Categories
Boppin'

UNFINISHED AND ABANDONED: The Comic Book Telephone Pitches, Part 2

YOU REMEMBER LAST TIME, when I talked about my aborted telephone pitch to write for Harvey Comics. Let’s pick up that story with my second and final attempt to sell my writing via a phone call to a comics publisher….

Revolutionary Comics was a comics publisher begun in 1989 by Todd Loren, commencing with its first (and initially only) series Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics. Each issue of Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics was an unauthorized biography of a rock or pop performer, beginning with Guns N’ Roses in Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics # 1. Eventually billing itself as “unauthorized and proud of it,” Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics survived attempted lawsuits and continued to cover acts ranging from New Kids On The Block to The Sex Pistols.

Rock ‘n’ roll. Comic books. Well! I figured I could write that!

It was probably 1990 or ’91 (no later) when I called Todd Loren to pitch him on the idea of humble li’l me writing for Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics. My writing resumé was a tiny bit fatter than it had been when I pitched to Harvey Comics a few years before, and while it still didn’t include any fiction sales, it did include nonfiction rock writing. And I knew just the band I would most want to cover in Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics. I’m sure you know it, too.

The Monkees.

Loren was not interested in that.

This was a few years after the MTV-fed resurgent Monkeemania of 1986. By the dawn of the ’90s, most folks figured that The Monkees had fully used up their fifteen minutes of fame, and then used it up again, with little likelihood of a third quarter-hour looming. I knew better, at least on an artistic level. I believed that The Monkees’ recorded and pop cultural legacies were underrated, and well deserving of examination and exploration. On those grounds, The Monkees would have been ideal candidates for study in an issue of Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics.

But on a commercial level, in the early ’90s? I have to concede that Loren was probably correct in his decision to pass on the idea. It would have sold in 1986 or ’87; it was, at best, an uncertain prospect in 1990 or ’91. 

With the pitch shot down, I never did any work on the idea of a comic-book biography of The Monkees. If I had been able to do it, I would have wanted it to read in a more compelling manner than the actual issues of Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics I’d seen up to that point. My ability to pull off such an ambition is in question, but I would have hoped to tell the story in a way that somehow incorporated the quick cuts and absurdity of the TV series and recreated them on the printed page, to convey the notion that The Monkees were more than a mere prefab four, that The Monkees were important, that The Monkees mattered.

Loren was a bit more open to my secondary idea of a comic-book biography of The Ramones, but not interested enough to commit to it. We parted amicably, but there was clearly no path there for me to get work with Revolutionary Comics.

Todd Loren

Todd Loren’s own life came to a tragic, lurid end, as he was stabbed to death at home in 1992. Loren was 32 years old, born three days before I was. Loren was gay, and he was (per Wikipedia) “well known in San Diego’s gay social circles.” Those circles included Andrew Cunanin, who later became infamous for committing five (known) murders in 1997, including the murder of fashion designer Gianni Versace. Some have speculated that Cunanin could also have been Loren’s murderer. Loren’s murder case remains unsolved. Cunanin committed suicide before he could be captured, and is now presumed to reside in Hell.

The Revolutionary line (including Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics) continued for a short time after Loren’s death, finally closing up shop in 1994. I had no further contact with Revolutionary after that single phone call to Todd Loren. 

I do still think there’s a market for a Monkees comic book. It may be a niche market, or it may be larger than that, but the market exists; I’m certain of it. The Monkees’ fabulous 2016 album Good Times! was a # 1 hit, fercryinoutloud. Monkees fandom is under-served. We deserve better.


The Monkees’ only latter-day comic-book appearance was a guest spot in The Archies # 4 in 2018, a welcome tribute to the benevolent vibe of Micky, Davy, Peter, and Michael. I wish for an ongoing Monkees comic book series, even if I’m not the one who gets to write it. There should also be a Batman Meets The Monkees story. And I have a specific idea for a Monkees mini-series that I’m a little surprised no one’s proposed yet. I probably won’t have any plausible opportunity to write any of this, but a guy can dream.

Decades after all those failed attempts to break into comics, I’ve finally made my first sales, with three prose short stories sold to AHOY Comics. One of ’em is a rock ‘n’ roll story. I’d still like to write some comics. I have ideas. Some may be worth developing. Some, alas, will remain unfinished and abandoned.

TIP THE BLOGGER: CC’s Tip Jar!

