For our Guest Lists, Paste invites a creator or creative team to share the music behind their upcoming comic. This month, writer Tini Howard assembles the funeral dirges and joyously mournful melodies that helped inspire Euthanauts, her upcoming Black Crown series with artist Nick Robles and letterer Aditya Bidikar. For those unfamiliar, Black Crown is editor Shelly Bond’s imprint at IDW Publishing, and its catalogue carries the flair for the weird that defined her storied tenure at DC’s Vertigo Comics imprint. Euthanauts, which marks a major profile boost in artist Robles’ fast-rising career, is Howard’s second title under the Black Crown banner, following Assassinistas with legendary artist Gilbert Hernandez. The solicitation text for the first issue defines its unique boundary-crossing premise better than we ever could:
Death is like outer space-a seemingly unknowable, terrifying blackness that yields beautiful discoveries and truths—if only you’ve got the right kind of rocketship. Thalia Rosewood has had a lifelong obsession with death, keeping her from living her life to the fullest. Mercy Wolfe has a brain tumor the size of a billiard ball, and a need for a new recruit before her next journey begins. Indigo Hanover is a reluctant tether to the world beyond, seeking to continue a cycle that exploration would halt. Go toward the light. Then go beyond. EUTHANAUTS.
Check out Howard’s song selections below, and be sure to pick up Euthanauts #1 when it hits stands July 18, 2018.
Euthanauts #1 Cover Art by Nick Robles
Tini Howard on Music in Euthanauts
I make a playlist for every book I write, to set the tone, character beats, to frame certain moments. I tend to think in music videos—silent, hyper-visual moments set to music. It translates best to comics, I think.
It’s no surprise that Euthanauts is my most personal book yet, and the playlist is a lot of my favorite songs, ones that have haunted me my whole life. Death, space, meaning, resurrection and the beyond—they’re pretty universally spooky. But also hopeful—a nothingness to explore means there’s something after death, for some of us, and that would be a comfort, right?
“Blackstar,” David Bowie
Euthanauts would not exist without this album. Like a lot of creatives, I was up late and listening to Bowie’s haunting new album when I learned of his death. He released the album knowing his death would contextualize his art—I can’t think of anything more beautiful than that. This whole album truly, (specifically “Lazarus” and “I Can’t Give Everything Away”) are so much at the core of what the book’s about—seeing death coming for you and instead of avoiding it, using it to teach, to elevate, to inspire. Rest well, space angel.
“Black Lake,” Bjork
There’s a lot of Bjork on the Euthanauts playlist, but “Black Lake” is a song I put on repeat while I’m writing again and again. The song is about transition, starting with a womb, pulsating flesh, and becoming something else, a “glowing shiny rocket/returning home/as I enter the atmosphere/I burn off layer by layer.” Team Euthanauts aren’t the first ones to make the connection between flesh, death and space, and we won’t be the last, I hope.
Black Crown editrix Shelly Bond is a huge Roisin Murphy/Moloko fan. One day, artist Nick Robles and I were discussing what we should call the lovely precious boy-witch protagonist we were sort of molding together, and I suggested, “His moms are hippies, so something flaky, like Indigo.” I think I was thinking of indigo children or something like that. Nick goes, “I like it, we’ll call him Indi!” The next day, I woke up to see my preferred music service suggesting me new music: “Indigo” by Moloko. I know a sign when I see one. I took it.
“Major Tom (Coming Home),” Shiny Toy Guns
I have been haunted by the strange, sprawling, pop-music tale of Major Tom since I was a kid. Nothing haunts me more than being lost, alone, in the vacuum of space, while people write pop songs about you. The Shiny Toy Guns cover is a bit cooler than the europop original. (Bonus: The Collide cover of “Space Oddity,” for more reinterpretations of the Major Tom tale!)
“Dante’s Prayer,” Loreena McKennitt
For years, I felt this was the song I wanted played at my funeral. It’s what Indigo is listening to on the first page we see, where he’s preparing his mother for burial. “Cast your eyes to the ocean/Cast your soul to the sea/When the dark night seems endless/Please remember me.”
“Another World,” Beborn Beton
A bit of showing my goth club roots here, but this is the song I imagine when I pitch the book to people. A cool, techno, death-positive club jam with frank discussions about what one would like done after they expire. And with Thalia a recovering goth girl, I know this is on her phone.
This one’s also very much a Thalia (the protagonist) song. Slug’s rapping here is so frank and genuine and real, I can imagine Thalia at her wits’ end, saying so many of these line—the acceptance of death, the rejection of our processing of it, the freedom desired and the wondering about one’s sanity.
“Kassidat El Hakka,” SEXWITCH
Another song that kicked me in the head when I needed it and got this book made. The haunting refrain of “when I die, I’m going back to what I was,” the drums, the repitition—it’s so representative of some places you’ll see in the deathspace, some primal rhythms and bright lights that promise you sweet, sweet oblivion.
“The Light Before We Land,” The Delgados
Coming back to earth, tender, floating, waking. Wanting to “stay a while” in the peace of death and knowing that isn’t an option. This song, to me, is the audio equivalent of floating down a rabbit hole in a parachuting skirt.
“Everything Dies,” Type O Negative
I know a lot of people think Peter Steele’s voice sounds like a Halloween monster, but he’s dead so I won’t let them say that. Type O have always been the masters of sticking their black metal hands into my soft goth heart and squishing it with pretty melodies til I cry. Metal and mourning. God, we’ve lost so many great musicians. I hope they’re hanging out in spacesuits, waiting to meet me.
“Surgeon,” St. Vincent
A lot of people think this song is about sex, but I think it’s about depression. To me, this song is Thalia drifting meaninglessly through life, until she meets her own mad Surgeon, a very Strange Mercy indeed (ha ha ha).
“That’s When I Reach For My Revolver,” Moby
I’m really excited for everyone to meet Mercy Wolfe, the very strange figure who enters and changes Thalia’s life forever. She’s complicated as hell—if you know what kind of power is possible in death, how would you feel about killing?
“Comfortably Numb,” Pink Floyd
This is Mercy’s favorite song. Her children all hate it. It’s what she was listening to when she took her first journey into deathspace, and it’s very special to her. And to me.