Knowledge Waits is a feature where I just share some bit of comic book history that interests me.
Today, I thought it would be nice to pay tribute to legendary rock drummer/lyricist, Neil Peart, from the classic rock group, Rush, who passed away last week at the age of 67, by spotlighting a classic Marvel Comics tribute to Rush that meant the world to Peart at the time. I featured this as a Foggy Ruins of Time two years ago, but I think it is worth mentioning again as a tribute to Peart.
In 1976, the Defenders was in a state of flux following the departure of Steve Gerber following issue #41. Gerry Conway did a couple of fill-ins, but Roger Slifer was brought into finish out Conway’s last story, which involved Doctor Strange becoming possessed by the Star of Capistan and turning into the Red Rajah. With Slifer now finishing Conway’s plot, he needed help scripting the issue, so he turned to David A. Kraft. The two guys finished out the arc and then wrote a few more issues together before Slifer left and then Kraft wrote the series by himself or with other co-writers for the next couple of years.
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Kraft was a big rock fan, and so he would often try to work in references to bands he admired. Later on, he did a Blue Oyster Cult issue of Defenders, but first he did an issue dedicated to Rush.
Early in 1976, with their careers possibly in jeopardy following their previous album not selling as well as hoped, the Canadian rock group, Rush, made a valiant comeback with the album, 2112, with the title track being a 20-minute epic song that took over the whole first side of the album!
Written by drummer Neil Peart (the other guys in the group were Geddy Lee, bass and vocals and Alex Lifeson, the guitarist), the song is set in a dystopic future where these mysterious priests control the world (which is part of the Solar Federation, symbolized by a Red Star) and have banned all creativity, including music, which is now not even something that people really know existed. It’s all quite heady stuff.
So, Defenders #45 (drawn by Keith Giffen and Klaus Janson), opens with a dedication to the band…
The Red Rajah keeps spouting out stuff that’s right out of 2112, the whole idea of the individual conforming to the group…
The “Truth is false and logic lost” is from the song “Twilight Zone,” which is on side two of the album (side one is just the one long song and then side two has five normal length songs on it).
The fascinating thing is that the idea of the Red Rajah predated Kraft joining the creative team, and yet he managed to almost completely rework the character so that he totally works as a tie-in to 2112. It was Kraft, by the way, who was the Rush fan of the two. Not that Slifer had a problem with Rush, but Kraft was actively a fan of the group.
Rush LOVED the issue.
They invited Slifer and Kraft to a concert and to meet up with them afterwards. When Marvel Masterworks collected this part of the Defenders series, they had a bonus page with a photo from the meet-up.
It also has a great quote from Peart about the reference, “I read that issue and I enjoyed it. The Defenders was a pretty cerebral kind of comic. We were knocked out, and it really meant a lot to us. It was like real credibility. That tiny little line in the comic book meant more to us than a whole issue of Rolling Stone or anything else. It really means something to us because that’s a real measure of respect. It’s from another artist, and it’s like the praise of the praiseworthy.”
RIP, Neil Peart, you were/are a legend.
If anyone has any interesting comic book related story that you’d like to see me feature in a future Knowledge Waits, feel free to drop me a line at email@example.com!