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Karaoke Comics

After doing a little karaoke recently, it made me think about how the concept could be applied to comics (it is quite strange how many things I think about how they could be applied to comics..hehe), and it occured to that there have been a bunch of books out there that I would consider to be “karaoke comics.”

A karaoke comic is a run on a comic that follows a previous run very closely, but as it is a copy, ends up being inferior to the original product.

Some examples:

Chris Claremont and Alan Davis recent Uncanny X-Men run was basically doing a karaoke version of their run on Excalibur. Nightcrawler and Rachel Summers are members of the team, Jamie Braddock played a big part and characters like Courtney Ross were dusted off for the first time in a decade or so. The more recent run, though, lacked the humor and creativity of their initial run on Excalibur. I mean, a race of Saurons in the Savage Land? That soooo would not make it into the pages of the Cross-Time Caper.

Mark Waid‘s second run on Flash. A perfect example of someone who just should have left earlier than later (although I freely admit that I admire his dedication to the book). His second run on the book (#142-162) just lacked the inventiveness of his first run on the book, which still stands up as one of the best superhero runs of recent memory (especially #61-100). Here, in the second run, Waid ended up being influenced too much by both his own earlier run and the work of Grant Morrison. Regarding the first, Waid brought us yet ANOTHER storyline where either Wally or Linda was lost in time/space/whatever. This time, however, BOTH of them went missing! In addition, Abra Kadabra ended up being the big bad guy, making this literally the FIFTH time Abra Kadabra was used during Waid’s run (the others being in the #70s, in Zero Hour, in Underworld Unleashed, and in the story where Linda was frozen). Regarding the latter, Morrison’s big thing during the period was to evoke the Silver Age. Well, Waid definitely evoked the Silver Age, only Waid evoked the stuff from the Silver Age that probably was better left untouched. Barry Allen’s Evil Twin Brother? *Groan*

Not to pick on Waid too much (as I like his work), but his run on JLA was also, to me, an example of karaoke comics. His work really struck me as “Grant Morrison-lite,” even going so far as to make his first storyline as regular writer be a cast-off idea of Morrison’s (the Batman protocols). This irked me because Waid’s two previous fill-ins (not counting the ones he wrote with Devin Grayson) were, while still written in a Morrison-esque style, still had enough Waid in them to really stand out. His later issues, in my view, did not. Likewise, Joe Kelly also opened up with some karaoke comics, but quickly went away from that style (not to the benefit of the comic, though).

Garth Ennis did not appear to really have many more stories in the vein of “Welcome Back, Frank” left in him, but that did not keep him from writing another 28-30 issues of Punisher in the same style. Luckily, I think even Ennis realized he was just singing over the same tune, and relaunched the title, and it is much different now.

Early in his solo Justice League Europe run, after Keith Giffen had left the book, Gerard Jones seemed to try to keep the style in the same humorous tone…but really did not match up with the humor of Giffen at all, so the book was like a bad karaoke performance, until Jones changed directions with the book (at which point it was still bad, but at least it wasn’t a bad karaoke performance).

Can anyone think of any others?


Sorta like Geoff Johns trying to capture the feel of Marv Wolfman’s Titans work? Or more like Denny O’Neil’s 2nd run on Green Lantern/Green Arrow (which I actually like a little more but still recognize he wasn’t putting as much into it)?

Geoff Johns’ Teen Titans run is an excellent choice.

I always thought Dan Jurgens run on Thor was uh… inspired… by Walt Simonson’s excellent tenure, but not executed nearly as well.

Every Sin City story but the first? (Actually, I’ll give him the second, too, as part of the original tune…)

A lot of DC mega-crossovers are kakaoke versions of Crisis on Infinite Earths. (War of the Gods and the late unpleasantness stand out as the clearest cases. The appearance of Pariah and/or Harbinger is the tip-off.)

Mike Loughlin

June 8, 2006 at 9:44 am

Post-Claremont’90s X-Men: like the Claremont stories, but more convoluted, featuring less appealing characters, and having plots that went nowhere twice as fast.

Every Howard Chaykin story I’ve read in the last ten years feels like American Flagg!, but without the originality. I will admit that I have not read them all, but I dropped Cyberella & Pulp Fantastic after an issue each, and couldn’t get into Challengers of the Unknown.

All those early ’00s Authority rip-offs (The Establishment, the Agency, etc.)

JMS FF: fate and avatars and quasi-mystic gobbledeegook. I thought I’d left that behind when I dropped Amazing Spider-Man. I stuck with it for 4 issues before bailing.

Yeah, Johns Teen Titans is basically Wolfman’s minus the crying and losing all the time. He seems to be trying to make it its own beast lately, which I guess is due to now having to conform to the TV show anymore.

Hush is a karaoke version of Long Halloween, which itself was a karaoke medley of a bunch of sources, including Godfather movie.

Spider-Man Blue was a Lee/Romita Karaoke.

1 – Greg Rucka taking over for Brubaker on Gotham Central. Rucka seems like Brubaker with not quite the same grit and originality.

