“A 1990 Marvel comic about some teens who form a rock band” might sound like an ideal candidate for Nobody’s Favorites in theory, but — stupid title aside — Elaine Lee and Steve Leialoha’s Steeltown Rockers ended up winning me over with its goofy charm.
The six-issue limited series was a collaboration between Elaine Lee and Steve Leialoha, and centered a polyglot group of high schoolers hoping to swap the grim reality of living in a dying rustbelt town for some rock ‘n’ roll fantasies.
It’s out-and-out melodrama, but it’s melodrama with a heart. Steeltown Rockers mave have taken a slightlier cartoony approach to serious issues — like alcoholism, drug abuse, and dysfunctional families — than the “Earth Stories” arc unfolding in Zot! at the time, but it also avoided the moments of painful earnestness that plague Scott McCloud’s influential, if dated, magnum opus.
The series reminds me a lot of Degrassi Jr. High, back in the days before the franchise jettisoned any attempt at versimillitude in favor of a excremental Toronto 90210 approach. That’s not a bad place to be in terms of young adult-themed funnybook, where works occupying the middle ground between “lurid explotation” and “sanitized fluff” are few and far between.
Steeltown Rockers is one of those comics that I can’t believe ever made it into print, but I’m happy it did…even though I cannot fathom what the hell a band from that era, with that line up could have possibly sounded like.