If you’re cool enough to be into cult bands of the 80s, you have to have heard of Liverpool’s The Teardrop Explodes. If you haven’t, then grab some retro-cred and look them up as they’re as alternative as it comes and have comic-book kudos to boot.
Not familiar with Julian Cope and co? Well the name of the band should have some resonance, at least, with the serious comic collector.
The ultimate word bubble on the very first page of Daredevil Vol. 1 #77, 1971 …And So Enters the Amazing Spider-Man, was the issue that came to give The Teardrop Explodes their name.
Naming the Band
Swing forward seven years, to September 1978. It’s the classic age of fantasy. Progressive rock is rapidly giving way to punk. Incredibly, in the stuff of a modern collector’s wet dream, Simpson, keyboard player in The Teardrop Explodes, finds the original comic in the basement, left behind by the previous tenant, local musician and actor, Ozzie Yue:
“I lived there for three or four years when I was a hairy rock musician, a member of Supercharge. I don’t have a great recollection of the comics but they definitely could have migrated into the flat along with the NMEs, Melody Makers, Beat Instrumentals and Guitar mags that passed through during that time, either mine or other members of the band.”
As noted on the last page of that comic:
“In this crazy world, fate sometimes takes a hand.”
Around this time, a group of lads were looking for an identity. As Paul Simpson says:
“When Julian, Mick Finkler, drummer Dave Pickett and myself were discussing band names, I just happened to be idly flicking through the comic and was taken by the frame in the story that read something like ‘Suddenly over central park… The Teardrop Explodes’, suggesting it to the others. Mick and I were not entirely convinced but Julian thought it was psychedelic brilliance.”
Just an Urban Myth?
Far from it. Cope confirms all of this in the band biography Head On:
“There was this weird story, in a Super D.C. comic, about a battle in Central Park, involving Namur, the undersea god, and the superhero, Daredevil. The whole story comes to a climax as the sun blots out and suddenly, for no reason at all, the Teardrop Explodes. It made no sense, the story made no sense at all. We tried to figure it out and we couldn’t. But it was a great name for a group. I loved it. It was like The 13th Floor Elevators or The Chocolate Watchband. And no-one had a name like that. September ’78 was all short dour names. Ours was far-fucking-out.”
The full comic text reads :
“AND THEN… IT HAPPENS – – FILLING THE WINTERED GLADES OF CENTRAL PARK WITH AN UNEARTHLY WHINE – – PAINTING THE LEAF-BARE BRANCHES WITH GOLDEN FIRE – -”
“THE TEARDROP EXPLODES!”
Were they right to think the story made no sense?
And So Enters the Amazing Spider-Man, written by Gerry Conway and drawn by Gene Colan, does seem to come out of nowhere.
By way of context, Daredevil Vol.1 #77 finds Daredevil back in a Manhattan where not only has Spider-Man entered his storyline, but Namor The Sub-Mariner has arrived in New York.
For the first seven pages, Daredevil and Spider-Man, in familiar melancholy mode, swing aimlessly through the city, feeling sorry for themselves. Each has lost their true love. They are brooding on the burden a superhero carries – the need to do the right thing at the cost of all else, especially their personal lives.
Meanwhile a similarly-sullen Namor is in Central Park, having been drawn there by an unknown force.
Editor Stan Lee points out in a footnote:
“SUBMARINER #39” gives a “full background on Namor’s bitterness”.
Penned by Roy Thomas, “…And Here I’ll Stand!” sees Namor flying from Florida to New York City. There he transforms an abandoned prison island into what he hopes will be his new temporary home as he learns to live amongst his father’s people . Hopes that is, until a battle with the authorities sees this fortress demolished. And so Namor takes to the skies once again, similarly anguished at having lost his own bride to be.
Diving straight into Daredevil, we’re oblivious to this.
Jumping back into Daredevil and Central Park, with Sub-Mariner all wrapped up the same, he soon throws off his coat and hat when a radiant teardrop-shaped vessel appears, like a threat, in the sky. An extended fight scene follows, as DD and then Spider-Man arrive, both mistakenly believing Namor responsible for the disturbance in the heavens.
After the explosion, before we can see what the teardrop holds, the story cuts to DD’s lost love, the actress Karen Page, returning to New York, herself torn apart by her love for Matt Murdock, AKA Daredevil. There is then a full-page with the superheroes and crowd of civilians all captivated by the young woman revealed within the teardrop. She beckons Namor to her and, sensing power in him, invites Spider-Man too.
Karen’s nothing if not, adventurous.
These three whisk off to a ‘world within our world’, and as the teardrop fades, we are told that ‘the memory of the incident vanishes as well’. It’s all strangely love-lorn, deeply insecure and oddly metaphoric.
The Teardrop Explodes members are still going strong on the retro scene music and comic scene, several being collectors and a number owning the original comic that spawned their name.
But what became of Namor and Spider-Man, swept off in a ship whose shape inspied songwriting geniuses?
Well, it’s all there in Sub-Mariner #40, In The Name Of Turalla, but it’s fair to say that the timeless sound of the band has worn better than the Mariner who has yet to emulate DD and Spidey’s re-invention and timeless appeal.
Is this a one-off case of fates aligning?
What other overlaps between the music and comic-book scene can you think of?
Jump on the comments section and let’s get a debate going as who knows what future mavercik artists might be looking for creative inspiration.