Friday, November 28, 2008

Superheroes and their music: DC (Part 2)

Green Lantern Alan Scott: Alan’s a stern old geezer and always was. All business—he was an engineer who somehow came to own a radio station (is that right?). It’s all classical for him. Everything else is noise. I hear Ayn Rand was into Rachmaninoff…

Green Lantern Hal Jordan: I’d say Bob Seger and some Credence. Bruce Springsteen, though like Hawkman, he hates when politics and popular music mix (is it generally accepted that Hal Jordan is a card-carrying Republican?). But remember: Hal was a traveling salesman and a truck driver for a number of years. I bet you don’t spend that much time on the road without getting acquainted with country music on your AM radio.

Green Lantern John Stewart: Don’t ask me why, but I strongly feel that he digs 80s electronica, and still plays the original CDs. Kraftwerk, Gary Numan, Brian Eno, Depeche Mode—hell, Devo.

Green Lantern Kyle Rayner: Kyle just goes to Pitchfork and buys whatever they recommend off iTunes so as to seem hip. Also, he will buy pretty much any CD at a coffee shop if there’s a cute barista working the counters. This is how he ended up with three copies of Corinne Bailey Rae’s album—and then he gave them away as Christmas gifts.

Nightwing: Dick Grayson has really broad tastes, I’d imagine. Part of this goes with what I said the other day in Wally West’s entry—the notion that the Teen Titans would hang around and talk about music all day. Dick just keeps up with things better than Wally. He likes obscure artists—it’s part of that detective mentality to root out what nobody else knows about. However, I am reminded of this panel from 1997’s Flash Plus Nightwing one-shot:

Okay, Nightwing looks ridiculous with that long hair, but this was a totally sweet comic

So we know Dick Grayson listens to White Zombie. Or at least, as somebody with very broad horizons, he is trying it out. He may like bands nobody’s ever heard of, but he won’t shun the popular stuff. I suspect he is a huge Foo Fighters fan, in fact.

Robin II: Remember how I said Wally West was probably a little into the Electric Light Orchestra? Well, Wally hangs out with Dick Grayson, and Dick hangs out with Tim Drake, and they all probably hang out together sometimes. Seeing as how Tim hangs out with a lot of adult superheroes (superheroes over the age of 18, not … well, never mind), he probably gets into older music than your average teenager. Makes him seem a little more mature, I guess is what he’s thinking. Anyway, Tim got a little taste of ELO from Wally and now he has every album. The early to middle-period stuff in particular is big and grandiose; since Tim began his career as essentially a Batman fanboy, “big and grandiose” is something we know he’s into.

Batgirl I: Barbara Gordon takes strong, kind of authoritative stances on certain musicians—Fiona Apple is a tremendous songwriter, Rufus Wainwright is egregiously underrated, Alanis Morrisette is awful. She also likes bands that are kind of funny and upbeat; she shared a deep love of They Might Be Giants with Ted Kord (the late Blue Beetle), and she liked Barenaked Ladies when they were popular. She’s very focused on lyrics—you can just strum three chords over and over as long as you’ve got something insightful or interesting to say.

Batman: Bruce Wayne doesn’t listen to music on his own time. I’m not a subscriber to the dark, tortured, brooding borderline psychopath version of Batman, but I can’t even really see the well-adjusted avenger from those 70s Steve Englehart/Marshall Rodgers comics sitting around grooving on his hi-fi. Bruce is certainly cultured—that’s part of his playboy persona—and knows, even appreciates, opera and Russian composers. But recreational music is something I imagine he never really had time for. Obsessive loner or consummate professional—with either interpretation you prefer, Bruce wouldn’t have much time for it. Musical tastes are generally formulated and solidified in your youth, but Bruce Wayne committed his life to his mission (or war, if you prefer) from an early age. I guess it’s another piece in the tragedy of Batman—the music doesn’t move him.

Next week: Image superheroes! What does Spawn have on his iPod? Is Grifter into vinyl?



