Scarred for life
Henry Northmore talks to former System of a Down drummer John Dolmayan about his love of the graphic novel and his burgeoning online comics project
There are plenty of famous faces who love comics: Jonathan Ross, Edward Norton, Sam Raimi, Jon Bon Jovi, Simon Pegg, Jerry Seinfeld, Quentin Tarantino and Nicolas Cage. Even Anthrax wrote ‘I am the Law’ about Judge Dredd. But not many are as passionate as Scars on Broadway and System of a Down drummer John Dolmayan. ‘I’ve been in the comic industry for over 20 years,’ he explains. ‘That’s how I made my living before System got signed. I got fired from every other job so I was like, “fuck it, I’ll put up my own company”. I took a tremendous pay cut to join System in the beginning. But you know what, playing music is worth making no money.’
After the success of SOAD he went back to his first love spending the last four years setting up his own comics website selling back issues, graphic novels, merchandise and original art. It’s an ambitious project set up by a fan for fans. ‘Now that Torpedo Comics is open I still feel like we’re about three years away from being what I want it to be. I’ve got about 15 million books and I only have 30,000 online right now. It’s a tremendous amount of work.’
It was Marvel’s roster of superheroes that first really grabbed Dolmayan after a friend introduced him to the hidden world of the comic book store. ‘My favourite team of all time is the Fantastic Four, especially the John Byrne era. My favourite individual character has to be Spiderman, and my favourite super-villain is Dr Doom.’ Through the 80s he warmed to DC, particularly Frank Miller and Neal Adams’ work on Batman, and epic stories like Alan Moore’s Watchmen, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and Garth Ennis’ Preacher. ‘The DC universe gets really complicated; you got alternate realities and all this crap. There was so much great stuff that came out of DC in the 80s that it made me fall in love with the stuff from the 70s and even later, all the way back to the 40s.’
One of the most accomplished drummers in the business, Dolmayan provides a solid back bone to Scars on Broadway’s leftfield epic rock, and if you look hard enough during their upcoming Glasgow show, you’ll notice Dolmayan’s custom drum kit, featuring art by Jim Lee, Art Adams, Tim Bradstreet, Bill Sienkiewicz, Simon Bisley, Kevin Eastman, Neal Adams and many more.
Dolmayan is also taking his passion to the next level following in the footsteps of My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way and his critically acclaimed series The Umbrella Academy. ‘Three years ago, Jim Lee, who is a good friend of mine, asked me to put together a story and he wanted to do the art. He’s been bothering me to do it for a couple of years now, so I’ve finally started to write something. It’s superhero-based, but I don’t wanna give away the storyline. Let me put it this way, if I don’t think it’s gonna be great, I’m not gonna put it out there. So it may be another ten years before you see it,’ he laughs.
Scars on Broadway play ABC, Glasgow, Sat 20 Sep; www.torpedocomics.com