The New Avengers? “Philadelphia Jazz Stories Illustrated: Volume One” drops this week

Making local jazz legends into commix superheroes is the name of the game.

Martin Scorsese had an interesting point when he claimed that, in his humble opinion, new school Marvel Universe Comics films were more popcorny entertainment than cinema. That’s not a bad thing, being entertaining-only fodder, but that there is more meat and more passion to be found in art that is deeper and denser.

Then again, you can carry that logic further and make superheroes out of art. For instance, if you have ever thought to yourself that Philadelphia jazz legends such as John Coltrane, Dizzy Gillespie, Rufus Harley, Lee Morgan, Billie Holiday, Jef Lee Johnson, Grover Washington Jr., Nina Simone, Pearl Bailey, Sun Ra, and others were worthy of superhero worship, then “Philadelphia Jazz Stories Illustrated: Volume One” – a colorful comix collection of historical accounts of epic jazz, Philly-style, is for you.

Created with the foresight of Philadelphia Jazz Project and co-written/directed by PJP director Homer Jackson – with graphic designer Lynn Washington and Marvel and DC Comics veteran illustrator Eric Battle (he’s had a hand in penciling characters for Spider-Man, Batman, The Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman) – “Philadelphia Jazz Stories Illustrated: Volume One” is a handsome look at local jazz iconography. If anyone recalls the “Classics illustrated” of our youth – legendary literary works turn into pop comic strips, you get the idea.

Told through compiled “true accounts and tall tales” and interviews with musicians such as Odean Pope, Rashied Ali, Raymond A. King, Barbara Montgomery, Bootsie Barnes, Ted Gerike and Mickey Roker with illustration by visual artists such as Jerry Pinkney and Michelle Ortiz, the comic book is more like a love letter to Philly’s most soulful classical music. And it can leap over tall buildings in a single bound.

This Sunday, December 1, the forces and friends behind “Philadelphia Jazz Stories Illustrated: Volume One,” will gather, from 1 – 4 p.m. at the Barnes Foundation (2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway) for some free live music and book autographing in what is a lovely way to start off the month of Christmas.

Here is the itinerary for the event:
1 p.m. – Performance by Larry Price / Warren Oree
2 p.m. – Performance by Jeff Scull / Justin Sekelewski
3 p.m. – Panel Discussions:
• Diane Turner – African American studies scholar
• Eric Battle – Project Art Director & Illustrator
• Denise Erickson – Illustrator
• Homer Jackson – Director of the Philadelphia Jazz Project

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