Canadian musician, singer and songwriter Lights will be adding comic book writer and artist to her repertoire on July 12th. The two time Juno award winning artist has something very special planned for the release of her fourth album; Lights will be writing and drawing a comic series called Skin & Earth. Each issue will be accompanied by new music until finally, the series and full length album by the same name, are completely released.
If you are a Lights fan then you know how exciting this is. Lights music and comic books jive very well together. She is a well known comic and gaming fan; it’s clear to see their influence in her music, which in turn, makes the music pair very well with comic reading. I’ve been a fan of Lights since the beginning, before she had released her first EP, when it was just grainy YouTube videos and World of Warcraft stalking. Her music has been part of my life for many years now, right beside me through the highest of highs and the lowest of lows; much like a lot of comics out there. In this special edition of Pull List Playlist, I’m going to run down 12 Lights songs that set the tone for some of my favorite comic issues.
1. Muscle Memory – Underwater Welder by Jeff Lemire
Are you supposed to lead with your strongest or close with your strongest? Well, I’m leading with it. Muscle Memory from Lights’ most recent album Little Machines, is a haunting song about coping with a lost loved one. This was my song a few years ago when my mom passed away. No comic writer can evoke these feelings quite like Jeff Lemire and Muscle Memory pairs perfectly with his Underwater Welder graphic novel. Underwater Welder is about a man whose wife is expecting. He is terrified of fatherhood, afraid he will turn into his own father. The man is an underwater welder and the story centres around him going into the deep and experiencing intense memories of his estranged father. It is a haunting story about forgiveness and moving on. Play Muscle Memory as you read this story and get ready for the chills.
2. Follow You Down – Saga Of The Swamp Thing Annual #2 by Alan Moore, Steve Bissette & John Totleben
Follow You Down is an interesting song because you won’t find it on any of Lights’ three main albums. However, Lights has released acoustic versions of her albums and you can find Follow You Down on her acoustic version of Little Machines, titled Midnight Machines. The song is about two people, one of which feels like they are dragging the other one down with their personal struggles. However, the song is written from the perspective of the other person who exclaims “I will dive into the deep and pull you out; I will follow you down and help you back up”. This beautiful song goes with my favorite issue from Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing. In the annual, Abby dies and Swamp Thing has to find a way to her. Not knowing how, he is somehow able to separate himself from the earthly plane and reach the afterlife. He visits heaven searching for Abby, but eventually realizes she has been dragged to hell where he, without question, follows to drag her out.
3. Lucky Ones – Saga #30 by Brain K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
We had to get Saga in here somewhere, right? All you have to do is take a listen to Lucky Ones and you will know how it applies to the comic. Lucky Ones is a personal favorite of mine, also off the album Little Machines. A song about two people who are brought together by their shared circumstance, and a bond that is often shaken, but never broken. It’s an us-against-the-world song. While you can basically pick any issue of Saga that includes Marko and Alana moments to relate to this song, it specifically spoke to me during issue #30. There, Marko and Alana are reunited after being separated for some time. This is after Alana’s drug addiction and Marko’s suspected infidelity. They’ve been through a rocky period, but they reunite in the middle of the issue amidst an extreme circumstance. There is an amazing page of them hugging in this issue and Hazel narrating, “There’s no graduating from this kind of education, couples just keep growing and changing until they either break up or die”. That’s the essence of Lucky Ones.
4. Face Up – The Amazing Spider-Man #31-#33 If This Be My Destiny by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
Face Up is from Lights’ debut album The Listening. The song is about those times when you feel like life is a lot harder than it should be. However, the power of Face Up lies in its uplifting rhythm and positive message. If you are in the middle of a tough time, it will give you hope that the end is near and if you have made it through a tough time, it reminds you how strong you really are. This song is such a poignant reminder for me that I considered getting a tattoo of the lyrics. There’s no question for me that Face Up is a perfect match for Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s The Amazing Spider-Man: If This Be My Destiny arc. This is when Aunt May is ill and Peter is having a very difficult time with it. He’s doing everything he can as Spider-Man to heal her, but as Peter Parker his life is falling apart. He does poorly on homework, blows off his friends, and acts short with people who are really just being friendly. He’s staying up for days straight trying to figure out what the hell is going on with his life. This story arc is definitely my Face Up comic.
5. Don’t Go Home Without Me – Y: The Last Man #59 By Brian K Vaughan, Pia Guerra and Jose Marzan, Jr.
Don’t Go Home Without Me is another song from Lights’ most recent album Little Machines. I don’t really want to get too deep into the song or how it relates to Y: The Last Man #59 because of spoilers. I know it has been 10 years since this comic concluded, but it is my absolute favourite and I refuse to spoil it here. Don’t Go Home Without Me is a beautiful song about growing old with the one you love. It does mention having kids in this song, but I think it could easily apply to a best friend, sibling or monkey as much as it does a significant other. Put the song on, open up the issue and feel all the feelings.
