Though Memphis may lay claim as the birthplace of rock ’n roll, classic automobile oasis Detroit and the rust belt spun R&B into rebellious, chugging rock throughout the ‘50s, spawning talents from Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels to emergent punk godfathers The Stooges and MC5 a few decades later. Broken speed limits and oil stains just go hand-in-hand with Stratocasters and youthful rebellion.
Writers Collin Kelly and Jackson Lanzing have joined artist Brian Ching and colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick to take that harmonious sneer to comics with Gotham City Garage, a book that pits Lex Luthor and an army of fascist Batman robots against a handful of heroines riding some serious metal. It’s a dirty road trip into dystopian sci-fi, where classic DC characters including Supergirl, Wonder Woman, Big Barda, Batgirl and Harley Quinn attempt to liberate a brainwashed city stranded in a desolate wasteland. Like its sister alt-reality title DC Bombshells, Garage first emerged as a line of stylized statues before making the jump to panels. And also like Bombshells, its authors have curated a viciously cool playlist to accompany the post-apocalyptic drifts.
Check out Lanzing and Kelly’s accompanying tunes below—a sample of future playlists to be released for each character—and check out the comic, the first issue of which launches in stores today with many more presently available online.
Gotham City Garage #1 Interior Art by Brian Ching
Since we’re close collaborators—writing every script together in tonal tandem—it’s important that we find a way to connect our brains in every conceivable way. Sure, it saves us time, but it also helps relieve the headache of painful rewrites when we end up writing in different tones or voices. Since our homemade telepathy circuits won’t be complete for another decade, we’ve resorted to a brute-force method: writing while listening to curated project-specific playlists that speak to the core themes, voice, tone and attitude of the story we’re telling.
We’re both voracious music listeners, so we share each playlist on Spotify and drop tracks in as they come up in our extracurricular adventures. That new CHVRCHES song will find its way into a Joyride playlist, The Gloaming and BadBadNotGood will dominate the tone of Zojaqan, and so it goes. One of the most exciting things about picking up a new album is knowing that somewhere in there, we might find a character’s all-time favorite song—and thus know them better than we ever did before. Music lights a gaslamp flame in corners of our brains long left to unconscious darkness.
By the time we’re deep in a project, we’ll get sick of songs. We’ll know albums better than our own names. But we’ll also be more attuned to the sound, mood and soul of our characters than we’d be after hours of arguing between ourselves. Music unifies and reveals.
For Gotham City Garage, which tackles a rotating cast and constantly pivots the perspective of the story, one playlist wasn’t really enough. Instead, we have character-specific playlists—Supergirl’s tone is different from Big Barda’s is different from Governor Lex Luthor’s—which we release via Spotify and Twitter with every odd-numbered digital chapter of GCG.
So here’s a peek behind the scenes with a playlist comprised of one-song-per-character from our first six issues.
1. The Garage: “Mothers of the Sun,” Black Mountain
Above all else, the book is about a gang, a friendship that strengthens and transcends ideology. From mood to verse to exploding refrain, this might as well be the theme song of the Gotham City Garage. This song blasts out of Banshee’s speakers every time they ride out. That’s canon.
Stand-out lyric: “Let’s come together on heaven’s ground, what you’ve been schooling has messed us around.”
2. Supergirl: “Dana Katherine Scully,” Tacocat
Take every mention of Agent Scully and replace it with Wonder Woman—now you’ve got a pretty good idea of how Kara Zor-El has grown up in a world burned to desert and ruled by Lex Luthor. She doesn’t know who she is or where she came from, but she knows she wants to live as well as the mythical Wonder Woman. Supergirl is the optimist of the Garage, for sure.
Stand-out lyric: “The truth is out there and so am I.”
3. Barda Free: “Alpha Female,” Wild Beasts
This song embodies the way the men and women of the Garage see Barda. She’s the best of them. It also embodies the experience of writing Big Barda. She’s hyper-capable. She’s been through more than you could ever write. She has a spirit. You just let her ride.
Stand-out lyric: “Alpha female, I’ll be right behind you.”
4. Steel: “Thieves! (Screamed the Ghost),” Run The Jewels ft. Tunde Adebimpe
In a world stolen by madmen with power, Natasha Irons remembers Gotham. The mournful anger expressed by Killer Mike & El-P here is what’s going on inside Steel all the time. Anger gets a bad rap, but it’s what inspired the Garage in the first place.
Stand-out lyric: “This house is haunted by pain transposed into revenue / that thing where your mind says “run” but your heart isn’t letting you.”
5. Catwoman: “Live In The Dark,” Jeff Beck
The Catwoman of GCG is not exactly who you think she is —and she likes it that way—so the lyrics just land her spirit with every line. Plus, I don’t care who you are, try not to do a sexy Catwoman dance to this song. I dare you.
Stand-out lyric: “Cuz when you hold hands in the dark, you don’t know whose hand you hold.”
6. Silver Banshee: “Pearl,” Tamar-kali
Banshee keeps to herself, but she’s the only one brave enough to keep up with Barda. She speaks in single syllables, but she’s inked from head to toe. “Pearl” is a loud song about quiet emotions—and hits her particular attitude every time.
Stand-out lyric: “She is the pearl, roughly confined.”
7. Wonder Woman: “Master Hunter,” Laura Marling
The Wonder Woman of the Freescape has been through a lot—and the weary strength at the core of this song speaks to that deeply. She’s a master but she’s alone.
Stand-out lyric: “I cured my skin, now nothing gets in.”
8. Harley Quinn: “Slash/Burn,” Thao & The Get Down Stay Down
Rather than being defined by the Joker, in the Garage universe, Harley self-actualized. The lyrics say it all, while the song slowly builds into an insane cacophony. My favorite thing about this song for Harley: it’s not a song about going crazy. It’s a song about going sane.
Stand-out lyrics: “A little slash, a little burn, a little never to return.”
9. Batgirl: “Gone Insane,” Lucius
This song is all about the kinds of fights that get so big you can’t see your way out. Barbara Gordon’s relationship with her sister, Kara, is stressed to its limits in our first six issues—and she soon begins to see her world a little differently. The Gordon sisters are that discordant refrain at the end of the song.
Stand-out lyrics: “Go on call me the one’s who gone insane, oh I will be the one who’s gone insane.”
10. Bruce Wayne, The Bat: “The Man Comes Around,” Johnny Cash
This one was obvious. Too obvious, maybe? But it doesn’t make it wrong. Once the Bat has his eyes on you, days get numbered and the world turns against you. Bruce Wayne’s perseverance makes him one of the greatest heroes in the DC Universe. The same quality, in our universe, makes him one of the most dangerous villains.
Stand-out lyrics: “Whoever is unjust, let him be unjust still. Whoever is righteous, let him be righteous still. Whoever is filthy, let him be filthy still. Listen to the words long written down, when the Man comes around.”