Four Comic-Book Characters Inspired By Musicians
Rocks off just can't seem to get comic books out of our blood. Between being fully immersed in Comicpalooza last weekend and trying to point out to Broadway how many other comic characters would make better and safer musicals than Spider-Man, we've regressed to being 15 with ink-stained figures and a working knowledge of Batman's rogue's gallery.
Over the years of perusing Wikipedia and Wizard magazine, we've come across several characters in comics whose looks or personalities were inspired by famous musicians. Sometimes those musicians were not at all pleased with what they had inspired.
Fully half of this list involves lawsuits. For instance...
The Winter Brothers As Albino Worm Monsters
Brothers Johnny and Edgar Winter are two of the most influential blues-rockers in the world, and certainly two of the best things to ever come out of Beaumont. They are also albinos, and as such have suffered discrimination common to the condition. Its not as bad in this country as it is in, say, Burundi, where some albinos have been killed so their body parts can be used as the fuel for magic potions, but there are still many evil-albino stereotypes in film and literature.
Which is probably why when Joe Lansdale, Timothy Truman and Sam Glanzman parodied the Winter brothers as giant, albino worm monsters called the Autumn Brothers in 1996's Jonah Hex, they were a bit miffed. Miffed enough to sue DC Comics over the issue at least, claiming defamation, invasion of privacy, and several other charges. Unfortunately for duo, a Los Angeles court threw out the case in 1999, ruling that the portrayals were perfectly legal under the First Amendment.
"It was our intent to use the Jonah Hex comic book series as a vehicle for satire and parody of musical genres, Texas music in particular, as well as old radio shows, movie serials and the like," said Lansdale, a native and resident of Nacogdoches. "We feel within our rights to parody music, stage personas, album personas, lyrics, and public figures."
John Constantine is one of the most interesting characters DC has ever put out. A magician by trade, he is the creation of Alan Moore, Steve Bissette, and John Totleben. He first appeared in Moore's acclaimed run on Swamp Thing, and has gone on to have a many strange adventures of a supernatural sort. He is the total anti-hero, full of sarcasm and questionable dealings, but his popularity is undeniable. His solo book Hellblazer is DC Vertigo's longest-running continuous title.
He is also directly based on Sting. Bissette and Totleben were big Police fans, and Moore decided to give them a character that would let them live out a little fanboy fantasy. His look was patterned after Sting's appearances in Quadrophenia and Treacle and Brimstone, specifically, and at one point he is even drawn on a point called "the Honorable Gordon Sumner."
Well, not really. Morgana Blessing is an occult writer and librarian who served as the love interest for a while for the Marvel Universes Sorcerer Supreme Doctor Strange. Though she's got a little low level magical talent, her real skill is a very detailed knowledge of the supernatural world.
What does this have to do with Christian recording artist Amy Grant? Well, look at the pictures above.
What you're seeing is the cover of Grant's 1986 compilation The Collection side by side with Doctor Strange: Sorcerer Supreme #15. It's pretty clear that artist Jackson Guice lifted the image of Grant straight from the album cover when depicting Morgana Blessing.
Worried that use of the image would make her fan base think that she endorsed an occult comic book, Grant sued Marvel to cancel the issue... a pretty pointless gesture since it was a monthly title and more weren't being printed after they were sent to shops. They couldn't sue for copyright infringement as the picture belonged to photographer Mark Tucker, however they did sue for unauthorized use of likeness.
The two parties settled out of court in a sealed agreement that absolved Marvel of any wrongdoing.
Neil Gaiman's CD Shelf Populates Sandman
Picture by Jill Thompson
Oh, where to begin. Neil Gaiman's Sandman series is one of the most critically acclaimed comics of all time, dealing with the anthropomorphic personification of dreams as he struggles to adapt to a changing world. The series is full of famous characters, and may of those characters are based on famous people.
The one you hear the most about is how Sandman's little sister Delirium is based on Gaiman's friend Tori Amos. This is semi-false. Delirium was already a full-thought out character before Amos and Gaiman became friends, but subsequent interpretations of the character have taken on many or Amos's looks and personality. As Gaiman himself put it, "They steal shamelessly from each other."
Another of Sandman's siblings, his brother/sister Desire is based on a famous singer. In this case, Annie Lennox. The conception of the character was sort of a contest between Gaiman and Mike Dringenberg. Gaiman originally wanted Desire to be a more androgynous in a David Bowie way, while Dringenberg saw the character more as an omni-sexual.
Gaiman did get his Bowie-based character eventually in Lucifer. The devil has been portrayed in various ways throughout various books in DC's history, but Gaiman's modern Miltonian version is now the universe's accepted interpretation. His instructions on drawing Lucifer pretty much begin and end with, "he looks like Bowie'
As one final note, Alice Cooper makes a cameo in Sandman as a mourner at a funeral. Gaiman wrote a comic adaptation of Cooper's Last Temptation album.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.