Todd Loren published the “proudly unauthorized” and totally demented Rock N’ Roll Comics until 1995 when the double whammy of the 32-year-old Loren being stabbed to death and the company’s bankruptcy brought the enterprise to an unceremonious end. Loren’s death is shrouded in mystery. Rumor has it that he was taken out by the same serial killer who murdered Gianni Versace. (Yes, you read that correctly.) The fascinating 2005 documentary The Story of Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics explores Loren’s publishing empire and his death. I heartily recommend it. But I’m not focusing on that compelling bit of history here. I just want to share some totally amusing Rock N’ Roll Comics cover art.
Swirling in that visual vortex of the “so bad they’re good” category, Rock N’ Roll Comics (and its brother-in-arms Hard Rock Comics) have a certain schlock appeal that veers from the earnestly awful to inspired satire. I remember R N’ R Comics radiating from the racks of New York City newsstands. Seering themselves into my eyeballs, these covers were as ridiculously over-the-top as the smorgasbord of porno cheesiness they shared the racks with: Screw Magazine, Sluts And Slobs, Chocolate Singles, Ramrod and Honcho. This was the tail end (see what I did there) of New York’s grandly grungy era when the streets were still throbbing (see there, I did it again) with the uninhibited impulses of the beast in all of us.
Even in the early nineties, Rock N’ Roll Comics seemed seriously dated but that’s part of what makes them so damned special. I would love to see White Stripes, Kanye, Beyoncé, Daft Punk and Radiohead getting the Rock N’ Roll Comics treatment today.
60 plus issues of Rock N’ Roll Comics were published,. Here are my picks of the best/worst covers. Among them, the Ayn Rand inspired “Elvis Shrugged” gets a special shoutout as does the “Tipper Gore’s Comics and Stories” issue (Jello loved it and Dead Kennedys got their own issue, too). The incredibly goofy Botoxy, lip-injectioned Ramones (poor Joey looks like a mashup of Pete Burns and Kellyanne Conway) was intended to please but I’m rather certain that Joey stuck that issue under a pile of his MAD magazine collection. The “Women In Rock” issue was responsible for Andrea Dworkin’s umpteenth hernia when she picked up a stack on the corner of 13th and 2nd and tried to hurl them at a Pakistani delivery boy she mistook for Janet Jackson. The contenders for the absolutely worst covers are David Bowie looking like Rachel Maddow after she took a very long bath in hydrogen peroxide and the one where Bob Dylan is doing his impression of Montgomery Clift doing his impression of Gloria Swanson. The Grateful Dead edition was a sales flop but the cover was a hit (again I did it) having been licked to the point of invisibility by heads mistaking it for a sheet of blotter acid. Overnight, racks of Grateful Dead Comics looked like blurred X-rays with corners curling like the paper mudras of paper monks.
Special mention goes to Nirvana for tapping into their audiences’ fundamental fears and anxieties. Nirvana stood out for their unbridled celebration of teen spirit when the band courageously defied their handlers and boldly sported facial boils verging on detonation. These pus-filled flesh flags of honor were symbols of a society so toxic that only rock and roll and a pair of tweezers could exorcise the demons embedded in the souls of our society’s youth. This was acne as action, the beginning of the Blackheads Matter movement that aroused white kids from their complacent suburban wombs. To Love the smell of Clearasil in the morning is to be young and alive. This was the roots of Pusy Power and the beginning of the dead leucocytes movement.
Bubbles? What do you mean bubbles?