Rock stars are supposed to be larger than life, and Ozzy Osbourne looms as one of the largest of them all. A new graphic novel dedicated to Black Sabbath’s fire-starter frontman, though, separates the man from the myth. It’s a human portrait with the exuberance of a pyrotechnics-assisted guitar solo.
Ozzy Osbourne: Metal Madman is the latest release from Bluewater Productions, a boutique company that specializes in similar rock biography offerings. Rather than embellish the legend of the man who was born John Michael Osbourne, Metal Madman grounds it in reality, from the (war?) pigs he once killed in a slaughterhouse for work, to the bat heads it turns out he actually did bite off on stage a couple of times. In order to get Ozzy’s history right, Bluewater turned to a writer with a little Ozzy history of his own.
“I remember winning a lip-synch contest to [Ozzy’s hit] ‘Crazy Train’ in college,” says Michael Frazell, a writer who frequently works with Bluewater, creating comics on subjects as varied as Lewis Carroll and Miley Cyrus. “I dressed as a little kid with a teddy bear and onesie pajamas, while my roommate dressed as Freddy Krueger. We were a huge hit.”
Although Frazell’s musical tastes have changed somewhat since college–he’s more into Nine Inch Nails and power ballads these days–he cranked nonstop tracks from the Ozzy catalogue while sifting through the rocker’s life to put together Metal Madman. The most challenging part of the experience was the extensive research. Frizell hit the books, the web, music magazines–anything he could use to assemble and cross-reference information.
“The trick was trying to sort out the hyperbole from the facts,” the author says. “Thus, anything I documented in the comic book had to have at least three sources confirming its validity.”
Bluewater artist Jayfri Hashim originally wrote a draft of the script, but publisher Darren Davis asked Frizell for a rewrite to give the project a writer’s voice. The two had collaborated previously on comics about Alice Cooper and Bono, so their partnership was practically effortless. Jayfri came up with the framework–the idea of a monster lurking within–and chose to confine the action mostly to Ozzy’s formative years. Frizell considered starting in a different place, but ultimately agreed, perhaps saving us from a detour into the reality-TV period of Ozzy’s career.
As for whether the graphic novel’s namesake has seen the work yet, that remains a mystery. Frizell and the publisher always try to engage their subjects, sometimes with success and sometimes not. Although the Ozzy of legend would probably be too busy smashing up a recording studio with a guitar made of petrified cocaine, it’s fun to imagine the mere mortal Ozzy wanting to read a comic based on himself.
“I don’t know if Ozzy’s seen it,” Frizell says. “If you hear something, let me know! That would be a trip.”
Have a look through the first five pages from the comic in the slides above.