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Unstable Decibels

Unstable Decibels: Death Cab for Cutie

Death Cab for Cutie's Nick Harmer weigns in on his favorite comics stories, convention adventures, music and more



By Blake Garris

With Grammy nominations, critically-acclaimed records, sold-out tours and accolades aplenty, Death Cab For Cutie have pretty much become a household name. So when bass player Nick Harmer accepted an offer to talk comics with Marvel.com, we jumped at the chance.

Currently, Death Cab is in the midst of a North American tour and have released a new EP called "The Open Door EP." Mr. Harmer took some time out of his crazy schedule to discuss what really matters—"The Fall of the Mutants" storyline, Wolverine and toys.

Marvel.com: To begin, what do you think made you gravitate to comics?

Nick Harmer: I had a very active imagination as a kid and in my mind, comics seemed to be a place where anything could happen. I was drawn by the art, the characters and their stories, and by that strange back page that promised me x-ray specs and a hovercraft if I sold enough widgets.

Marvel.com: Do you have any favorite Marvel stories from back when?

Death Cab For Cutie, Nick
Harmer on the far right
(photo by Ryan Russell)

Nick Harmer: I was dead serious about the "The Fall of the Mutants" storyline. Oh man, I would pull my hair out waiting for the next issues. I remember in a fit of needing more story I even bought that Power Pack tie-in issue. Chris Claremont was the man at that time. He came to my comic book store in Tacoma, O'Leary's Books and Comics, for a signing once and I waited in line forever just to get a chance to say hello to him.

Marvel.com: Are there any Marvel stories you're following religiously now?

Nick Harmer: Sadly, I haven't been able to religiously follow a storyline in recent years. I buy comics when I can and in fits and starts. But I try and keep up with the X-Men universe, I loved the CIVIL WAR storyline, and MARVEL ZOMBIES never fails to make me smile.

Marvel.com: What are your favorite Marvel characters?

Nick Harmer: I hate answering this question... because I always want to say some slightly obscure character or overlooked hero. But I have to be honest: My all-time favorite is Wolverine. I will follow Wolverine anywhere. Though, I have to admit, I am still a little upset about the whole "bone claws" addition to his story. When I discovered Wolverine and the X-Men, he was just a mutant who could heal fast and that's how he was able to survive having his skeleton coated with adamantium and claws put IN. He wasn't born with bone claws. That's ridiculous. I know I should just accept this as part of his story now, but I was just such an expert on him when I was a kid it's hard to give that up.

Marvel.com: Do you have any favorite illustrators or writers?

Nick Harmer: Frank Miller. Joss Whedon. My all time favorite artist is Bill Sienkiewicz. His Stray Toasters had a massive impact on me.

Marvel.com: To change gears a little, I hear your true love is toys. Found anything good lately?

Nick Harmer: I have! When I was a kid living in Japan in the early '80s, my favorite television show was "Kamen Rider Super 1." I have been steadily collecting memorabilia and toys from that show, and recently while on tour in Japan I found an elusive diecast version of him on his deluxe motorcycle (not his dirt bike). I had been looking for that version of that toy for a long time. It felt like finding gold. I have to say the new Marvel/ Hasbro 3-3/4" figures are totally awesome too... if I only would have had those in my G.I. Joe phase as a kid, just think of all the adventures I could have had!

Marvel.com: What are some other prized possessions in your collection?

Nick Harmer: I have some Transformers in great shape, my old G.I. Joes still make me smile but I think my favorite toy is my 12" V: The Final Battle Alien with removable human face and retractable forked tongue.

Marvel.com: What do you think made you gravitate towards toys?

Nick Harmer: I like to think of my toy collection as small manifestations of some sliver of my personality. Individually they are fun, comical, dark, all manner of things. But if you take a step back and look at the collection as a whole, you'll have a pretty good idea of who Nick is. In an age where everything moves quick and in packets of ones and zeros, I like that my toys are physical objects, permanent as long as I care for them, and are infused with intangible qualities of my memories and imagination.

Marvel.com: You open your toys, right?

Nick Harmer: Absolutely. They need to get out and play with one another while I am away on tour.

Marvel.com: Why don't you keep them in the box?

Nick Harmer: There are plenty of ways to make money in this world and saving toys to sell at a later date just doesn't make sense to me. If I am going to buy a toy, it's because I want to hold it, move it, play with it, pose it, introduce it to other toys... I want to experience it. My toy collection is probably not worth much money, but it is priceless to me.

Marvel.com: What does the rest of Death Cab think about your comic book and toy addictions?

Nick Harmer: They're tolerant and I love them for that. Each of my band members have heard me rant and rave about various comic book details, toy news and what have you, and they all have developed this curious, patient smile while I am carrying on. For the most part though, they know not to ask unless they want an earful. So it kind of goes unmentioned most days.

Marvel.com: Do you ever frequent comic conventions?

Nick Harmer: Ahem. Yes. 'Nuff said.

Marvel.com: Do you think comics influence your music at all?

Nick Harmer: Yes I do. Not directly. I don't read a panel and then go write a bass line about it, but I do think that comics keep my mind alive and my imagination vibrant. And that sense of magic and wonder that they bring definitely sparks my creativity in all forms.

Marvel.com: Are there any upcoming Marvel movies you're looking forward to?

Nick Harmer: All of them? Can I say that without pandering? Seriously, all my life I told the people around me that my comics were more than cartoons and that they weren't just for kids. I would take a lot of heat as a kid growing up for being a nerd but I always held my head high and knew that some day I could say "I told you so." Now, we are in a place pop culturally where comic book movies have reached millions. I made a promise that I would always support comic book films because they are keeping comic books alive. So no matter what comic book film gets made, I'm making the effort because those are my stories, those are my people.

Marvel.com: How do you keep up with your collection while you're busy touring?

Nick Harmer: I really don't. I let it slide and then I go visit Comics Dungeon in Seattle and start asking questions about what I have missed. They're good to me there and have turned me on to some amazing titles and story lines. Also, there are quite a number of comic book fans in other bands so while we are touring I always end up learning from other musicians too.

Marvel.com: And finally, what are Nick Harmer and Death Cab's plans when the tour is over?

Nick Harmer: I'm going to sleep for a week. I need to catch up with everyone and everything.


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Nice nice. It's good to see one of my favourite bands into Marvel.