Five Comics by Rock Stars

Numerous rock stars have tried to cross over into other mediums, whether it's acting (Henry Rollins, Meatloaf), painting (Marilyn Manson, John Mellencamp), or making their own liquor (Geoff Tate, Maynard James Keenan).

One medium rich with rock stars is comic books. Over the years, many musicians have either penned their own comics or starred in them. In anticipation of this weekend's Phoenix Comicon (taking place Thursday through Sunday at Phoenix Convention Center), we bring you five comics by or about rock stars.

Kiss #1 (Marvel, 1977): There have been many Kiss comics printed since this first one, but what makes this comic the Kiss comic to have is the way it was printed: using the blood of the band members. A registered nurse drew blood from Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley, and Peter Criss (which was witnessed by a notary public), and then the blood was dumped into vats of red ink at Marvel's Borden Ink plant. The comic features Kiss in four different stories, with guest appearances by such characters at The Avengers, Dr. Doom, and Spider-Man. Inked by Allen Milgrom (Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-ManX-Factor) and written by the late Steve Gerber (co-creator of Howard the Duck), the first Kiss comic is the most collectible in rockdom. The first pressings of the 66-page comic included a concert centerfold, and to buy one today, fans will need to fork over anywhere from $100 to $150.

The Amory Wars (Evil Ink Comics, 2004 - present): This comic is written by Claudio Sanchez, frontman of progressive metal band Coheed and Cambria. The comic's storyline is also the focus of the band's concept albums. The basic premise is that there's a struggle for power in a place called Heaven's Fence, a collection of 78 interconnected planets. The hero is Claudio Kilgannon, and he must ultimately fight Wilhelm Ryan, ruler of Heaven's Fence and murderer of Kilgannon's family. While I'm a huge fan of Coheed and Cambria's music, I couldn't get into The Amory Wars. The artwork (by Chris Miller) is decent, and the slick, full-color pages are nice, but the traditional sci-fi plot (struggle for power on a fictional planet) didn't pull me in. I never warmed up to the story's hero, either, and there aren't any intriguing, strong supporting characters to help maintain my interest, either.

Death Dealer (Verotik, 1995): The coolest thing about the first Death Dealer series is that legendary artist Frank Frazetta (whose 1973 fantasy painting inspired the whole Death Dealer franchise) provided the covers. The worst? The stories were written by Glenn Danzig, who's a much better punk and metal singer than comic book writer. That Frazetta didn't give his full blessing on a Death Dealer storyline until 2007 (which Danzig had nothing to do with) is evidence of this. Danzig doesn't deviate much from the storylines in James Silke's Death Dealer novels -- we have a lone, bad ass barbarian who wears a helmet possessed by the god of death, trying to defend his forest from Mongol-like invaders, but who uses dry, deadpan dialogue and has no points of empathy for the average Joe. The art for Danzig's Death Dealer comics is killer (thanks to the work of folks like Simon Bisley and Liam Sharp), but the weak storyline reads like fan fiction -- which it pretty much is.

The Umbrella Academy (Dark Horse Comics, 2007 - present): My Chemical Romance singer Gerard Way created this comic, which has a layered storyline filled with interesting characters. The Umbrella Academy is a group of disbanded superheroes who were each trained from birth by an alien disguised as a human named Sir Reginald Hargreeves. Their goal was to save the world from a mysterious threat. After Hargreeves' death, the group reunites and resumes trying to save the world. It's not an outside-the-box plot for a comic, but Way keeps it interesting with characters like the knife-throwing Kraken and the levitating medium Séance. The artwork, by Gabriel Bá (Casanova) and James Jean (winner of seven Eisner Awards), is also stunning in its dark, surreal simplicity. 

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Niki D'Andrea has covered subjects including drug culture, women's basketball, pirate radio stations, Scottsdale staycations, and fine wine. She has worked at both New Times and Phoenix Magazine, and is now a freelancer.
Contact: Niki D'Andrea