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How Comics Are Becoming Jazz

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  • Posted on 15th Sep, 2022 23:18 PM

One fan of two American art forms shares with CBR his take on why comics are becoming jazz from the "standards" of Superman and Batman to the idea of creators as musicians.

How connected are comics and music? According to Sergeant First Class Phillip Kennedy Johnson, a trumpet player, writer and editor with The U.S. Army Field Band, Washington, DC, they're downright syncopated.

As a writer on and fan of both jazz and the superhero comic, Johnson reached out to CBR through columnist Ron Marz with a simple premise: from Golden Age through today, comics have become jazz. Johnson's thesis runs through both art forms in their shape, history and talent, and CBR felt his conclusions would provide interesting perspectives on two American original forms.


Miles Davis "Birth of the Cool" and "Detective Comics" both embody the spirit of jazz in their own ways

I wrote this with the understanding that my target audience consists of pretty much no one. Most of my readers are devotees of either 1) music or 2) comics, and very few are both. Most of my friends and colleagues identify me as either a musician who loves jazz or a writer who loves comics, and whichever side they fall on, they don't entirely get why I'm into "that other thing." The answer: They're the same.

With only a century of history, the relatively young art form of jazz is one of America's greatest cultural contributions to the world. But the even younger art form of comic books is evolving, and has taken on distinctly jazz-like qualities. Both industries struggled with censorship early on, both art forms revolve around a small creative team, and both genres have developed distinct sub-genres, each with its own cult following. The similarities are many and significant, but one of the most striking is the reliance of both art forms on "The Standard" and on the artist/creator.

In addition to his duties with the Army Field Band, Sergeant First ClassPhillip Kennedy Johnson is active in the Washington, DC/Baltimore area as a freelance musician, composer, writer and teacher. He is currently writing his first non-fiction book,"Dreams of Valor: The Lies and Truth of Bill Hillar," and is collaborating with award-winning comic artist Scott Hampton ("Batman: Night Cries," "Hellboy: The Sleeping and the Dead," "Simon Dark") and Gabriel Guzman ("Cable," "Predators") on his first two graphic novels,"The Lazarus Slaves"and"New Nation." Johnson is a student and practitioner of American art forms, specifically jazz, comic art and mixed martial arts.

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