Well, these last two weeks' worth of posts were very interesting, and by that I mean "aggresively nerdy." I just hope somebody dug these, or else on my deathbed one day I am going to demand whatever amount of time I spent on this back.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Superheroes and their music: DC (Part 1)

As promised, we follow up on last week’s examinations of the musical tastes of Marvel superheroes with the DC Universe. Like last time, these are scientifically accurate down to three decimal points and are based on in-story “canon” (the only word a geek needs to know), gut feelings, and “I think it would be great if…”

Assigning the DC heroes their favorite bands and musical styles isn’t as easy as doing the same for Marvel, I found. This may be partially because while Marvel’s schtick early on was to give their superheroes distinct personalities, DC heroes tend to be more conceptually based (and what some people—and we can debate the appropriateness of this—call “iconic”). Also, DC tends to revamp and reboot far more often.

Take Superman, for example. He requires two separate entries:

Pre-Crisis Superman: The Man of Steel you see in Silver Age comics, Superman: The Movie, and All-Star Superman. This is admittedly my favorite version of Superman: the pseudo-messiah “sun god” sent to Earth and raised as a human, who upon reaching adulthood re-embraces his alien heritage, while never forgetting what it’s like to be a common man (via the Clark Kent persona). This is a Superman in love with humanity, as well as being a scientist’s son. He experiences as much music as he can to learn the workings of the human heart through it. There is therefore a certain intellectual remove, and he is less interested in specific bands, genres, etc. than is he is with capital-M Music. This Superman also appreciates the great works of Kryptonian culture (whatever that would sound like—thought-controlled violins, harps played via holographic interface, Phantom Zone pan-flute) and music from other alien civilizations. What a rad guy.

Post-Crisis Superman: If Superman is, on some level, a metaphor for the immigrant experience (in addition to being a colorful trademark found on children’s lunch boxes), John Byrne’s rebooted version is the ultimate assimilationist. He spurns Kryptonian culture where his pre-Crisis equivalent embraced it (though in his defense, Byrne turned Krypton into a cold, rather unlovable society). The post-1986 version thinks of himself as Clark Kent—a mild-mannered, but urbane and self-confident reporter—first, and as an alien second. So what would a Kansas farmboy who grows up to be a sophisticated Metropolitan like? I suppose Pa instilled a love of classic country and a little bit of bluegrass in him; maybe some classic rock—John Mellencamp and the like. Out on the town in Metropolis, however, I see him going to small-venue shows by classic rock artists, usually solo acts (Peter Gabriel, latter-day Elvis Costello, maybe the guys from Steely Dan if they still tour).

Let's do this "Goofus and Gallant" style:

Pre-Crisis Superman is reverent of popular culture.

Post-Crisis Superman does not appreciate your taste in music.

Lois Lane: Who do you think introduced post-Crisis Clark to all those classy classic rock artists? But her favorite band? Creedence Clearwater Revival; perfect for an army brat with a healthy disrespect for unquestioning authority.

Wonder Woman: This is a tricky one, too. What does a goddess listen to? I’m going to cop out and say “world music” here.

Green Arrow: Okay, this is pretty easy. Bob Dylan, Rolling Stones, Neil Young, John Lennon (“What about Paul McCartney?” you ask. “Paul?” comes the reply; “That hack?!”), Phil Ochs. Rock ‘n’ Roll, belligerent and/or political. Of course, with the sliding timescale, this would probably include at least some early punk, but … I don’t know, maybe it’s the way Ollie’s been portrayed as sort of an ageing radical, but I really can’t imagine him enjoying much musically after about 1976. Maybe the Clash and Sex Pistols, but anything more than that he’d just say “Well, I appreciate what you kids are tryin’ to do, but you should learn to play your instruments better.”

Hawkman: Some sort of austere Thanagarian chamber music? Or is he a human man now? See why this is so hard with DC continuity? Anyway, I’m sure Carter Hall, as a conservative foil to ultra-liberal Green Arrow, likes classic rock, but he just hates it when artists get too political. “We pay you to play music,” he says, “not push your agenda!”

Aquaman: I went out to lunch with my brother, and he said it would be real funny if Aquaman buys those “Sounds of the Oceans” kind of new age CDs you can get at Target with whale calls and ocean sounds. He listens to the dolphin clicking and is all like, “These lyrics are idiotic!” Haw haw.

