an interview with Mike Allred, creator of Red Rocket 7 and Madman, from Alternative Press.
Red Rocket 7
Red Rocket 7 is from outer space. That’s probably quite a shock to all you impressionable guys and gals out there, grooving (okay, so his slang is a little out of date) on his own highly specialized brand of Avant Pop. But think what your older brother must be feeling right now, after he worshipped at Red’s high altar of Punk; or your parents, who yeah-yeah-yeahed to his mutant Merseybeat… and their parents, who got down to his proto rock when he gigged with Little Richard.
Yeah, Red’s been around; around the world and around for years, and if the Enfinites don’t get him first, Mike Allred wants to tell you all about him.
A self-confessed pop culture animal, ridden by a triple obsession with music, movies and comics, Allred is the author of Red Rocket 7 (Dark Horse Comics Inc), the monthly book which has, since August last year, been detailing Red’s remarkable career.
Cloned from an alien who reached earth in 1954… well, there’s all this sci-fi stuff going on, but there’s also a cracking chase through a highly personalized history of rock’n’roll, interspersed with the gathering alien menace which is pursuing the last person to crack his secret, Lynn Hayes of Throb magazine. That thing about the tentacles coming through the bathroom window in issue two… it really happened, you know.
For anyone who’s missed the story so far… forgotten how Red Rocket 7 taught Elvis all his moves, and the Beatles all their chords; who maybe didn’t know that Red was there when Brian Jones died (yeah, the Enfinites again), or just how much David Bowie borrowed from him… Allred himself should be familiar regardless. Creator of the Madman comics, and a member of the prosaically named Gear, he is already one of the highest profile names in the modern comicdom, and he gladly admits that Red Rocket 7 was spawned by a dream of pushing that profile even higher. Literally, a dream.
“It was one of those dreams when you’re very aware of things that you aren’t in your waking life. Now, the comic book medium has so much unfulfilled potential, but apart from the mainstream superheroes, it’s really a tiny subculture. Here’s a medium where you get visuals, words, so many talented artists and they’re strangers to the mainstream public. They should be celebrities on the level of Stephen King and Anne Rice; there’s so much great stuff in comics, but our audience is so minuscule.
“In this dream, it was very clear to me how the world tied together, and it also became very clear to me how easy it is to take any creative project – even comics – and just do it, simply by removing barriers which initially seem impenetrable. So when I woke up, I was completely dead set on doing what I wanted, not waiting for any ‘big break,’ just getting on and doing it. And the fear of failure just evaporated. Suddenly, it became more important to me to simply create, rather than worry about how many people it would reach.”
What he created was the stuff of ultimate juvenile fantasy, gathering up everything that fascinated him as a child – sci fi films and David Bowie, horror stories and the Beatles (the first album he ever bought was their 1962-1966 compilation) – and then throwing it all together. Set to run over seven issues, and then reappear in a collected edition, Red Rocket 7 incorporates all those elements and more.
Plugs for favorite records and artists; hypnotizing rumors and scandalous realities, Red Rocket 7 is fiction fired by cultural autobiography, a collusion which is only exacerbated by Allred’s musical adventures: the aforementioned Gear are just completing work on their debut album, titled – not at all coincidentally – Red Rocket 7, and featuring several of the songs referenced in the comic as Red Rocket’s own.
“It’s a concept album in the same way Ziggy Stardust was, or Who’s Next almost was; there’s definitely some songs which tie in with the comic, but they stand on their own as well”
Such cross-marketing has been done before, most notably back in the mid-1970s, when a crop of superstar sessionmen got together to create Flash Fearless Vs The Zorg Women Of Tomorrow (or some such nonsense – Alice Cooper was on it, though). A sci-fi comic, an accompanying record… in common with 99% of the record-buying public, Allred missed that one, but in any case is confident that he’s avoided the obvious pitfalls. This time around, for instance, you don’t have to know the comic to make sense of the album – or vice versa.
“We actually mapped out the things we didn’t want to happen,” he says, “and that scary comic book elitism was one of them.” Thus, Allred’s original idea, of calling the group itself Red Rocket 7, was scotched very early on; thus, too, the band won’t be going on stage in costume. And no-one can blame them for that. The Enfinites are already blasting anyone and anything that comes too close to Red Rocket 7 himself, but so far, Allred’s managed to keep a couple of steps ahead of them. The last thing he needs is to start advertising his presence.