The year is 1982, and the setting is a small suburban town in the South West of England. The specific town name itself was irrelevant, as was the name of the pub this four-piece punk-ish band (portrayed as anthropomorphic animals) played in. The important thing was that the bands’ lead singer Zebedee felt that despite bassist Rocco being “a little flat”, thanks to Zebedee “, of course”, the bands’ collective performance to the crowd of seven went well.
The cocksure Zebedee’s optimism was just, for sitting in the audience was the owner of Handsome Devil Records (a punk look-a-like for Lucifer) who approaches the band to do a charity gig alongside trending fictional punk bands including The Twists and Victorian Dusk. Provided they can play at least one new song, the gig was theirs. With their drummer Kate (a punk styled rabbit who wears a turtle neck) having just written four new songs that morning, the band were ready to seize the day.
Whilst the charity gig went well; Zebedee had difficultly realising that there was no “I” in-band which was evidenced when The Twists asked Zebedee and the Valentines guitarist Morris (who looks a bit like a Smurf dressed up as Joey Ramone) instead of Zebedee to jam with them and when Zebedee caught a glimpse of an influential reviewers’ notes which said that the “vocalist was forgettable” whilst the rest of the band had “strong punk undertones”. Zebedee turned to gin and lashed out at his bandmates, especially Rocco. Using the currently clean Rocco as an emotional punchbag concerned the other band members, not so much because it was bullying and caused disunity; rather, Rocco’s way of coping was to seek sanctuary by doing drugs with his former bandmates.
Zebedee eventually realises that a band is a collective unit and that the band members’ individuality, such as Rocco’s non-punk musical influences and personality, makes a band special, interesting and captivating to listeners. As Zebedee is on the cusp of realising his revelation, the radio played the new song, Zebedee. The Valentines song they debuted at the charity gig and predicted great things for them.
Whilst there are some tragedy and dark and depressing scenes, Zebedee and the Valentines rock out on a happy note as the band sign a two-LP record deal with a European tour. There were line-up changes with Zebedee doubling up on bass and a band name change that proved Zebedee had truly conquered his vanity (well, almost) and realised the value of band synergy.
Zebedee and the Valentines is short and sweet, and the storyline is in many respects predictable. However, predictability must not be confused with banality or lethargy. After all, Abs Bailey’s debut graphic novel is bursting with punk energy and non-stop excitement. Abs unique style of illustrations allows punk and psychedelic imagery to coexist harmoniously. It is of the high deft standard associated with Anya Davidson (Band for Life) and John Riordan (Hitsville UK).