Martian Manhunter: See the pre-Crisis Superman entry, except J’Onn listens to Earth music less out of affection and curiosity, and more to further his ability to blend seamlessly into our culture(s).

Flash I: Jay Garrick was a college student in 1940. He’d take his best gal Joan dancing and really cut a rug before the evening wound down with some Perry Como-kinda pop ballads.

Flash II: Barry Allen was huge into swing. He was briefly fashionable during the 90s revival craze, but he had no clue whatsoever. He thought everybody was just coming around to his taste in music. Now that he's alive again, he's going to be very disappointed.

Flash III: I’m a big Wally West fan; Mark Waid’s Flash run of the '90s is what got me into DC Comics in my early teens. The thing about Wally is he’s a full-time superhero and has been since he was a kid. The Teen Titans were probably passing whatever music was cool back then around, so Wally probably still looks back on that pretty fondly as a reminder of simpler times. He doesn’t pay attention to trends as an adult because, well, there’s a crisis in the 64th century, and it’s not going to stop itself; Wally has no idea what’s been going on in popular music for about ten years. Also, Waid wrote him as '90s cynical, but with a romantic edge. I imagine he quietly likes Peter Frampton and Electric Light Orchestra. Geoff Johns wrote him a little Midwestern conservative, so we’ll throw in some John Mellencamp.

Part 2 will have to wait till after the Thanksgiving holiday. So come back here Friday for the Green Lanterns of Earth and the Batman Family.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sideburns #5: Users are Losers

I seriously did have to keep pausing the movie to deliver a similar rambling monologue to this one

I guess the graphic user interface pretty much killed 'Tron's credibility. Also: Nicely drawn couch, I thought

I did actually realize that I got the 'disc' vs. 'disk' styles reversed, but there was no way I was going to redraw this panel

You realize, of course, that 'Honey, I Blew Up the Kid' is in flagrant violation of the square-cube law

Lo-fi webcomics by Justin Zyduck. Every Monday.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Superheroes and their music: Marvel (Part 2)

Today we turn to the musical tastes of selected members of the X-Men and the Avengers.

Cyclops: The man who started this whole train of thought. Honestly, looking at that picture I posted yesterday, that is a guy who is into ambient techno. Scott Summers is big into moody analog synthesizer, going back to Walter/Wendy Carlos. Outside of that, however, he loves the Flaming Lips, especially The Soft Bulletin; there’s a curious blend of sadness and optimism that speaks to him.

Jean Grey: Joni Mitchell and college radio. I know it seems like a tossed-off “she’s the girl, of course that’s what she likes” answer, but Jean always seemed to find herself in the thankless role of “the girl” in the X-Men (I suspect they keep going back to the Phoenix well with her because there’s not often much else to her character).

Angel: You will never meet anybody who knows as much about popular music as Warren Worthington III. If you discover a cool new band, Warren heard them six months ago and is already on to something else, but he’ll never lord it over you. He’s also a memorabilia guy — he’s bid on and won original handwritten John Lennon lyrics, pieces of guitars smashed by the Who, that sort of thing.

Iceman: Bobby Drake is into ‘90s alternative and maintains that anybody who doesn’t like “Breakfast and Tiffany’s” by Deep Blue Something is either lying or has no heart. He has seen Hootie and the Blowfish in concert at least four times and hooked up with a chick he met at one. Like me, Bobby owns every Semisonic album, including the Pleasure EP.

Beast: Elvis Costello and XTC. Quirky, clever, and funny — what else would Hank McCoy listen to? The only two people still fighting the Battle of Britpop are Hank (Blur) and Bobby (Oasis).

Banshee: Country music (he actually goes to see Grand Ole Opry in Giant Size X-Men #1). Incidentally, hates namesake Shaun Cassidy just like the Michael Bolton scene in Office Space.

Wolverine: In a recent issue of Uncanny X-Men, he’s listening to “Life’s Been Good” by Joe Cocker, so I guess he could be into the Eagles and maybe the Steve Miller Band, too. Logan’s a jukebox kinda guy (you’ve got to be if you spend as much time in bars as he does) and always starts off with some Johnny Cash just so you know we’re not messing around here.

