See ya, old pal. BFF.
So I was supposed to be writing some WCT material during my lunch break today, but I decided I’d go for a walk instead, and found myself strolling to a Metal shop called “Blasphemy” which I pass every morning on the way to work but have never been inside.
I had assumed from the window displays that the shop only sold Metal paraphernalia like key chains, shirts, and the like, so I was surprised to find a few shelves full of CDs as well.
The CDs were not comprehensive or very well organized — vaguely alphabetical — but I started flipping through them somewhat seriously. I’ve been having painful cravings lately to hear any new shred guitar Metal (my three-year-old son keeps choosing guitar magazines for me when he goes to the library with the Mrs.), so I was keen to make a DISCOVERY, though I had no idea of what. Nothing catches my interest. How can you tell what it sounds like from the cover?
As I’m about to give up (isn’t that always the way), my eye wanders over to a painted cover of a dragon smoking a pipe on a cliff while a human slave child sweeps up human bones.
Corben. It has to be Corben.
Here’s what happens:
1) I have never heard of this band before, and the photos on the back are dubious, but someone from the shop has put a handwritten sticker on the jewel case that says: “BRILLIANT POWER METAL!” Well, that’s my kind of Metal, and it means someone in the store has actually listened to the thing and been inspired enough to recommend it to people.
2) I check the inside credits (there’s no shrink wrap). It is indeed Corben. My skin is starting to warm with the excitement of the find.
3) The CD is $28.50. That’s a bit pricey. But I’m tempted to buy it. Just for the cover.
4) But is it an original Corben commissioned for the CD, or did they just re-use one of his old paintings?
5) If it’s an old one, will I be able to find it easily elsewhere? Is it in some book of Corben paintings that I can buy for $50 and get 200 paintings?
6) If it’s new for the CD, will I be able to find it cheaper on the internet? If I can’t find it online (highly possible given how obscure it looked) and I come back to Blasphemy another day will it still be here? It’s so obscure that no one else could possibly want it, but — by god — THAT COVER!! It might tempt someone else anyway. Should I hide it somewhere in the middle of the stack? What if somebody still finds it?
7) Everything about the CD is incongruous. They’ve got a Power Metal name (Heaven’s Gate), a Sleaze Metal apostrophe in the album title (Livin’ In Hysteria), and a dragon cover that’s played for laughs.
8 ) The CDs in this shop are not shrink-wrapped. I don’t even know if it’s used or new. Should I pay $28.50 for a (possibly) used CD?
9) Do I even have enough money to buy it? The bank account is a bit low. Do they take credit cards here? Wait, maybe I’m carrying enough cash.
10) I have to buy it. I don’t even know if I’m ever going to listen to it, but I have to have it for the cover.
11) I take it to the counter. I have enough cash. The guy can’t stop looking at the cover and laughing either. “I’ve never heard of these guys, but that dragon smoking the pipe!”
Tell me about it.
UPDATE 1: The piece was apparently indeed created in 1984 as an art print and then appropriated by the band in 1991. It’s called “Blue Dragon”: http://fantagor.tumblr.com/post/7545316384/blue-dragon-1984-originally-created-for-sale
UPDATE 2: The album is excellent. I’m thrilled to have found it and bought it on impulse.
(Click to Enlarge)
I’ve refrained from posting whole comics on this site before because I felt it would be a conflict of interests. But now that we’re on hiatus, what the hell?
Plus, this is a story that I have never heard anyone ever mention, and probably — I guess — very few people probably know about. Googling “Russ Heath” and “Swamp Sluts” brought up only five results. (Although, Heritage Auctions did sell off all eight pages of the original art about eight years ago for $483.00 total, apparently.)
As far as I can tell, the story’s first and only appearance was in National Lampoon’s Encyclopedia of Humor (1973). This was a book that I first read, in the most unlikeliest of places, when I was living in Tokyo, and working near Jimbocho — an area of Tokyo known for its hundreds of used book shops. (They have to put out a guidebook for them all every year.) Somehow the NLEoH ended up in one of these shops and then in the hands of one of my co-workers. The book also features the much more famous “Cowgirls at War” by Michael O’Donoghue and Russ Heath, which ran in NatLamp, and was reprinted in a few specials.
One thing I love about this story other than it’s hilariousness, is how the humor functions because the images are still. The passing trucks are “stuck” there so you can’t see what’s going on behind them. Imagine if it was a movie and the trucks rolled past (they would have to given the amount of dialog). Or try doing it in prose without the images — how could you? It only works in comics, although some of those scenes in the Austin Powers movies are a close equivalent.
P.S. Heath just had a knee replaced after a car accident thanks to the Hero Initiative. He could still use support. http://www.newsarama.com/comics/russ-heaths-new-knee-110314.html
UPDATE FEBRUARY 8, 2012:
Now at last we can make things right again.