You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby! 
Fans of pop music will want to check out Waterloo Sunset–Benefit For This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio, a new pop compilation benefiting SPARK! Syracuse, the home of This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio with Dana & CarlTIR’N’RR Allstars–Steve StoeckelBruce GordonJoel TinnelStacy CarsonEytan MirskyTeresa CowlesDan PavelichIrene Peña, Keith Klingensmith, and Rich Firestone–offer a fantastic new version of The Kinks’ classic “Waterloo Sunset.” That’s supplemented by eleven more tracks (plus a hidden bonus track), including previously-unreleased gems from The Click BeetlesEytan MirskyPop Co-OpIrene PeñaMichael Slawter (covering The Posies), and The Anderson Council (covering XTC), a new remix of “Infinite Soul” by The Grip Weeds, and familiar TIRnRR Fave Raves by Vegas With RandolphGretchen’s WheelThe Armoires, and Pacific Soul Ltd. Oh, and that mystery bonus track? It’s exquisite. You need this. You’re buying it from Futureman.
Hey, Carl’s writin’ a book! The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1) will contain 100 essays (and then some) about 100 tracks, plus two bonus instrumentals, each one of ’em THE greatest record ever made. An infinite number of records can each be the greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Updated initial information can be seen here: THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE! (Volume 1)

Our most recent compilation CDThis Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio, Volume 4 is still available from Kool Kat Musik! 29 tracks of irresistible rockin’ pop, starring Pop Co-OpRay PaulCirce Link & Christian NesmithVegas With Randolph Featuring Lannie FlowersThe SlapbacksP. HuxIrene PeñaMichael Oliver & the Sacred Band Featuring Dave MerrittThe RubinoosStepford KnivesThe Grip WeedsPopdudesRonnie DarkThe FlashcubesChris von SneidernThe Bottle Kids1.4.5.The SmithereensPaul Collins’ BeatThe Hit SquadThe RulersThe Legal MattersMaura & the Bright LightsLisa Mychols, and Mr. Encrypto & the CyphersYou gotta have it, so order it here. A digital download version (minus The Smithereens’ track) is also available from Futureman Records

Categories
Boppin'

THE EVERLASTING FIRST: The Damned

Continuing a look back at my first exposure to a number of rock ‘n’ roll acts and superheroes (or other denizens of print or periodical publication), some of which were passing fancies, and some of which I went on to kinda like. They say you never forget your first time; that may be true, but it’s the subsequent visits–the second time, the fourth time, the twentieth time, the hundredth time–that define our relationships with the things we cherish. Ultimately, the first meeting is less important than what comes after that. But every love story still needs to begin with that first kiss.

This was originally posted as part of a longer piece covering both pop music and comic book characters. It’s separated here for convenience.

Phonograph Record Magazine figures into my first exposure to British punks The Damned, but a larger role in that introduction was ultimately played by a green-eyed girl named Mary Ellen. We’ll get to her in just a sec, but we’ll start with PRM.  Phonograph Record Magazine‘s coverage of this exotic, scary, mysteriously intoxicating music called punk captivated me as a senior in high school, 1976-77. I didn’t know what any of it sounded like, but I was aching to find out.

I was intrigued by so many of these bands that PRM name-checked so casually in its tabloid pages. The RamonesBlondieThe Sex PistolsEddie and the Hot RodsChris Spedding and the Vibrators! It was a long, long list of acts I’d never heard of before, from The New York DollsThe Dictators, and Milk ‘n Cookies through Cheap TrickElvis CostelloIggy PopTom Petty & the Heartbreakers, and Yesterday and Today (later shortened to Y & T). I was desperate to learn more.

Even if you’re my age or older, it may be difficult to remember just how different the world was just four decades ago. Today, if you encounter a reference to some new musical act, the great ‘n’ powerful internet can put that act’s complete c.v. at your disposal instantly. YouTube, Google, Facebook, Twitter, and a bunch of other cloud-borne resources that would have been the stuff of science fiction during the Bicentennial are now humdrum, banal fixtures of everyday living. Hell, a YouTube video was likely your introduction to this new act in the first place. The thrill of the hunt has long since been replaced by the smug, jaded smirk of entitlement.

Heh. I’m a curmudgeon at 58.

