December 4, 2019
One in a weekly series of enthusiastic posts, contributed by HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of our favorite comic books, comic strips, and graphic novels.
GREAT POP THINGS
“CHEER UP! THE WORST IS YET TO COME!” reads the cover of the birthday card in thick bold caps, tucked inside a book of comics called Great Pop Things. The card and book were given to me by my old friend Todd, the year we each managed to move to New York City from the Midwest. We were in our late twenties, a hazy time that will soon slip beyond the reach of memory. Neither of us had the sentimental, romantic, familial or financial attachments that accelerate gravity. The global crises that assail us today at every turn were forming.
The book was a delightful compilation of strips that had appeared in the British music press and a couple of alternative weeklies in the U.S. in the Eighties and Nineties. Subtitled “the real history of rock and roll from Elvis to Oasis,” it made the perfect gift for a music megafan. It is a freewheeling series of cartoons that take hilarious liberties with the history of rock n’ roll, like an anti-Wikipedia, drawn and written frenetically by “Chuck Death” (a pseudonym for founding Mekon Jon Langford) and Colin B. Morton, another Welshman occupied, like Langford, with music, satire, and writing.
Most Great Pop Things begin with the artist or band name and a tag line usually involving how the band or artist wanted to “change the world” (e.g. “The Fall Story: They tried to change the world with their prole art threats and stuff”), followed by four panels of utter mayhem. Liberties are taken, truths – and names – are reinvented and warped (“Courtney Lard has not always been the respected entertainer she is today”), tangents are explored, and juxtapositions are exploited for maximum fun but may end up revealing astonishing truths (“Wagner versus the Shangri-Las: The Ring Cycle vs The Leader of the Pack”). There are occasional features like “GREAT POP THINGS goes shopping with the stars” or “A Definitive Guide to Road Humor” (spoiler: mostly involves farts). Facial features are exploited for maximum comic weirdness – PJ Harvey’s lock of hair bisects her face into Cubism, while Morrissey’s chin is a jutting, perpetually-stubbled promontory.
Your kids call your albums old now, when you can still remember the weather on the day you bought them. You spend untold amounts of money and time attending Geezer Rock™ shows, knowing the last rockers standing make their living by perpetual touring. (You just hope for a venue with seats.) Looking through Great Pop Things now, an age in which even Billy Bragg has given up saying music can change the world, might seem quaint. To be sure, flipping through the collection is an experience akin to watching a video of guests at your long-ago wedding (David Bowie, Prince, Lou Reed, Mark E. Smith, dead. Courtney Love – wait, what?!). But the writing is incisive as ever, the drawings as easy to get lost in. Will BROOOOOCE ever transcend “the Vast Abandoned Funfair of His Childhood?” Tune in next week.
SERIOCOMIC: Mimi Lipson on LITTLE LULU | Sara Ryan on AMPHIGOREY | Gary Panter on THE NUT BROS./THE SQUIRREL CAGE | Gordon Dahlquist on POGO | Robert Wringham on VIZ | Matthew De Abaitua on CAPTAIN BRITAIN | Jessamyn West on FUN HOME | Bradley Peterson on HELLBOY | Stephanie Burt on KITTY PRYDE RETURNS | Jenny Davidson on OOR WULLIE | Luc Sante on MARSUPILAMI | Susan Roe on BLOOM COUNTY | Marilyn Berlin Snell on CHARLES ADDAMS | Deb Chachra on ARKHAM ASYLUM | Judith Zissman on ERNIE POOK’S COMEEK | Alexandra Lange on BETTY (ARCHIE) | Catherine Newman on VERONICA (ARCHIE) | Josh Glenn on SPIRE CHRISTIAN COMICS | Adam McGovern on THE CREW | William Nericcio on ERRATA STIGMATA | Chelsey Johnson on DYKES TO WATCH OUT FOR | Sherri Wasserman on TANK GIRL | Tom Nealon on MEGATON MAN | Erin M. Routson on THE WEDDING OF SCOTT SUMMERS & JEAN GREY | Douglas Wolk on FRANK IN THE RIVER | Annie Nocenti on DICK TRACY | James Parker on 2000 AD | Adrienne Crew on NUTS | Vanessa Berry on MEAT CAKE | John Holbo on WITZEND | Michael Campochiaro on SPIDER-WOMAN | Miranda Mellis on RED SONJA & BÊLIT | Michael Grasso on THE NEW MUTANTS | Ty Burr on BINKY BROWN | Bishakh Som on AMAR CHITRA KATHA | Mark Kingwell on CLASSICS ILLUSTRATED | Brian Berger on JIMBO | Kenya (Robinson) on AGENT 355 | Seth on THE ETERNALS ANNUAL | Susannah Breslin on SLASHER | Lisa Kahlden on JACK CHICK TRACTS | Mandy Keifetz on KRAZY KAT | Tom Devlin on DUM-DUM POSSE READER | Eric Reynolds on ACTION COMICS #460 | Rick Pinchera on EIGHTBALL #16 | Juan Recondo on DAYTRIPPER | Elizabeth Foy Larsen on ROZ CHAST | J.E. Anckorn on HALO JONES | Deborah Wassertzug on GREAT POP THINGS | Peggy Nelson on MAD MOVIE SATIRES | Holly Interlandi on ANGEL SANCTUARY | Karen Green on THE SMITHSONIAN COLLECTION OF NEWSPAPER COMICS.
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