For all of Halloween-themed October, ComicsVerse is creating magic. By magic, we mean analyses of Halloween films, shows, music, and anything else we can find. If you want to keep posted on the newest and greatest content in this particular series, you can check it out here. Stay tuned for more ComicsVerse series coming your way, Spoopy Ghostoween and beyond! Now, let’s talk about The Misfits!


Greetings fright fans. Last time, The Unseen Horror dove into the tale inspired by New Jersey’s infamous mass murderer John List. The Garden State holds far more horrors than just List.

MISFITS
THIS DOESN’T COUNT! THEY WERE FROM STATEN ISLAND!

Westfield, the town List lived in, housed Charles Addams, creator of the ADDAMS FAMILY, as well. South and Central Jersey share the legend of the Jersey Devil, a demon that haunts the woodlands of the Pine Barrens. Hardwick’s Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco functioned as Camp Crystal Lake in FRIDAY THE 13th. Cape May acted as the setting for the 1981 slasher THE PROWLER. New Jersey’s horror credits stand strong, almost as strong as its music credits.

Hoboken is the birthplace of the legendary Frank Sinatra. Asbury Park cultivated Southside Johnny and Bruce Springsteen, while New Brunswick’s Court Tavern held early shows from The Bouncing Souls and The Smithereens. Jersey City birthed jazz/R&B/funk legends Kool and the Gang. The Garden State claims Patti Smith and Whitney Houston, too. However, one band managed to merge NJ’s horror cred with its music cred. Horror-punk draws equally from punk speed and aggression and horror movie imagery.The Unseen Horror pays tribute to the progenitors of the genre: Lodi, NJ’s own Misfits.

“The Danzig Era”

The Misfits exist over thirty years of history, so we will go over each era of the band. The group’s formation in 1977 came from singer Glenn Danzig (born Glenn Allen Anzalone). Danzig drew inspiration from horror films and dark events, with music centered around punk and ’50s music. Bassist Jerry Only (nee Ciafia) joined soon after. Danzig created PLAN 9 Records to distribute their singles, and the group played around the NY/NJ area.

Members came and went, with Only’s brother Doyle (nee Paul) becoming the guitarist. The band recorded songs for the STATIC AGE album but were unable to find a distributor, forcing them to release the songs as singles. STATIC AGE would not be adequately released until 1997.

Misfits

The band soldiered on, writing and recording their masterwork, WALK AMONG US. The album contained many tracks that would become Misfits staples — “Hatebreeders,” “Skulls,” “I Turned Into A Martian,” and “Mommy Can I Go Out And Kill Tonight?” The group perfected their look, as Danzig grew his hair into the signature “devil-lock” and wore dark eyeliner onstage (Only and Doyle followed suit).

They found their symbol — THE CRIMSON GHOST, taken from the film of the same name. Despite these breakthroughs, the group had little success and infighting was constant. Danzig grew dissatisfied and left after their annual Halloween show. The band released one final album with drummer Robo: EARTH A.D./WOLF’S BLOOD.

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Fans see this era as the “classic” Misfits, and it is hard to disagree. The band solidified their image, developed a style, and wrote masterful songs. This era produced additional classics like “Die, Die, My Darling,” “Hybrid Moments,” “She,” “Bullet,” and the dark-yet-catchy “Last Caress,” which would be covered by Metallica.

“The Graves Era”

The Misfits saw little success, but their legend grew in the years that followed. Bands like Green Day and Metallica professed their love for the band and fans began to explore this hidden gem. The Ciafia brothers worked in their father’s auto parts factory, while Danzig experienced success with his bands Samhain and Danzig (though he developed a reputation for being short-tempered and petulant).

The brothers attempted a comeback with a Christian metal band (Kryst the Conqueror) but never got a deal; following that, Only sued Danzig for royalties. The courts denied songwriting royalties but allowed Only to tour and record under the Misfits name.

Misfits

Only and Doyle recruited drummer Dr. Chud (David Calabrese) and singer Michale Graves (Michael Emmanuel) and recorded AMERICAN PSYCHO in 1997. The album saw a heavier, more metal Misfits, with songs based on horror movies. The Misfits had a more elaborate stage show and makeup, leading some to call them “the KISS of punk rock.”

The more cartoonish imagery came from Only, who became the driving force in the band. The first major problem came when Only booked a South American tour knowing that Graves had scheduled vacation time. Graves refused to tour, and the band hired a replacement. Graves returned eventually, and the Misfits recorded FAMOUS MONSTERS.  The tensions remained, however, and Graves and Chud left during a live show.

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This era received mixed fan reaction. They argue about the changed sound and Graves not being Danzig. Graves had enormous shoes to fill, but the truth is, he performed admirably. He sang on two fine horror-punk albums and contributed several new classics. Graves wrote or co-wrote “Scream,” “American Psycho,” “Helena,” “Shining,” the murder ballad “Saturday Night,” and arguably the best song from the era, “Dig Up Her Bones.”

“The Only Era”

Doyle left the band soon after the loss of Graves and Chud and a disastrous attempt to reunite the Misfits with Danzig (chronicled in THIS MUSIC LEAVES STAINS by James Greene, Jr.). The addition of Black Flag guitarist Dez Cadena proved the final straw for Doyle. Only became the new vocalist, adding Ramones drummer Marky Ramone. The trio recorded PROJECT 1950, a collection of ’50s cover songs.

The album drew criticism for Only’s vocals (though it was a good way to help the new band gel). Ramone left, and Murphy’s Law drummer Eric Arcee worked on THE DEVIL’S RAIN. The album drew much of the same criticism for Only’s vocals, the movie-based songs, and the hollow cartoon image. Only continued touring, releasing EPs, and promoting the band. However, the original Misfits reunited this year for a small series of shows, though it is unlikely this version will record any new material.

This era is the hardest to be objective about. Fans report Jerry Only is extremely personable and goes out of his way to accommodate them. However, other fans say he treats the Misfits as a cash cow and should lay the band to rest. The undeniable facts are these — Only pushed the Misfits in a more cartoonish direction, and writes many songs based on movies.

He has marketed the Misfits in various ways (including a stint in World Championship Wrestling) and has not hired a new singer despite repeated criticism. Most telling of all, though, is simply that he is a man nearing 60 who sings songs about Frankenstein, and hasn’t produced any new Misfits classics. Even horror-punk can only go so far.

Final Thoughts: The Misfits

The Misfits’ legacy is a mix of band problems, horror, and music. They remain the ultimate Halloween band regardless. Horror fans of all kinds find appeal in their lyrics of death and monsters.

However, those fans will ultimately have to judge for themselves which version works and fails. Put the records on on Halloween night, and judge for yourself.

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