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Roger Daltry on Mojoworld!

"Tommy" came on cable recently. My wife showed me some of it. If you don't know, it's rock group The Who's rock opera about a kid who sees something traumatic and goes hysterically deaf and blind and mute. One day it's discovered that he's a pinball savant--not distracted by the lights and noises, he achieves zen pinball and astounds everyone. Later, he comes out of the hysterical insensation. I dunno what happened next cause I turned it off. What a stupid concept. The Who were, before they came up with songs like "The Seeker", a fantastic rock group. They were clever and incredibly skilled. But "Pinball Wizard?" Come on! I mean... come on! You can do better than that. When you've become great and want to move on from touring and churning out album after album to the next big thing, what do you do next? Mick Jagger tried acting but the movie Performance messed with his head so he moved on to lechery. The Beatles didn't really know what came next. Paul tried classical--riiiiight. The Who felt that the next big thing was to create the Rock Opera. And you know, I think it could be done, except you need a good plot; something powerful. You can't turn Bridges of Madison County nor Bridget Jones' Diary nor Dawson's Creek into Rock Opera. You need Grandeur. You need Big Conflict. You need more interesting characters. You need the (even more) unusual. You could really use (even more) Angst. You need comic books.

So. I've arranged my picks for greatest comic-book rock opera subject matter in order of potential greatness. Here's the plan: we need an origin, a conflict, a climax, and maybe a big finish. Lots of angst would really help. In the origin, each important character needs a song of introduction, in the conflict, the villain if any needs introduction. We need Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, John Entwhistle, and Keith Moon. We need showpieces for the guitar, the bass guitar, and the drumming. If there's a stupid bit part we can give it to an Elton John cameo. Let's go.

LUM

Origin: A kid (Ataru) leaves home one day and is told by a weird monk that this will be a very unlucky day for him. He returns home to find that aliens have invaded Earth and they have chosen him at random to be Earth's one shot at salvation. Nice guitar work here.

Conflict: He must play tag with the cute daughter of the alien leader. If he wins in the space of a week, no invasion. However, the girl (Lum) can fly and he can't. Add to this that the human girl he's interested in (Shinobu) isn't happy about all this. Nice drumming here.

Climax: During a break in the official game play, Ataru manages to steal Lum's bikini top. She didn't bring another and so must cover herself with her arms the next day, hampering flight. Ataru wins but Lum's convinced that all this attention to her means Ataru's really in love with her. She accepts what she thinks is an Earth-style marriage proposal. Ataru is stuck forever with a girl he'll learn to like eventually, but who has the power to keep him in line via bio-electric shocks. Nice bass work here.

Details: Tons of romantic angst plus the world's at stake. If Ataru loses, the human race will hate him, too. On stage, Daltrey chases around a girl flying with wires like Peter Pan in a tiger-striped bikini and go-go boots. What's not to like? Longest song: Mr. Invader's rock soliloquy explaining the rules to Ataru.

SWAMP THING

Origin: A nice scientist named Alec Holland (Daltrey) and his nice wife get killed by bad guys. A bomb they leave explodes chemicals all over Holland who runs out and douses himself in the Louisiana Swamp. He dies, but is reborn as a big plant-being, the Swamp Thing. Big bass work here in the longest song, as Alec explodes and rises from the Swamp.

Conflict: A scientist, Jason Woodrue (Townsend) discovers for Swampy that he's not human at all anymore, except for his memories. Swampy escapes and returns to the swamp to brood. Just as he's making friends with Abby Arcane, Woodrue returns. Turns out Woodrue has experimented on himself in the past plantwise and is villain the Floronic Man. Woodrue steals and eats one of the tubers growing off of Swampy and gains greater plant powers. He decides to destroy humans by making all plants pump out so much oxygen people kill each other. You've got a great song here with the JLA not sure how to fight this kind of menace. Drumming goes here.

Climax: Swampy confronts Woodrue and defeats him, thrusting his mind into The Green, the global plant network and making him insane. Big guitar work here.

You get the idea. Let's streamline the process:

NAMOR

I'm a DC sort of guy, but nothing says Rock Opera like Marvel. Byrne's run was moody, but nothing beats the story of Namor being found by Johnny Storm, having that beard shorn away, discovering Atlantis has apparently been destroyed, kidnapping Susan Richards and declaring war on mankind. Could be Pete Townshend's moment to shine--he might have the right forehead to pull Namor off. Lots of guitary angst. Longest song: Namor's Rock Soliloquy about underwater nuke testing having apparently destroyed Atlantis.

DAZZLER

Oh come on, you can't skip Marvel's queen of disco. A young mutant woman abandons law school to be a disco singer but gets caught up in anti-mutant backblast. I think in the end we see her going to ground by playing keyboards incognito for Lila Cheney (who's really just Marvel's Joan Jett anyway) with the understanding that she'll try to rise to greatness again someday. Longest song: Dazzler gets teary about being a mutant.

