Canadian musician, singer and songwriter Lights will be adding comic book writer and artist to her repertoire on July 12th. The two time Juno award winning artist has something very special planned for the release of her fourth album. Lights will be writing and drawing a comic series called Skin & Earth. Each issue will be accompanied by new music until finally, the series and full length album by the same name, is completely released.
If you are a Lights fan then you know how exciting this is. Lights music and comic books jive very well together. She is a well known comic and gaming fan; it’s very clear to see their influence in her music, which in turn, makes the music pair very well with comic reading. I’ve been a fan of Lights way back before she had released her first EP; when it was just grainy YouTube videos and World of Warcraft stalking. I have attended every concert Lights has performed in my home city, which must be at least five. Her music has been part of my life for many years now, right beside me through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows; much like a lot of comics out there. In this special edition of Pull List Playlist, I’m going to run down a number of Lights songs that set the tone for some of my favorite comic issues over the years.
Muscle Memory – Underwater Welder by Jeff Lemire
Are you supposed to lead with your strongest or close with your strongest? Well, I’m leading with it. While many things on this list are going to be individual issues, there are some which need to be expressed as a complete story. Muscle Memory from Lights most recent album Little Machines, is a haunting song about coping with a lost loved one. This was my song a few years ago when my mom passed away. No comic can evoke these feelings quite like one by Jeff Lemire and Muscle Memory pairs perfectly with his Underwater Welder graphic novel. Underwater Welder is about a man who’s wife is expecting. He is terrified of fatherhood, afraid he will turn into his own father. The man is an underwater welder and the story centers around him going into the deep and experiencing intense memories of his estranged father. It is a haunting story about forgiveness and moving on. Play Muscle Memory as you read this story and get ready for the chills.
Follow You Down – Saga Of The Swamp Thing Annual #2 by Alan Moore, Steve Bissette & John Totleben
Follow You Down is an interesting song because you wont find it on any of Lights three main albums. However, Lights has released acoustic versions of her albums and you can find Follow You Down on her acoustic version of Little Machines titled Midnight Machines. The song is about two people, one of which feels like they are dragging the other one down with their personal struggles. However, the song is written from the perspective of the other person who exclaims I will dive into the deep and pull you out; I will follow you down and help you back up. This beautiful song goes with my favorite issue from Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing. In the annual, Abby dies and Swamp Thing has to find a way to her. Not knowing how, he is somehow able to separate himself from the earthly plane and reach the afterlife. He visits heaven searching for Abby but eventually realizes she has been dragged to hell where he, without question, follows to drag her out.
Lucky Ones – Saga #30 by Brain K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
We had to get Saga in here somewhere right? All you have to do is take a listen to Lucky Ones and you will know how it applies to the comic. Lucky Ones is a personal favorite of mine, also off Little Machines. A song about two people who are brought together by their shared circumstance, and a bond that is often shaken but never broken. It’s an us against the world song; as long as we have each other bring it on. While you can basically pick any issue of Saga that includes Marko and Alana moments to relate, it specifically spoke to me during issue #30. There, Marko and Alana are reunited after being separated for some time. This is after Alana’s drug addiction and Marko’s suspected infidelity. They’ve been through a rocky period, but they reunite in the middle of the issue amidst an extreme circumstance. There is an amazing page of them hugging in this issue and Hazel’s narrating, “There’s no graduating from this kind of education, couples just keep growing and changing until they either break up or die.” That’s the essence of Lucky Ones.
Face Up – The Amazing Spider-Man #31-#33 If This Be My Destiny by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
Face Up is from Lights debut alum The Listening. The song is about those times you feel like life is a lot harder than it should be. Face Up will remind you of the hard times in your life however, the power of Face Up lies in it’s uplifting rhythm and positive message. If you are in the middle of a tough time it will give you hope the end is near and if you have made it through a tough time it reminds you how strong you really are. It is such a poignant reminder for me, that I almost tattooed “Gotta keep your face up” There’s no question for me that Face Up is a perfect match for Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s The Amazing Spider-Man If This Be My Destiny arc. This is where Aunt May is ill and Peter is having a very difficult time with it. He’s doing everything he can as Spider-Man to heal her, but as Peter Parker his life is falling apart. He does poorly on homework, blows off his friends, and acts short with people who are really just being friendly. He’s staying up for days straight trying to figure out what the fuck is going on with his life. This story arc is definitely my Face Up comic. Like I said earlier, there is a power in Face Up and there is a power in If This Be My Destiny.
Don’t Go Home Without Me – Y: The Last Man #59 By Brian K Vaughan, Pia Guerra and Jose Marzan, Jr.
Another song from the most recent album Little Machines. I really don’t want to get to deep into the song or how it relates to Y: The Last Man #59 because of spoilers. I know it has been 10 years since this comic concluded but it is my absolute favorite and I refuse to spoil it here. Don’t Go Home Without Me is a beautiful song about growing old with the one you love. It does mention having kids in this song, but I think it could easily apply to a best friend or sibling as much as it does a significant other. Put the song on, open up the issue and feel all the feelings.
