The BVB Manifesto (part 1?)
This is by no means required reading — it’s mostly just an attempt to collect some of my own thoughts about what powers Band Vs. Band’s pink & blue heart, what I was thinking when I started it, and what interests me about it. If you’re interested in my (hopefully coherent) rambling, dig in.
Band As Archetype
The world is full of fictional works that are reasonably true-to-life depictions of the life and trials of musicians — and man, this is not one of them. BVB is a world that’s stylized not only visually, but functionally, and for the most part it’s not really about how actual bands work. It’s about the archetype of “bands” as seen in cartoons, fiction, and music fandom…over-the-top and mythologized and fetishized. And of course it’s a particular love letter to the kind of cartoons and comics (roughly of the 60s, 70s, and 80s) where it seemed like every franchise had a house band, and they’d take a break at least once per episode to shake some instruments in front of a psychedelic background. BVB also operates on the kind of Musical Logic where nobody thinks it’s weird if you break into a song instead of talk sometimes.
Why do I love the idea of bands?
Hell, why does anyone love bands, beyond just liking the music? A band is a really classic team formation — a group of people with different skills and roles working together. The band metaphor is even commonly used to describe character types in a non-musical group. It’s kind of like an action team where each character fights with a different weapon, except non-violent (and yes, a frequent variation on this — which my world doesn’t do, although it’s fun — is having music actually work like magic weaponry in a band fight.) It’s a larger-than-life group identity where the whole’s greater than the sum of the parts, and the parts are like some secular pantheon of meaningful idol-figures. Oh yeah, and The Band also a natural haven for a lot of my favorite types of characters: weirdos, idealists, obsessives, divas, leaders & followers, volatile creative clashers, and odd combinations of ambition & slackerism.
Soundless Music & Time Out Of Time
I semi-frequently run into the criticism that it’s pointless to depict music in comics since it’s a silent medium…and I respectfully disagree. You can convey & evoke a lot with the visuals and the context and the lyrical flow; and moreover, there’s even a secret advantage in it not being tied to actual sound. When you show a creative work (art, music, writing, whatever) made by fictional characters, it’s inherently got the limitations of the real-life creator(s). Mostly it’s just disappointing. I like how, with silent music in comics, you can set the stage for the right *feel*, and leave the rest to imagination. I’m confident enough writing the words, but I wouldn’t want to do the sounds unless I had, say, an animated series with genius collaborators on par with the team that made Dr. Horrible (It also suddenly saddens me a little that, even in this dream world, I don’t really have a character for Neil Patrick Harris to voice.)
The other advantage of not having sound is that the ties to specific genres and eras are looser. I’m drawing on the aesthetics of lots of actual music groups, for sure, but in this way where it’s all thrown together in a pan like a stir-fry. I came up with the term “retro-contemporary” to describe the setting — it’s set in the present day, but in a slightly alternate universe where technology has apparently stalled pre- computers and cell phones. I like whatever you imagine this music sounds like.
The “For Girls” Stigma & My Lesbo-Feminine Aesthetics
Band Vs. Band was always also a deliberate attempt to create something interesting that has the look and feel of a series For Girls — it’s sort of tongue-in-cheek, but it’s also a really honest reaction against the idea that it’s not okay to like stuff that’s For Girls. I should note that I don’t think there’s any wrong way for a person to have gender identity or expression — “girls” aren’t a collective bloc, some girls aren’t feminine, some girls aren’t born girls, humans are wildly diverse animals, tastes and experiences are multi-layered and subjective and etcetera forever. However! My particular aesthetic sensibilities lean fairly feminine, and I really dislike the idea that a work that has traits perceived as feminine (particular visual style, decorative ornamentation, interest in “pretty” stuff, focus on female characters, primary appeal to female audience, relative lack of perceived-as-masculine visuals and themes) is necessarily weak and shallow and insubstantial or just shameful to like (especially for someone who’s not a girly girl themselves). Don’t get me wrong — a lot of feminine stuff marketed For Girls does actually suck…and THAT sucks, because it doesn’t have to suck.
My particular perspective is that I’m a lesbian for whom femininity is both what I identify with and what I’m attracted to. I generally don’t relate much to the side of lesbian culture where people identify as butch or masculine or boi or reject gender labels entirely. It’s in this sense like “yeah, of course I respect this, and they’re being true to themselves in a way that’s just as valid as anything I do…I’m a friend and ally to this, but this is not for me.”
Representation for femme-ish girls can be an issue — we tend to get assumed to be straight unless it’s stated otherwise, even at gay-centric events where such an assumption makes very little sense. So, this also has an element of “We exist! Look, I drew some!”
It’s also important to me that the two mostly-femmy gay girls it’s centered on aren’t *ideals*…Honey is super dorky and preachy, and Turpentine is a troublemaker and the kind of slob who’ll chew with her mouth open and stick her feet in your face, and at this point they both have a lot of insecurity and self-doubt.
No Band Is An Island
It’s also worth noting that BVB is a world within a world. Most of the main characters are some kind of LGBTQ, and they apparently live in this somewhat insular set of circles based in a big city’s weird, eccentric-friendly, queer-leaning local music scene…but there are these little glimpses on the fringes that, just outside the bubble, this is also a world that contains disapproving parents and Catholic schools and random homophobes and regular civilians who just don’t relate to the idea of wearing campy costume accessories in public. This will likely be explored more at some point.
Boys in GirlWorld
I feel like there’s often a tendency for “token” male characters in female-dominated settings to be in the world but not of the world, come off as dull compared to the girls they hang out with, and inspire questionable reactions like “Oh, that poor emasculated chump, stranded in the land of women.” I wanted the most central male characters in BVB to absolutely belong in the world, and be the sort of guys who, if you offered them an escape to some square-jawed world of tanks fighting robots, would laugh at you and say hell no.
Maybe we’ll meet some contrasty men at some point who are either decidedly masculine or straight or both. Maybe Coco and Seraphim would take that offer to go hang out in the Robot Wars — but just for a little while.
De-Guilting Guilty Pleasures
In some basic sense for me, these comix are a re-claiming of a ton of stuff that I love that at some point I thought maybe I shouldn’t love because loving it seemed tacky or immature. No way — I love hearts and stars and ascribing huge value to the concept of bands, and I love every music video that burned itself into my brain as a teenager. Band Vs. Band started out as just coming up with some cute character designs to cheer myself up at a low moment, and it had this real sense of “y’know what, I’m going to draw something that I think is fun, and the hell with everything else”. It’s delightful to me that it kept going, and that other people got into something that was originally so tailor-made to serve my own quirky interests. I also hope that this crazy essay hasn’t come off too serious, because it’s also pretty central to the philosophy of these comix that they’re fun and lighthearted and not Serious Business.
Next time, perhaps, if I have another really longwinded thought-gathering day: the ambiguous nature of good, bad, and “versus”, and my obsessions with lettering & design.