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He Found a New Place to Dwell

(This  Stripped column originally appeared in the August 7-13, 1997 Long Island Voice.Click on the artwork for a larger image.)

by Beth Hannan Rimmels


"The Colonel can take my name. He can take my identity. But when he does this, when he tries to ruin my memory in the minds of the people, that’s when my charity runs out."

—The Real Elvis Presley in Elvis Shrugged #2.

Since Elvis is being discussed in the paper this week, I thought I’d talk about an Elvis miniseries. No, not a comic book bio. I’m not that predictable.

The miniseries I recommend for Elvis fans is Elvis Shrugged. Ironically, the 1991 miniseries by Revolutionary comics is set in 1997. Revolutionary was known for its biographical and music-oriented comic books, such as Rock ’N’ Roll Comics, Hard Rock Comics, Baseball Superstars, etc., but Elvis Shrugged was a stretch. Hell, it would have been a stretch for any company.

As the title hints, it’s a parody of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. Both stories look at a society where conformity is rewarded and individualism, hard work and even ingenuity are belittled, but where Atlas Shrugged looked at society as a whole, Elvis Shrugged does it via the music industry.

In the 1997 of Elvis Shrugged, only one record company exists after absorbing or driving out the others — Sony/Time/Warner. Perhaps it’s a bit extreme but after real mergers like Turner and Time-Warner or Disney buying ABC, it’s not that far fetched. Under the guise of fiscal caution, Sony/Time/Warner has eradicated all music except rock. But S/T/W becomes desperate to find anyone to keep the public happy when the most innovative composers and singers began disappearing. As Jon Peters and Peter Gubers say, "…we need new blood. Certainly nothing chancy or innovative. Just new faces to do the same old thing, which is what the rock industry has always been about."

Madonna refuses to work for Sony/Time/Warner and teams up with the rejuvenated (via Austrian youthfulness treatments and bionics) Frank Sinatra to record some revolutionary music they found. But Sony/Time/Warner manages to absorb their tiny company, Madonna tries to trace the missing musicians while Old Blue Eyes fends off Colonel Parker (now a scientifically preserved floating head) and Andrew Lloyd Webber on behalf of Sony/Time/Warner.

Madonna finds that Elvis is alive. After his 1970 comeback concert, Elvis broke with the Colonel’s, preferring to write his own experimental music. While Elvis soul searched in Tibet, the Colonel had a clone replace him, but when Elvis discovers that the clone has become a sick parody, he engineers the clone’s death in the most embarrassing way possible. Then he enlists other musicians to the cause, the first batch of whom, like John Lennon, Roy Orbison and Sammy Davis Jr., fake their deaths and join Elvis in an island hideaway — Blue Hawaii — where they can create music without profit-driven pressure.

Elvis Shrugged is a riot and the caricature art by Dave Garcia is perfect. Potshots are taken at Webber and corporate greed as well as political correctness and Spike Lee. It also parodies Atlas Shrugged very well. In Atlas Shrugged, when something goes wrong, people ask "Who is John Galt?" In Elvis Shrugged, the phrase is "Is Elvis alive?"

The idea that Elvis wanted to stretch creatively is based in fact. Elvis wanted to broaden his acting range and was considered to costar in The Defiant Ones with Sammy Davis Jr., who had proven his dramatic chops in The Golden Boy on Broadway. Unfortunately, the Colonel talked Elvis out of it.

Elvis Shrugged is out of print but can be found in the small press bins at comic book stores and shows. I love it because while the title sounds like a jab, it’s really a compliment because the story says that Elvis would have had never become a shadow of his former self.

Artist Appearance: Artist J.G. Jones will sign Shi: The Series #1 starting at noon today at Midtown Comics, 200 W. 40th St (corner of 7th Ave), 2nd Floor, Times Square, NYC. If you can’t make that, Shi creator Bill Tucci will sign Shi: Heaven & Earth #2 at noon Sept 25 at the same place.


Column İ 1997 Long Island Voice. Artwork İ Revolutionary Comics.