A Chemistry Lesson

Well guess what…again. I missed posting something on the blog….again Nothing for two weeks….again.. And just like the last time I missed posting here. I’m going to post two…or in this case…three….blog entries to make it up to you…and to make it up to me….I like doing this. It’s actually a break from everything else in a weird way..

This one I’m talking about chemistry…..not the acid and base stuff you may think I’m going to be discussing. I’m talking about the chemistry between creative forces….be it in a band or in an art studio. Yep….this entry is definitely linked to my two favorite subjects…..creating music and creating comics.

Chemistry between these creative factors is a must and some cases the right chemical composition is the difference between failing …or succeeding.

And in other cases even when you have the right chemistry involved the whole thing is still just too volatile  It becomes unstable and burns out or explodes long before it’s time. And there are other instances when no matter how hard you try that chemistry just doesn’t seem to ever come together…and nothing even gets off the ground to begin with.

Over the years I have been involved in several different interesting chemical reactions…good ones…bad ones…ones that blew up ….fizzled out…and just never really gelled to start with…but before I go any further—–here’s a quick chemistry pop quiz.

It’s simple really…..I’m going to list 10 different comics and/or bands….you just make note who you think of when you read each. These are examples of creative chemistry working so well that I hope that everybody pretty much comes up with the same answers…and yes I will post my answers to see if we did agree…..there’s no real right or wrong here……just curious so please comment like crazy on this. I realize not everybody will be familiar with all ten of these…and I am going to mix it up evenly between comics and music…so some of you may do well on the comic end…while others may do well on the music end…..and a few of you may do well with both.

And just like my own real life chemistry lessons some of these creative chemical mixes lasted for years…..with slight blow ups here and there…others lasted for shorter periods of time…..and in most cases none of the creative pairings exist today.

Which is a shame……but enough of that. Here we go.

  1. Black Sabbath
  2. The Fantastic Four
  3. KISS
  4. The Teen Titans
  5. Van Halen
  6. The Uncanny X-Men
  7. Metallica
  8. The Micronauts
  9. Judas Priest
  10. The Amazing Spider-Man

There you have it. 10 of the best cases of creative chemistry at it’s finest…despite how long it may have lasted…..and here is who I think of when I think of…

Black Sabbath-No disrespect to Ronnie James Dio…I loved the guy and always will….and yes there were several versions of Sabbath after Dio left….but in all honesty here it just doesn’t sound like Black Sabbath without Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and Bill Ward. The four original members. They don’t make bands like that any more.

The Fantastic Four-Just the mention of the book and there’s only two names that should come to mind….Stan Lee and Jack Kirby….”The Man” and “The King”. Despite all the other pairings to work on this book since (loved the John Byrne era as well) or all the other books Lee and Kirby worked on together this is the best creative team for this book…..ever….so in many ways the book has been going down hill since for decades…and it’s the best stuff Lee and Kirby ever produced together as well. They never worked as well and no where near as long on any other comic.

KISS-A no brainer? Maybe not. After all KISS has had six different lead guitarists (counting Bob Kulik….Bruce Kulik’s older brother who actually recorded some of the studio stuff for Alive II) and four different drummers (counting Anton Fig who did most of the recording on Dynasty and Unmasked)….and despite the fact KISS has been around in some form for over thirty years it still boils down to the four founding members…Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley, and Peter Criss. I doubt many people out there will even think of a KISS song that these four guys were not involved with when asked ….what is the your favorite KISS song….not a lot of people are saying anything that doesn’t have “grease paint” on it….

The Teen Titans-How many people did not think of Marv Wolfman and George Perez? And maybe Romeo Tanghal….the inker on most but not all of the books these two gentlemen worked on together. Just finished reading through all the Wolfman/Perez stuff and I got admit….not quite as strong as I once thought but still holds pretty good. This was D.C. Comics’ answer to the Claremont/Byrne X-Men and the book actually outsold the X-Men…but Byrne was no longer on the book when that happened. Not as good as the X-Men stuff with Byrne….but BETTER than the stuff without him.

