Over the course of seven issues, the creative team of writer W. Maxwell Prince, artist Martin Morazzo, colorist Chris O'Halloran, letterer Good Old Neon, and designer Ashley Walker have churned out consecutive nightmares in the pages of Ice Cream Man. Each self-contained issue revolves around a malevolent sweets peddler who slowly corrupts an idealic town through grotesque acts of evil. Contrasting saccharine '50s suburbia with encroaching annihilation, Prince has shown off his sinister sweet tooth for doom and dessert. But this comic transcends the senses, with more than a few issues addressing the music of the era—and one specific story even takes its foundation from the sad, true story of an over-the-hill rockabilly burnout. Prince shows the full range of his musical influences in the following curated playlist, with direct commentary from the author. The next time you devour an issue of Ice Cream Man, listen to this playlist for an extra layer of creeping ambiance.
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Ice Cream Man, Vol. 1: Rainbow Sprinkles is availble in comic and book stores now. Ice Cream Man #6 releases in comic stores on September 16.
“All art constantly aspires to the condition of music,” said cultural essayist Walter Pater. And that’s certainly true of the stuff I write: every story, every single page of mine, attempts to capture the unique qualities—the emotional vicissitudes, the feel-it-in-your-gut transformative magic, the compressive power—of a song.
And so it should be no big surprise when I say that music plays an important role in the way I write and think, all the time and every day.
Here’s a playlist for each released issue of Ice Cream Man. Some of these songs provided a little inspiration; some were helpful background music; one formed the entire foundation of a story.
All of them are, in their own way, a form of salvation.
Issue 1, “Raspberry Surprise”: Buddy Holly’s “Everyday” is a time machine—those silly little opening bells immediately evoke the suburbs of a bygone era.
Issue 2, “Rainbow Sprinkles”: The Velvet Underground’s “Heroin” is a little on the nose, but it sets the perfect mood for Jimbo and Karen’s descent into real using.
Issue 3, “Good Ol’ Fashioned Vanilla”: This entire issue is an interpretation of Michael Hall’s fantastic long-form article for Texas Monthly, titled “Falling Comet.” The article recounts the last desperate months of Bill Haley (lead singer of The Comets, the guy who made “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock” famous). Bill would whistle his own song to himself in a diner booth in the hopes that someone would recognize him; to this day, that’s just about the saddest thing I’ve ever heard. In ICM, we changed Bill Haley to Bud Hickey, who fronts not The Comets but The Rockets, famous for their big hit, “Rock All the Time.”
Issue 4, “Every Good Boy Does Fine”: The title of the issue itself is a nod to the lines of musical staff—the mnemonic device I was taught during early music lessons. For this one, I listened to a lot of Big Thief, especially a song called “Real Love.” They’re wonderful.
Issue 5, “Ballad of a Falling Man”: I don’t have enough space to talk about the genius of Okkervil River’s “John Allyn Smith Sails.” It’s this composite of the Beach Boys/folk song “Sloop John B,” and a narrative about the poet John Berryman’s 1972 suicide. (John B, get it?) Anyhow, Berryman fell to his death, much like this issue’s main character.
Issue 6, “Strange Neapolitan”: Tim Hecker’s “Black Refraction” (and his entire oeuvre) is a case study in the power of wordless art—which is what issue 6 is all about.
Issue 7, “My Little Poltergeist”: Death metal of your choosing.