Music and comics have a fascinating relationship that continues to evolve in exciting ways. We’ve already written about musicians who write comics, as well as graphic novels about musicians. Our recurring feature Songs Illustrated spotlights comics drawing out stories from the lyrics of some of their favorite songs.
Lately it seems like comics—ranging from shorter ones to full-length graphic novels—have been coming out with specific soundtracks, especially ones released on vinyl. Sometimes the music is added to the story (like for the two House of Waxwork titles) and other times, the graphic novels follow full-length album releases (like for Ohio band Starset). Regardless of release order, these six comics were meant to be read with their accompanying soundtracks.
6. Skin&Earth No. 1
We got the tip on Canadian alt-pop artist Lights (pictured top) a couple months ago when we featured her new song “Savage” as a Daily Dose. The accompanying album, Skin&Earth, released today, is her fourth studio LP and her first attempt at creating a graphic novel. The six-part series, on sale now via Dynamite Entertainment, was written concurrently with the album; Lights has said that each element influenced the other. While the pop-based electronic elements Lights’s music can conjure a sense of escapism, Skin&Earth seems to interpret those ideas visually, creating a dystopian alternate world for the characters in her music.
5. House of Waxwork
Musicians: Rami Sharkey, Kevin Dredge, The Budapest Scoring Symphonic Orchestra, Douglas Pipes and Creeper
Already noted purveyors of vinyl film soundtracks, Waxwork Records recently announced its debut comic series, House of Waxwork. Each comic in the series comes with an accompanying 7” vinyl soundtrack series with a song for each short story. In the preface to “Occult Slumber Party,” the first of two comic stores in House of Waxwork No. 1, the skull-faced Die-rector sits in his director’s chair reluctantly beckoning, “Surrender to the eerie soundscapes I have conjured.” It’s a perfect welcome to horror film-like narratives that follow, and the strong interplay between the tense instrumental and synthesized accompaniments.
4. Slaves for Gods
Musician: These Machines Are Winning
These Machines Are Winning is the umbrella brand (or self-referred band) comprising all the musicians, illustrators, filmmakers, producers, typists and others who helped make this music-plus-graphic-novel collaboration happen. The projects began more than four years ago with ex-Polyphonic Spree guitarist Dylan Silvers, but the deeply skeptical, conspiratorial stories of government corruption illustrated in the books seem more relevant today. Finally, the three 128-page novels, multi-LP (some records available on colored wax, some on cassettes and some digitally) are now available for pre-order.
3. Murder Ballads
Musicians: Dan Auerbach and Robert Finley
Murder Ballads seems to take influence from both parts of its title—the “murder” and the “ballads.” The noir graphic novel, presented by Z2 Comics with Mondo Publishing and Easy Eye Sound, offers a dark take on the music industry and the history of American music. Luckily the soundtrack, released digitally and as a limited-edition 10” only available with purchase of the book, includes the collaborative work of singer Robert Finley and Black Key Dan Auerbach to complete the story. Just like a vinyl record, the comic is divided into Side A and Side B, with the words of writer and music journalist Gabe Soria illustrated by Paul Reinwand on the former, and Chris Hunt on the latter.
2. Young Animal
Musician: Gerard Way
Ex-My Chemical Romance singer Gerard Way published his first comic in 2007 with the first installment of his Umbrella Academy series. But music has never fully left the picture. This past Record Store Day, Way released a limited-edition set including a 12” record with two songs inspired by his 2016 DC comic Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye, poster drawn by Doom Patrol artist Nick Derington and a comic mixtape to accompany his new DC Comics imprint, Young Animal, which Way wrote with Mike Allred, Laura Allred and Carlos Mangual. Though originally released on cassette during New York Comic Con 2016, the set (with vinyl) is now available in Way’s webstore.
1. The Prox Transmissions
Columbus-based Starset are a self-described multimedia rock band. They deal in technological sounds and themes, emo soundtracks and swirling vortexes of imagery and melody. Frontman Dustin Bates is also a Ph.D. candidate in electrical engineering, and his work in Starset showcases that sort of precision. The narrative for The Prox Transmissions actually started out on the album sleeves of the band’s 2014 LP Transmissions, and it’s continued on this year’s Vessels. Artist Dan Hale illustrated the story on the envelopes, introducing the planet “Prox,” shorthand for a Proxy Earth in case the current one became uninhabitable. Protagonist Thomas Bell is one of the colonists on Planet Prox, but he’s still searching for the childhood friend he lost when a raid on Washington D.C. separated them. The album-sleeve narrative concludes with Bell leaving a dire message for Earth-bound humans receiving his transmission from Prox. The 88-page novel, written by Bates and Marvel’s Peter David (Ben Reilly: Scarlett Spider, Spider-Verse) is due out on Oct. 4.