Sunday, February 28, 2010

Alice Cooper: 'Tales from the Inside', Marvel Premiere No. 50 (October 1979)

I’ve previously posted excerpts from the Marvel three-issue prestige series ‘Alice Cooper: The Last Temptation’ (1993), a horror-themed, downbeat fantasy tale featuring everyone’s favorite 70s  shock-rocker.
In contrast, Marvel Premiere's 50th issue: ‘Alice Cooper, Tales From the Inside’ (October 1979) is a decidedly humorous treatment of rock stardom, and a satire of Alice’s trademark theatrical gimmicks. The book is loosely based on Alice’s 1978 album of the same title, which was in turn derived from his experience in a sanitarium (which he had voluntarily entered in order to deal with his severe alcoholism; according to the Wiki entry, Alice was downing as much as two cases of Budweiser and a bottle of whiskey a day).

Whereas nowadays 'substance abuse' problems and rehab check-ins seem to be carefully scheduled events designed to focus mass media attention back on pop or rock stars who have felt a slackening in their time in the public eye,  for Alice, it inspired an effort at sarcastic humor.
The book opens with our hero attempting to escape from a sanitarium:

The narrative then segues into a flashback relating how our hero came to be placed in a mental institution in the first place:

I won’t spoil the remainder of the adventure, but it's safe to say things will get worse for Alice before they get better.
In terms of art design and writing, ‘Tales’ is an obvious homage to ‘Mad’ magazine circa the early 50s, when it was a color comic book and featured the distinctive writing and art of Harvey Kurtzman, Wally Wood, Will Elder, and Jack Davis. There is also a bit of the quintessential 70’s  asylum movie, ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’, worked into ‘Tales’.
With its mocking depiction of the insane, and a mental institution that is “…like going to camp…Dachau !”, ‘Tales From the Inside’ is  very politically incorrect by modern standards; but back in ’79 things were a little more…liberal. And you even had an ‘Approved by the Comics Code’ stamp on the cover !

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