Secret origins have long been a classic trope of comic books. This June, a rather unexpected super-team will find their origins revealed in a new graphic novel. That’s the release date for Z2 Comics’ Grateful Dead Origins, written by Chris Miskiewicz with art by Noah Van Sciver. Origins will depict the early days of Jerry Garcia, Phil Lesh, Bob Weir, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, Bill Kreutzmann, and Mickey Hart as they transform from bar band The Warlocks to the groundbreaking Grateful Dead.
The graphic novel will be available in two formats. On June 12, a limited-edition hardcover will be released. This oversized (9 x 15) individually-numbered, coffee table-style book adds art prints, autographs by the comic creators, and an exclusive 12-inch vinyl LP of an unreleased performance from August 1968 at San Francisco’s Fillmore West. The next week, on June 16, Z2 will release a standard softcover edition which will contain an exclusive download of rare selections from the Dead’s early days.
The Fillmore show includes the first known West Coast live rendition of “St. Stephen,” and the first known performance of “William Tell Bridge,” which would connect “St. Stephen” to “The Eleven.” The vinyl LP has been mastered from the eight-track analog tape by Grammy-winning engineer David Glasser at Airshow Mastering in Boulder, Colorado. (You’ll find the full track listing below!)
Origins has been fully authorized by the Grateful Dead team. Archivist David Lemieux notes in the press release, “We’ve seen so many photos and videos of the Grateful Dead in the 1980s and beyond, and even quite a bit from the 1970s. The 1960s, though, largely remain a visual mystery in terms of the band, especially the earliest days, 1965 and 1966, but also through to 1969. Grateful Dead Origins brings the band’s beginnings to life, artistically, verbally, and musically. We’ve all seen some photos of the band onstage in those early days, and heard plenty of music from 1966 through 1969, but everything else, how they became the Grateful Dead, has been obscured from the history books only through lack of documentation. While Origins isn’t a discovery of primary archival documents from this era, it visually, creatively, and tastefully fills in the gaps that the historical record’s archive might have missed. We’re thrilled to have worked with such a talented team to write and illustrate this early part of the Dead’s story.”
Mark Pinkus, President of Rhino, adds, “Jerry Garcia was an avid comic book enthusiast so it is incredibly fitting to have the Grateful Dead’s origin story told in graphic novel form. Z2’s passion for the band’s music and mythology make them the perfect partner to bring the story to life. It has been inspiring to watch the novel’s artwork evolve over the last year and I’m excited that Dead Heads now get to have a preview. Just wait until you see the finished product!”
Z2 publisher Josh Frankel asserts, “We can’t wait for everyone to see and hear the amazing Origins package and we hope it will provide some comfort to music and graphic novel fans alike during these challenging times. Our plan was always to time the release to the week of Record Store Day, giving comic shops and booksellers the ultimate music book for their customers. We will still do that; it will just happen in June now. I assure you, as this project has come together, it has turned into something even more special than we could have ever expected and we know comics readers, music archivists, and Dead Heads everywhere will agree that it was worth the wait.”
The exclusive hardcover edition of Grateful Dead Origins is available for pre-order directly from Z2. The standard edition, which will be available at all finer bookstores, is up for pre-orders at Amazon.com / Amazon U.K. (Link TBD) / Amazon Canada.
During this difficult time, you might also want to support your local comic shop (and if you don’t know where one is, visit the Comic Shop Finder here!) – let them know that you’d like to pick up a copy of Origins in June. We’re sure they’d be Grateful!
Grateful Dead Origins
Exclusive Vinyl : Live at the Fillmore West, August 1968
- Dark Star (14:33)
- Stephen (04:45)
- The Eleven (11:07)
- Death Don’t Have No Mercy (08:09)