The Story of Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics
Directed by Ilko Davidov
Wild Eye Releasing
(available April 24, 2012)
If you have vague memories of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics series, this documentary might help bring those memories back into focus. Originally debuting at various film festivals under the title Unauthorized and Proud of It in 2006, it is now getting a proper DVD release with a new title through Wild Eye Releasing.
The focus of The Story of Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics is Todd Loren, the mastermind behind Revolutionary Comics, whose most famous line was Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics but also included Baseball Legends, Alternative Comics, Carnal Comics and some conspiracy-based issues such as “Marilyn Monroe: Suicide or Murder?” and “Who Really Killed JFK?”
A comic book enthusiast as a youth, his father helped him organize a convention for collectors. His love for comics continued to grow and he proceeded to start his own mail-order business, Comicade, specializing in out-of-print issues. He then started Musicade, selling rock memorabilia and imported records. After building a successful business, and against the advice of his associates, Loren decided to begin a new business venture: comic book publication. He faced struggles, including the threat of lawsuits from some high-profile bands (Guns N’ Roses, Mötley Crüe, Bon Jovi), but when the New Kids on the Block too him to court, the judge ruled in favor of Revolutionary Comics based on the First Amendment.
Not everyone was against Loren. Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead and Gene Simmons of KISS both called off their respective lawyers, and Simmons went so far as to give Loren information to use in his books. The documentary features an audio recording of a telephone call between Simmons and the comic book company, after which Loren and his staff celebrated because of the demon rocker’s willingness to work together.
The documentary clocks in at eighty minutes, and the viewer is treated to extensive interviews with rocks Alice Cooper and Mojo Nixon, writers and artists for Revolutionary, as well as Loren’s father Herb Shapiro and archive footage of Loren himself talking about the company. Jay Allen Sanford, a writer and editor for Revolutionary Comics, and Spike Steffenhagen, a comic writer, both share a great deal about the inner workings of the company and Loren’s dealings with the talent. As with any controversial figure, some saw him as a good guy, while others saw him as a snake in the grass.
Nearly an hour of the movie examines the business, while the murder of Loren is touched on during the final twenty minutes. In June 1992, the publisher was found stabbed to death at his home. The case has not been solved to this day. Theories abound, probably enough to fill the pages of one of Loren’s own publications. One suggestion is that the serial killer Andrew Cunanan, who in 1997 murdered five people including Gianni Versace before taking his own life, was responsible for Loren’s death.
The Story of Rock ‘n’ Roll Comics presents both sides of Loren, interviewing both friends and enemies. It is an inspiring story for those who love their First Amendment rights, while a heartbreaking story as it warns against the dangers of abusing those rights, and the cost of protecting them.
This documentary is recommended for all adults who love comics and rock and roll. (Side-note for parents, there is foul language in the film as well.)