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Musicality in Comics

Written by Outhouse Staff on Wednesday, October 25 2006 and posted in Reviews
By Keb Ellis Forgive me if you read my MOG page, but the Outhouse needs to know about this: http://mog.com/KebStarr/blog_post/15651 Or to paraphrase I basically outline Local, and the soundtracks in the back of what writer Brian Wood and artist Ryan Kelly listen to while creating it. I also talk about my failed attempts to soundtrack various comics, [...]

By Keb Ellis

Forgive me if you read my MOG page, but the Outhouse needs to know about this:

http://mog.com/KebStarr/blog_post/15651

Or to paraphrase I basically outline Local, and the soundtracks in the back of what writer Brian Wood and artist Ryan Kelly listen to while creating it. I also talk about my failed attempts to soundtrack various comics, as well as the whole concept of “marriage of pictures and words” that make up a comment, and why we can’t turn that into a threesome between music, words and pictures. It would be quite sexy, don’t you think?

We don’t often associate music with what we read. I’d like to. I was just thinking about sound tracking comics the other day while reading Sandman and listening to “Only in Dreams” by Weezer, saying: “Wow, this song goes perfectly with this comic!”

And then I realized that we as comic fans don’t usually look at music as an accompaniment to what we read. I ask “why?”

I always find that I like to listen to music when I read (anything, not just comics) but music goes so well with comics. It’s like watching a movie because you get the background music. When I read something superhero-ish, I imagine superhero music going on in the background. I love to put on different music to different comics and sometimes it works out so well.

This morning I was listening to The Blood Brothers and reading Scott Pilgrim. I felt that the high-octane punk/hardcore rock of the Blood Brothers fit so well with the fast-paced, action-packed adventure of Scott Pilgrim. Not only do the pacing of the music and comic go well together, but also the witty dialogue in Scott Pilgrim goes right with the witty lyrics of the Blood Brothers. It’s like a ménage-a-trois between art, words and music!

On that note (pardon the pun): how about the musicality in comics?

So many of my favourite CDs are concept albums; “Deltron 3030”, some from The Mars Volta and Coheed & Cambria’s entire catalogue. They’re fun to listen to, and they become a place where my own imagination works wonders. I’ve written a lot while listening to concept albums. I also like stories in songs, with a lot of my favourite songs being stories (Atmosphere’s “The Woman with the Tattoo Hands” being one of the best). Every song has a story, and if not apparent in the lyrics, then there’s definitely a story behind the song, or the song’s meaning and creation.

Coheed & Cambria easily became one of my favourite bands because of the relation to comics. I haven’t read a single Coheed comic, but I love the fact that singer/songwriter Claudio Sanchez has adapted the concepts of their first and third albums into comics. I’m very eager to get my hands on them and read them (if you have them, send them to me…just kidding). That amazes me that at least someone is trying to unify the mediums, and the sci-fi and action-adventure elements of Coheed’s music blend perfectly with the comic book concepts. I can even picture panels of story when I listen to the music.

I just finished reading a novel called Jazz by Toni Morrison. The story has absolutely nothing to do with jazz music, but the writing style and the structure of Jazz is similar to a jazz composition and it’s like reading one. Each character emulates a solo performance in a song. The narration, though elusive, continuously switches viewpoints, and the prose reads much like a jazz musician plays. It’s a wonderful book in that context (though a frustrating read at times) and it makes me think about comics in the same light.

One of the best comics I find that does this, whether intentional or not, is Craig Thompson’s Blankets. It’s a brutally honest love story, based on Thompson’s first experience with love, and his struggle with religion. I found that when I read the book, it almost presented a love song; a very long, sad and heart-warming love song. I think its part of the reason why I love the book. Thompson’s art and storytelling has a sort of fluency similar to a sad acoustic ballad about human experience you’d hear in a coffee shop.

Another one I find is much like music is Wood and Kelly’s Local; an indie comic that has an indie music feel to it. Aside from the soundtracks in the back, the series really plays like an album, where each issue is a new song with a new sound and a new feel, and a completely different tone to it. I don’t know if that is what Wood and Kelly were aiming for with the series, but I believe it projects. Each new setting takes us into a different story, with each story having its own unique melody with some special quality that enchants the reader’s mind. It’s a beautiful book if you can find that quality.

I don’t think this musicality is exclusive to those two titles. It would probably differ for everybody, as each person experiences art in a different way. However, I think it really presents some sort of new experience for the comic reader. Reading a comic and finding the perfect song to go with it, or even reading a comic and finding a new song being composed as you read, it all boils down to whether or not you feel music coming from your soul. Musicality is a hidden object and it’s often one people don’t easily embrace. Oscar Wilde may say in the Preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray: “All art is useless” but the way each art form interacts and intertwines can be a beautiful thing for those who choose to recognize it.

Go here to discuss.


Posted originally: 2006-10-25 19:53:20

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