Oasis vs. Blur vs. Marvel

I’ve been on a horrible comic book bender lately. It’s displaced music as the obsession that becalms and brings order to my agitated male reptilian brain. I wait for the Wednesday release of the new Silver Surfer comic in the same way I used to wait for the Tuesday release of the new Queens of the Stone Age album. My tastes are actually pretty equivalent: I like superhero comics in the same way I always favored bands fronted by bona fide rock stars. I would rather buy a Captain America over an indie McSweeney’s-style comic in the same way I used to seek out the new Strokes record over anything from a Canadian baroque-rock band.

So last week at my local comics store, when I came across Phonogram: Rue Britannia a black-and-white comic by Kieron Gillen/Jamie McElvie from Image, an indie publishing company, I picked it up and…put it down. And then picked it up again. At first glance, it really looks like an indie–characters that I’ve never heard of before that probably don’t have any superpowers–but on the cover, there was a pale, wan skinny chick lying unconscious on the Union Jack with a bloody trident sticking between her shoulder blades. Looked like the cover to a Pulp album. And the font on the cover reminded me somehow of a British music magazine or…there was just something Oasis-y about the whole thing.

So I bought it.

And yeah, it definitely has that indie-nerd thing going on. The anti-hero is a square-jawed British warlock named David Cole that seduces rocker chicks with his magic powers. His magic powers are pretty annoying though–he can meaningfully talk about the bands the chicks he’s hitting on listen to. He has “ohmigod, you totally get me” magic powers. (And I’ve actually witnessed these powers in real life; they are just as annoying in that realm, but sort of impressive in a “I can’t believe she’s buying this shit” sorta way. Not as impressive as say, the ability to run a mile in under a minute, or hit three A.I.M. terrorists with your vibranium shield and have it ricochet back to you, but…whatever.) And McElvie’s pencils are kind of indie too, but that’s mostly because of subject matter–club kids on the streets of Bristol. Because actually, the comic is drawn in a very clean, cartoony style–like a more realistic Yellow Submarine cartoon style–so it definitely strikes an interesting balance between hipster and superhero. So it’s pretty enough and David Cole is a charming-enough bastard that you stick with it through the first few pages.

It’s difficult to explain the metaphysical convolutions of the plot, but trust me, by the time Phonogram gets up to speed, and you’re reading along as Cole begins to use his powers for the sake of good instead of well, not the sake of evil, but maybe the sake of immorality (or wherever seducing rocker chicks falls on the sake of good-evil continuum, I guess) the whole thing begins to delve into what music actually means to people. In this case, specifically, what BritPop means to people, specifically because BritPop, as Cole is keenly aware of, never really meant anything to anyone. I mean, I was an Oasis fan (still am, but they haven’t put anything out in a grip), and I never listened to Oasis as part of any cause. Listening to Oasis was kind of an anti-cause–simply taking pleasure in the gigantic jerk off that is anthemic rock and roll. Yeah, maybe an insensitive reptilian male brain jerk off, but Phonogram explains the power in said insensitive reptilian male brain jerk off. (And it has the greatest Kula Shaker put down in the history of comic books.)

So yeah, if you know what Blur vs. Oasis was, or even if you were a Radiohead fan and never really got the appeal of Oasis, or even if you’re just a scenester or a former scenester, or even if you just find a lot of meaning in music, or meaning in any cultural obsession really, Phonogram is worth checking out.

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One Response

  1. I agree. Some German Aryans used to be hyilrescatly fearful of breeding with non-Aryans. To me there is little difference between that attitude that of Jews who seem so horrified at breeding with non-Jews.

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