Welcome to ISC HiFi. Explore new records daily from our growing collection of classics and rarities from around the world. Discover the stories behind the records. Experience the ISC listening space from home through our (( ROOM RECORDING )) audio player below.

“To hear more, say less.”

Our website uses cookies
Read our privacy policy.

I Agree

Inna Comic Book Style: Superhero Art in Dub

Written By: 
Phil Cho
Tags: 
Share:
  •  

Larger-than-life dub heroes. For our second Art & Design: In Focus feature, ISC staff Phil Cho traces the origins behind the iconic comic book style album cover in reggae & dub.

When you think of classic reggae album covers, the images that typically come to mind include the Jamaican flag, King Selassie, Rasta Lions, the Jamaican landscape, accompanied by a straightforward photo of the artist. But there’s another classic style of artwork within reggae’s history that includes comic book superhero imagery – costumes, capes, lasers, enemy aliens and all. What do these things have to do with reggae? To find out, look at reggae’s relationship with cinema and Western popular culture in the 70’s.

Early Years & Cinema

Illustrated album covers became common in reggae during the mid 70’s. Often influenced by movies, early examples include rocksteady soundtrack classic Harder They Come (1972), which referenced Hollywood Westerns and Blaxploitation films, and Lee Scratch Perry’s Kung Fu Meets the Dragon (1975) which referenced Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon (1973).

These pop culture images illustrate one of the many ways in which Jamaican resourcefulness — their willingness to use just about any source material — created new ideas. Similar feats include Augustus Pablo’s use of the children’s melodica in reggae, Dancehall’s sleng-teng riddim and the dub genre as a whole, which reworked existing instrument tracks with tape manipulations and studio equipment to create an entirely new sound.

Various Artists – Harder They Come (1972)
The Upsetters – Kung Fu Meets the Dragon (1975)

With the foundation of cinema references set, an early version of the comic book style would emerge in 1976 again with Lee Scratch Perry on his now classic Super Ape. This cover is unique in that it actually included Marvel Comics-style lettering with comic book notations and arrows. “Scratch,” with his endless creativity and playful sense of humor, became a champion for this new art style.

The Upsetters – Super Ape (1976)
The Upsetters – Return of the Super Ape (1978)

Enter Tony McDermott

In the 80’s, Greensleeves resident designer Tony McDermott would further popularize this playful, parody style of album cover with a slew of Scientist and Mad Professor records that referenced everything in pop culture from horror films and video games to sports.

Scientist ‎– Scientist Rids The World Of The Evil Curse Of The Vampires (1981)
Scientist ‎– Scientist Encounters Pac-Man (1982)
Scientist ‎– Scientist Wins The World Cup (1982)

The most common themes involved superheroes, who were the perfect foils for the dub producers McDermott was working with at the time. He portrayed these artists as larger-than-life characters able to command and direct sound at will. One of their key powers involved laser beams, a reference to the laser-like sounds employed in dub. Generated using single oscillator synthesizers, producers magnified the waves using echo and delay effects. Dub producers were also often shown commanding spaceships (mixing boards) and operating futuristic technology (sound systems and studio effects). On a more surface level, superheroes were the perfect visual for producers like Scientist and Mad Professor, whose names already sounded like they’d been pulled from the Marvel universe.

Mad Professor ‎– Escape To The Asylum Of Dub (1983)
Scientist – Scientist Meets The Space Invaders (1981)
Mad Professor ‎– Schizophrenic Dub (1986)

Another of McDermott’s key inspirations for this style likely came from George Clinton’s Parliament Funkadelic, a group that pioneered the space-age aesthetic in both their music and appearance. McDermott was, in fact, an avid soul & funk fan before landing the Greensleeves gig.

Funkadelic ‎– Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On (1974)

Below are more of our favorite comic book style reggae covers including a few later examples. Also, listen to our accompanying playlist which includes tracks from the albums featured in this article.

Sly & Robbie – Disco Dub (1978)
Tradition – Captain Ganja and the Space Patrol (1980)
Prince Jammy – Dub War Vol.1 (1985)
Papa San ‎– Animal Party (1986)
Mad Professor – Hijacked to Jamaica (1991)
Solo Banton – Music Addict E.P. (2011)

