WANNABE: Album Reviews In Comic Book Form

Chicago artist Chris Prunckle never set out to review albums in comic book form. He has a background in the arts but is mostly self-taught and these days he enjoys making all kinds of art like designing beer labels, t-shirts, logos, posters, and even painting and sculpting. An artist he may be, it was a passionate love for comics and music that led Chris Prunckle to create Wannabe: A Six-Panel Music Blog. The concept is simple: each week Chris portrays a cartoon version of himself, a die-hard music fan, reviewing a band’s new album over the course of six comic book panels. We see reviews of albums and concerts in many different forms of writing, but seeing them illustrated offers a fresh, fun take on digesting criticism. Glide Magazine is excited to feature new installments of Wannabe each week. Check out our quick interview with Chris Prunckle about the origins of Wannabe and stay tuned to Glide for new album reviews each week! –Neil Ferguson, Glide Associate Editor

Here’s a review of the new album from Beach Slang (click image for full resolution):

What drew you to the comic book format as your preferred means of artistic expression?

I’ve always loved comics and have always been drawn to them, no pun intended. But in terms of specifically wanting to draw them, I can remember the exact moment.  In 1990 there was this Levi’s commercial that featured a comic book artist named Rob Liefeld. He was being interviewed by Spike Lee about drawing comics for a living. At 11 years old, it was life changing for me. It never dawned on me that people actually got paid for drawing comic books. Ever since then I’ve been obsessed with the format and telling stories with my art.

What kind of work does an artist in Chicago do for a day job?

I’m actually a manager at an advertising agency in the Chicago suburbs. I wish I could make a living just pumping out art all day, but that’s not necessarily realistic for me right now. Advertising has afforded me a creative outlet while still offering me a decent way to make a living. I’ve worked some pretty crumby jobs over the years, and though advertising can be frustrating, it’s been really rewarding at times too.

Who are some of your biggest inspirations, both in the world of comic books and art as a whole?

Man, that list could go on forever. For comics I’m really digging the work of Fabio Moon and his brother Gabriel Ba. Ba might be known to music fans as he worked on Umbrella Academy with Gerard Way. They just put out this awesome book called Two Brothers. Oh and Skottie Young, he’s amazing. He worked on the Wizard of Oz books by Marvel and now he’s doing a book called I Hate Fairyland. Outside of comics I’m a huge Hayao Miyazaki and Chuck Jones fan. I know they couldn’t be more different, but two of the most talented animators ever. Also, I highly recommend this artist BeastWreck. He’s an illustrator that puts out these amazing t-shirts. I drop way too much money on that guy’s stuff. See this list could just keep going.

Where did the idea for Wannabe come from and how did you come up with the format?

So Wannabe has gone through a few iterations. I started it like three years ago when I was approached by Curbside Splendor, a Chicago book publisher, to create some weekly content for their web site. The first year it revolved around some inner conflict I was having, and dealt with the battle between the creative and responsible voices in my head. The second year was more straightforward and it was about my conflict with trying to be creative, but feeling boxed in by the advertising industry. After about a year of that I thought I was done. I just wasn’t feeling the comic anymore and it was just me bitching over and over again. I was even sick of me. About three weeks before pulling the plug, I happened to be at a Two Cow Garage show and was talking to Shane Sweeney (vocals and bass) about ending the comic. I had done a couple comics about Two Cow that were a lot of fun and he had become a fan. I mentioned that I had toyed around with the idea of centering the comic around my love for music, but I couldn’t really figure out how to make it work. He thought it was an awesome idea and really pushed me to give it a try. So I literally went back to the drawing board and figured out a way that I thought might work, and this is that result. It’s still shaping into what I want it to be, but the response has been incredible and I feel completely reinvigorated by it. The comic has basically become an excuse for me to start conversations about the music I love.

What is the process like for creating each review?

I have found a template that works so I’ve stuck with it. Panel 1 is my record player and whichever album I’m reviewing with some lyrics. Panel 2-5 are me talking about the album and why I like it. Panel 6 is a shot of the band or lead singer singing one of their songs. I’m hoping to expand a bit more on the detail, especially with the panels of me, in the next couple months. I just don’t want things getting too stale.

Of the reviews so far, which one has been your favorite both in terms of the music and the experience of review and illustrating it?

Damn, that’s crazy hard. I’ve gotten to kind of know so many amazing musicians with the comic and the community has just been the supportive machine. I never could have expected this reaction to the book. If I really had to pick one though, I’d have to say the review of Lucero’s new album, All a Man Should Do. They are my favorite band and have been for years, and I love the way my drawing of the band turned out. The coolest thing about that strip though was the way the band embraced it and promoted it. Roy Berry, their drummer, pushed the hell out of it. But see, then I start thinking of the other awesome experiences. I mean, Jason Isbell was tweeting about Wannabe. Aaron Lee Tasjan, John Moreland, Brent Best, Bully, American Aquarium, the list goes on and on. I draw this goofy little comic about the music and musicians I like and they are showing the love back. Shit doesn’t get much cooler than this.

Now that we’ve been introduced to the artist and the idea behind Wannabe, check out a handful of Chris’s greatest hits so far and stay tuned to Glide Magazine for weekly installments of new reviews!

Click each comic for expanded view… 

For more info check out the Wannabe blog and Facebook page

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