Wednesday, 7 March 2012

The Story Of Rock 'n' Roll Comics DVD

This fascinating documentary gets a DVD release on April 24th. It tells the story of Todd Loren, the man behind the San Diego publishing house Revolutionary Comics. Loren was born in 1960 and grew up with a love for both comic books and the burgeoning rock music bursting forth from both sides of the Atlantic. After amassing a considerable amount of money from hosting comic book and record conventions, aged 18 he went on to open a shop and mail order business selling mostly bootleg music memorabilia. This in turn led to the formation of Revolutionary Comics where he was to combine his two passions with the "Rock 'n' Roll" series of comics, producing comic book biographies of rock's biggest hitters. Their inflammatory tagline was "Unauthorized And Proud Of It".

Click over the jump for more on Rock 'n' Roll Comics along with the official movie trailer.

Variously described in the documentary as a "lovely person" and "a sack of shit", Loren's business practices were not always what they should be. Tales abound of Loren exploiting his hired talent, cheating artists out of the rights to their work along with playing them off each other. One thing is clear however, his drive and belief in what he was doing led to the publication of over 500 titles featuring artists from the classic rock era along with the leading lights of punk, rap and pop. Several of these comics were to rub the artists (or their representatives) up the wrong way leading to a string of lawsuits, most notably with Guns 'n' Roses and New Kids On The Block.

Reveling in the outlaw status that came as a result of the lawsuits, Loren is portrayed as a passionate 1st Amendment advocate, a maverick, and perhaps the ultimate fan. He was eventually murdered in 1992, viciously stabbed 15 times inside his own apartment. After a bungled police investigation it's a crime which remains unsolved to this day. 

Revolutionary Comics was to go bankrupt a couple of years later leaving behind a series of comics that continue to excite and delight comic book collectors the world over. The list of bands and artists covered reads like a who's who of the history of rock and roll. It's the schlock-rock of Alice Cooper and Kiss where the brand was most successful and makes the most sense, though everyone from The Grateful Dead, Frank Zappa, Elton John, Jimi Hendrix through to Prince, Ice T, Madonna, REM and The Dead Kennedys recieved the Rock 'n' Roll comic seal of unauthorized approval.

The DVD features interviews with Loren's  father/business partner along with several key artists, Alice Cooper, Mojo Nixon and Cynthia Plaster Caster, this fascinating story documents perhaps rock's last golden age. It's difficult to imagine today's musicians featuring in a comic strip that anyone would actually want to read. Mumford And Sons anyone?  interested in comics, rock 'n' roll, or defending the 1st Amendment should check it out.