Fictional band The Mary Janes first graced comic book pages in Marvel’s Spider-verse event. The particular issue focused on the highly anticipated debut of Spider-Gwen, a new hero for Marvel and The Mary Jane’s drummer. And while hype for the return of the much loved Gwen Stacy character was enthusiastically rejoiced, the unveiling of The Mary Janes was equally as celebrated. So much so, that real life rockers Married with Sea Monsters, in cahoots with comic artist Robbi Rodruigez, decided to record a real-life version of The Mary Janes tune featured in the issue.
With their ultra-grunge rendition of Face It Tiger, Married with Sea Monsters spurred on a wave of hype that few could have predicted. But it was certainly not unprecedented. For The Mary Janes are not the only comic book musicians to have strummed their stuff across numerous mediums, and chances are they won’t be the last.
Archie and the Riverdale Kids
Legendary comic book character Archie and his fictional hometown of Riverdale has spawned many a rock band in its decades long run. The Archies. Josie and the Pussycats. The Bingoes. Throughout Archie Comics history the teens of Riverdale, led by the ginger haired Archie, have rocked out pop tune after pop tune within their comic panels.
But, as with all good things, the panels alone couldn’t contain them.
In 1968, two decades after his first comic appearance, Archie and his musically inclined pals, made their animated TV debut in the form of The Archie Show. Songs were recorded for the fictional band, including the much loved hit, Sugar, Sugar, and featured alongside the show’s light-hearted adventures.
Soon after, Archie’s fictional cousins, Josie, Valerie and Melody, took things a step further, graduating from their own animated series and taking over the big screens with the 2001 film, Josie and the Pussycats. The film, filled with pop rock and outlandish adventures, took a quirky but serious look at pop culture fandom, and posed interesting questions about consumerism and the consequences of blindly following the masses. The film also produced a pop rock soundtrack, with songs performed by Kay Hanley of Letters to Cleo, and included an updated version of the Josie and the Pussycats theme song.
Not bad, for a three piece lady band who wear cat ears.
Scott Pilgrim and the Sex Bob-omb’s
With the words ‘Scott Pilgrim is dating a high schooler,’ it became clear slacker Scott Pilgrim, of the self-titled comic book series, wasn’t your typical hero. But he was your typical bass player. And in between creator Bryan Lee O’Malley’s main story arch, which revolved around Scott fighting off his new girlfriend’s evil ex-partners, a large portion of the series focused is on the character’s grunge band, Sex Bob-omb, and their rocky rise to fame.
So when the bug-eyed Scott Pilgrim’s story was green-lit to be translated to the big screen, it was a safe bet that Sex Bob-omb needed to play an integral part in the transition. And the final result did not disappoint.
From the opening sequence of the Scott Pilgrim film, it’s clear that the transition from page to screen could not have been better done. The film’s director, Edgar Wright, captured the manic tone and style of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s series and giving us a Sex Bob-omb that seemed to have stepped right off the comic book pages. The eclectic vocals of musician Beck brought life to Sex Bob-omb’s instruments and produced a collection of grunge rock tunes that meant watching Sex Bob-omb on film, felt like watching a real live band. One that had been rocking out unsuspectingly in the garage next door.
The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys
All songs tell a story. And when punk rockers My Chemical Romance released their concept album, Danger Days, they had quite the epic tale to tell. Set in a corrupt future, the album tracks tell of a world run by an evil corporation, Better Living Industries, and the actions of group of rebel heroes, the Killjoys, who are hell-bent on fighting the tyranny forced upon their society. But the tale was so epic, that the album couldn’t contain it, and in an interesting and inspired turn, it was the songs, this time, that turned into a comic.
In 2013 lead singer Gerard Way, in collaboration with Shaun Simon and Becky Cloonan, continued the tale of the rebels in the six issue mini-series, The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys. A fun, dark and action-filled series, that delved deeper into the dystopian future. Told through the eyes of The Girl, a child left leaderless by the Killjoys departure, as she continues to struggle against society’s evils. The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys explored a less traveled path in the blending of music and comics, proving that the two are closer bedfellows than we think.
Coming full circle in the transition of rock bands in comics, we find none other than legendary KISS. With their outrageous costumes and alter-egos at the ready, real-life musicians, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer, that made up the rock group KISS, began their foray into comics in 1970’s.
From Archie Comics to IDW, the musical quartet have rocked out many pages over the years, and to the delight of fans and confusion of bystanders, KISS’s many variations of merchandise became a huge part of the group’s success. Genius or haphazard marketing, the KISS comics were a merchandise staple. Clearly the band was onto something, and with crossovers of characters from film and TV series into comics increasingly common today, perhaps KISS was just ahead of the curve.
So whether you love it or lump it, the line between TV, film, music and comics continues to blur on the horizon. But with the re-booting of Jem and the Holograms in comic form, and a potential singing Black Canary in the up-coming solo series, there’s certainly more to come, and if we keep getting gems like Fact it Tiger, I say let the lines be blurred.