Friday, August 27, 2010

The Rand-Rush Connection: Rock'N'Roll Comics

"Ayn often said, only partly joking, that she would know her ideas were having a crucial impact on the culture when they had worked their way down from ivory towers...through popular writings and finally to mass-market comic books; then she could be certain that her philosophy had become part of the conventional wisdom. She would have been amused to learn that she had won this victory-as witness Steve Ditko, creator of the cartoon 'Spider Man.'"
-Barbara Branden, The Passion of Ayn Rand

Move over, Spidey, this one goes "closer to the heart..."

To kick off this series proper, I thought it proper to start with where I first heard of Ayn Rand, back in 1993, via Rush. Surprise! It wasn't 2112; I hadn't seen the dedication to the "genius" of Ayn Rand comment yet, since I only had the cassette, not the vinyl. No, my first exposure was through the Rush issue of Rock'n'Roll Comics (soon to be republished in graphic novel form, I just learned), published by Revolutionary Comics in 1992 (waay before the current Rand Revolution.) These were basically a series of comics that were illustrated biographies of the biggest names in rock. Well, the Rush issue has Neil Peart holding up a copy of Anthem (with the distinctive white cover) while describing his concept for 2112 (which was illustrated pretty nicely)...meanwhile, the narrator goes on to explain the influence:
That's what Neil's "rock novel" 2112 is about, individuality. The power of the one dwarfing the stumbling, archaic machinations of groups...whether they be governments, peers, movements, or what have you. Organizations are oppressive according to the author of Anthem, Ayn Rand, and that philosophy is shared to some extent by Neil Peart and his musical partners. Rand's basic theology, dubbed Objectivism, forms the skeletal structure for Neil's lyrical epic of a totalitarian society where music has become a forgotten, forbidden alchemy.

Pretty cool, eh? (Aside from the description of Objectivism as "theology.") You wouldn't get that from the Led Zeppelin or AC/DC issues, now would ya? But wait, that's not all! In a little sidebar below all this, there's this:
Rent The Fountainhead, starring Gary Cooper, at your local video store for a crash-course in Objectivist philosophy, or check out Patrick McCray's Elvis Shrugged. -Libertarian Todd.

There may be an "earthquake in Valhalla" over the "Libertarian" part, but, more importantly, what's this about Elvis Shrugged? Well, on the back of the comic is an ad for said comic:

It would be another 3 years before I actually got around to reading Rand, which was in the midst of my quest to answer the question of God. And quite by accident; I was in the library looking for other books when I glimpsed Anthem (the Nick Gaetano redux) on the shelf, and flashed back to Rush and this comic. Little did I know at the time what that would do to my quest...(well, I guess there were signs, like the Elvis Shrugged cover appearing next to an ad for Psychoman, hanging from a cross while paraphrasing Jesus: "Man, they don't even know what the !@#$ they're doing!").

To close this one out, here's the illustration for 2112...dedicated, of course, to the genius of Ayn Rand. (click to enlarge).

Next: "Grace Under Pressure in Red Sector A"...

 Next: Pt. 3 of 8: "Grace Under Pressure in Red Sector A"...
(Previous: Pt. 1-"Introduction")


  1. Wrote ELVIS SHRUGGED about 20 years ago. Happy to chat about it if you like. I can also shed light on the Revolutionary Comics/ Objectivism connections. Email is charltonx at gmail dot com.

  2. Awesome! Ruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuush!

  3. Hi, Patrick, thanks for writing. I didn't realize there was a larger connection; I'd love to hear about it.

    I have never read ELVIS SHRUGGED, so I did a search to learn a little more about it. I have to compliment you: Objectivism aside, it strikes me as a precursor to some of the things I've seen on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim shows like Metalocalypse or The Venture Brothers, in the way it builds a universe around pop culture characters.

    I do have to wonder if the digital revolution demands a sequel, or, at least, a code to the Sony/Time/Warner trifecta...