Sonics are only part of the revolution. The Who spent almost a year developing “Lifehouse” at the Young Vic Theatre in London before abandoning the epic journey, and salvaging songs like “Baba O’Riley,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” “Getting in Tune,” “Going Mobile,” and “Behind Blue Eyes” for Who’s Next. But Townshend is the rock star best known for smashing guitars, and the project couldn’t die a quiet death before it had the chance to get old. In 1999, Townshend, alongside musical guests, released the solo album The Lifehouse Chronicles, a radio play told in a 6-volume box set, as well as the novel Lifehouse, which he co-wrote with Jeff Young. But the upcoming graphic novel goes back to the project’s roots.
Rockbox Studios CEO Jeff Krelitz approached Townshend to pitch the graphic novelization of the “Lifehouse” story. “He really showed me his love of comic books,” Krelitz tells Den of Geek. “He used to own a comic book store in London. From there, it was a matter of finding the right talent.”
The graphic novel is based on the original 1970 materials. “James Harvey (Little Nemo, We Are Robin) had written a very extensive outline, and the first chapter,” Krelitz says. “He was the only person exposed to all the original screenplays and music compiled together. James was able to go through everything and concoct a storyline. He designed the world, design-style, and the look of it. We brought on David Hine, who’s done a volume of books, most recently Spider Man Noir, to complete the script.”
The illustrations are the work of Australian artist Max Prentis, whose stylistic versatility blends the rocker’s Mod design with Japanese styles. The presentation is a deep dive into the original story written for a limited budget, with the freedom to let the arc play out on the unlimited landscape of pen, ink, and perception. This allows the story to go beyond what a film or staged performance could have captured when Townshend was originally working on the rock opera. It also distinguishes the graphic novel from The Who. You don’t need to be a fan of the band to get in tune with the panels.
“This is for anyone that enjoys sci-fi, from Watchmen to Blankets,” Krelitz says. “It has so many elements of what we look for in the best graphic novels. It has predictions of a future we haven’t arrived at yet, but are on the cusp. All the threats of looming things, like V for Vendetta, where it takes that giant leap over a very large puddle, and suddenly you’re in a world you didn’t want to be.”
Townshend wrote “Lifehouse” under the influence of the “music of the spheres,” a concept he picked up from the book The Mysticism of Sound and Music: The Sufi Teaching of Hazrat Inayat Khan. His conclusions can be found in the story’s spirituality, and its predictively forward-thinking expectations of racial relations, man-made climate concerns, and the emotional fusing of humanity and technology.