Who Are They?: A tale of the Who concert, Dec. 3 1979

In honor of efforts of The Who Concert Victims Memorial Committee, CityBeat contributors Tom Bolton (artist) and Rich Shivener (writer) collaborated on a special “comic strip” about that fateful night on the riverfront, a watershed moment for concert cro

 When I was working on my master's degree in English, I wanted to round out my studies with a final project on Cincinnati music, something I've invested in as a musician and journalist. Easily, I could have written a journalistic treatise on the city's sonic tapestry, but I wanted a challenge that would force me into a new outlet of creativity. That's why I wrote a graphic narrative. In the end, I scripted six stories, including "Who are They?," the most recent story that artist Tom Bolton and I are publishing here at CityBeat. (The other stories are deep in someone's bat cave.)

"Who are They?" is a tight focus on Connie Morris (last name changed), who faced a personal tragedy on Dec. 3, 1979, when Rock band The Who played Riverfront Coliseum. As reported over the years, crowds outside the coliseum went into a frenzy when they thought The Who was starting early; many were fighting their way to the door, simply because the concert allowed "festival seating," or what I call squeeze-in-where-you-can standing. As a result of the rush, 11 people died and many were rattled. Tom's artwork drops you in the thick of that evening.

We connected with Connie in early 2010, shortly after she told my girlfriend about the incident. (Disclosure: They work together.) I remember Connie's gut reaction when I told her I was writing a "comic book" on Cincinnati music.

"But this isn't going to be funny, is it?" she laughed, nervously, as we sat down for drinks.

"No, no," I said. I searched my mind for a way to explain that it wouldn't be a superhero comic or something from the Sunday funnies, but rather, a graphic dramatization. "This is serious."

Flash forward to December, 2011. Tom and I have a serious graphic narrative, centering on one of the most influential incidents in our city's music history. This is Connie's story. 

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