I was born, raised, and currently reside in New Jersey. That unto itself comes with its share of unique problems, but the one out-and-out positive thing about it was that you grew up listening to Bruce Springsteen. I don’t care who you are or what your background is; if you live in New Jersey you love the Boss. The levels of love may vary, but it’s always there. To be honest Springsteen is such a big part of my life that he’s come to define a lot about my life: I’ve broken up with girls over him, I’ve gotten into bar fights over him, and I nearly failed a class because I called a professor a jackass because they thought Born in the USA was Springsteen's weakest album (no regrets). So when I heard that there was going to be a Springsteen anthology called Wings for Wheels at SPX, I knew I had to pick it up, and hopefully I would get some good comics out of it--and man this thing did not disappoint.
Right off the bat the thing has an impressive look to it, as it's designed to look like a record sleeve with a cover homage to the Born to Run album. The actual book has a weird bit of sticky glaze to make it look like an actual record that almost caused me to rip the sleeve, but I got it out eventually and dug into it pretty much on the convention floor. Of the six stories, I think the ones I enjoyed the most were by Josh PM Fields, Jen Vaughn, and Nomi Kane. Nothing against the other two stories by Todd McArthur and Pat Barret, whose stories were also very good. I felt McArthur's story “A Clarence Clemons Christmas (?) Carol” was a good exercise in cartooning, but the story came off a little preachy. Barret's “Growin Up” was equally interesting in a visual sense, but I also had no idea what was going on. Anyway, the reason I liked the stories that I did were for pretty specific reasons anyway.
To start, why don’t we go to the end with Nomi Kane's (who also edited the whole anthology) “Home is where the Boss Is”. This was a really sweet story that, weirdly enough, reminded me of my parents. Kane tells what I think is a personal story of growing up and going through relationships, and all the while Springsteen's music is with her the entire time. That’s the bit that reminded me of my parents; my love of the Boss was handed down to me by them, so many of my best memories are attached to a Springsteen song, so as such the man's been with me my entire life because of them and he’ll continue to be with me far into the future.
As for the now, that’s where Frees' and Vaughn's stories come in. Vaughn's “This Town” has a young girl who on her way to work keeps hearing fragments of “Dancing in the Dark” that in the end that’s enough to make her a fan. For me this resonated with me simply for the fact I cannot even begin to describe walking around Trenton or Princeton and suddenly a car would drive by or a café speaker would start playing a Springsteen song and suddenly I had just a bit more skip in my step. Frees' “The Boss Won't Stop” tale of going to a karoke bar and seeing a man just kill with Born to Run was really fun, if only for the fact that on the off-chance I go to karaoke I will sing a Springsteen song, it will probably be Born to Run, and if it weren’t for the fact I’ve never been to San Francisco I would swear this story came from Frees seeing me go for broke on stage, because if there is one song I will not half-ass for karaoke it is Born to Run.
I realize I haven’t gotten to into some of the more artistic aspects of these comics but like Springsteen's best songs these comics made me think about my own life and as such I think they all do Springsteen proud, generally speaking though, reading Wings for Wheels makes me feel as out-and -out ecstatic as comics are likely to make me and….uh…look, there is no way I’m going to end this without getting super weepy, so instead I’m just going to say BUY THIS THING and end with my final thoughts on Mr. Bruce Springsteen and the ultimate message of his music via a quote from All Star Superman: “ This is how he sees all the time, every day. Like it’s all just us, in here, together. And we’re all we’ve got.”
TL;DR: NAILED IT!
Wings for Wheels is an anthology edited by Nomi Kane with contributions from Todd McArthur, Jen May, Josh PM Press, Jen Vaughn, and Pat Barrett with a cover by Dan McCool. You can purchase a copy here.
Hi! Beth here. I also picked up this book but as the resident Jersey boy I told Patrick he could do the main review but I really wanted to weigh in as well. I too am a big Springsteen fan and his music (and concerts) have defined a lot of important moments in my life. So I was equally pumped to pick this up. First off, I can not express enough the sexiness of the package that is this book. IT COMES IN A 45 SLEEVE. (With a design based on, as Patrick said, Born to Run, which, if you're not familiar with 1) you should be and 2) lucky for you I happen to have a poster of it on my wall.) As a printing nerd it's basically book porn. I too had the issue of the sticky glaze from the front of the book (to make the record shine line vinyl) causing some problems but once I figured it out? STILL SEXY. But enough about that.
As Patrick said all the stories were clearly chosen with care by editor Nomi Kane and well placed. However unlike Patrick I thought, "A Clarence Clemons Christmas (?) Carol" was flat out awesome. Was it preachy? Maybe. But as someone who has experience the Boss a lot in concert (it was the first concert I ever attended and his live shows were a huge part of a very important relationship in my life) the idea of the Big Man (may he rest in peace and haunt people with his sweet sax solos forever) showing up as a ghost to cajole someone into seeing him live just made my night. I was laughing like an idiot at the very premise let alone the execution.
The other story he didn't quite "feel" was "Growin' Up" and I both agree and disagree. Clearly it's a story that used characters from another comic that I have zero reference on so that was a bit alienating right off the bat. Even the story itself was a little confusing and I totally get where Patrick was coming from. BUT one thing that resonated with me that wouldn't with him is that it all starts over two of the characters having an argument about Connecticut, which is where I grew up, and some of it was spot on. I have had many a conversation where I've had to explain to people that just because I'm from CT doesn't mean that I grew up in Greenwich or was super wealthy. There are VERY rural and VERY middle class parts of CT, it's just not what people associate with the state. So naturally if people think you came from a wealthy background they MIGHT take issue with you "relating" to the working-class lyrics of Springsteen, as seems to be a the heart of this weird romp.
I had a college roommate my freshman year who was a Jersey girl and a HUGE Springsteen fan. She once shrunk down the cover of Born in the USA super-tiny so that she could tape it over the peephole to our suite so when we looked out we couldn't see who was outside but we could totally see the Boss' butt. Ultimately, while my love of Bruce comes from my dad, my "validation" came from her. Her official decision? "You're from the Tri-state area at least so I guess you're allowed to like Springsteen. Just not as much as me." So there you have it.
The point? I don't know. But I agree with Patrick. If you are a fan of Springsteen (or super sexy comics packages) pick up this book!