The Last Thing On Your Mind – Starlight #1 by Mark Millar and Goran Parlov
Yes I had to sneak some Mark Millar in here. The video above is poor quality, but this is the first video I ever watched of Lights. I like it for two reasons. First, there is a Batman statue beside her. Second, through the poor sound quality you can hear the uniqueness of her voice. If you like this song I would suggest looking up a better version as there are many on YouTube. The Last Thing On Your Mind is from The Listening and in my interpretation is an inner monologue of someone focused on picking themselves up and carrying on after a tough time. It makes me think of the incredible beginning to Starlight, where an elderly man who has recently lost his wife has to figure out how to carry on. The inner monologue is the catalyst for why he ends up getting on the mystical spaceship, and travels to a distant planet to save it once again. I mean, what is more Lights than that?
Flux and Flow – Cluster #1 by Ed Brisson, Damian Couceiro and Michael Garland
Flux and Flow is from Lights album Siberia. It is a face melting song and perfect for the Sci-Fi genre of comics. The lyrics really remind me of Cluster #1. Cluster is a story of the distant future where alien life has been discovered on other planets and humans are at war with them. Criminals are sent to fight these battles off planet and as more soldiers are needed, the severity of minor infractions on earth skyrockets so that stealing a lipstick could land you five years in off planet combat. Our main character feels as if she deserves what is coming to her as she was arrested for getting in a drunk driving accident that in turn, killed her sister. The oppression of Flux and Flow sets the perfect tone for Cluster.
Peace Sign – All-New Hawkeye (2015-2016) #2 by Jeff Lemire and Ramon Perez
Peace Sign is my favorite song off of the album Siberia. It’s about that one person who is your compass. That one who always points you in the right direction; the one you would be lost without. My favorite arc in All-New Hawkeye by Jeff Lemire and Ramon Perez is when Kate and Clint are having issues. The arc flashes between the near future and the present time. In the future, Kate and Clint are working on a mission together and they haven’t seen each other in years. In the present, Kate and Clint just had a fight and are no longer speaking. The future is drawn in a very rough pencil while the present is clean and sharply inked. It gives the impression that the future can be changed, the pencil can be erased. Clint and Kate have a unique relationship. To me, the song Peace Sign is about your best friend and that is exactly the relationship they have. There is nothing romantic between them, they’re just great partners who care deeply for each other. This issue in particular reminds me of Peace Sign because it is the issue you see Clint’s life falling apart without Kate. It becomes very clear, very quickly, that beneath Clint’s tough exterior and don’t care attitude he always looks to Kate as his Peace Sign.
Fall Back Down [Rancid Cover] – Wytches #5 by Scott Snyder and Jock
Okay, so this is cheating a little bit as it’s not exactly a Lights song, but her doing a cover of Rancid’s Fall Back Down. It was on her second EP titled Acoustic. Even more than the original song, Lights cover of Fall Back Down reminds me of the fantastic comic Wytches by Snyder and Jock. Although Wytches is a terrifying horror book, with some of the scariest moments you will experience in comics, at its core, Wytches is about a man who has often failed to be a good father to his daughter, but is now presented with the chance to make up for it. I picked issue #5 because this is where the story between Charlie and Sailor reaches its heartbreaking climax. The chorus of Fall Back Down to me relates to both Charlie and Sailor who have their own separate struggles. It is in this chapter, they have learned to lean on each other for support. “If I fall back down, you’re gonna help me back up again.” The embrace at the end of issue #5 might just make your tear ducts swell a little.
Speeding – Rat Queens #5 by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch
I guess by now you should know that Speeding is from the album Little Machines. This song is about breaking away form the mundane life and speeding off to something better. It pairs with Rat Queens #5 in a couple ways. Firstly, Rat Queens #5 is full of kick ass fantasy battle scenes so the upbeat nature of Speeding fits nicely. Secondly, at the end of the issue we get a look into Dee’s past. Dee grew up in a very religious family and there came a time she wasn’t sure if she believed because it was what she was always taught or because she actually believes it. She argues with her parents about leaving to figure things out for herself and eventually ends up storming off and running away. She is speeding towards her new life.
Up We Go – Shutter #10 by Joe Keatinge and Leila Del Duca
It is well known on the site I think Shutter #10 is one of the best issues in the series because of the phenomenal work of Leila Del Duca. Every page deserves to be posted on your wall. Throughout the series, Kate has been introduced to siblings she didn’t know existed and has been told that her father was not as great as she thought he was as she’s been attacked by multiple monstrous creatures. This is the issue Kate and her sister dive deep into a dreamland in search of answers. The fast paced story and incredible wacky art of the issue pairs well with Lights arguably most popular song Up We Go.
Pretend – This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki
Finally, I close the post with Pretend, a song which is on Lights first album twice. This song is designed to take you back to your childhood; back to a care free time when life had less pressure . I wrote an article a few years ago about the brilliant work of cousins Jillian and Mariko Tamaki on This One Summer. A comic just about life as a kid. It is a comic about first crushes, sneaking into R rated movies, watching your parents fight and exploring your imagination. Nothing takes me back to my childhood quite like This One Summer. It’s a fantastic piece of work. The easy listening nature of Pretend makes it great for any comic reading, but if you are looking for a perfect comic match, this is it.
The first issue of Skin & Earth by Lights hits shelves on July 12th.