Anthrax's Charlie Benante and Scott Ian on Their New Z2 Graphic Novel

Today, Bleeding Cool (and Rolling Stone Magazine) are announcing a new Anthrax original graphic anthology, created with the heavy metal band, an adaptation of their The Among the Living album, with different creators adapting different tracks. Including Charlie Benante and Scott Ian of the band, writing and drawing an adaptation of their own best-known song I Am The Law – which was about Judge Dredd – as an official Judge Dredd story, signed off by 2000AD and Rebellion Publishing, and appearing in the anthology.

Narrated by longtime mascot "The Not Man" newly designed by Greg Nicotero, Among The Living also adds non-band members as creators, big comic book writers Brian Azzarello, Grant Morrison, Jimmy Palmiotti, Brian Posehn, Rick Remender, Corey Taylor, Joseph Trohman, Gerard Way, Mikey Way, and Rob Zombie, with more to be announced and artists Roland Boschi, Maan House, Dave Johnson, Scott Koblish, Darrick Robertson, and Erik Rodriguez, and more, with covers by Charlie Benante, JG Jones, and Eric Powell.

It's being published by Z2 Comics in 2021, following their Gorillaz Almanac book. And today, I got to ask questions of Charlie Benante and Scott Ian, about working on the book with a litany of comic book legends. Oh and the word that there is an unpublished Scott Ian/Sam Kieth Demon comic book out there somewhere in DC Comics' bottom drawers…

Anthrax's Charlie Benante and Scott Ian on Their New Z2 Graphic Novel
Anthrax's Charlie Benante and Scott Ian on Their New Z2 Graphic Novel

Rich Johnston: As Anthrax, you've had a habit of throwing in comic book references throughout your career. Why wait so long to actually create and publish your own comic books so widely?

SI: We never had an idea this good. And we never had the talent involved that we do now to make something so killer!

CB: It's actually always been a dream to do a comic book. I had the idea to do an Anthrax comic book. With our last three records, I was almost trying to tell a story with the album cover designs starting with We Come For You All to Worship Music, and finally, All Kings.
I even met with someone and started developing it. Then I got busy with other things, and just kinda put it on the back burner again. When Josh Bernstein and I talked about doing an Among the Living comic, I was like 'f-ck this is a great idea, let's do it!' Scott got involved, and Bam! this sh-t was off to the races! It is such a dream of mine to have a comic book, and not just a comic book, but one based on your album that you're really proud of. Then, getting other people to contribute and take it to another level. These are things that I only dreamt of doing, so it's all become a reality and it's just crazy.

Charlie Benante and Scott Ian of Anthrax on Their New Graphic Novel
Anthrax's Charlie Benante and Scott Ian on Their New Z2 Graphic Novel

RJ:  I Am The Law is one of your most famous tracks, based on Judge Dredd – now you are both turning it back into a Judge Dredd comic itself and going all official? What will that official "stamp" mean to you?

SI: Oh man, it's crazy. I NEVER thought that writing I Am The Law all those years ago would ever lead to this. A few years back Chris Ryall (then at IDW) asked me about possibly writing a short Dredd story for the back of their Dredd comic, like a B-side. I wanted to do it but I never came up with an idea I felt was worth exploring. At some point later on I did come up with an idea and it's been hanging around in my brain for years. I couldn't get rid of it, like it had squatters rights. I had no outlet for the story because how was I going to write a Dredd comic? So when this project started to take shape I figured this was my chance. Of course, we'd need permission to use Dredd and my story pitch got the green light. It's incredibly exciting to get to do this and it still doesn't seem real. I'm writing a Dredd story – holy crap! And Charlie's cover is KILLER.

CB: Back in 1985-86 when we discovered Judge Dredd, he really meant so much to us that we had to base an entire song around the character. 2000AD was producing comics that I looked at and I was immediately blown away by the level of talent of the artists they had. Especially Brian Bolland. He was one of the greatest comic book artists that I'd seen come out in years at that time. Now, to be doing a Dredd story in our own comic and I get to do the cover tied to that? Wow. I basically get to take my influences, and what I've learned from guys like Brian Bolland and Bernie Wrightson and apply it to something that will be a part of that character's history, and tt's validating, you know? They're putting their stamp on it, so it's like we're actually doing it now and God, I'm on such a high from this. It's just amazing.

RJ: A lot has happened in Dredd since 1987. Any chance of an I Am The Law Part II? I Am The Law: Law Harder? I Am Still The Law?

SI: I Am The Law and Order. Dredd teams up with Munch and Fin to hunt down the last of the Maga's hiding in the basement of Trump Tower. The crossover no one asked for!

CB: A lot has happened to Judge Dredd. I can see us doing a song about it. Dredd gets a Twitter account. He talks sh-t about everybody. He's got these sycophants who are just crazy and you know he's gotta enter this world of the internet! But yeah, that would be a good idea to kinda wanna do I Am the Law Part 2: here's where Dread is at this point.

RJ: Scott Ian, you wrote Lobo for DC Comics a decade ago, but also were going to write Etrigan The Demon – what happened there?

SI: I wrote Etrigan. Sam Keith did the art. It's brutal. I had a different take on the Demon. He's a f-cking Demon. Sadly it got lost in the big shuffle at DC back in 2011. Maybe someday it'll get finished and people can read it.

RJ: Charlie, when you next go back to a comic con, when we next have a comic con, will it be as a comic creator?

