From the onset, I must admit to being a long-time, hardcore Doors fan. I became fascinated by Jim Morrison et al. during my early university days living in a dormitory, armed primarily with a portable record player and all of the Doors’ output. I remember adding the Doors fifth studio album, Morrison Hotel, to my collection when it was released. The album was a critical and commercial success upon its release and remains one of the band’s classic albums. I can hardly believe that fifty years have passed since then but reviewing this graphic novel magically and effortlessly dissolved the passage of years.
Jim Morrison died in 1971. The surviving members of The Doors, Robby Krieger and John Densmore, collaborated with author and columnist Leah Moore to transform their legendary album, Morrison Hotel, into an anthology with an impressive selection of illustrators to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Moore, along with the individual artists, did much more than illuminate each of the songs from the album and the history and musings of The Doors themselves. Each of the entries in the anthology dissect the historical period, especially for the United States: the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement, the fight for equality for marginalized people, space travel and the moon landing, and the attitudes of the general public to the waning of the social revolution and music of the nineteen-sixties. This examination of several key events effectively resulted in a time-travel journey back to 1969, armed with the baggage of the era and a memorable and poetic soundtrack to carry the reader there and back.
Krieger and Densmore gave Moore and the illustrators access to their photographic archive and, along with the research into personal and historic events from 1969, the creators used their imaginations to develop the individual entries based on the lyrics of each song on the album while highlighting and telling a linear story of the band and the environment enveloping and shaping them during the recording of this album. The anthology is prefaced by a short introduction by Krieger about the genesis of the album photograph and cover. It establishes the mood for the illustrated journey that follows. In some instances, the lyrics are superimposed on “snapshot” illustrations evoking the tempo of the song, in others, the story is told through the lyrics themselves.
While I enjoyed all of the entries, there were several stories that I found outstanding. Colleen Doran’s “Ship of Fools” intersperses the historical renderings of the shipping boats with the then-contemporary images of the moon landing in a complex and emotive explosion of color and sensations. The following entry, “Land Ho!” by Ryan Kelly, uses gritty realism incorporating the fighting in Vietnam and post-traumatic stress disorder in an intentionally jarring manner, bringing the reader back from the sensuality of Doran’s illustrations. Several entries later, the reader vicariously experiences Jill Thompson’s light and summery rendition of “Indian Summer”. The final entry, “Outro” by Tony Parker and colorist Alladin Collar, brings the reader back to the prose introduction, recapping the discovery of the Morrison Hotel and the how and why of the infamous photograph. It also brings the reader full circle to the satisfying pleasure of listening to the album in its original format—no streaming! Chris Hunt did the art work for the cover of the graphic novel.
As Leah Moore stated in a Rolling Stone interview: “The Doors have so much theatre, and swagger and storytelling, they’re a totally natural fit for a comic. The lyrics they wrote, and the energy they played with—I think the songs don’t just lend themselves to the medium, they actually cry out to be comics.” I think she is 100% correct! Highly recommended for public library collections, especially for music lovers, historians, and aged hippies such as me! It would also be of value for high school collections studying recent American history.
Note: there is also a Limited Deluxe Edition (only 5,000 made) in a slipcase with three (3) 9×14.5 art prints with images from the book, a certificate of authenticity signed by writer Leah Moore, and an exclusive 50th Anniversary Edition 12” picture disc of the complete Morrison Hotel album. Libraries are unlikely to purchase that edition, but diehard Doors fans may want it for their personal collections.
By Leah Moore
Art by various
Z2 Comics, 2021
Publisher Age Rating: Adult
Related media: Music album to comic
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
Creator Representation: British-American