Related Articles

Sort By
2020
Abbey Lincoln
Aboriginal
Abstract
Acid Archives
Acid Folk
Acid Punk
Acoustic
Adrian Sherwood
Africa
African
Afro
Afro-Cuban
Afrobeat
Alan Greenberg
Alice Coltrane
Amazon Music
Ambient
Anatolian Rock
AOR
Aquarium Drunkard
Archie Shepp
Archival
Art
Art & Design
Art Film
Art Pop
Art Rock
Article
Avant-Garde
Avant-pop
Avant-Rock
Balearic
Baroque Pop
Basquiat
Bayou Funk
BBC
Berlin-school
Best of 2020
Big Band
Black Jazz
Blaxsploitation
Blue Note
Blues
Bob Marley
Boogie
books
Bossa
Bossa Nova
Brazilian Folk
Breakbeat
Breezy
Brian Eno
Bruce Weber
Cabaret
CAN
Cape Verde
Caribbean
Casio
Cassette
CD
Channel One Studios
Chanson
Chee Shimizu
Chet Baker
Chicago
Choral
City Pop
Classical
Compass Point
Compilation
Conny Plank
Contemporary Jazz
Cosmic
Cosmic Folk
Country-Rock
Covers
Cult Classic
Cumbia
Daft Punk
Dance
Dancehall
Dark Entries
David Bowie
Deep Dive
Deep Listening
Delia Derbyshire
Dennis Bovell
Detroit
Devotional
Dick Verdult
Disco
Discogs
DIY
DIY / Amateur
Documentary
Don Cherry
Downtempo
Dream House
Dream Pop
Drone
Drum Break
Drum n Bass
Drums
Dub
dublab
Dubwise
Düsseldorf School
Early Electronic
East African
ECM
Electric Lady
Electro
Electronic
Electronica
Elegant Pop
Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam
Enossified
Esoteric
ESP Institute
Essential Listening
Essential Listenning
Ethereal
Ethiopian Jazz
Ethnic
Events
Exotica
Experimental
Field recording
Fingertracks
Fishing with John
Floating
Folk
Folk-Rock
Fourth World
Free Jazz
Friends of ISC
Funk
Fusion
G.S. Schray
Garage Rock
Gospel
Graphic Novel
Guitar
Hard Bop
Harold Budd
Haruomi Hosono
Heavy Metal
Herbie Hancock
hi-fi
hi-NRG
Highlife
Hip Hop
history
Holiday
Holy Grail
Home Listening
House
Hypnotic
IDM
Indie
Indie Rock
Industrial
instock
Instrumental
Interview
ISC Classic
ISC Collection
isc guide
ISC Record Store
ISC Selects
Isolation
Italy
Jamaica
James Baldwin
Japanese
Jazz
Jazz-funk
Jazz-rock
JBL
K. Leimer
Kankyo Ongaku
Klaus Schulze
Klipsch
Kosmische
Kraftwerk
Krautrock
L.Shankar
La Monte Young
Labels We Love
Laraaji
Larry Levan
Last Resort
Laswell
Latin
Latin Jazz
Laurel Canyon
Lebanese
Lee Scratch Perry
Left-field
Leftfield
Lena Horne
Les Baxter
Lester Bowie
Library
Listening bar
Live Performance
Live Recording
Los Angeles
Lost & Sound
lost and sound
Louisiana Blues
Lounge
Lounge Lizards
Love Songs
Lovely Music Ltd.
Lovers Rock
Mad Professor
Marantz
Meditative
Melancholic
Mellow
Metal
Milford Graves
Minimal
Minneapolis Sound
Mixes
Mizell Brothers
Modal
Modern Classical
Moki Cherry
Mono
Mort Garson
MPB
Music from Memory
Mwandishi
Narrative
New Age
New Wave
News
Nina Simone
Noise
Northern Soul
Now Sound
Nubian Pop
Nubian Soul
OBI
Obscure
Obscure Sound
Organic
Outsider Pop
Painting with John
Paradise Garage
Pastoral
Patrick Cowley
PBS
Percussion
Piano
Plantasia
Plants
playlist
Playlists
Political
Pop
Popul Vuh
Post Bop
Post Rock
Post-Punk
Power Pop
Premiere
Private Press
Productions
Progressive
Progressive Rock
Prophet-5
Psychedelic
Punk
Qobuz
Quadraphonic
QUARK
R&B
Radio
Rare Groove
rca victor
Record Stores
Record Stories
Reggae
Reissue
Reissues
Remix
Rock
Room Recordings
Roots Reggae
Ryuichi Sakamoto
Samba
Samples
Sci-fi
Séance Centre
Shamisen
Shoegaze
Sly & Robbie
Smooth Jazz
Soft Rock
Songwriting
Soul
Soul-jazz
Sound Collage
Soundsystems
Soundtrack
South African
speakers
Spiritual
Spiritual Jazz
Spoken Word
Staff Picks
Stoner Rock
stores we love
Streaming
Street Soul
Sun Ra
Sunn O)))
Surround Sound
Suzanne Cianni
Synth
Synth-pop
Synthesizer
Synthwave
Taarab
Tangerine Dream
Tapes
Techno
Techno Pop
Television
The Broad
The World Stage
Third Stream
Total Luxury Spa
Traditional
Trip-hop
Tropical
Tropicalia
TV
Vanity Fair
Vintage
Vintage Gear
vinyl
Vocal
Vocoder
Walearic
Water
Werner Herzog
West Africa
West African
Windham Hill
World
Yacht Rock
Yma Sumac
YouTube
Zamrock
Zither
ISCHiFi ((ROOM RECORDING))
0:00 / 0:00
0:00
0:00