PUNKS NOT DEAD #1 by David Barnett and Martin Simmonds
In IDW's PUNKS NOT DEAD #1, a troubled teen encounters the ghost of Sid Vicious. Punk rock collides with the modern era explosively. The characterization of Sid is excellent, and the themes and art work well. I'm excited to see where this goes.
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Chaotic Neutral

Recently, I’ve been getting back into a lot of punk rock. I find it to be very relevant to the current political climate. Punk was a counterculture movement known both for its “look” as well as its angry politics. Punks are a brash crowd, and their major philosophy is to let everything they’re angry about out into the world, regardless of consequence. On one side, this created some awesome progressive satirical pieces, like the Dead Kennedys’ “Kill The Poor.” But there was also a thriving neo-nazi scene. Since we’re seeing a reinvigoration of punk rock’s “everything’s messed up so I’ll do what I want” climate in the anarchists of far right and far left, it seems there’s no better time for IDW’s new comic, PUNKS NOT DEAD, than now.

“PUNKS NOT DEAD” – The Exploited

Image courtesy of IDW.

Written by David Barnett and illustrated by Martin Simmonds, PUNKS NOT DEAD #1 is a sad love letter to punk. It follows a troubled British teen named Fergie. Bullied at school, with a father in prison and an emotionally distant mother, Fergie gets walked over by everyone. But when he encounters a ghost at an airport who claims to be Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols, things get interesting.

For whatever reason, Sid’s soul gets tied to Fergie, and he has to follow him everywhere. Though Fergie no longer has privacy, being with Sid has its advantages. Sid gives him the strength to beat up his bullies and brings out a rebellious fire in Fergie. However, Sid is not the first paranormal entity in England, nor is he the last. There’s a government agency on the lookout for him, and we don’t yet know why.

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Of course, I have my own hypotheses. If you know anything about the history of the Sex Pistols and Sid Vicious, there’s an obvious answer hidden in plain sight. One of the most well-known facts about Sid Vicious is that he stabbed his girlfriend during a fight and died of a heroin overdose soon after. Like many rock icons, he did young — just 21 years old. If an agency is already on the lookout for ghosts, it makes sense that it’d target one with a history of violent and self-destructive decisions in life.

“Anarchy In The UK” – Sex Pistols

However, writer Barnett mentions something intriguing in a note at the end of the issue. This ghost might not actually be Sid Vicious’s ghost at all. The ghost knows he has something to do with Sid Vicious, but his memories are vague and blurry. More generally, Sid the ghost represents the energy that Vicious left behind, the feeling of punk rock rebelliousness. And such a ghost is arguably even more powerful than the real Sid Vicious.

We’ve all encountered the ghost of punk rock. That angry young man who draws on nihilism to feel smart, who thrives on shocking others to feel powerful. He has the look, and he has the friends. He knows that the system we live in hurts people. But rather than working to heal himself and others, he’d rather fight fire with fire. So he makes a big mess wherever he goes. He’s the Tyler Durden in FIGHT CLUB. He’s the Rick Sanchez in RICK AND MORTY.

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“I Was A Teenage Anarchist” – Against Me!

Image courtesy of IDW.

It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in such a person. I know I’ve had many Sid Viciouses (Vicii?) in my own life. There’s something intoxicating about that raw chaotic energy, that need to be one of the rebels. You find yourself braving humiliation and ignoring your instincts just to get a taste of that life. But no friendship can truly be sustained on bitterness alone. Eventually, the tables always turn.

I can see this beginning to unfold with Fergie. And that’s the real danger. Sid the ghost might not be Sid Vicious, but he’s the persona that Vicious destroyed himself to maintain. This ghost has the pure rage that Vicious tried to cultivate. As he says himself, he has made “anarchy and disorder [his] trademarks.” He unabashedly says the meanest things and does not care when people are hurt, either physically or emotionally. Once this ghost’s badass attitude starts giving Fergie nice things, the boy will do anything to keep on Sid’s good side. And no one can stay there for long.

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“Bad Reputation” – Joan Jett

Not only does PUNKS NOT DEAD #1 have the emotional atmosphere of punk, but it definitely has the look. Of course, there are all the studded belts, piercings, and bold fonts you’d expect. The few supernatural beings we see look sufficiently grotesque for a punk zine. Characters often look gruff and ugly, with acne and buttcracks showing.

Still, there’s something enticing about them all the same. The art uses splashes of color very skillfully, especially to indicate Sid’s supernatural chaos. And he does genuinely look cool. The ghost looks like the real Sid Vicious mixed with Murdoc from The Gorillaz. And we all know how many fans that guy has.

“Nazi Punks F*** Off” – Dead Kennedys

Image courtesy of IDW.

Ultimately, PUNKS NOT DEAD #1 is both timely and a successful period piece. It fully captures the spirit of the era, literally, in a character misplaced from his time. And yet there are a lot of reasons to see the ghost of punk rock today. With the recent surge of police brutality, school shootings, and economic debt, nihilism is back in and the call for rebellion is stronger than ever. Whether we like it or not, this ghost will be here for a while.

PUNKS NOT DEAD #1 releases on Feb 21, 2018. Find it here.

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