Jason Franks is the author of Bloody Waters, the subject of a previous Rock ‘n’ Read, and comic books The Sixsmiths and McBlack, among others. This is the second part of Jason’s recommendations of stories about music and monsters.
Read Part One.
In part 2 of my Rock ‘n’ Reads, we are going multimedia.
METALOCALYPSE, by Brendon Small and Tommy Blacha, is an Adult Swim cartoon about a a death metal band has become the most popular music act in the world. A hundred times bigger, a thousand times stupider and a million times louder than the Beatles, Dethklok’s ascension is not only a threat to geopolitical stability, but it might well be the end of the world.
Each of the band’s adventures is more gruesome than the last as they tour the world, record new music, awaken ancient evils and attempt to go grocery shopping, ‘like ordinary jack-offs’. Every music joke you’ve ever heard is here – with spikes on it and blood gushing from its eye sockets. Every story of rock’n’roll excess is here, larger even than real life and three times as brutal. If you’re unsure how brutal that is… that’s really, really brutal.
But for all its vicious satire, this cartoon is redolent with love for the music. Small not only sings (er, death-growls) the vocals and plays guitars for the show, but he actually tours a real life version of the band as well. Metalocalypse boasts a who’s who of metal as guests: Kirk Hammett, George Fisher, Angela Gossow, Mike Patton and heaps of others.
The Metal Apocalypse continues with a fifth season currently in production.
Kiminori Wakasugi’s manga series DETROIT METAL CITY is about a bashful farmboy, Soichi Negishi, who moves to the big city in order to become a rock star. It’s Negishi’s dream to conquer the fashionable world of Scandinavian pop music and win the heart of his beloved, the gentle Yuri Aikawa. How, then, does he wind up fronting the death metal band Detroit Metal City, costumed as the demon terrorist Johannes Krauser II, screaming songs about rape and murder?
Much to Negishi’s chagrin, DMC is becoming a huge success. Krauser is lauded as an incredible guitarist and a brilliant musician, while Negishi’s career singing hipster love songs is an abject failure. And what if Yuri finds out?
Wakasugi is equally willing to make fun of both musical genres; he’s very clever about inverting stereotypes. While Negishi’s Krauser alter ego is ostensibly the villain of the piece, it’s almost always Krauser who saves Negishi’s hide whenever he gets into serious trouble. Negishi’s real problems all stem from his personal failings.
DMC has been adapted into an anime series and a live action movie featuring a guest performance by Gene Simmons as Jack Ill Dark, the ’emperor’ of extreme metal.
- Get Detroit Metal City, Vol. 1 from Amazon.
I think my first encounter with Josie and the Pussycats was in the back of some old Archie digests that a cousin gave to me. I always liked the Josie stories better than Archie, because… duh… they were about a band. But it was the Hanna Barbera cartoon that captured my imagination–stories were about a band who travelled around having adventures, tangling with aliens, spies and mad scientists.
In the second season of the cartoon, the Pussycats are accidentally launched into outer space. Each episode sees them travel to a different planet where they have more adventures. I remember being scornful of this gimmick, when I was a kid… but I still watched every episode that came on TV. As an adult I would go on to write a novel about the adventures of a red-haired girl who plays the guitar, so I guess something must have stuck with me.
Josie and the Pussycats became a live action movie in 2001. The movie is about a collusion between the American government and a music company to brainwash teenagers into spending their disposable income on corporate pop music. It was a resounding bomb but it has some smart commentary buried in all the anodyne silliness and even some sharp musical satire.
- Read more about Jason Franks
Have you read these books or seen the shows? What did you think? Do you have any other recommendations for books about music, magic and monsters? Leave a comment below!