So-called Garage Rock, implies a brand of music produced by teenagers from their parent’s garages. Similarly, pulp magazines which feature comic strips or popular fiction printed on cheap paper are not often cited as works of high culture. Where these ideas intersect, illustrators and cartoonists have often enjoyed a binary relationship with certain musical genres and run in parallel as components of various cultural movements.
Cartoonist and musician Robert Crumb caricatured Janis Joplin and other members of Big Brother & The Holding Company for the cover of their 1968 album Cheap Thrills. As a visual accompaniment to the groups brand of Acid Rock Crumb’s overtly sexualised and often bizarre illustrations gave literal renderings to song titles like “Piece of My Heart” and “Ball and Chain”with comic effect. Subversive visual material gave listeners cues in how to interpret the band’s defiant lyrics and their experimental brand of Rock.
Political cartoonist Gerlad Scarfe provided animations for the 1982 film The Wall based on Pink Floyd’s concept album of the same name. One animation, features heavily politicised symbolic imagery set to the song “Goodbye Blue Sky” and featuring a mechanical Nazi Eagle representing Blitzkrieg over Britain. The allegory was in the vein of propagandist illustration and an admission of the dramatic sentiment of the song.
In 1996, Ghostface Killah of the Wu-Tang Clan releases his first solo album Ironman. Through his lyrics, Ghostface masquerades as the fantastic comic book Character Tony Stark and his mechanical alter ego, Iron Man as featured in comics published by Marvel in 1963. The opening track Supreme Clientele features a sample from the opening jingle of the original 1966 animated television series The Invincible Iron Man. The use of the alter ego would later become a Hip-Hop cliché.
Following the release of Discovery in 2001, French Dance music duo Daft Punk commissioned renowned Manga and Anime artist Leiji Masumoto to create a series of music videos for each of their singles. From these singles a feature film Interstella 5555: The 5tory of the 5ecret 5tar 5ystem was produced in which the entire album constitutes the soundtrack. Both the sound and image had a strikingly nostalgic sentiment.
2001 had also given rise to something completely different, a virtual band named Gorillaz. As collaboration between Damon Albarn of Blur and cartoonist Jamie Hewlett of Tank Girl fame, the project constituted a few core members and multiple collaborators crossing over genres of Hip-Hop, Alternative Rock and Electronic music. The fictional band appears as four animated characters on all of their cover art, promotional materials, and music videos, even as projections at live performances. Spanning over three albums, Albarn remains the only permanent fixture, with dozens of collaborators appearing on recordings and hidden behind screens at shows.
Gig posters, album covers, animated music videos and feature length films are sometimes seen as derived material and a periphery to the music. More recently the trend has turned back on its self and we are seeing a more introspective approach to music’s margin media. This is the result of the visual vehicles informing musical content as much as it is an incorporated as a singular body of popular culture.
M.J. Estren. A History of Underground Comics, Straight Arrow Books/Simon and Schuster, 1974; revised ed., Ronin publishing, 1992
R. Sabin, Punk Rock : So What? Routledge Press, New York. 1999
D.Wolk , Emanata: One Chord Wonders. Techland, March 26, 2010 http://techland.com/2010/03/26/emanata-one-chord-wonders/
Author Unknown, Life : Robert Crumb. Pearl Jannis Joplin.net http://www.janisjoplin.net/life/friends/robert-crumb/