MISTER MIRACLE

Based on Kirby's original material. An escapee from Darkseid and Granny Goodness, Scott Free finds love with warrior woman Big Barda and becomes the show-stopping rebel against being contained or controlled in any way. Great drumming opportunities. Possibly cast Tina Turner as the world's scariest Granny? Elton John as Oberon? Townshend plays it over the top as Funky Flashman. Longest song: Darkseid trying to tempt Scott to the dark side, only barely beating Granny's song about her methods of making deadly little brainwashed soldiers for Darkseid.

MIRACLEMAN

A superhero finds out that his Silver Age-like memories are fake and that he and his kind were actually created by a twisted little scientist from alien technology. When his old kid sidekick goes completely insane, you have a huge clash of titans. The twist to the ending is that though he's victorious, Miracleman may have robbed mankind of its future by enforcing Utopia. Big bass and guitars. Longest song: Kid Miracleman's tirade of evil.

GRENDEL

Matt Wagner's work was going to be Mage, but when I thought about it, I saw that Grendel was better. Like Sweeny Todd, Hunter Rose as Grendel is the bad guy, but we're fascinated with him as a flashier, far more dapper version of Shakespeare's Richard III. Longest song: Argent's song about the evils of Grendel.

HELLBOY

Nazi ritual magic and technology conjures a little demon-boy into the world, but he's raised by the good guys. He must reject infernal temptations to give in to his heritage and let evil consume the world. Instead, he fights it all the way. More bass and drums than you can shake a pointed tail at. Longest song: the Devil tempts Hellboy to the Dark Side.

MOSAIC

A Green Lantern who loves all sorts of music who's employed as the peacekeeper for a bunch of kidnapped cities finds that the biggest conflicts are really within himself. Lots of musical opportunities here, especially for clever lyrics. Keith Moon voices all the Guardians of the Galaxy. Longest song: John's agony trying to drive Sinestro out of his psyche. Huge guitar solo.

Dr. Strange

A selfish surgeon in a car accident loses the perfect steadyness in his hands that allowed him his career. He turns to Tibet for a miracle and becomes Master of the Mystic Arts. Meets girlfriend Clea, fights Dread Dormammu in big finish. I see lots of bass guitar here. Eric Clapton cameos as Baron Mordo. Longest song: Stephen's anguish about wanting to warn the Ancient One about Mordo's treachery but being unable to do so due to an enchantment by Mordo.

TRANSMETROPOLITAN

A nasty reporter returns from sabbatical to find that his city has grown even nastier. He has two female assistants and a gun that makes your stomach wanna turn inside out. He sets out to save the world by making it so disgusted that it can't help but save itself. Scarier, more venomous social musical than Marat/Sade. Longest song: Spider's paean to The New Scum.

DOOM PATROL

Based on Grant's DP, of course. The Candlemaker shows up at the end for a big fight, but our real interest's on Cliff and Crazy Jane. Big 16-minute song about Jane's 64 different personalities and scary abusive past when Cliff goes on a trip into her mind. Rebis gets another song, only slightly shorter, about the hell of being three beings trapped in one body. When Rebis has one voice, it'll be Keith Moon.

HELLBLAZER

This is a hard one, but because of the precedent of Faust, I decided to go with Ennis' Dangerous Habits storyline, but with, of course, a long song flashbacking John's failed exorcism held in Newcastle. Newcastle is, of course, the longest song in the thing, due in great part to the guitar solo. Barbara says she'd rather see Strummer/Jones (The Clash) write Hellblazer... if not the Kinks.

NEXUS

This one is begging to be a Rock Opera. A powerful alien chooses Horatio to be an instrument of justice, going around the galaxy killing (other) multiple murderers. Space opera becomes rock opera. Angst angst angst. Longest song: the one Horatio sings to Sundra explaining to her about his nightmares.

SECRET WARS II

The Beyonder has godlike powers (really, really godlike) but just can't seem to find fulfillment in life. Big huge death scene in the end. Keith Moon cast as the Molecule Man? Longest song: the one where it's explained to Daltrey that if he destroys Death, life will lose its meaning.

RED ROCKET 7

Couldn't skip Mike Allred's ode to rock history. RR7 actually meets Keith Moon and other rock greats. Of course, in the book, he was present for Keith's death. If this is revisionist rock fantasy, we'll have to change that bit. Longest song: the big finale, where RR7 (sort of) sacrifices himself by becoming a sort of living musical weapon to fend off evil invading aliens.

SILVER SURFER

Oh come on, it speaks for itself. I want to see the 30-foot inflatable Galactus lowered down onto the stage. Big opening number by Townshend about how Manhattan's freaking out about the sky seeming to be on fire. Longest song: Norrin pleads with Galactus not to eat the Earth.

LONGSHOT

You want Roger Daltrey in a blond wig? I got yer Roger in a blond wig right here! A lot like Mister Miracle only funnier, more light-hearted, more lovable, and with a messiah complex. Mojo is a million times more entertaining than Darkseid and Granny, too. Longest song: Longshot sings of his delight at how cool and real Earth is.

Thanks to my wife Barb for teaching me about The Who.