Captain America: Cap likes Glenn Miller, of course, and I believe an affinity for Oklahoma! is canonical from a Stern/Byrne issue from the ‘80s. He’ll listen to a contemporary artist if you recommend one, but… well, it’s just not the same, is it?

Iron Man: My choices for Tony Stark are heavily influenced by the movie. Of course he would listen to AC/DC and Sabbath, and having him listening to “Institutionalized” by Suicidal Tendencies really opens up the character. He probably used to play Dead Milkmen at fancy charity fundraisers just to irritate the older billionaires.

Hawkeye: Classic rock. As much as Clint Barton might make fun for Cap for being old-fashioned, he rarely wavers from the Rolling Stones, the Eagles, Creedence, Bob Seger and Bruce Springsteen. He’s been to a couple Dark Star Orchestra shows. He likes straightforward Moody Blues songs like “Ride My See-Saw” and “Question,” but prog rock’s not for him.

Henry Pym: He’s the other side of the classic rock coin from Hawkeye. He’s a huge Beatles fan — the kind that still has old bootlegs of alternate takes and unreleased tracks. Loves Steely Dan, Queen, Yes, and Peter Gabriel-era Genesis.

She-Hulk: She’s the kind of person iPods were invented for. She likes to keep it fun and upbeat. She loves Scissor Sisters and Kylie Minogue, and she will beat you up if you say something bad about Shania Twain. In private moments, listens to a little bit of Billy Joel and Elton John, for some reason.

Luke Cage: I don't read New Avengers, so I don't know how his character's changed, but as originally conceived, nobody can deny this was a man who liked his funk and liked it loud.

Rick Jones: Journey, Starship, Foreigner, and Motley Crue. Tony Stark cannot frigging stand Rick Jones.

Leave a comment if you care to debate these picks. We can nerd it up together. I’d take requests too.

Coming soon: The DC Universe. Which popular ‘70s rock band does Tim Drake own every album by, and who turned him on to them? Find out next week.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Superheroes and their music: Marvel (Part 1)

I am somebody who thinks a lot about superheroes. Probably too much. My partner-in-comics Josh will confirm this, having sat through more than a few telephone conversations in which I start rambling on and on about the Elongated Man or Deadpool, or the nuances of Grant Morrison’s dialogue in All-Star Superman (theatrically expository, yet humanized with idiosyncracies).

So you can understand that when I see a panel like this one from New X-Men #121…

And what's Wolverine reading, for that matter? Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance?

…I am immediately struck by the burning question: “What does Scott Summers listen to on his iPod???

The whole thing kind of snowballed from there, and I drew up a list of not only what kind of music particular superheroes listen to, but also in some cases their listening habits. There’s no specific criteria. A rare few of them have actual in-story precedents I know about (under the influence of the Purple Man, Spider-Man once sang “Oliver’s Army” by Elvis Costello, so I guess it’s canonical that Peter Parker knows all the words to that song). Others are based on the admittedly dicey game of analyzing a person’s personality and matching it to certain genres and formats. Some are just gut feelings, or my own interpretations that I desperately want to be true in a total fanboy way.

Here’s part one of the Marvel list. Part two tomorrow, DC next week:

Spider-Man: Peter Parker has broad tastes (well befitting his “everyman” role, I suppose), but is a fairly casual music fan. I can’t imagine Aunt May letting him out to many concerts or picking him up anything at a Sam Goody’s, so everything he knows probably comes from the radio and stuff his friends have loaned him. His CD collection is made up almost entirely of Greatest Hits compilations, which appalls a music snob like Harry Osborn. But Peter’s a busy guy, so he doesn’t have time to sit down and really listen to an album; he just wants the songs he knows and loves, and skip the deep cuts. He really likes Ben Folds, though, particularly with the Five; the early stuff in particular has a certain “smartass outcast” vibe that probably speaks to a guy like him.