CB: Whenever conventions start up again and especially San Diego, I am going to enter it as a full-on comic creator. I wanna do panels, I wanna do signings, I wanna do all the things that go along with this. Maybe it's goofy, but man, I need this. So yeah, as soon as this stuff is up and running and we start doing cons, I will be there.

RJ: Darryl McDaniels talked about starting Run DMC because he couldn't get into the comics industry at the time. Is there an alternate version of yourselves where you became big names at Marvel and DC instead of rock stars? Does that idea have any appeal?

SI: Then I have that in common with Darryl. Back in 1980-81 I always figured if I didn't make it in a band I'd become a comic writer. I don't know how I would've just become one, but I also didn't know how I was going to make it in a band so f-ck it! I would've figured it out.

CB: I remember hearing Daryl say that about Run DMC but you know what, it's like Marvel and DC -these are names I've known since I was four years old!. Stan Lee is a name I knew when I was four or five years old. It is just astounding to me to think about it like that. We're going to be putting a comic book out, just like they put out comics. These were dreams to me, and I was talking to someone earlier about the posters that were on my wall when I was a young kid. Now you've met them and you're even friends with some of those people that had a part in those posters on your wall. Then I go further and think what if some part of this book, people wanted to do something where it's adapted to movies or something. That would also be amazing because then we could do the soundtrack!

RJ: Out of all the creators names for the new graphic anthology, aside from yourselves, which excite you the most? Whose work do you know the best?

SI: They all do. The fact that all these amazingly talented people were inspired by our record and wanted to be a part of this is incredible to me. I mean for f-ck's sake, Grant Morrison is writing a story for our comic. Which Earth am I on?

CB: I'm excited for all the writers and the artists that are contributing to this book. People like Gerard and Mikey Way, I think they are going to bring something great to that story. Rob Zombie is going to bring his take on things, and really looking forward to seeing what he comes up with. Corey Taylor is going to do an amazing job as well. I still pinch myself. It's like 'wow, all these people are really going to do this, and then there's the artists who are going to sketch out these stories?

I'm just excited about the whole thing. I'm trying to stay in the loop with everything of course, but I almost don't want to hear much about it until I can actually see it. I want that genuine excitement, because I'm still a fan. While I think being behind the scenes is great, I also want to be that person to just look at it and think 'ah, look at this. This came out amazing!'

RJ: Anthrax: Among The Living gets in a fistfight with the Gorillaz Almanac. Who wins? And how?

SI: We do because we have Randall Flagg. 'Nuff said.

CB: I'm trying to visualize who would win in this fight – the Among the Living graphic novel or the Gorillaz Almanac. I mean, I know the Gorillaz and I love the characters, especially Murdock. But I don't think they stand a chance against the preacher from Among the Living, because he's just f-cking pure evil, and you don't know what he's got going on. He could burn you with his eyes. His hat comes off and there are his horns – his horns send out these gamma rays. (Laughs) I don't know I'm just spit balling, but it's a good concept – who would win in a fight? You know it's like, Mighty Mouse or Tom and Jerry. Among The Living wins.

It certainly does, boys. And in the general press release they send out, we got some more quotes.

Charlie Benante says "Doing a comic book has always been a huge goal for me. I've tried for years, but something always comes up and sidetracks me. I was ecstatic when Josh Bernstein brought the idea to us to do a graphic novel based on our album Among the Living.  I felt that it was the perfect time and opportunity to fulfill that dream. I am a lifelong artist and have been drawing during the pandemic more than ever, so I had the idea to bring my own artwork to this project. As a fan of the Judge Dredd series since the 80's, it was an honor to create cover art based off of Dredd and Judge Death. The amount of talent that is going into this project is astounding, I scratch my head just thinking about it!"

Scott Ian says "Comics are one of the two things (the other thing being Horror) that I've been into longer than music. Comics were/are my constant. Music joined the party and became my constant as well. I started a band. I wrote lyrics about comics and horror and they connected with people all over the world. And now for the 40th (40!!!) anniversary of Anthrax, I get to cross the streams and merge my constants with a graphic novel (comic) celebrating the album that made such a mark on the planet – Among the Living. Getting to be a part of this process – choosing writers and artists to express what these songs mean to them has been incredible. I made a wish list of writers/artists/musicians that I would love to be a part of this not really thinking we'd get them. I was aiming high, the list had Grant Morrison's name at the top – and Grant said yes. Brian Azzarello said yes. Eric Powell, J.G. Jones, Greg Nicotero, Corey Taylor, Rob Zombie, Brian Posehn, Rick Remender, Joe Trohman, Gerard & Mikey Way – they all said yes. Holy crap!"

He also talked about where the idea about turning I Am The LAw as a comic book came about – and it's Grant Morrison's fault too. "I pitched a Judge Dredd story for 'I Am The Law' that I'd been thinking about for a while. It was an idea I actually talked to Grant about one night after an Anthrax show in Glasgow over a few drinks. This idea has stayed with me, I'd never written it down, it was one of those ideas that would smack me in the face every few months demanding to be recognized, I just didn't have an outlet for it. And then I did have an outlet with this project but, we didn't have the rights to use Dredd in our book. You have to ask right? So we sent my idea to the kind folks at Rebellion and they green-lit my story. And there my friends is the moment where everything came full circle for me as a life-long comic nerd and the as the guy in Anthrax. Thank you Among the Living for making it all happen."

This project will be offered in multiple formats, with deluxe and super deluxe editions inclusive of special picture disc vinyl, an exclusive MadBalls toy, art prints, and a gold record plaque All editions are available to order directly from Z2's website now, with Charlie Benante's Judge Dredd variant exclusive to preorders of the standard edition.

About Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.

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