6. The Last Thing On Your Mind – Starlight #1 by Mark Millar and Goran Parlov
Yes, I had to sneak some Mark Millar in here. The video above is poor quality, but this is the first video I ever watched of Lights. I like it for two reasons. First, there is a Batman statue beside her. Second, despite the poor sound quality you can hear the uniqueness of her voice. If you like this song I would suggest looking up a higher quality version as there are many on YouTube. The Last Thing On Your Mind is from the album The Listening and (in my interpretation) is an inner monologue of someone focused on picking themselves up and carrying on after a tough time. It makes me think of the incredible beginning to Starlight, in which an elderly man who has recently lost his wife has to figure out how to carry on. This motivates him to board a mystical spaceship and travel to a distant planet to save it once again. Mystical spaceship? I mean, what is more Lights than that?
7. Flux and Flow – Cluster #1 by Ed Brisson, Damian Couceiro and Michael Garland
Flux and Flow is from Lights’ album Siberia. It is a face-melting song and perfect for the Sci-Fi genre of comics. The lyrics really remind me of Cluster #1. Cluster is a story of the distant future when alien life has been discovered on other planets and humans are at war with them. Criminals are sent to fight these battles off planet and as more soldiers are needed, the severity of minor infractions on earth skyrockets so that stealing a lipstick could land you five years in off-planet combat. Our main character feels as if she deserves what is coming to her, as she was arrested for getting in a drunk driving accident that killed her sister. The oppression of Flux and Flow sets the perfect tone for Cluster.
8. Peace Sign – All-New Hawkeye (2015-2016) #2 by Jeff Lemire and Ramon Perez
Peace Sign is my favorite song off of the album Siberia. It’s about that one person who is your compass. The one who always points you in the right direction; the one you would be lost without. My favorite arc in All-New Hawkeye by Jeff Lemire and Ramon Perez is when Kate and Clint are having issues. The arc flashes between the near future and the present time. In the future, Kate and Clint are working on a mission together and they haven’t seen each other in years. In the present, Kate and Clint just had a fight and are no longer speaking. The future is drawn in a very rough pencil while the present is clean and sharply inked. It gives the impression that the future can be changed, the pencil can be erased. To me, the song Peace Sign is about your best friend and that is exactly the relationship Kate and Clint have. There is nothing romantic between them, they’re just great partners who care deeply for each other. This issue in particular reminds me of Peace Sign because it is the issue you see Clint’s life falling apart without Kate. It becomes clear very quickly that beneath Clint’s tough exterior and don’t-care attitude he always looks to Kate as his Peace Sign.
9. Fall Back Down [Rancid Cover] – Wytches #5 by Scott Snyder and Jock
Okay, so this is cheating a little bit as it’s not exactly a Lights song, but her doing a cover of Rancid’s Fall Back Down. It was on her second EP titled Acoustic. This song reminds me of the fantastic comic Wytches by Snyder and Jock. Wytches is a terrifying horror book, with some of the scariest moments you will experience in comics. At the same time, Wytches is about a man who has often failed to be a good father to his daughter, but is now presented with the chance to make up for it. I picked issue #5 because this is when the story between Charlie and Sailor reaches its heartbreaking climax. To me, the chorus of Fall Back Down relates to both Charlie and Sailor’s separate struggles. It is in this chapter that they have learned to lean on each other for support. “If I fall back down, you’re gonna help me back up again.” The embrace at the end of issue #5 might just make your eyes tear up a little.
10. Speeding – Rat Queens #5 by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch
If you’ve been paying attention to the pictures, by now you should know that Speeding is from the album Little Machines. This song is about breaking away form the mundane life and speeding off to something better. It pairs with Rat Queens #5 in a couple ways. Firstly, Rat Queens #5 is full of kick-ass fantasy battle scenes, so the upbeat nature of Speeding fits nicely. Secondly, at the end of the issue we get a look into Dee’s past. Dee grew up in a very religious family and there came a time when she wasn’t sure of the roots of her beliefs. Did she believe because it was what she was always taught or because she truly believed it? She argues with her parents about leaving to figure things out for herself and eventually ends up storming off and running away. She is speeding towards her new life.
11. Up We Go – Shutter #10 by Joe Keatinge and Leila Del Duca
It is well known on the site I think Shutter #10 is one of the best issues in the series because of the phenomenal work of Leila Del Duca. Every page deserves to be posted on your wall. Throughout the series, Kate has been introduced to siblings she didn’t know existed and has been told that her father was not as great as she thought he was, as she’s being attacked by multiple monstrous creatures. This is the issue Kate and her sister dive deep into a dreamland in search of answers. The fast paced story and incredibly wacky art of this issue pairs well with Lights’ arguably most popular song, Up We Go.
12. Pretend – This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki
Finally, I close the post with Pretend, a song which is on Lights’ first album twice. This song is designed to take you back to your childhood; back to a carefree time when life had less pressure. I wrote an article a few years ago about the brilliant work of cousins Jillian and Mariko Tamaki on This One Summer. A comic about life as a kid; full of first crushes, sneaking into R rated movies, watching your parents fight and exploring your imagination. Nothing takes me back to my childhood quite like This One Summer. It’s a fantastic piece of work. The easy listening nature of Pretend makes it great for any comic reading, but if you are looking for a perfect comic match, this is it.
The first issue of Skin & Earth by Lights hits shelves on July 12th.