Van Halen-Well…this one should really be just as easy as the KISS question I guess. I mean REAL Van Halen is David Lee Roth, Eddie Van Halen, Michael Anthony, and Alex Van Halen…..of course Eddie and Alex has been in every version of the band…and again there have been more versions of the band than you might think…versions without Dave….replaced by Sammy Hagar of course and that “Other Guy” for just one truly train wreck of an album….and Michael Anthony has been replaced by another of the Van Halen clan….but it hasn’t really been Van Halen since 1984 in more ways than one.

The Uncanny X-Men-Chris Claremont, John Byrne, and Terry Austin not only defined The Uncanny X-Men during the 80’s ….they defined comics. Period. Claremont, Byrne, and Austin worked perfectly not only on this title but anything else the three of them would work on together. ( various Marvel Team-Up. Starlord)…and the X-Men have never been the same since. True the X-Men would continue to become more and more popular but ….hey not even I can explain that other than just say it is still selling based on the success of the Claremont/Byrne/Austin era…just like Fantastic Four still sold after Kirby and Lee were gone…and just like Daredevil sold after Miller was gone.

Metallica-Maybe just a little bit of a trick question here if you said….James Hatfield, Kirk Hammett, Cliff Burton, and Lars Ulrich….the original members of the band. That would be incorrect because Hammett was not the original lead guitarist for Metallica. That would be Dave Mustaine of Megadeth fame. And like AC/DC and Led Zeppelin before them…death intervened to disrupt the perfect chemistry this band once had. Metallica has not really been Metallica since the Master Of Puppets tour…..during which bassist Cliff Burton was killed. A band called Metallica has went on the become one of the most successful hard rock acts out there…I’ll give you that….but for me Metallica died with Cliff.

The Micronauts-Perhaps the most underrated comic series on this list and more than likely the least known but one of my favorites due largely to the writing of Bill Mantlo and the art of Michael Golden. This team was only on the book for the first 12 issues of the series but I will put those 12 issues up against any other run on any other book and believe me…The Micronauts can hold there own. Right up there with other short term creative teams such as Wein and Wrightson on Swamp Thing and O-Neil and Adams on Green Lantern/Green Arrow.

Judas Priest-To me when I think Judas Priest I always think of the albums Hell-Bent For Leather, Point Of Entry, British Steel, Screaming For Vengeance, and Defenders Of The Faith. And those albums were the collective work of Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton, K.K.Downing, Ian Hill, and Dave Holland. This same line up would go on to record a couple more albums together (Turbo and Ram It Down) but they were much weaker than the ones that came before. There were other drummers before Holland…and after his departure he was replaced by a far better drummer by the name of Scott Travers….but it doesn’t sound like “classic” Priest. Something in the “chemistry” was altered. Much like with KISS….Peter Criss was not the best drummer that band ever had….matter of fact every other drummer in the band was probably better than Peter…but it just wasn’t KISS anymore. The same holds true for Priest after Holland leaves.  Eventually even the “voice” of Priest…Rob Halford himself would be replaced for a while by “Ripper” Owens…but although some of that stuff rocks….I would still rather listen to Screaming for Vengeance.

The Amazing Spider-Man-Unlike the Fantastic Four The Amazing Spider-Man has had tons of creative talent attached to the book since the original creative team of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko left the book….and in defense of the FF there were a lot of great creative teams on that book as well…but nothing ever really seemed to stick. Not the case with Spidey. He was always fortunate enough to have a good run of books…followed by a crappy run….then a good run…and then a crappy run…and here lately has become nothing but crap. But when I think of Spidey….I think of Len Wein and Ross Andru….I know I’m in the minority on this one…but that’s the truth…they were working on Amazing Spider-Man when I first started to read the title. This was a hard choice for me…besides Lee and Ditko….there was Lee and Romita Sr., Marv Wolfman and Keith Pollard, and Roger Stern and John Romita Jr….all great creative teams that really produced some great work…but for me and Amazing Spider-Man it has always been Wein and Andru.

