Review time! with Hitsville UK
Dan Cox, the co-writer of Hitsville UK, sent me the first print issue of his and John Riordan’s web comic, so I’m going to review it! It was very swell of Dan to send it to me – I’m horribly greedy and cheap, so I didn’t want to just review the stuff on the web, and the issue does have more pages than they’ve posted as of this very instant, so there. Anyway, Cox and Riordan write it, Riordan draws and colors it, and you can read it here if you so desire. Or you could go here and pony up £3.50 for it. That wouldn’t kill you, would it?
The first issue of Hitsville UK is, after all, totally worth your money. It’s an insane comic book, with bands you wish existed coming out of the woodwork, a weird, blue-skinned producer who uses … unusual methods to coax great tunes out of his performers, Satan as an accountant (his name, cleverly, is Stan van Horne, but he’s green and has devil horns, so come on), and Gerry Cordon, the owner of the eponymous label, who is trying to corral all of these musicians. It doesn’t deliver tons in terms of story or characterization (who needs that shit, right?), but I’m sure the writers will get around to that. To get us into the comic, they simply chuck us into the deep end and demand that we swim. And it’s a marvelously fun way to start reading.
Basically, the entire issue is about Gerry seeing a bunch of bands and trying to sign them to his label. The fun comes from his interactions with Greg Studio, “super-producer” (who at one point tries to get a musician to rip a chicken’s throat out with his teeth for inspiration); from Stan, who has a very weird mirror in his house; and the bands. Oh, the bands. There’s Carrie Nation’s Revenge, who apparently roam the countryside fighting Lovecraftian demons when they’re not performing (that’s them on the cover in those odd clothes); Jack Spatz, who gets stuck with a bunch of tall wigs (see below) and ends up distributing them in an inspired manner; the Dreadnoughts, who get in a bit of an argument with Aryan 51, a neo-Nazi band that resurrects their lead singer for a gig; Men Behind Guitars, whose lead singer drops acid to meet John Lennon (but doesn’t); and Haunted By Robots, a nerdy DJ who is, perhaps not surprisingly, haunted by a robot. At one point Gerry checks out The Sisters, an emo girl group who play songs that apparently sound like Lou Reed, circa-Metal Machine Music. And then there’s Gwillum, a strange, green, bulbous-headed country singer whose unrequited love for a girl isn’t helped when her date brags how he’s going to be “exploring her mines of Moria” that night (I assume that’s because Gwillum looks like Gollum, but who knows). Cox and Riordan have a blast with the characters in the book. As I mentioned, the story hasn’t really coalesced yet (Gerry just started the label, so I assume there will be stories about managing the bands and their foibles, but this issue is about introductions) and we get the barest glimpses of characterization, but what we do get is very cool. I don’t mind the fact that this is mainly about introducing the players when the players are so varied and gonzo. Meanwhile, Cox and Riordan give us very nice dialogue – they don’t just write out simple back-and-forths between the characters. People speak in non sequiturs, we drop in on dialogue in the middle of a scene, characters make lame jokes – it’s a jarring but fun experience, and helps create the idea of the issue as one big cacophony, with dialogue getting interrupted by lyrics, which are lettered differently from the regular dialogue (in different fonts, too, which is nice touch). That the issue comes together as much as it does is impressive, and leads me to believe that the book will continue to get better as the plots become more solid.
Riordan’s art is very good, too. He does wonderful design work the characters, from their faces to their clothing. Everyone wears interesting clothing, especially when they’re on stage, and Riordan does a nice job contrasting their “stage” personae with their “real-life” selves, especially the members of the Dreadnoughts, who seem to hold down “regular” jobs, by and large. Riordan also does wonderful work with the colors. When Marlon drops acid, we get the day-glo trippy stuff; when the Dreadnoughts play, everything is in whites and reds and blacks; The Sisters are blue and black and bleach-white skin; Haunted By Robots imagines a hallucinogenic scene of his robot destroying all his tormentors. When Greg Studio is working with Carrie Nation’s Revenge, he’s doing all sorts of drugs, and the band keeps changing form and color as he watches them. It’s a tremendously weird-looking yet strangely beautiful comic, almost bursting at the seams. The energy is evident, but so is the skill that the creators bring to the proceedings. It’s ironic that David Hine offers a pull quote on the front of the book, because Riordan’s art is somewhat reminiscent of Hine’s. Perhaps Riordan knows this.
I’m glad Cox sent this off to me, because I enjoyed it a lot. It’s 33 pages of jam-packed story, with all sorts of colorful characters and biting satire of the music industry that still manages to love the craziness that is the music industry. It’s funny, fascinating, and it encourages you to look over it more than once, because there’s so much going on. I wish the two creators the best of luck, and I don’t think it would be a bad idea at all if you moseyed over to their site and checked Hitsville UK out. It’s a blast.