Joe Satriani’s latest project isn’t an album or upcoming tour but rather a new comic-book series inspired by his 1998 LP Crystal Planet.
The legendary guitarist gives UCR an exclusive sneak peek of issue No. 1, while also revealing how the comic came to fruition.
“Comic books were not something that were allowed in my house when I was growing up,” the rocker admits. “So I would see comic books only at my friends house or the barbershop or something like that.”
Flash forward to 1987, as Satriani was preparing to release his sophomore LP. Shortly before production, the guitarist decided to change the album’s title from Lords of Karma to Surfing With the Alien. When he informed his label of the change, a rep suggested he put Marvel’s Silver Surfer on the cover. Unaware of the superhero, Satriani soon got his hands on some comics and familiarized himself with the character. “That’s my reintroduction to the world of comic books and comic-book art,” he confesses.
Surfing With the Alien would go on to sell more than a million copies, with its Silver Surfer cover art becoming hugely recognizable. Marvel Comics would pay homage to the rocker by naming a planet Satriani within the Silver Surfer universe.
Still, it’s one thing to license an already existent character for your album art; it’s another thing entirely to create a completely new comic-book series. The spark for that idea can be traced to Satriani’s 2013 Unstoppable Momentum tour.
For that trek, friend and fellow guitarist Ned Evett made an animated video for the song “Lies and Truths,” based on artwork from Satriani’s Joe’s Art 2013 book. “When I see it the first time up on the screen, I get an emotional response to it,” the guitarist explains. “And I start calling [Evett] saying, ‘Hey, you’re gonna think I’m crazy, but I think there’s something more here than a funny little production device for the show.”
Satriani and Evett began trading concepts for an “epic science-fiction tale centered around a tragic, reluctant hero.” The duo initially envisioned a TV idea (which the guitarist discussed with UCR in 2015) before pivoting toward a graphic novel.
The team aligned with Heavy Metal magazine and publisher Incendium, including author Llexi Leon, whose previous work included comic books with Iron Maiden. According to Satriani, Leon’s involvement elevated the project to a whole new level. “It’s really exhilarating when somebody comes with so much experience and talent and they make things happen with an idea that you’ve had and you’ve been nurturing for years.”
The result is Crystal Plant, a five-part series that ships its initial copies this month. “Experience a vivid space odyssey where Satchel Walker, a man out of time, finds himself caught between desperate factions as they battle for resources in the perilous orbit of a dying star,” reads the official description. “In a bold and brutal saga of sentient storms and Wingsuit armies, it’s music, and more importantly, the power and emotion that music can conjure, which could bring an end to the conflict, restore harmony to the timestream, and reveal Walker’s true place in the universe.”
You can get an exclusive look at the first 13 pages of Crystal Planet, issue No. 1, below, and pre-order a copy now.
As Satriani is now at the precipice of seeing his comic-book concept come to reality, he can’t help but marvel at the journey.
“We’re extremely happy, Ned and myself, that finally this story that goes all the way back to 2013 is blossoming,” he admits. “It’s really exciting.”