The Future History of Rock, Then & Now: Mike Allred on "Red Rocket 7"

In September, Image Comics will present a special hardcover edition of Mike Allred's "Red Rocket 7," marking the tenth anniversary of the "Madman" creator's sci-fi rock 'n roll fantasy. The new collection will feature an introduction by director Robert Rodriguez (whose son's name is Rocket) and an afterword by "My Chemical Romance" singer and "Umbrella Academy" writer Gerard Way. CBR News spoke with Allred, who wrote and illustrated the book, about the particulars of "Red Rocket 7" and the changing face of pop music. Originally published as an oversized seven-issue miniseries and collected edition by Dark Horse in 1997-98, "Red Rocket 7 is the history of rock 'n roll from the '50s into the future told from the perspective of an alien clone who himself becomes a star.

"Red Rocket 7 is programmed with musical abilities and just falls into the arterial flow of rock n roll history," Mike Allred told CBR News. Beyond this, the driving force behind the book is "creativity--building, growing, fixing, polishing, sharing our talents, skills and thoughts--that's what makes humans so crazy and invigorating."

Though "Red Rocket 7" probes the future of music from the perspective of 1998, projecting can be an inexact science. The writer said that, among contemporary acts, "I'm sure he'd be rubbing shoulders with the Arcade Fire, Bright Eyes, The Raveonettes, and My Chemical Romance, and any other progressive artists. And he'd probably re-visit Radiohead, Beck, and Bono I'm sure, while throwing an arm of comfort around Paul McCartney's shoulders."

But Allred suggested he's found few surprises in the rock music scene in the time since "Red Rocket 7" was originally published. "I am disappointed in the lack of explosive success that the alternative music scene seemed to be on the verge of," he mused. "Originality seemed to get pushed back by over-produced soul-sucking corporate music of all genres. That element has always existed, just more so now it seems. So, I'm not surprised. But I remain hopeful and optimistic. There's always special stuff out there, and the search is part of the joy and buzz."

The cartoonist also noted that rock 'n roll has "lost significance in some ways, in that it seems to lose its cultural impact. If I give a strict analysis, I would say that between 1964 and 1974 the world was given the biggest leap in pop culture by far in most every medium. But rock 'n roll seemed to zap from one side of the galaxy and then back again in that short span of time," Allred said. "I could go on for hours about the shock and thrill of what took place, but I think it's pretty obvious and hard to argue. I didn't experience it first hand, so I'm certain every new generation can rediscover and celebrate that era. I don't expect to see that kind of massive progression and originality to take place again. But slowly, sometimes sneakily, there's always something to get crazy excited about. It's just not as authentically dangerously in your face.

"What will always be true: A great song--a great band--is great and should be celebrated. Period."

Fans may remember that Allred had created a short film, titled "Astroesque," and an album to go along with "Red Rocket 7." Asked whether the tenth anniversary edition would include a CD or DVD of this material, Allred said, "not with the book itself, but we plan on making the music and movie available for free at aaapop.com. We're trying to work that out now."

Beyond the re-release of "Red Rocket 7" and the ongoing "Madman Atomic Comics" at Image, Allred is pondering what else he might enjoy working on. "I have three possible new projects circling. One with Vertigo, one with Marvel, and another with Image," he revealed. "Too soon to spill anything right now since I haven't locked on to what exactly I'll be adding to my repertoire.

"What I can tell you is that I'll be doing another issue of 'Fables' and I'm toying with the idea of doing 'Madman and The Atomics' as self-contained adventures in a larger format to free up my schedule a little more. Every couple years or so I shake the box and re-jigger all my toys. I think I feel that coming on. I love playing and experimenting in the Madman Universe more than anything, but nothing challenges and inspires growth in me more than a solid collaboration. So I always try to balance that mix. It's an exciting challenging time."

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