By Blake Garris
My Morning Jacket
Over the past decade, My Morning Jacket has released five studio albums, been featured on Letterman, performed with the Boston Pops and even appeared in the Cameron Crowe film "Elizabethtown." Despite the successes, 2008 was arguably their most successful to date, as MMJ was a musical guest on "Saturday Night Live" and their album "Evil Urges" nabbed a nomination for a Grammy for Best Alternative Rock Album. The rock superstars are currently taking a little break, but that gave us the perfect opportunity to chat with bass player—and major comic book fan—"Two Tone Tommy" Blankenship about all things Marvel.
Marvel.com: Let's jump right in. Who are your favorite Marvel characters?
Kitty Pryde & Galactus.
Marvel.com: Why them?
You'd be hard-pressed to find a Marvel fanboy that didn't have a crush on Kitty Pryde in his formative years. Or that still [doesn't]! She's unique, there aren't a great many characters that you get to watch grow up, or grow up with, from the freaked out youngster haunted by a demon on Christmas Eve to a sweet and resilient badass of an adult that sacrifices herself to save Earth. Joss Whedon's take on Kitty in ASTONISHING X-MEN is my favorite. Except for that part where she, like, dies.
To me Galactus sums up everything I love about the Marvel Age of comics. He's a character that could easily fall into campiness, but instead he heralds in this wild and mind blowing run on a book that was already amazing. That was the power of the Kirby/Lee collaboration, to make the fantastically impossible fun and feasible. Also he has possibly the best costume in comics history.
Marvel.com: What Marvel stories were you into as a kid?
The Inferno crossover got me hooked on comics, so Chris Claremont's run on X-MEN was huge
for me. David Michelinie's IRON MAN and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. SECRET WARS. I read the OFFICIAL MARVEL HANDBOOK like a kid is supposed to study for a test.
Marvel.com: And how about now?
Anything [by] Ed Brubaker. X-FACTOR, POWERS, NEW AVENGERS, INVINCIBLE IRON MAN, NOVA and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. [I'm] loving the Marvel cosmic books, everything from the first "Annihilation" event till now. Really looking forward to the new AGENTS OF ATLAS series, Jeff Parker is brilliant. Oh, and Fred Van Lente… how awesome was the M.O.D.O.K. mini-series?!
Marvel.com: What made you get into comic books?
I was about 11 or 12 when my friend picked up the Marvel role playing game, and we became obsessed with the characters. His mom Xeroxed the player sheets for me and I colored in their costumes and poured over their origins, totally losing myself in this huge playground of a universe. Every Saturday I'd beg my dad to drive me to the comic shop so I could pick up books with whatever new character I'd discovered that week. The Marvel Universe was a place where people who were odd or different struggled to be accepted and find themselves, but always with a support system, with their teammates. As a quiet, awkward kid I found a lot of hope and strength in that.
Marvel.com: What do your bandmates think about your comic book addiction?
They're quite confused by it and leave me locked in a closet in the back of the bus until it's time to play, unsure what else to do with me. And they always make me take off my Galactus helmet before we hit the stage.
Marvel.com: How do you keep up with comics with your busy touring schedule?
Luckily the guys at the local comic shop are kind enough to let my file get bloated with weeks of books. Usually I pack some trades for the road. I've always got a newer series and one from the archives that I'm brushing up on or just discovering. But I end up buying new stuff while we're out. It's nice to pick up something random and get turned onto a new series that way.
Marvel.com: Word has it you like to draw. What do you draw?
Oh my. Just funny little creatures, sinister animals, a friendly robot, some rabbits for my wife. It's a fun way to pass those hurry-up-and-wait moments. There's a lot of those on the road.
Marvel.com: Are there any particular comic artists you enjoy?
John Romita Jr, Leonard Kirk, Marcos Martin, Takeshi Miyazawa, Chris Bachalo, Tony Moore, Mike Oeming, Art Adams, Paul Smith, Walt Simonson, John Byrne, Barry-Windsor Smith. And all things Kirby.
Marvel.com: Have you ever thought of drawing your own comic?
Yep, since I was a kid. I've got notebooks of sketches, snippets of dialogue and ideas piled up in my office. There are so many stories I want to tell and they're all bursting out my head to see the light of day. With a good sized break coming up this will be the year to let them loose and see what happens.
Marvel.com: You're from Louisville, Kentucky. Where do you go to buy comic books there?
The Zone ( myspace.com/thezonecomicshop
Marvel.com: What's going on with My Morning Jacket these days?
My Morning Jacket
We're in Australia now for the Big Day Out, a touring festival all across the country. We've got some headlining shows and a few dates opening for Neil Young while we're down here as well. About halfway through now and it's been a blast everyday. I never imagined I'd be hitting the beach in January! [Editor's note: That, uh, already happened, but was too cool to cut.
Marvel.com: A few months back My Morning Jacket released "Evil Urges." Can you tell us about that record?
It's the fifth in a series of long-playing albums sprung from the minds of five strange dudes based in Louisville, KY. It feels like the most diverse and celebratory collection of songs we've ever put together. We recorded it the fall before last in NYC, and living in and being caught up in the energy of the city for those 5 weeks was an amazing experience.
We've been on the road in support of the record for about a year now. Please consider spending a romantic musical evening with us in your hometown in the near future.
Marvel.com: What are Two Tone Tommy's plans after this tour is over?
To get back to my not-so-secret identity as Tom Blankenship, and hang out with the real super hero, my wife Linda, and our three furry kiddos, do some writin' and doodlin' and a little relaxing too.
My Morning Jacket's latest album "Evil Urges" is out now. For more information and when you can find them in your area, visit www.mymorningjacket.com now.
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