The Ten Best Musician/Comic Artist Friendships
Grant Morrison is a U.K. comic book writer known for known for highly singular--or insane, if you prefer, in a good way--takes on established mainstream properties like X-Men and Doom Patrol as well as his own, peyotesque original series like The Invisibles and Seaguy. He is also a friend and mentor to My Chemical Romance lead singer Gerard Way, and even adroitly played the part of "menacing bald guy in a rock video" for their "Sing" and "Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)" clips.
Their relationship is an example of a long-running but increasingly public trend. Comic books and rock/rap music have always had a close relationship. Both were tagged as mind-rotting, juvenile trash for much of their early existence, and over the years we've seen everything from KISS getting their own Marvel comic (printed in their own blood, they would have you believe) to Rivers Cuomo singing about his favorite X-Men members.
With the rise in cultural prominence and respect for funny-book creators, liking comic books--or graphic novels, if you're fancy--is no longer an activity that will blow your cultural cachet or get your lunch money stolen, and many musicians have quit being shy about waving their fanboy/fangirl flags. In honor of our recent Comics Issue, we present the ten best musician and graphic novel-type friendships. We even reached out to some of our favorite artists about their collaborations.
1. Grant Morrison And Gerard Way
My Chemical Romance singer Gerard Way is a long-time comic-book fan. He interned at DC's comics "mature" imprint Vertigo when he was younger, and claimed that Morrison's violently meta run on Doom Patrol was one of his favorites when he was younger. Morrison served a mentor to Way when he began writing his series, The Umbrella Academy, and wrote the intro for the series' first trade paperback. He also pushed Way to rethink the original trad-punk direction for MCR's follow-up to 2006's The Black Parade in favor of something bolder. The result, last year's Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, is a lot like a Morrison book. It's filled with big ideas and gleefully absurd WTF moments, and it's supported by an underlying narrative that never quite makes sense.
2. Neil Gaiman and Tori Amos
Though Gaiman has denied long-running rumors that his character Delirium--featured in his canonical series The Sandman--was based on Amos, he did admit that their friendship influenced his interpretation of the character. She later wrote an introduction for the collection of Sandman spin-off Death: The High Cost Of Living, and he repaid the favor by collaborating with Amos on story structure for her covers album Strange Little Girls. The platonic Joe Dimaggio and Marilyn Monroe for misfit '90s kids with dramatic tendencies (more on Gaiman's less platonic, just as public musical relationship later), they met after Amos, already a fan, sang about "me and Neil hanging-out with the Dream King" for her song "Tear In Your Hand." (She later went on to sing about her anxiety that a lover might be unable to find her if "Neil makes me a tree," which sort of happened in Stardust.) The pair share a love of folklore and a willingness to blow up odd ideas in a spectacular fashion, and an argument could be made that her friendship with Gaiman drove new readers to Sandman and Vertigo in general, and was one of several factors that helped make the art form's less of a boy's club.
3. Adrian Tomine and Mark Oliver "E" Everett
Mark Oliver Everett, leader of the revolving art-pop crew the Eels, and Adrian Tomine, the cartoonist best known for his series Drawn & Quarterly-published series Optic Nerve and his New Yorker illustrations, share a talent for capturing small moments of aching sadness or fleeting beauty. So it was only natural that Everett, a longtime fan of underground comics, recruited Tomine to provide art for his 1998 masterpiece Electro-Shock Blues and this year's underrated wrist-slitter End Times. "Having been a big fan of comic artists like R. Crumb and Daniel Clowes, when I discovered the amazing work of the Drawn & Quarterly artists in the mid '90s, I eventually got the nerve to ask some of them if they'd do art for one of our albums," says Everett, who also worked with illustrators Chester Brown and Seth (just Seth.) "I first worked with Adrian when he contributed to our 1998 album Electro-shock Blues. In that case I gave Adrian a song title ("Going To Your Funeral Part II") and gave him free reign to interpret the title as he saw fit. For the End Times album cover I described what I thought the homeless character in the title song looked like in my mind and Adrian quickly rendered an exact portrait of what I was seeing in my imagination. I wish I could do that."