This morning, I watched a lot of my friends grieve David Bowie. On Twitter and Facebook — that's how we mourn now — status after status cited a Bowie song. Some linked to "Rebel Rebel," one to "Golden Years," a few more to "Under Pressure," "Heroes," or "Changes."
The songs my friends mentioned were different — just like so many of my friends are different. They come from different parts of my life, different times, and different cities. And it speaks highly of Bowie's legacy that his work is something these very different people have in common — he closed the gaps between their worlds and mine.
Over the past two years I've found a greater appreciation for and understanding of my friends, of Bowie, and of music in the pages of a brilliant comic book called The Wicked + The Divine. Created by artist Jamie McKelvie and writer Kieron Gillen, the story is a mashup of pop music mythology: Gods and goddesses are reincarnated every 90 years, at which point they have two years to live among mortals. And they choose to live as pop stars.
Lucifer (Luci for short), the antihero of the first arc, is a god who, upon her reincarnation, fashions herself as an androgynous White Duke:
Luci befriends a mortal girl named Laura. Luci becomes a gateway into this world of gods, speaking to Laura in a way that none of the other gods ever has. And Luci becomes Laura's obsession. There's a point where Laura is willing to do anything for her:
Gillen told me in 2014 that he and McKelvie modeled Luci after Bowie on purpose, and that each god in the series has a little bit of Bowie in them. After Bowie's death, McKelvie tweeted about the inspiration behind using Bowie in the comic:
In the end, we went with Luci. pic.twitter.com/RLwePCcHko— Jamie McKelvie (@McKelvie) January 11, 2016
Gillen himself has said multiple times that it was Bowie who "saved" his life and that Bowie was a real-life inspiration. He believes musicians and pop stars are the closest thing we have to superheroes.
"There's people who have a fundamental confusion or a sadness, and art saves them. Art allows them to realize that they are not alone," Gillen told me. "Art can allow them to realize their identity more."
The Wicked + The Divine evokes and explores that idea — that fandom is a powerful thing. That art, at its best, can bring clarity and courage to someone's life. And that the artists who create this feeling are nothing short of gods and goddesses.
I look at the pain in my friends' hearts today, and I understand it more. Bowie made lots of people feel brave enough to be themselves, to feel a little less alone in this world. We don't have to like or relate to every song he created to be thankful for that.