2 – Wolfman’s later run on Teen Titans without George Perez. All the angst with none of the fun.

3 – Dark Knight II. Way to cash a seven figure paycheck!

4 – Joe Kelly on Superboy.

Morrison’s NEWXMEN was Claremont’s XMEN mixed in with INVISIBLES, although diluted to hell.

a lot of Gaiman’s short stuff from various anthologies mirroring his stock ideas culled from Chesterton, et al.

and i guess it can be argued that som eof Alan Moore’s stuff have been karaoke renditions of various people’s ideas and concepts, only i guess he belts them out in such a way that it seems like he owns the damn things.

and i just realized that the comment about Gaiman should’ve been in IDEA REPERTOIRE. sorry.

John Ridley’s work on The Authority: Human on the Inside was basically a rehash of ideas from throughout Millar’s run and also functioned as an extremely unecessary sequel to the Brave New World arc.

But… Justice League Europe 37-50 was awesome.

“Greg Rucka taking over for Brubaker on Gotham Central. Rucka seems like Brubaker with not quite the same grit and originality.”

Well, Rucka didn’t exactly take over for Brubaker: they had been co-writing the title before Brubaker’s departure. Rucka would focus on the Major Crime Units’ “Day Shift” (Montoya, Allen, etc.), while Brubaker would focus on the MCU’s “Night Shift” (Driver, Chandler, etc.). And they would write the bigger stories together (the Joker storyline, the “dead Robin” one and I think they co-wrote the first story too).

Anyway, karaoke comics… I guess Ed Brubaker’s and Michael Lark’s current run on “Daredevil” is a karaoke comic in terms of art, though I don’t think Michael Lark’s work on the title is inferior to Alex Maleev’s.

I certainly felt that Denny O’Neil’s run on Daredevil was a karaoke version of the Miller run that preceded it. O’Neil even started his run with a story involving ninjas and Bullseye.

The Steve Engelhart, Marshall Rogers, and Terry Austin Dark Detective was good fun (if a misfire where Two-Face was concerned), but certainly wasn’t anywhere near their original work on the title. Likewise, Engelhart’s Celestial Quest failed to recapture the magic of his older Avengers stories while using many of the same characters and concepts.

And I’m surprised that no one has mentioned that John Byrne has done nothing but rather bad Silver and Bronze Age karaoke comics for the last few years. Blood of the Demon, the ill-conceived Doom Patrol relaunch, Spider-Man: Chapter One, and X-Men: The Hidden Years. All of them were almost explicitly devoted to rerunning the “classic” or at least original runs on those titles. All of them except The Hidden Years and possibly Chapter One were sales failures, and none of them were conceptual successes.

And there’s probably a special category for out-and-out homages that don’t work — the two series that spring most readily to my mind are Erik Larsen’s 12-issue Lee/Kirby pastiche Fantastic Four: The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine! and the Fabian Nicieza/Steve Rude Spider-Man: Lifeline, which seemed to be a riff on the Lee/Conway/Romita days.

Everything from Marvel that started with “Infinity” and didn’t end with “Gauntlet.”

Bob Gale and Phil Winslade did a story in Daredevil #20 to 25 where Daredevil was put on trial for something or other, and of course, Bendis comes along the following issue to lay the seeds for “Out” where Daredevil goes on trial. I’m not saying Bendis did a poor version of Gale’s story, because they were considerably different, but it’s just interesting that the theme was so similar.

Coincidently, this is the only run of Daredevil from the MK relaunch until now that hasn’t been put into trade paperback.

Ditto on John’s Titans, but speaking of Johns’ Infinite Crisis is the best book I can think of in this category. A sequel that tried to recapture all the tropes of the original, even when doing so didn’t make much story sense. The end product was a lackluster, embarassing mess with none of the power of the original.

Also, how about almost every Fantastic Four comic not by Lee and Kirby, with the possible exception of the Byrne run?

Anyone other than Gerber on Howard the Duck.

I’m getting a kick out of reading these old Comic Book Dictionary columns. Any chance of seeing new ones?

The concept of Karaoke Comics so perfectly explains 1990s X-Men. I used to call it “just like Claremont, but not as good”, but Karaoke Comics is more succint.

And a question: do you guys think a Karaoke Comic can ever be good? I confess to like Bendis’s Daredevil, but sometimes it does feel like a Karaoke Comic of the Frank Miller run.

But later on, everything major Bendis did for Marvel felt like a (real bad) Karaoke Comic. Disassembled is a Karaoke version of Dark Phoenix and Byrne’s West Coast Avengers. House of M is Karaoke of Age of Apocalypse. Secret Invasion is Karaoke of the Kree/Skrull War.

And, like someone said above, 90% of DC’s big events are Karaoke of Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Perhaps a new term, if it’s not too nasty, would Cover Bands, for writers that specialize on Karaoke Comics. Like JMS became a Cover Band for 1980s Alan Moore.

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