With that all said, I have to admit I enjoy the convenience of easily-accessible information. But there was something intangibly thrilling about the sheer mystique and wonder conjured in a young man’s mind by the hype and glory of fevered ramblin’ in the pages of mid-’70s rock rags like PRM. You couldn’t hear the music; you could only imagine how amazing it must sound.

The Damned were among the many loud and angry punks mentioned in the pages of Phonograph Record Magazine. I don’t recall the group necessarily getting a lot of ink in the few PRMs I was fortunate enough to grab, but I do remember Flo & Eddie discussing (and dismissing) one of The Damned’s singles–either “New Rose” or “Neat Neat Neat”–in their Blind Date column. Flo & Eddie were not impressed with British punk on first exposure.

In the fall of ’76, I met Mary Ellen at the ESSPA (Empire State School Press Association) Convention in Syracuse. I was there with a cadre of my fellow North Syracuse High School literary insurgents–Dan BacichTim Schueler, and Sue Caldwell–representing our school literary magazine, The NorthCaster.  At the banquet and awards ceremony, we shared a table with a group representing a magazine from a Rochester area high school, and Mary Ellen was part of that group. I think their magazine was called Brown Bag, and I’m pretty sure they won top honors at ESSPA that year.

I have no photo of Mary Ellen. 

Our two groups hit it off pretty well, and it turned out that Mary Ellen was a big rock ‘n’ roll fan. She was especially fond of The Who; I’d remembered reading ads for some Who bootlegs (probably in The Buyer’s Guide For Comics Fandom). I said I’d send her the information, and we exchanged addresses.

She wound up writing to me first, saying she was listening to Montrose and slipping into the terra incognita, a favorite phrase of hers. Starry-eyed teen that I was–I was kinda like Davy Joneson any random episode of The Monkees, except usually without reciprocation–I immediately began to imagine True Love. I was–what’s the word?–an idiot. On a January bus ride from Cleveland to Syracuse, traveling back home solo after visiting my sister, I daydreamed about Mary Ellen, about singing Beatles songs together and maybe exchanging a playful kiss. 

But this was all just fancy on my part. I wrote her a long, presumably witty letter, devoid of any attempt at romantic content–I wasn’t quite that much of an idiot–and she responded with delight. Further correspondence revealed that we would be switching neighborhoods in the fall; I would be starting college in Brockport, a mere 19 miles from Rochester, while she would be attending Syracuse University. She sent me her phone number at SU.

One fall evening in Brockport, I called Mary Ellen, and we spoke on the phone for about an hour. It was a breezy, banter-filled conversation. I remember mentioning The Raspberries (whom she didn’t know all that well) and The Bay City Rollers (which horrified her, since she saw them as not far removed from the dreaded “D-I-S-C-O!”). We had both discovered punk. I don’t know how The Damned came up in the conversation, but she asked me if I’d heard them yet; I hadn’t, so she cranked up the stereo in her dorm room and played The Damned’s LP track “Stab Yor Back” for me. So that was my true, lo-fi introduction to the music of The Damned.

We mentioned earlier how much easier it is nowadays to find out about something or anything. You wanna know what else has changed since 1977? The cost of long-distance phone calls. My 60-minute call to Mary Ellen cost a whompin’, stompin’ fifty dollars, which is an awful lot of money to spend for a few seconds of The Damned. My parents weren’t real happy about paying that bill for me, so that was my Christmas present that year; they threw in a copy of the Alive II album by KISS, because they were really great parents.

But that phone call (and, I think, one subsequent shorter one) were my last positive communications with Mary Ellen. I tried to get in touch with her the next time we were both in Syracuse, but she’d figured out by now that I mighta possibly had hearts in my eyes, and she didn’t need that at all. And honestly, I can’t blame her. In any case, I was soon involved with Sharon, a girl I met in Brockport, and then also with Theresa (another girl I met in Brockport), and significant complications loomed on my immediate horizon.

Complications. My man Archie understands.

It was more than a year until I would be in the same room as a Damned song playing on a damned stereo near me. In the Spring of ’78, a friend at school loaned me a compilation album called New WaveNew Wave included The Damned’s debut single “New Rose,” and I liked it a lot. It turned out that there would be a number of songs by The Damned that I like a lot, especially “Wait For The Blackout” on the group’s 1980 LP The Black Album. I’ll have to try listening to that over a $50 phone call some day.

TIP THE BLOGGER: CC’s Tip Jar!

You can support this blog by becoming a patron on Patreon: Fund me, baby!