And that’s my geeky little chemistry pop quiz…..now I want to give credit where credit is due when it does come to my own creative projects…I’m not going to dwell on chemical combinations that didn’t work out…but the ones that have worked really well (for a time at least) and in many cases still working.

Misled-The first “serious” band I was ever in. We recorded what most people consider the best c.d I ever worked on way back in 1996 entitled “Seasons Past”. The band was Brad Shumay on vocals, (my brother) Larry Gladman on guitars, me doing the song writing and playing bass guitar, and Rich Walden on drums. The best band I was ever in. But just six weeks after recording that c.d the band was no more as internal strive within the band tore it apart….as a matter of fact the band barely made it to the recording studio…I had quit the band three months before but was asked to come back before the actual recording. It seems Misled without me wasn’t Misled. And before people start screaming about my ego being out of check…there has been versions of Misled without Brad, without Larry, and without Rich….and cases where there was three out of the four original members in the band at the same time…and other cases where Rich was the only original member of the band….all of them failed. It takes Brad, Larry, Bill, and Rich to have Misled…and unfortunately…despite the fantasizing of every member of that line up…all four of us have not been in the same room at the same time since Feb 1996. A damn shame.

New Comic Day-I write this weekly web comic with fellow co-writer and co-creator Eric Ratcliffe…it’s drawn by Chad Strohl, colored by Lisa Moore, and lettered by Brant Fowler. The chemistry between this team is amazing. The NCD strip has run for almost 2 years now with new postings every week…never missing a week this entire time…and it can be read every Wednesday at www.comicrelated.com and www.newcomicday.net check it out for yourself if you haven’t already!

Violent Whisper-after Misled broke up…and after Rich and I attempted but failed to reform the band without Larry or Brad….I formed this band with drummer Jeff Risner. I was really upset about the fact Misled broke up without playing a single live show. That really sucked! I’m sure to this day if we played just one live show…we would have been together for years and recorded several more albums together. But that piece of the puzzle never fell into place.  With Violent Whisper I got the chance to prove a few things…that I could be in a successful band without those other three guys, that a band could make money and develop a fan following while only playing original music….no covers….I was able to do all that with Violent Whisper and did so for 18 months before the band fell apart after I quit in May 2001. I’m not going to lie here….from the very beginning the band was never as good as Misled….I knew that. The other members in the band knew I felt that way at times…and yes that caused it’s share of problems. And yes we did make money…sometimes….and the fan following while growing with each show was lucky to reach 100 people in the audience. It did work on a certain level. And in a case of serious chemical short term experience….the very best combination of this band….a combination that may have been able to actually rival Misled or even surpass that band included Matt Byanski on vocals, Doug Huff on guitar, me on bass and writing the songs again (we also performed a few songs from my Misled days) and Jeff Risner on drums. The really sad thing about this line up….it lasted for only one day…Matt was already in another musical project closer to home and had to make a decision….he decided to stay with that band. Doug would quit a few weeks later after we found another vocalist and we rotated guitarists every few months …changing the sound of the band with each line up change. There was a time we sounded like the bastard love child of Iron Maiden and .38 Special. I finally put a bullet in Violent Whisper’s head….and only played two live shows since 2001.

Perfect Day-was the feature story for Tales From The “Field #3. “Tales” is one of the anthology books produced by Twilight Star Studios. And I got to tell you something right now….talk about good chemistry….man Twilight Star has some great chemistry. I can’t tell you how proud I am to be a part of this studio….and Tales From The ‘Field #3 is what many of us in the studio consider the strongest book we’ve put out to date. Perfect Day which ran in that issue is an eight page story written by Frank Raynor, penciled by Gary Church, inked by me, and lettered by Brant Fowler. What a creative team. What an amazing story to read…and to look at. I’m very fortunate to be part of the creative team that put that story together. A shout out to the cover art on this book as well…which featured the main character from Perfect Day. A stunning piece of art by Gary Church, Derron Church (who inked the cover…and with his involvement marks the first time that all four founding members of Twilight Star….Gary, Derron, Frank, and I have ever worked on the same story)…and colored by the talented Lisa Moore.

