Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Web Comic Review: Tommie Kelly's "Road Crew"

I throw out a lot of ideas that I can't put to work, but which are available to readers who promise not to use them indoors. This week an entertaining comic called Road Crew caught my eye and gave me an idea.

I was fresh off entering another data on another comics collective in the directory at Psychedelic Treehouse -- this time By Night, which features only horror comics. Reading Road Crew put me in mind of other music comics -- Acid Keg, Best Band in the Universe -- and soon I was thinking there might be enough titles for a collective of comics about music. I don't mean a full throttle collective with forums and all, just a simple crossroads of titles, perhaps like Newbsoft but with better fonts.

That's all well and good -- finding a way for that niche to boost traffic and exposure, but there is another reason why it might be a good idea.

Comics are really well cross-linked with gaming, from WoW to paintball. Music is a natural area for future cross-pollination. Not only do we have an overlapping audience, we share things like downloadable content and a tradition of artistic packaging design. If Green Day writes a song about falling in love with a girl in a webcomic, a quality group of music webcomics will be poised to show up in Rolling Stone.

Road Crew would make a great founding member for such a group. It's a three panel strip that earns high marks from me for mostly avoiding formulaic and cliched punch lines. There are story arcs, interesting characters and a solid knowledge of music history preceding whatever was hot last month.

Tommie Kelly seems to know all the realities and traditions of the road crew life: the pathos of the singing drummer, the perils of bringing the girlfriend on the road, wrecking the van, even Motorhead's Lemmy Kilimister, whose anthem "We Are the Road Crew" defined the horror and debauchery of the job.

Here's verse two if you're considering getting the ring tone:

Another town I've left behind,
Another drink completely blind,
Another hotel I can't find,
Another backstage pass for you,
Another tube of super glue,
Another border to get through,
I'm driving like a maniac,
Driving my way to hell and back,
Another room a case to pack,
We Are The Road Crew

After the first month, Road Crew transforms from a satisfying black and white to a color strip. 

Anyone who has toured with a band, worked as a roadie or subscribed to Maximum Rock'n'Roll will enjoy this strip. Even spending months on the road in other capacities will make you a sympathetic reader. I recall one three month journey where I fell asleep atop a ship docked in a river lock. During the night, they lowered the water level, and the roof of the ship descended below the height of the bank. I awoke to find a TV News crew filming me in my underwear.

I like the energy and ambition behind the Road Crew. The large panels are far superior to the cramped boxes a lot of artists enforce on themselves. The jump to color shows a yearning for progress, and the author can script. If he manages to connect with his audience and earn their passion, he might find himself with a following.