon on Rough Trade.

Umbrella Way by My Chemical Romance's Gerard Way
Gerard Way’s foray into comics, The Umbrella Academy, has been a huge success. The My Chemical Romance main man created it with artist Gabriel Ba and the six-issue narrative – about a group of renegade superheroes who come out of retirement to save the planet – has now been optioned for a film deal.

Sentences: The Life of MF Grimm by MF Grimm
In which the gangster rapper tells his life story in a comic book autobiography. It was released by DC Comics' Vertigo imprint in 2007 and won Grimm – real name Percy Carey – two Eisner Awards nominations. It’s a fairly bleak tale, chronicling the violent life of the hip-hop industry and follows him from his freestyle-rapping youth through to gang violence, imprisonment and reinvention.

The City of Abacus by VV Brown
Doo wop-flavoured popstrel VV Brown is almost certainly more famous for appearing in Marks & Spencer adverts than she is for her artistic inclinations. But she recently collaborated on a fantasy-based comic, The City of Abacus, that’s all about taking on the mysterious powers that keep us all down.

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