Project X-After Violent Whisper collapsed it seemed that I was going to get the chance to finally get the very best of Violent Whisper and Misled! At long last. This band wanted to record original music…didn’t mind playing tunes from the Misled days or the Violent Whisper days and we wanted to play live. The line up was almost a “dream team” of past Misled and Violent Whisper band members and included Brad Shumay on vocals, Doug Huff on guitars, Rick Lazear on guitars (who has been in the third version of Misled with Rich), me playing bass and writing the lyrics, and Rich Walden on drums. But like all dreams…it ended way too soon. Doug moved. Immediately after losing Doug, Brad left too. The band would never recover. But unlike Violent Whisper….Project X did record a c.d back in 2002 called “Good Intentions”….which included some Violent Whisper tunes mixed in with a few newer ones Doug and I wrote while in a band called Echo Chamber. Two songs (30 Pieces Of Silver and Shades Of Gray were unfinished, missing the vocal track, and didn’t make it unto the disc). Years later….2007….I recorded the vocals to these two songs with female vocalist Grace Deer and they appeared on the All Is Forgiven c.d that featured music I recorded with various versions of Misled and Project X. All Is Forgiven was my fifth c.d….and my last. There are two more c.ds of older material in the works….sessions from Violent Whisper and another version of the best of Misled and Project X….but right now those two recording projects are uncertain to cross the finish line…..at best.

N.I.B.-This was the feature story in Pandemonium Spotlight #1, another ongoing anthology comic book series produced by Twilight Star Studios. I love this story. I wrote it and long time friend and a really great artist Chris Metzger did the art and BJay Johnson did the final lettering. Everything about this just turned out top notch. It’s been very well received and I love looking at Metzger’s face when he reads that story. He’s just as proud of it as I am. If you are in the Springfield area Saturday May 7th stop by Main Street Comics and Games at its new location at 2125 E. Main Street and pick up a FREE copy of Twilight Star Annual #1….both Perfect Day and N.I.B.  are in the same book…along with some really cool stuff (Legacy Parts One-Three) by Derron Church)…..while supplies last!

There are a great number of other incredible comics in production from Twilight Star I’m sure I’ll be equally proud of once they are finished including The Un-Naturals #1

(I’m writing and inking this one, Derron Church is doing the pencils, Cary Kelley is lettering it, and the cover will be done by Derron with inks by Joe Pruitt and it will be colored by Lisa Moore). It’s going to be simply amazing. Necrotrancer: Shades Of Gray written by me and illustrated by James Hill with inks by Joe Pruitt….cover by James and Joe with colors by Lisa….lettered by Cary Kelley. This should be out by June or July.

And the upcoming Prodigy #2 …I’m writing this one and drawing it with Joe Pruitt on inks and lettered by Stephen Brewington.

But as far as finished projects this is the list I am most proud of both comic book wise and music wise where the chemistry between everybody involved was just excellent…while it lasted or in some cases ….still going strong!

2 Responses to “A Chemistry Lesson”

  1. Misled Founding Member and Axeman Says:

    Nice article. Proud to have been part of the Misled experience. I agree, I believe things would have been alot different if we ever played live shows. The music/lyrics were a perfect combination. We always sounded like Misled and no other……and no one has been able to replicate our sound, power, creativeness and passion. The studio recording fails to do us justice….we were a “live” band who never went live. Although I was intrumental in recruiting, putting the pieces together and a large portion of the music writing….none of this would have been possible without the “chemistry”. Thanks Bill, Rich and Brad.

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