joan jett
Selbymay, Wikimedia Commons

Z2 Comics, the music-based comics publisher, is teaming up with Blackheart Records for a new title celebrating the 40th anniversary of Joan Jett & The Blackhearts’ breakthrough album, I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll.

Titled Joan Jett & The Blackhearts 40×40, the graphic anthology celebrates Jett’s achievements via a series of pieces based on the 20 tracks split between ILRNR and 1980 debut album Bad Reputation. Toward that end, the book assembles a superteam of some of the most preeminent female creatives in the comics and pop culture world, including acclaimed New Contemporary Art mover-and-shaker Tara McPherson. Other participants include Clara Tessier, Frankie Smith and Alice Meichi Li.

Read more: Kathleen Hanna’s Tees4Togo highlights the space between art and activism

Blackheart Records president Carianne Brinkman, daughter of Jett’s longtime manager and creative partner Kenny Laguna, indicated the publication’s all-woman crew is by design. “We reflected on all the rejection and opposition Joan faced from the industry as a woman with a guitar, especially at the beginning of her career,” she wrote in a statement. “Luckily, she blocked out the noise and showed the doubters she could do it herself. The comics world, much like the rock ‘n’ roll world, is fairly underrepresented in terms of women, particularly in the mainstream. We thought this was a great opportunity to celebrate comic writers and illustrators who happen to be women, and who, like Joan, are constantly being asked what it’s like to be ‘a WOMAN…’ in their respective industries. We are so excited to bring these amazing artists and writers together to celebrate this milestone anniversary.”

Famously, Bad Reputation was independently released and sold out of the back of manager Laguna’s Cadillac after reportedly receiving rejection letters from every major label for the ex-Runaways singer/guitarist’s basic, punk/glam/bubblegum-based black-leather rock ’n’ roll. 

“I was looking at them totally astonished,” Laguna recalled to the NME’s Gavin Martin. “Pointing to this garbage and that garbage and wanting to know why the fuck they were signing it.”

“I love the whole style of early ’70s glitter music,” Jett mused about her glam-infused sound in Musician. “That whole style of music has very upfront drums, so it’s danceable. The stories in the songs aren’t really too hard to understand. Who wants to think for a million years what a song’s about? I can’t enjoy music if I have to sit there and figure it out. I like it to be simple. Nice little songs that people can understand and identify with.”

Read more: 10 Joan Jett-inspired artists who are breaking boundaries just like her

Impressed by the grassroots audience Jett and her band built via incessant East Coast club tours supporting her tough yet catchy music, Casablanca Records president Neil Bogart formed Boardwalk Records specifically to release her records. It was a no-brainer, considering Laguna played on several of the classic bubblegum singles Bogart worked at Cameo-Parkway Records and Buddha Records in the ‘60s.

The gamble paid off with the more-radio-friendly second album, released Nov. 18, 1981. Title track “I Love Rock ‘N Roll,” a cover of a B-side by British glam act Arrows, soared to No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100, dragging the LP to No. 2 on the Billboard 200. The album’s remake of Tommy James And The Shondells’ late-’60s “Crimson And Clover” soon followed the breakthrough single into the Top 10.

[Photo Courtesy of Z2 Comics]

“We pressed up our own copies [of the first album] and sold them out of the trunk of our car wherever we played,” Jett later chuckled about her years-in-the-making “overnight” success. “Now that we’re huge with the second album, people like Clive Davis are saying, ‘How did we miss this?’ But he rejected it himself, you know. We were rejected by every company you could name.”

Thus began a legend that led to 2015’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction, which inspired a generation of budding rockers—female and male—to pick up electric guitars.

“Joan Jett is the epitome of a rock ’n’ roll icon and a powerful force of a woman,” McPherson says. “When I was young and teaching myself how to play bass and starting bands, she was such an inspiration to me, and I know [she was] to so many other girls as well. She’s a fierce woman making no apologies, showing females they have a place in rock!”

[Photo Courtesy of Z2 Comics]

Intended to be the first project in a series celebrating I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll’s 40th anniversary, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts 40×40 will be issued this fall in softcover and hardback editions through better independent comic book dealers and record stores worldwide. Z2 is now taking preorders online and is also producing deluxe and super deluxe versions bundled with an exclusive LP and seven-inch, an art print and other attractive extras. Most interesting is an extremely limited edition (40 units worldwide) “platinum edition,” which includes an Epiphone guitar, gig bag and a certificate of authenticity.