Comic books have had a rich and varied history of intersecting with other forms of pop culture throughout the years. One such medium that comics has frequently crossed paths with is that of music. One might not associate the two together on first blush. However, a deeper look reveals many musicians have embraced the medium. Some have even contributed to it. Vice versa, more and more comics have examined and utilized the history and tricks of genres such as rock and hip-hop.

Here, we explore how music and comic book culture have intertwined and continue to.  See how genres such as rock, metal, and rap have taken cues from comics. Read on to find out which of your favorite rock stars have also written your favorite comics! And yes, there is a Marvel one-shot involving Billy Ray Cyrus!!

The Medium Loves Stories About Music History

Comic books have subject matter that ranges from a variety of topics. Comics in the past have included stories heavily influenced or driven by music. These titles not only reflect their creator’s personal tastes but also comment upon the genre too. These titles include  PHONOGRAM, HIP-HOP FAMILY TREE, THE FIFTH BEATLE and long-running series such as WICKED AND THE DIVINE and SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD.  In some cases, these titles directly comment on music histories such as THE FIFTH BEATLE which tells the story of Beatle’s manager Brian Epstein and his experiences. Other titles serve as tributes to a specific musical time period, such is the case of HIP-HOP FAMILY TREE which recounts the history of hip-hop from the ’70s and ’80s.

Comics about music also take influence from other comics too. HIP-HOP FAMILY TREE’s art style and storytelling take cues from the Lee and Dikto era.  Anime and Manga are heavily influencing SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD. Comic books are exploring more and more genres of music. Genres such as glam rock and punk bring a foundation to the rivalries at the center of  JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS. Meanwhile, TALE OF SAND explores jazz through narrative storytelling.

The reason comics have so often provided a venue for these stories is the medium itself. Simply put, comics can help tell stories that wouldn’t be possible anywhere else. You can realized images or sequences in ways that not even film can create. It does not mean comics are “better,” just that they offer a vast array of ways to convey action, emotion, and experience that, time and again, artists and writers see as better capturing their experiences with music.

Music and Comics
Courtesy of Dark Horse Comics

Rock Bands Show Love For Comics

Comic Books are widely loved by musicians and have inspired countless songs. Rock bands, in particular, show quite a bit of appreciation for their comic influences. Comic book characters such as Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, and X-Men are the basis for some truly iconic pieces of rock music. Some of these songs are direct tributes while others reference specific storylines and characters. Artists like The Ramones, Paul McCartney, and The Kinks have created songs around comic book storylines or characters.

Some of these songs contain an intimate knowledge of comic book lore. The song “Challengers” by New Pornographers references Jack Kirby’s solo series CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN in title and lyrics. while some listeners may not get the reference, the song offers subtle nods to Kirby’s underappreciated series. Other songs like The Ramone’s Spider-Man theme are fun tributes to the character that have remained in pop culture. In pop culture today it seems like the feeling is mutual too.

Music and Comics
Courtesy of Marvel

Musicians Love The Medium

For some musicians, their love of comics goes a bit further than others. Currently resurgent honkytonk hunk Billy Ray Cyrus took on an axe-wielding villain in the pages of a Marvel one-shot in the mid-90’s. The band Kiss has appeared in some many comics for so many companies, most recently teaming up with Archie and the Riverdale gang to battle what I can only refer to as zombie squares. Rap duo Rae Sremmund leapt into the Valiant Universe to assist Shadowman just two years ago.

Other musicians have taken on the task of creating their own comics. Gerard Way of MCR, Max Bemis of Say Anything, Claudio Sanchez of Coheed and Cambria, and Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine are all comic creators from the rock side of music. R&B superstar The Weekend unveiled his own comic series for the release of his album STARBOY which he wrote in collaboration with several Marvel creators. Around the same time as Rae Sremmund was busting heads alongside Shadowman, the Black Eyed Peas were presenting a will.i.am plotted series called MASTERS OF THE SUN.

Some musicians like Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie, Courtney Love, Amanda Palmer, and Mike Doughty have even done double duty, both appearing as themselves in comics and helping to create them as well.

Music and Comics
Courtesy of DC Comics

What’s The Next Gig For The Two?

The bond between music and comics shows no sign of slowing down in the near-future. With titles such as UMBRELLA ACADEMY, it appears comic books and music are still in harmony. One may wonder how and where the two will intersect in the future? As more and more comic series display musical influences, the medium appears to have embraced musicians fully. With series such as DEADLY CLASS taking strong influence from DIY and punk, it’s only fitting more series will do the same. The imagination of comics holds instant appeal to many artists. It only stand to reason that the two will continue to impact one another.

Overall, the art of music is greatly inspiring by comics. The medium has paid homage to several genres and retold its history. It’ also allowed artists to be able to reflect their own influences as well. In addition, it’s serving as inspiration for countless artist’s songs and all around style too. The link between comics and music remains as strong as ever. Now let’s kick back with a comic and a Spotify playlist to celebrate their bright future.

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