Not everyone is talented enough to fulfill his or her lifelong dreams. And sometimes, talent alone isn't enough to sustain those dreams -- even the most gifted artists in the world need luck on their side in order to flourish.
Guitarist Will Garland is one such example of a brilliantly talented musician who simply lacks luck. At the height of the veritable virtuoso's career, Garland succumbed to a nerve disorder in his hand, leaving him unable to properly operate his instrument. As if the loss of his ability to play the guitar wasn't bad enough, Garland just turned 27 -- the same age that Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and a slew of other promising musicians died. The 27-year-old has seen better years, needless to say, but thanks to the emergence of ghosts and talking animals -- among other things -- he might be seeing his last.
Garland's struggle to survive through his 27th year of life is at the heart of Charles Soule and Renzo Podesta's "27," the recently launched four-issue series from Image Comics and Shadowline. Already a smash hit with a first-issue sell-out and critical acclaim to its name, "27" has amassed a following of comics readers who also count rock music among their passions. Beyond a compelling story filled with equally rich characters, "27" provides readers with another incentive to pick up the book: a contest. Soule has weaved various puzzles into the pages of "27," and the first reader that solves the writer's hidden code wins a plane ticket to a comic book convention on Soule's own dime.
With the second issue arriving in stores this week, CBR News and Soule are proud to provide this exclusive commentary track for "27" #1. Soule discussed a variety of topics including the book's many music history references, personally relevant Easter Eggs, the hidden puzzle throughout the series and much more.
Charles Soule: What we have here is a concert poster for the gig Garland is talking about on the first paneled page of the story. We decided to go this way to immediately give the readers the feel that they were in for something a little different. There are some fun details in the poster -- for example, July 18 is my birthday, and Nimbus Burn and Wood were two bands I had in college. The date of the concert is exactly one year before what we thought would be the street date for issue 1 (it came out in early December, so we missed it by that much.) The guitar is important too, but it won't become clear why until the second-to-last page of Issue 4.
Sorry for featuring a naked Hargrave Swinthe, but I wanted to point out that all of the little anecdotes Swinthe mentions here are true. As a guitar player myself, I'm fascinated by tales of guys whose hands are damaged, or get ill in another way and are unable to play. There's a bit more to all of these stories, though: Django Reinhardt was a famous gypsy guitar player in the '20s, whose left hand did get melted in a fire. Several of his fingers were fused together, and he had to invent an entirely new way to play. Some people believe that out of that one accident we got barre chords, as they were the only way poor Django could make certain chords after the fire.
Tony Iommi didn't just lose those fingertips, he lost them and then created new, homemade plastic fingertip prosthetics out of melted-down dish soap bottles for himself to wear. They worked perfectly -- he used them (or subsequent versions) through all the Black Sabbath years.
The arm of master guitarist and inventor Les Paul was wrecked in a car accident, yes, but what Swinthe neglects to add is that Les was throwing up his arm to shield his wife Mary from flying glass, and still played well into his '90s.
Jazz guitarist Pat Martino had to retrain himself from scratch how to play again after a minor stroke left him unable to remember anything about his old technique. I saw the guy recently -- phenomenal as ever.
This page is notable because it contains the first three pieces of the 27 puzzle I've talked about before. Each piece is a guitar chord; on this page, it's G#13, Amaj7 and E. What they mean, and how they fit together, well, people seem to have a lot of theories, but I hope someone figures it all out. I've got a plane ticket to a con waiting for the first person to put it all together. I've been dropping hints from time to time on my Twitter, too.
Here's where the story takes its first little left turn. What you're seeing here is a conversation between two very powerful, very unique entities, who will be fully explained by the end of the series... promise! This isn't weirdness for the sake of weirdness -- at least I'm pretty sure it's not!
There's more going on in this panel than you might think...
I've been asked a lot about the sort of music Garland plays. In my head, his band sounds something like Radiohead, Muse or even Coldplay -- epic, soundscape-driven, pop-oriented, sweeping songs. His own playing style is fast and fluid, and while he has a particular sound, he doesn't rely too much on pedals (machines which alter the sound of the guitar, like adding delay or distortion or whatever.) I would say Garland sounds something like a cross between Eddie Van Halen and Eric Johnson. Or at least he did -- these days, he's just a schlub who used to be someone.
Not much to say here, other than that I love the way Renzo drew Garland's hand as it stops working again. I don't know about you, but that looks to me like it would hurt!
Garland sure is triggering the device a fair number of times, isn't he? Sort of indiscriminately, even. I wonder if that will come back to bite him at all? Nah, probably not.
Just to set a little speculation to rest: the ghostly gentleman here who's speaking to Garland is, in fact, the recently deceased Hargrave Swinthe. He's a bit of a hard one to get rid of -- in fact, Garland might have to seek out the help of a specialist.
"27" #1, written by Charles Soule and illustrated by Renzo Podesta, is currently in stores. The second issue drops on January 5, 2011.