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Marvel Music

The Marvel Life: Rock & Comics with Dillinger Four

Midwestern punk heroes chat about 80s Avengers, Ultimates and a Civil War or two

By Adam White Rock music and comic books? Ad odd combination? No way. With a rich, shared history, they've reflected and reacted to American culture in tandem for almost 80 years. Rock'n'roll broke on the charts as comics' Golden Age waned to a close. And when it became a cultural juggernaut with the British Invasion, Marvel and the comics of the Silver Age were innovating right along side. When the Bronze Age comic audience split from the mainstream, punk rock and new wave began similar journeys. Each art form has taken turns as both pop culture phenomena and societal scapegoat, and they've both nurtured a community of fans and collectors that, even when the mainstream turned its back, never lost faith. While not every comic fan wound up as a penciler, we're willing to bet a few of them picked up guitars. When Dillinger Four takes the stage this October at Gainesville punk rock gathering The Fest, it's safe to assume that half of their audience will be members of other bands�and the other half will walk away with ambitions of starting their own. The Minneapolis four-piece has that effect on people: They're not the band that introduces you to punk music�they're the band that everyone in the know won't stop talking about. They faithfully deliver a frenetic, thoroughly chaotic and surprisingly poppy mix of hardcore energy, authentically snotty `70s defiance and rough-hewn Midwestern rock. But don't call them a buzz band, true believer, the mainstream will likely never see the appeal in a quartet of overweight businessmen and PHDs with a penchant for on-stage nudity. But that's their loss, as Dillinger Four is the real deal.
We had the pleasure of chatting with guitarist and vocalist Billy Morrisette, an old-school Avengers fan from the Roger Stern era, recently brought back into the fold and now rocking the Ultimate line. He's currently hard at work on the band's upcoming fourth full-length "Civil War"�a title that certainly won't be lost on Marvel readers these days. MARVEL.COM: When did you first get into comics? What were the early books that hooked you? Billy Morrisette: I really grew up with the Marvel Universe and was a really avid reader throughout my childhood. Some of my favorites were team based, like the Avengers, where you got to see all your favorites in action and get to check out some other characters you maybe didn't know about. I was also into MARVEL TEAM-UP `cuz, hey, when you've got Spidey and then some other action too? I'm there. Seeing how Spider-Man interacted with other characters was really interesting as well, particularly to a younger reader who could really connect with him. Seeing how he would work with, say, Wolverine or Thor or whoever was something I was really into. MARVEL.COM: What early stories stuck with you from those formative years? Morrisette: I have a vivid memory of the whole trial of Henry Pym arc from AVENGERS. That cover art, with Yellowjacket (whose costume I still think is great!) really stood out for me. I used to try to draw that cover all the time. Plus the dynamic of a flawed hero, letting down his team and wife turned me onto a more dimensional type of storytelling. MARVEL.COM: When did you fall out of comics? Was there something in particular that turned you off? Morrisette: I drifted out for a few years around the time there were a bazillion X-books and every issue had a weird foil variant. The stories got lost for me around that time and it seemed to be a collector feeding frenzy. MARVEL.COM: What book brought you back to comics? Morrisette: I really got back into things when I discovered the MARVELS trade paperback. Gorgeous Alex Ross art, fantastic storytelling by Kurt Busiek�it seemed like the magic was back in comics. Like Al Pacino in Godfather III, I got pulled back in! MARVEL.COM: So what's on your pull list these days? Morrisette: A lot of the Ultimate line actually. ULTIMATES, ULTIMATE FANTASTIC FOUR and of course ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN. Brian Michael Bendis' work there is just fantastic. His run on DAREDEVIL was great as well, and I'm stoked that Marvel is doing POWERS. I'm also really digging the IMMORTAL IRON FIST, SQUADRON SUPREME, and the guys at Big Brain, my local shop, just turned me on to NEXTWAVE. MARVEL.COM: Do you find yourself following a particular artist or writer, or do you follow characters? Morrisette: Mostly characters, but if it says Bendis, Millar, Ennis or Morrison on it, I'll be sure to check it out. As far as art, I really like John Romita Jr, Mike Avon Oeming and Joe Quesada, as well as guys like Mike Mignola, Bruce Timm and Jim Lee. MARVEL.COM: Are there any upcoming books or projects that you're excited about? Morrisette: More Iron Fist! I'm really into the animated DVDs that have been coming out as well. They're really well done, story and art-wise, and a blast to watch. MARVEL.COM: We've heard that Dillinger Four's upcoming record will be titled "Civil War." Marvel's own landmark CIVIL WAR series just shook up the universe here, any thoughts on it? Morrisette: You know, I started just buying trade paperbacks for the most part a while back, and I have to say I haven't had the full "Civil War" experience yet, but hope to grab all the trades soon. I did of course get some of them already and am really into the premise, and find it interesting what heroes wound up on what side of the fence. MARVEL.COM: This will be the band's first full length since 2002's "Situationist Comedy." What can you reveal about "Civil War"? Morrisette: The new record is coming along great! The new jams are high energy, and are gonna be a blast to play live. We're working on really using all three vocals, which we used to do a bit more in the early days and works great, and people always seem to want more of, so that will be fun. But mostly I expect a great Dillinger Four record: fun, fast-paced, great change-ups and a couple songs on this one where it's a bit different than stuff we've done before. MARVEL.COM: For the Marvel audience who may never have heard Dillinger Four before, can you recommend a record or some songs they should check out first? Morrisette: If you don't mind a more raw sound, lots of people really seem to like our first LP, "Midwestern Songs Of The Americas." For a (slightly) more produced record, our latest one, "Situationist Comedy," is a great place to start, otherwise just jump onto the ol' MySpace and check out a couple jams for free. MARVEL.COM: Likewise, is there a comic, storyline or trade that you think the D4 fan would dig? Morrisette: I might recommend the SUPREME POWER trades. Smart, great art, tense storytelling�I think it was a great mini-series, and leads up to SQUADRON SUPREME very well. And of course, I would recommend MARVELS and ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN to anyone really. You need them.
If you've ever wondered where Green Day's "American Idiot" had its roots, hit up Dillinger Four's MySpace page and give 1998's "Doublewhiskeycokenoice" a spin. If you're looking for more, check out the band's official website, their Punknews.org profile and their label, Fat Wreck Chords.

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