Introducing the Introduction to Road Crew

The Complete Road Crew, a new graphic novel by Irish artist Tommie Kelly, is out and I had the honor of writing its Introduction.

Road Crew started out as a daily web comic about wayward concert sound engineer Jim Soundman and his slovenly audio crew. When Kelly brought the series to a close after two years of misadventures, he converted the entire run of comic strips, formatted like what you’d find in a newspaper, into a dense graphic novel (i.e. now it looks like a 336-page comic book), and after many delays, it finally came out in the fall of 2010. Even though we’re talking about cartoons, the book isn’t meant for kids; if you venture over to his website, be ready for fairly R-rated material. At its heart though, Road Crew was sweet and sincere with genuinely likeable characters, and I was happy to write the Introduction (below).

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The standard stereotype goes that concert engineers are idiots who push road cases around and occasionally turn the volume knob while quaffing gallons of beer and chasing every skirt in the crowd. I’d like to take this opportunity to say that Road Crew proves it’s not true.

That is, I’d like to say it, but the truth is Jim Soundman and his gang do their best to embrace classic Rock-n-Roll hedonism with every fiber of their being most every chance they get. It’s as if they were trying to tick off all the boxes on a mythical Roadie Cliché Checklist, but like most everything else they do, they fail because there’s one item destined to remain unmarked forever:

Despite repeated entanglements with Heaven and Hell, God and the Devil, the Reaper, a visit to the infamous Crossroads and more, Jim Soundman has never sold his soul for Rock-n-Roll. For better or worse, he’s stuck with it and if anything, over the course of Road Crew, his simple character has grown to become one of the most soulful incarnations of Rock-n-Roll around.

Why? Because every day, Jim gets ground down by crap equipment, evil music biz interlopers, talentless musicians and an indifferent world. More often than not, he’s the only one in the hall who even cares how the band sounds, performing small miracles to make garbage groups sound better than they have any right to. What does he get for all his troubles? Not much. Jim’s personal life is a wreck and his professional life is a joke (well, it is a comic). Some people say their job will be the death of them; his already has been.

All that would make a lesser fictional construct throw in the towel, but not Jim Soundman. If Rock be the music of rebellion, then he is its very personification—after every defeat, rising up out of a pool of his own flop sweat where he drunkenly passed out the night before to once again don his crumpled devil horn shirt, curse his empty wallet and (ig)nobly man his post behind the mix console. I believe it was the noted physicists Twisted Sister who once sang “You can’t stop Rock-n-Roll,” and in truth, you can’t stop Jim either. Ergo, by those terms, without question, Jim is Rock-n-Roll.

And long live Rock-n-Roll.

Clive Young, author, Crank It Up: Live Sound Secrets of the Top Tour Engineers