Incubated by Nitehawk Cinema
This weekend’s brunch doc, The Story of Rock N’ Roll Comics, tells the story of publisher Todd Loren and his company Revolutionary Comics, which, between 1989 and 1994, published Rock N’ Roll Comics, a line of scandalous unauthorized biographies on the country’s biggest pop and rock acts.
From Guns N’ Roses to Madonna to KISS, Loren’s scandalous tales were geared strictly to adults, illustrating the most wild aspects of performers’ lives.
While Loren and his writers vied for accuracy in their stories, they often took a “print the legend” approach to biography story-telling, recounting sensationalized backstage tales like Alice Cooper drinking the blood of a chicken on stage or members of Led Zeppelin forcing a groupie to copulate with a fish.
Many bands took issue with Loren’s take on their lives, and, consequently, the company was constantly mired with litigation. Loren got in legal tiffs with Crue and Bon Jovi over trademark issues, and Axl Rose and Guns N’ Roses’ lawyers tried to sue the company out of existence several times.
But for all of the enemies Loren’s comics made him, many artists embraced Rock N’ Roll. In order to avoid a suit, KISS brought Loren on board to do official biographies that could be sold on tour, and Alice Cooper, Mojo Nixon and Rob Halford all praise Rock N’ Roll and its ability to create a sense of mythology around an artist.
While Rock N’ Roll and Revolutionary Comics eventually petered out after the Loren’s still unsolved murder, the imprint still bears a lasting legacy. After the label for New Kids on The Block sued Revolutionary for trademark violation, Loren took the case all the way to the California Supreme Court, who ruled in favor of Loren claiming “It appears that the First Amendment may trump any claim that the plaintiffs have for trademark infringement.”
The case set precedent for the comic medium, as it was the first time that comics were legally held to the same level as the countless unauthorized print biographies that litter bookshelves.
Director Ilko Davidov’s documentary The Story of Rock N’ Roll Comics covers these topics and Loren’s life in more detail and features many hard-to-impossible to find images from the Revolutionary archives. Below we have scraped together some of the best images from Rock N’ Roll—all of them, of course, are being used without permission.
Nitehawk will be showing the film on April 28 and 29 with a live Skype Q&A from the director.