Pop Seen COMIC

Pop Seen COMIC
Music is magic — most any obsessive culture vulture wouldn’t question that supposition. But according to Britpop-weaned comics obsessives Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, that magic is literal, power that derives from, in their case, being raised on and worshipping at the altar of mid-‘90s British pop; each cover in their six-issue run references a thematically appropriate album cover (Elastica’s debut, Black Grape’s It’s Great When You’re Straight...Yeah, Manic Street Preachers’ The Holy Bible). Their Image comic Phonogram concerns a music-derived magician, called a phonomancer; in this case, David Kohl is investigating the death of his music god, Britannia.

The two self-confessed Manics obssessives share a love of Britpop, but the action takes place in present day; Phonogram itself plays out as a type of to-the-death debate amongst music lovers. In the Elastica-themed debut, Kohl attends Ladyfest amongst the "woman-enhancing, positive-role-modelling hair-clip dyke-friendly yes-I-like-dance-music-I’ve-got-a-Le-Tigre album melange,” where he’s blown away by the power of Scout Niblett.

"Our main theme is memory,” says music critic and writer Kieron Gillen (credited with "lyrics” in the book; artist Jamie McKelvie does the "music”). "Or rather, how memory, nostalgia and personal history all interact. While it rests heavily on Britpop, we’re not interested in what it was, but rather how we view it now. It killed underground guitar music in the UK in a way that it’s still recovering from and directly led to some of the worst excesses in my pop lifetime. However, for many — including McKelvie and me — it was an absolutely fundamental founding experience.”

Phonogram is fascinating in a music context because the comics world spins on an axis of good and evil, distinctions that are blurrier in a music world where dark forces make better tunes. "Most of my favourite music is utterly undefendable on any moral level,” Gillen offers. "That’s part of the kick.”