Daredevil: Matt Murdock goes to jazz clubs. In college he liked jauntier piano-based stuff, but ever since Frank Miller put him in a pseudo-noir milieu, he’s had his heart and his life broken too many times not to give in to the allure of the sad, slow saxophone. He might like a little bit of slow blues, too. Nothing real loud — his hearing’s too sensitive to enjoy that sort of thing.

The Thing: Ben Grimm and Matt Murdock could probably get into a long conversation about jazz, although Ben’s all about Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk* and doesn’t have a lot of time for the new stuff. He’s an old-fashioned guy and truly believes vinyl sounds best but, but as he’ll tell you, “when ya got big rocky mitts like these, yer gonna get a few scratches on yer record.”

Human Torch: Johnny Storm grew up watching TRL. He likes all that is trendy and current, be it pop, rock, R&B, rap, or anything else. Ben, of course, insists Johnny has no taste, to which the Torch replies, “If this music wasn’t good, it wouldn’t be so popular.” He’s not above listening to a certain singer just because she’s hot; he gravitates toward blonde pop stars and country singers, but secretly has a thing for the Lisa Loeb type.

Invisible Woman: With the sliding timescale the Marvel Universe uses, she’s a child of the 80s (right?), and I could see her having been really into Joan Jett with fashion to match, which she is today extremely embarrassed by. She loves the Police and had a huge crush on Sting. She once dated a New Romantic kind of guy who she broke up with because he spent more time on his band than her. Hmm…

Mr. Fantastic: Reed Richards isn’t really into particular artists or genres (though he hums Talking Heads songs without realizing it), but he likes music in general. He enjoys “challenging” experimental pieces but also appreciates the structure of I-IV-V three-minute pop songs and hip-hop beats. He’s the king of the shuffle mode. As a sensory-overload kind of guy, he plays music in random combinations in his lab to stimulate thought. One time he heard a Cake song immediately followed by Yanni; that was the day he discovered the Negative Zone.

Tomorrow: The X-Men and the Avengers

* — Author's note: I am dropping these names to cover for the fact that I know next to nothing about jazz.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Updates and the like

Hey, stud, how you livin'? Justin here.

Just wanted to let anyone who's interested in the project know that Josh and I have recently retooled our first "episode" (if you bought our demo book, that'd be the first story in it). What once was 11 pages is now 16; I've scripted five extra pages (a one-page lead-in and a four-page epilogue) to help set it up a bit better and make it more like a pilot episode for a TV show. Think of it as "reshoots."

Josh and I both work full-time jobs and are obliged to spend time in the company of our respective Special Ladies, so it's difficult to invest as much time into the project as we'd like. That's why updates are a little sparse. We hope you've been enjoying Sideburns every Monday. Feel free to leave comments if you are so moved, even if it is to criticize the dodgy artwork.

But there will be content on this blog! Check back Wednesday for the first installment of a series that answers the age-old question: What kind of music do your favorite superheroes enjoy?

Don't miss it.

Sideburns #4: "ROUNDABOMB!"

If you order a caramel appletini, everyone makes fun of you, but then they all want to try it

Please do not check my math

Are those seriously the lyrics? I could never make them out before I looked them up for this strip

I am not going to say whether or not this actually happened

Lo-fi webcomics by Justin Zyduck. Every Monday.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sideburns #3: "Meet Cute"

Self-plagarism: I stole this from a column I wrote for my college newspaper

Can you tell that's supposed to be a thermometer? It's a thermometer

I like that cartoon-me has taken on a vaguely Linus-like appearance in this panel. I am kind of a Linus

I'm pretty happy with how the art turned out on this one, actually. I even like the bendy BUS STOP sign. Hopefully I am hitting some kind of stride

Lo-fi webcomics by Justin Zyduck. Every Monday.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Sideburns #2: "The Greatest Gift"

But if I had a kid, he would probably not really look like this

Dude, when was the last time you tried to draw a car? They are seriously hard

This may seem like a lazy composition, but I will defend it as the best way to set up the next panel

Hey, TransFans! Identify the real Transformer this robot is based on! HINT: I removed two elements from the robot form and changed the head. Enter today!

Lo-fi webcomics by Justin Zyduck. Every Monday.