Today in JacoBLOG, something special – a talented former college radio DJ has turned those adventures into a graphic comic book.
Her college? Ithaca College.
And the station? The legendary WICB.
You may not know those call letters, but they were home to famous broadcasters like Bob Iger and David Muir, along with radio people you may have worked with – notably, Steve Goldstein, Scott Musgrave, Bill Rose, Bob Buchmann, David Lebow, and so many others indelibly impacted by their time at Ithaca College.
Mike Stern grabs the keyboard to showcase another alum who is honoring her alma mater in the most unique of ways. – FJ
Chances are if you worked at a college radio station in the 1980’s like I did, there are a number of experiences we have in common: trekking across campus late at night – often in terrible weather – to host an overnight shift; a convoluted rotation system that used colored dots; carrying a razor blade in your book bag; and of course, waking up in a cold sweat from the dreaded “dead air” dream.
While not everyone who first earned their chops working at the college station goes on to work in the industry, that doesn’t mean their time wasn’t as memorable or impactful.
For Shelly Bond, who has been a comic book editor, designer and curator for the last quarter century, her fond memories of working at 92 WICB at Ithaca College has led to a unique Kickstarter project called (of course) Heavy Rotation, a comic book ode to her time at the station in the mid-'80s.
When a good friend of mine tipped me off to the project, I reached out to Shelly to learn more. It stuck me as a truly creative mashup of the comic book genre and radio – two of my favorite things.
Mike Stern: How did the idea for Heavy Rotation come about?
Shelly Bond: I’ve been waging an internal war between my love for music and comics since college when my screenwriting teacher used an indie comic book to explain storyboarding, and I became fascinated by the art form. I had no idea comics even existed in the late '80s but it turned out there was quite a creative boom at the time. But it was never about superheroes for me; rather the avant garde, diary comics or experimental black humor and satire.
Although I worked for DC Comics’ original Vertigo imprint for over 20 years with amazing writers like Neil Gaiman and Gerard Way, and superstar artists like Michael Allred (who has a Bowie/Starman piece in Heavy Rotation), it was my work with my husband, artist and Creative Director Philip Bond, on “Black Crown” for IDW Publishing that really merged my love for music and comics.
Now Kickstarter has become a new frontier for self-publishing, and there’s nothing quite like it at the moment. It’s such an invigorating community where you can create stories that are perfectly designed for a particular audience—great or small. That’s how I got to Heavy Rotation, a 48-page comic book anthology that’s a love letter to ‘80s college radio, featuring short stories about DJs who spin actual records.
MS: The Kickstarter description says Heavy Rotation includes “short comics, prose & single illustrations, essays and interviews.” Are these your ideas or did you get contributions from other people who were at the station with you?
SB: A bit of both. So many of the DJs who came of age at WICB were funny, smart creatives who went on to other occupations, but I knew they had great stories to tell. My roommate, Barbra Baker, was one of the funniest writers in college, so naturally she was my first point of contact for the project.
2020 was the year of the Zoom meeting, so it won’t shock you to learn that former Programming Director/DJ Glenn Raucher invited a group of us on a call last October and it really blossomed from there.
With help from DJ Heather Goldberg we’ve wrangled comics, prose stories and single illustrations from comic book greats including Michael Allred (Silver Surfer, Madman), Sanford Greene (Bitter Root), Jill Thompson (The Sandman, Scary Godmother, Wonder Woman), Anna Puchalski (Insider Art) and others.
MS: How did you first wind up at the college radio station?
SP: Barbra showed me the ropes. Then, like all rookie DJs, I had to survive a semester of 2-6am overnight shifts, which was quite a rite of passage. I wrote a comic book story about it which involves barely surviving the long, dark walk across campus in the dead of winter at Ithaca College.
My dorm was located as far from the radio station as you could get—which felt like 10 miles. Getting there was a journey. In the book, artist Mark Stafford perfectly captures the highlights from one diminutive teenager’s midnight journey navigating between drunk college students and strange creatures of the night to the warm, cacophonous vinyl sanctuary that was 92 WICB.
MS: Did you ever consider pursuing radio as a career?
SP: My first legit job after graduation was working as a DJ at a small AM radio station in Ephrata, PA. I barely lasted a summer pushing buttons and reading farm reports. I was miserable because I despised the music and hated living back home in the suburban hell that I couldn’t wait to escape a mere 4 years earlier.
So, by September of 1988, I got a studio apartment in Center City, Philadelphia, and took a job at an indie comic book company. My parents were happy to get rid of me.
MS: Did any of the people you worked with at the station go on to a career in the radio industry?
SB: There are twelve active DJ contributors from WICB and a few surprise guest writers who were former college DJs or connected to radio stations and dance clubs. Former Tech Director/WICB DJ Mike Sauter wears the crown as the legit professional DJ of the group as the Station Manager of WYEP in Pittsburgh.
But many of these mid-century modern record enthusiasts have cool, creative jobs (Bobbie Carlton runs a veritable Marketing and PR empire!) or spent a good part of their lives in the music business.
MS: What is your most memorable moment from working at the station?
SB: Nailing those cold endings! There was no greater satisfaction derived from coming into a talk set on time out of Gang of Four’s “It Is Not Enough.” Or a magical segue like New Order’s “Ceremony” into The Tom Tom Club’s “Genius of Love.”
I’m convinced that mastering the perfect segue is equivalent to falling in mad love or opening a bag of Double Stuf Oreos that you don’t have to share with your teenage son.
The Kickstarter campaign for Heavy Rotation ends tonight. You can learn more about the book, see more sample art or reserve a copy of the book here.
Special thanks to former WICB Program Director, Steve Goldstein, who helped make the station “brilliant at the basics.”
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