Forget Stan Lee! Celebrated American comic-book artist Neal Adams and British band the Groundhogs joined forces in 1972 to create rock’s coolest comic/album ever: Who Will Save The World? The Mighty Groundhogs. Fire Records now revives this neglected fanboy fare on colored vinyl along with the complete comic book and other ephemera. MAGNET’s Mitch Myers digs in to get the story behind this mythical masterpiece.
“Looks like we got here just in time!”
Nearly a half-century after the fact, world-famous comic-book artist Neal Adams remembers his odd foray into the realm of album rock via Who Will Save The World? The Mighty Groundhogs. It was 1972, comics were still for kids, and the idea of generating some cost-prohibitive album art was not completely taboo. British blues-rock band the Groundhogs had a real agenda and a powerful vision, and once the America-based Adams accepted his assignment, there was no looking back, until now. Heed his words.
“And not a minute too soon!”
The Nefarious Neal Adams Speaks!
MAGNET: How did you come to do the artwork for this Groundhogs album?
Adams: Apparently, there are some crazy people over there in England. One of them, I don’t know if it was the band. I don’t think they made enough money to travel over here, and I never met them over there, but they sent this proposal that was so stupid that I had to do it. It was a foldout album that was really insane, and I thought, “They won’t do this.” I don’t know even what I charged them, but I tried to keep it low enough to make it worthwhile because I knew I had never heard of these people, and I thought that it was probably about a 20-percent chance that they’d actually get it done, but they did!
It was practically insane. They were interested in turning the Groundhogs into kind of superheroes, and they had certain attitudes about the ecology and stuff like that. They proposed it, and I thought, “What the hell, take the flyer.” I do tend to do those kinds of things, probably more than I should, but I’m crazy. So I did it, and the only thing I heard about the album was that is wasn’t selling very well. I didn’t expect it to sell, I don’t even remember hearing it. It’s one of those things.
Did they provide the storyline and dialogue for you to render?
Yeah, it was a script. They even had some rough layouts and kind of a script, and I had to adapt it to the form. I’m a professional and I can do that pretty well, so I adapted it. I remember that one of the guys in the group is a big comic-book fan. You should find out who it is, because whoever that person is mentally nuts! But they gave me enough to be able do it, which you don’t usually get from clients. Clients are stupid with absolutely no brains, and this was organized and made sense!
Did you get to throw much of your own stuff in there?
The thing about it is that I am supposed to be good at what I do. So, obviously, it’s like making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. But there was enough there—and enough really solid, good thinking—that in spite of the fact that there may be people who thought that this was a stupid project, in my mind, I thought, “People ought to pay attention to this kind of shit because it’s significant and worthwhile, and it’s worth doing.” If it had just been some junky piece of crap I wouldn’t have done it because I get proposed lots of stuff all the time. But these people had a point of view, and they were right! They were right 100 percent. So why wouldn’t I do it unless I’m just a Snoid and don’t care?
The parody advertisements were the band’s idea as well?
Yeah! It’s all theirs! I was the wrist, but they had the creativity. I loved doing the project. People would wonder—they’d come by the studio and ask, “What are you doing?” I’d say, “I’m doing The Mighty Groundhogs—just don’t ask.” It was a fun project to have at the studio. The whole idea of the flaps and laying it out and un-flapping it, it was like, “Really? Somebody will let you do that?” And they were like, “Yeah!”
I think that we had three copies of the album, and they lasted a long time here because people just loved them. Then I would end up saying, “Sure, you can have it, that’s cool.” But they lasted, and they were fan favorites around the studio. Anybody that knows Continuity (Studios) knows The Mighty Groundhogs. Who ever did a project like that? I am amazed and overjoyed about the reissue. Promote it as much as you can on the internet.
In response to Adams, Groundhogs leader Tony McPhee explains it was he who really loved the comic-art form: “There was a big push by the record company, after the success of the previous albums, to get another album out. With all the pressure from gigging, there was little time to write, but I thought it would be cool to use a Marvel Comics-type cover. I used to read a lot of Marvel comics at the time, and I was a big fan of Silver Surfer, drawn by Neal Adams. Neal Adams not only came up with the artwork, but he may have come up with the title.”
According to McPhee, once he saw the album layout, he was then inspired to write the songs to link with Adams’ artwork.