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Harris & Hutchison Dig Into the World’s Biggest Rockstars

by  in Comic News Comment
Harris & Hutchison Dig Into the World’s Biggest Rockstars

Blue Rider was the biggest band in rock n’ roll. Building immense songs on traditional blues riffs, singing songs filled with sexual innuendo and Tolkien allusions, and led by a dynamic golden-haired singer and a shadowy, mysterious guitar god. Man, that sounds really familiar, right?

In Joe Harris and Megan Hutchison’s new series “Rockstars,” debuting in December from Image Comics, a pair of investigators – naive rock fan Jackie Mayer and cynical, stylish reporter Dorothy Buell – start looking into a series of groupie murders, killings that may have a black magic connection to a certain revered guitar hero. It’s a supernatural trip through the wild underground of rock history, and Harris and Hutchison are just getting started.

RELATED: Joe Harris Takes Mulder on the Run in IDW’s “X-Files: Season 11”

CBR spoke with the duo about incorporating rock’s visual history into their new series, the inescapable allure of Zeppelin’s mystique, and where we may find their intrepid investigators next.

CBR: Who is Jackie Mayer at the beginning of “Rockstars” #1, and what gets him involved in the case of these missing girls?

Joe Harris: Jackie is, you could say, ‘attuned’ to the supernatural forces which — he, and we, are going to learn — connect so many of the crazy stories, supposed legends and unexplained myths orbiting around rock ‘n’ roll history, both the famous (or infamous) ones that are widely known and shared, and ones we create whole cloth to fit alongside the known ones woven between the stitches. He’s attracted to unsolved mysteries and to discovering patterns and layers that most everyone else might miss. He’s aware of the unsolved string of “groupie murders” surrounding Jimmy James, the founder and guitarist from a titanic 70s band called Blue Rider, has connected several dots already by the time we meet him, and is drawn to the case with this sort of gut instinct that tells him another murder is about to happen. And once he discovers he’s right, it opens up this rabbit hole in terms of what’s really been going on all these years, how it is these murders are in fact continuing in the present day, and who—or what—is really responsible.

He gains a partner in Dorothy Buell, a music journalist who is more assertive and intellectual about her pursuit of the truth that he’s investigating. They fall into partnership quickly – beyond the case at hand, what draws them together? And how do their personalities draw out aspects of the other?

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Harris: Well, Dorothy is after a story, wherever she can find it. And Jackie’s happened upon a big one. That is, they both have, though her means of discovering it are going to be revealed and explored in coming issues too. I think they compliment one another. She’s very cold, in a sense, and skeptical of bullshit while Jackie is more of the dreamer with lofty theories and an idealized view of rock, and rock history, that might need a good shattering after some of the things he’s going to uncover. And, in the end, Jackie, his family history and the path before him might end up the biggest story for Dorothy to try and cover of all. Dorothy will challenge Jackie on his shit, and knock some of the pedestals over that he might be too willing to topple on his own. Jackie, for his part, offers a kind of innocent—if at times naïve—outlook that will serve to reconnect Dorothy to some of the magic related to music that might be all too easy to lose sight of given what they’re going to experience together.

Megan Hutchison: I also tried to set them apart visually. Jackie is a solitary guy, a rock nerd — he’s been an outcast for most of his life, while Dorothy is an outgoing fashionista. As the series continues I am going to start visually showing them rubbing off on each other. Jackie is going to become more confident and Dorothy will become more sensitive. That’s what happens when you develop a close relationship with someone.

You’ve packed in lots of fun rock n roll references. Jackie’s cat is named Skydog. Dorothy’s surname, of course. How much of the fun comes from packing in arcane references and seeing who’ll catch them?

Harris: Oh, it’s immense, for me! You obviously don’t need to know who Duane Allman was to appreciate whatever level of silly cleverness is at work naming a cat “Skydog,” but my heart is with the folks who appreciate the slide guitar majesty that came out of the greatest southern rock ‘n’ roll band there ever was. There will be many more of these kinds of easter eggs.

Hutchison: I also like to include historical costumes and props based on research so much of the sets and costumes are historically accurate to rock and roll history. There are also a lot of famous photos hidden in the set dressing.

The major band in this arc, Blue Rider and their leader/guitar player Jimmy James are obvious Led Zeppelin/Jimmy Page stand-ins, including the black magic at this arc’s core. How long have you wanted to explore that dark mythic territory? Will we see analogs for other famous artists in the future?

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Harris: Led Zeppelin has captivated me since I was about 4. I think, objectively, they are probably the third most important rock band (after the Beatles and the Rolling Stones) in history, but have always been my #1 when it comes to appreciating how they expanded the form, revolutionized arena touring, studio recording, etc… and the black magic stuff is definitely something I’ve been drawn to, as the undercurrent running underneath things, ever since I saw “The Song Remains the Same” and read Stephen Davis’ “The Hammer of the Gods” a thousand times or two as a kid. The short answer is, yes, we will see other analogues. If I can give up Blue Rider and Jimmy James (no small feat).

Megan, you recreate and play with a few classic rock n roll images in the first issue. Rock n roll art, both illustration and photography, is a huge stylistic hodgepodge. Are there any images or specific influences from rock history that come to bear on this series? Or is it just about making little nods to favorites where they fit into the story?

Hutchison: Stylistically I wanted to do something a little more funky and dark than I usually do. I’m sure with all the research I’ve done, the rock n roll style has definitely imbued itself into the look of the series. I reference a lot of classic rock photos and art especially in regards to the occult iconography. However, I also add nods when applicable. Mostly, I just want the book to be fun and a little spooky, just like the music.

Joe, is there a long term plan for Jackie and Dorothy, or are they tools to let you explore the history of rock’s various eras?

Harris: There is indeed a plan. Jackie’s familial history is going to factor into this series big time, and we’re going to be exploring his father’s life and connections going forward as they directly inform what we’ll be learning about Jackie’s powers, and what drives him. Dorothy too will have her own journey of discovery. Together, they will come to be this team of, for lack of a better way to describe them, “Rock ‘n’ roll investigators” who will, in turn, explore mysteries tied to different eras and genres within the great tree of rock, but they aren’t just POV tools. They will have long arcs with twists and reveals to come.

What era of rock is next?

Harris: ’80s metal. Sorta. You’ll see.

Hutchison: There will be hair. So, so much hair.

What other projects do you each have in the works?

Harris: I’m still writing “The X-Files” monthly for IDW and nobody’s wrested them from my cold, dead hands yet so I have no plans to go anywhere there. I’m also writing the upcoming “Ninjak vs. the Valiant Universe” live action web series for Valiant as well as doing some other, print comics work for them. There’s actually a lot of stuff bubbling around right now. Ask me again in a few months.

Hutchison: I’m finishing up a horror graphic novel I drew, “Vesna,” which will come out next year. Developing another all-ages horror book that will be announced in a few months. Working on writing my own stuff including an OGN I’m developing with Jimmy Palmiotti. In the next few months I will be getting around to developing my illustrated baking cookbook and designing my own Tarot deck.

“Rockstars” #1 arrives in stores in December from Image Comics.

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