Moonhead and the Music Machine

Andrew Rae's debut graphic novel is a humorous coming-of-age story with an unusual protagonist

Life’s tough enough for a teenage kid in high school, but when you’ve got a moon for a head, it’s even more difficult. Making his debut appearance in Moonhead and the Music Machine from graphic design haven Nobrow Press, protagonist Joey Moonhead has his head in the (sometimes literal) clouds, thanks to an active imagination that helps him endure everything from teasing to classes to his own apathetic parents.


With an opportunely timed school talent show, however, Joey might be able to take control of his situation—with the help of a hand-built music machine that has some mysterious powers.

A humorous coming-of-age story that doesn’t take itself too seriously, the graphic novel relishes in its most surreal moments (anything can happen in a world where moonheads live alongside regular humans) while still feeling relatable to anyone who’s ever felt like the underdog.

We came across London-based illustrator Andrew Rae previously in his work for the biographical “This Is…” artist series, but this is the first time he’s developed both the story and illustrations for a full-length book. “I really enjoyed having more space to explore the characters and to draw things from different angles or less of an obvious way than you have to in a one off image,” Rae tells CH.


“Obviously I didn’t have a moon for a head, but Joey is basically a version of me as a teenager,” he says. “A lot of the scenes are based on memories. For instance, the scene with the vinyl is based on my memories of sifting through my parents’ record collection and looking at the artwork and realizing that just because music is old, it doesn’t mean it’s bad.”


“My family is a musical lot and my dad had guitars, synths and keyboards around the house, which is something I’ve picked up from him,” says Rae. “So I enjoyed making a story about music even though there isn’t actually any music in it. There are also little details in there like the school piano being made by Thompson Pianos which was my granddad’s business in Glasgow and one of the album covers is for a band called the Ministry of Beat which was a band my dad was in, in the ’60s.”


“I was a big fan of Asterix comics and annuals like the Beano and Dandy and I read a lot of Scottish comics like Oor Wully and the Broons, as my family are from Glasgow,” Rae recalls. “The Bash Street kids in the Beano definitely influenced the school scenes in Moonhead.” Rae’s knack for clean lines, bright colors and well-timed “silent” moments (in which he lets the illustrations speak for themselves) all make the book an enjoyable and relatable experience.

The hardcover bound “Moonhead and the Music Machine” is available for $25 from Nobrow Press online.

Images by Cool Hunting