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Rest in Peace Prince, Comics Star Who Also Played Music

Prince and Michael Jackson on cover of Metal Hurlant

Prince and Michael Jackson on cover of Metal Hurlant

Was Prince, the pop star and musical visionary who died yesterday at the age of 57, a comic book guy? On first glance, maybe not—he wasn’t one of those musicians who writes them (like Gerard Way, Rob Zombie, Doughty et al.), and while his onstage persona was larger-than-life and colorful (literally, with a focus on purple) we found no evidence that he was inspired by superheroes. But Prince did have a major, major contribution to comics—or at least, what they became.

Figure that comic books are really the driving force in Hollywood, and have been since X-Men (2000). Then figure that Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) was the forerunner, a box-office smash that proved that superheroes make good movies if done right (our guess is it was hard for studios to forget Adam West in tights). Prince was right there in 1989, one of the biggest pop stars on the planet, and a believer enough in the subject, director and cast to do the whole soundtrack.

Prince as a Two-Faced Joker in Batdance video

Prince as a Two-Faced Joker in the “Batdance” video

In fact, “Batdance,” a six-minute dance track with several distinct sections and no verses or chorus, even went to number one on the pop chart. It is, frankly, hard to believe today; and that’s a knock on pop charts, not this epic thing:

Prince was also involved a few comic books of his own, though we don’t know to what extent. This one (called “Alter Ego,” although you wouldn’t know from the cover) for Piranha Press was written by Dwayne McDuffie with art by Denys Cowan—and this great cover by Brian Bolland:

Prince: Alter Ego

Prince: Alter Ego

Inside, the comic tells a version of Prince’s origin story, like Purple Rain but with more fighting. Here are a few panels that were posted to io9, where you will find some explanation:

Prince: Alter Ego

Prince: Alter Ego

Prince: Alter Ego

Prince: Alter Ego

Prince: Alter Ego

Prince: Alter Ego

Prince: Alter Ego

Prince: Alter Ego

Prince: Alter Ego

Prince: Alter Ego

Prince: Alter Ego

Prince: Alter Ego

Prince: Alter Ego

Prince: Alter Ego

(Many thanks to Inverse and Comicsverse for a lot of the information and pictures in this post.)

(Note: The paragraph below has been corrected, thanks to Patrick from Depth of Field for setting us straight.)

There were three other Prince-focused comics we know of; another is Prince and the New Power Generation: Three Chains of Gold, also written by McDuffie and published by Piranha. According to Depth of Field, it starts off with a concert in the Middle East “…and from that point, things get really crazy. The three gold chains of the title are ancient artifacts needed to rule the nation of Erech, and the princess has one of them and knows the location of another. Romance, scimitar battles, beheadings, and mayhem ensues.” The story was based on the song “7” and others from Prince’s “Love Symbol album”. A poster at Prince.org gives this description: “Prince is on tour and must save Princess Mayte from evil-doers that wish to cause her harm. Wish I could remember a scene from this one, but I know P is more James Bond/Jason Bourne than the androgonist rock star we know in this title.” Here’s the cover:

Prince And The New Power Generation: Three Chains Of Gold

Prince And The New Power Generation: Three Chains Of Gold

Prince’s comics bibliography is rounded out by a couple biographies: Like many rock/pop stars of a certain era, Prince got his own issue (#21) of Rock ‘n Roll Comics, and he was also profiled by Michael Frizell in Fame.

Prince was also one of many real people from music and movies drawn into Rod Kierkegaard’s “Rock Opera,” a long-running saga in the pages of Heavy Metal. We’ll be bringing you more on this as we retrieve it from the Heavy Metal archives. For now, here’s a shot of Prince as Frankenstein’s monster from a different Kierkegaard work, a graphic novel called Shooting Stars (thanks Fred for the correction):

Prince from Shooting Stars by Rod Kierkegaard

Prince from Rod Kierkegaard’s “Shooting Stars”

Finally, there’s this, a cover from Metal Hurlant, the French magazine that inspired Heavy Metal, that shows Prince punching Michael Jackson. It’s from December 1984, and the artist is Jacques Parnel:

Metal Hurlant Prince Michael Jackson

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Published on: April 22, 2016

Filled Under: Comics, Music, News

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5 Responses to Rest in Peace Prince, Comics Star Who Also Played Music

  1. Hey! Just wanted to offer a small correction – the third Prince comic you make reference to is actually one and the same as the second one you mention. “Chains Of Gold” was loosely based on the extended music video for 7 and other songs from 1992’s Love Symbol (o+>) album. (You’ll notice both the Depth Of Field article and the prince.org commenter mention swashbuckling and princess-saving. They’re not discussing two separate comics, just the one.)

  2. fred says:

    nice of you to honor Prince, but the image of him as a Frankenstein monster is from Mr Kierkegaard’s Shooting Stars from 1987. Nice Metal Hurlant cover though. thanks

    • fred says:

      My apologies. Mr Kierkegaard’s story Dr Funkenstein’s Mon-Star did in fact appear in the Fall 1986 issue of Heavy Metal. Before Shooting Stars.

  3. Plaen petkov says:

    actually if you ever bother to read “Shooting Stars”, Kierkegaard made savage fun of Prince, calling him “Prance” a Frankenstein music monster who simply borrowed a thing from there a thing from here and never did anything original. In the story, Prance’s ears burst when he heard his own “music”. SO that’s not an endorsement; it’s the opposite in fact.
    Funny how long ago Heavy Metal used to have the elitist attitude now it talks about other comics as if they are equal. How times change indeed.
    it would indeed be cool to print Rock Opera as a book, Kiekegaard certainly can use the money.

  4. fred says:

    I recently discovered, that in fact, the story parodying Prince, Funkenstein’s Mon-Star by Mr Kierkegaard, did appear in Heavy Metal, the Fall 1986 issue (just before Shooting Stars came out). The image in this article was even on the back cover. I did actually do some research before my earlier comment, but I missed it. So, my apologies. Thanks

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