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Review: Gunning for Hits #1

Gunning for Hits #1

Gunning for Hits is a resounding rebuttal to the argument that Image Comics only puts out sci-fi, horror, and fantasy comics as writer Jeff Rougvie,who helped put together re-releases of David Bowie’s album catalogue in the 1990s, artist Moritat and colorist/letterer Casey Silver tell an inside baseball music industry saga that feels more like a mid-2000s prestige television show. It’s the 1980s, MTV is booming, everyone is buying CDs, and punk and New Wave are a thing, I guess. Martin Mills is an A and R man with a secret and thinks he might have a big act on his hands in Stunted Growth and their frontman Billy. But he has to argue with the Billy’s girlfriend/manager a lot first.

Until the final pages where Moritat and Silver turn the grit and grime of a Connecticut rock club to something a little more film noir, Gunning for Hits #1 is strictly an establishing chapter. It sets up Martin, Stunted Growth, and the cutthroat music industry of the 1980s and creates a little intrigue and future plot possibilities with the mention of Brian Slade aka the David Bowie stand-in from Todd Haynes’ 1998 glam rock film Velvet Goldmine. Martin and Billy might look and react as polar opposites, but they both love Slade’s work and want to be involved in his comeback. It’s also an opportunity for Moritat to take a break from the back rooms shadows and Martin’s practiced stances to draw some wide eyes and big poses as Billy geeks out.

The sequence that stood out most to me in Gunning for Hits is Martin’s explanation of how the music industry works. Instead of a wall of text about how the sausage is made, Rougvie let Moritat and Silver lose with fun and easy to follow cartooning in the vein of Scott McCloud, Action Philosophers and Comic Book History of Comics’ Ryan Dunlavey, or even the underrated Chris Eliopoulos. Fun, simple images make exposition go down easier and also do a solid job setting up Martin Mills’ place in the music industry without revealing his whole backstory. (One panel tells a lot, to be honest.) It’s a little crazy that the guy doing this humorous cartooning was bringing the dark atmosphere at the beginning and end of the comic. However, this extended scene isn’t without its rough patches, including an anti-Semitic caricature of a record company lawyer.

But, returning back to my mention of mid-2000s television, Gunning for Hits is really an anti-hero story about a cynical, sharp (In his narrative captions especially.), and morally bankrupt white man, who is good at his job and has just a hint of likability mostly in his music taste as he takes chances on new acts and doesn’t succumb to Baby Boomer nostalgia. Martin even gets pitted against an unlikable female character throughout the first issue, who is almost parodic in her demands from billboards in Times Square to prestigious hosting gigs and even getting Madonna as an opening act. (Although, Martin does remark that she does make good points about getting Stunted Growth on the radio.) He’s like Mad Men Season 1’s Don Draper, who does business in the backroom of shitty rock clubs and not board rooms, with Dick Whitman hiding somewhere beneath the surface. Moritat draws him like a tiger ready to pounce.

Jeff Rougvie’s wealth of experience in the music industry and a strong mysterious backstory hook plus Moritat and Casey Silver’s flexibility with the visuals make Gunning for Hits #1 a strong start to a series that is filled with both passion for the pure pop single as well as cynicism towards the whole soulless enterprise around it. It pairs well with “Ashes to Ashes”.

Story: Jeff Rougvie Art: Moritat Color/Letters: Casey Silver
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.8 Overall: 8.4 Recommendation: Buy

Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

NYCC 2018: Music producer Jeff Rougvie teams with Moritat to infuse new series Gunning for Hits with Bowie influences

Award-winning music producer, Jeff Rougvie, known for his work with David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Big Star, Morphine, and many other great artists, will team up with Moritat for an all-new, ongoing thriller series, Gunning for Hits. The new series will be based upon Rougvie’s rich background in the industry and draw upon experiences during the outrageous period in the ‘80s and ‘90s when record labels were flush with cash beyond their wildest expectations and the business got more criminal and more corporate. Gunning for Hits is set to launch on Wednesday, January 9th, 2019.

Rougvie and Moritat will both be at New York Comic Con this weekend to share more on their new series on the Image Comics’ panel, #WeBelieve in Vision, from 2:45 – 3:45 PM in 1A24 and will be handing out a special, limited edition Gunning for Hits promotional jewel case with mini-comic teaser inside.

Set in the shady New York City music scene of the mid-80s, Gunning for Hits stars Martin Mills, a record company talent scout with an inscrutable past. Follow Martin as he attempts to sign a rock band that’ll conquer the world. Plus: each issue will include a background feature and a Spotify playlist.