In Guest List, Paste’s favorite artists and auteurs reveal the music that’s inspired some of their most seminal works.
Bitch Planet is an anthem.
Co-created by fan-favorite Captain Marvel scribe Kelly Sue DeConnick and former X-Factor artist Valentine De Landro, the Image Comic series has inspired a fervent following after only five issues, with legions of fans—the seeming majority of them women, transpeople and gender nonbinary folk—adopting the book’s “Non-Compliant” tattoo as a permanent rallying cry in real life.
Irregular shipping schedule or not, Bitch Planet is one of the most important and instantly beloved books to debut in the past year, and the $9.99 first trade, which hits comic stores yesterday and other retailers late this month, is all but guaranteed to catapult Kam, Penny Rolle and a cast marooned on an interstellar prison even further into the stratosphere.
While DeConnick requires silence when she writes (or a background classical score), De Landro has carefully curated a playlist that reflects the defiant women who populate Bitch Planet’s pages. Paste chatted with both DeConnick and De Landro to discuss their different takes on music’s role in the creative process, tease upcoming plot developments and reflect on the enormous fan response to the book.
Valentine De Landro and Kelly Sue Deconnick on the Role Music Plays in Their Creative Processes
Valentine De Landro: I’ve sort of divided my process between the creative part—developing the story—and the more technical part—penciling and inking, production on the computer and all that. When I get to the production stage, I can run with music. During the creative phase, it’s very little music to no music at all. I’ll maybe have some jazz playing in the background, something instrumental, but past that, not until I get to the production process or when I’m inking and I need that flow will I turn my playlist on.
I tend to go into different modes. When I’m penciling, I try to keep the music a little smoother, a little more of a groove. The tempo isn’t as heavy, if that’s the correct way of describing music. I tend to just fall into more of a rhythm; not being too energized helps when I’m just in the penciling part. Then when I start inking and I need to just get to work and meet the deadline and turn the pages out, I tend to turn up the tempo of the music a bit.
The penciling would be the Jackie Brown soundtrack, the Coffy soundtrack, the smoother ones, the more R&B, neo-soul type of songs, and the inking is generally rock. Or blues rock if it’s Jimi Hendrix. If I have control over my playlist and my time and I’m paying attention to what’s happening, then that’ll happen. Sometimes I just end up working through and I don’t know what’s playing in the background, which isn’t a bad level to reach, because I know I’ve been working and concentrating. But I do try to shift it here and there just to get the right rhythm going.
Kelly Sue DeConnick: I have a Spotify radio station based off of Ida Maria that is sort of like Bitch Planet psych-up music, but if I’m planning or doing any creative work, I can’t have any music ona other than classical. I have classical music on most of the time.
I’m super uncool. [Laughs] My taste in music is really stunted to many years ago. During the work day for me, it’s more like, Is this a Schubert day, or a Mozart day? Which I’m sure is really going to get your readers talking, those hot and heavy Mozart vs. Schubert showdowns that you see on Twitter all the time. I’m not as musically inclined as I’d like to be, and I’m very simple. My favorite song ever is “Back in Black.” I’m not very complicated. I love KISS and The Offspring to the horror of just about everyone who knows me. And Helen Reddy and Pat Benatar and Ida Maria, although I think Ida Maria is pretty cool. I get points for that one, right?
You know, Emma [Rios, Pretty Deadly artist and co-creator] has a long and detailed Spotify playlist for Pretty Deadly. Again, I’m sort of musically dumb, and I’m like, I don’t know, [Ennio] Morricone! That’s as close as I get. I write so much for sound and rhythm, sometimes I even have to close off the classical music. Today’s a planning day. Today I’m working with cards on a board, so today I can have classical music on. If I’m scripting, sometimes I have to turn off even that. On Pretty Deadly, more so than any other book I do, the rhythm and the lyrical nature of the dialogue is so important that I can be jacked up by just about anything that would compete with that rhythm.
I think Carol [Danvers, Captain Marvel]’s taste in music is probably about as uncool as mine, not that Carol is my avatar. She and I are actually quite different. But there’s a sort of dorkiness about her. I suspect Carol is sort of a garage-rock girl, too. We even made the “Danger Zone” joke in the Captain Marvel & The Carol Corps miniseries. The Banshees were competing to win the rights to control the barracks radio because no one wanted to hear “Danger Zone” ever again. Carol is the Tom Petty “American Girl.” That’s Carol, right there.
Valentine De Landro’s Commentary on Select Tracks From His Bitch Planet Playlist
“A Song For Assata,” Common
This one tells the life story as Assata Shakur. I really enjoy the narrative in this song. It’s already a very strong story, and Assata Shakur being in political asylum in Cuba right now and a former Black Panther member, a lot of the uprising, the struggle, that kind of puts you in the headspace of identifying with a larger revolution. I know that had a lot to do with the time she lived in and it’s not exactly the same as the message we’re trying to speak on in this book right now, but it’s a struggle nonetheless and it’s one that helps me get in the mindset of people trying to overcome insurmountable obstacles.
Jackie Brown OST
I included the whole soundtrack because I have the whole thing stuck in the playlist and I love that movie. I’m a big Pam Grier fan. She’s the prototype, she’s where a lot of Kam’s DNA comes from. She’s my lead, so when I do Kam scenes, it’s a lot of trying to get that Foxy Brown/Coffy vibe going. And then on top of that, the Erykah Badu stuff I have, the more soulful stuff, if I can make a division between the genres of the music, that’s what I’m hearing when I hear Kam. Not to say the rock anthems don’t fit her as well, but generally when I’m thinking Kam, I’m thinking Pam Grier, so those go hand in hand for me.
“Penitentiary Philosophy,” Erykah Badu
This is how the Mama’s Gun album starts. I fell in love with that album and it’s over ten years old now, but I still remember putting the disc in my Discman and walking to school, so that album always seems to find a way into my playlists somehow. This is more fitting than most times I try to shoehorn it in. [Laughs] The anthem is great, the lyrics are great. It’s one of those songs that when I need to get a little more energy, get amped up, sit down and start getting to work, this is the one that powers me through.
“Wake Up (Amex Unstaged),” John Legend & The Roots
This is a cover of Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up.” I like this track, the lyrics are great. I do like this rendition of it though, because it’s The Roots playing in the background. It sounds fantastic. I love it.
“Higher Ground,” Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder, he’s another artist who just finds his way into my playlists somehow. Generally anything he’s done in his career between the seventies through the early eighties will find its way into my playlist. “Higher Ground” is about him getting a second chance at doing his life right. The things he would do differently if he were able to come back. It’s just one of those strong messages that I guess I’ve imposed on the book or that I’ve found a way to make relevant to the book, but either way, I always seem to feel a little more uplifted when I hear this song.
“White Rabbit,” Jefferson Airplane
Because psychedelic! Because I don’t know. Because there are those scenes where I’m trying to get into the future stuff so I put myself in a more psychedelic mindset.
“Gloria,” Patti Smith
I actually have two versions of “Gloria” on my full playlist, this Patti Smith one and I have the Jimi Hendrix cover too. When I’m working on the Model character, when the Model comes up and starts to talk, I always think of it in this weird hallucinogenic mindset—without any assistance, because I can’t work like that. [Laughs] Just the music.
Click to the next page to hear DeConnick and De Landro’s plans for the next phase of Bitch Planet, thoughts on trans issues and reactions to inspiring a new tattoo icon.