In this consumer-based industry, it can be easy to forget the years of hard work that the people in the business put in. Behind every panel, it takes a skilled writer, artist, inker and colorist to make the product complete. Behind each scene goes hours of preparation. Hush Comics’ weekly article “Respect My Craft” will dive into the history of these comic book and pop culture greats that will hopefully give a new perspective on how the men and women behind the pen (or stylus) contribute to the collective awesome-ness of the nerd world, or at least give you a reason to invest in their work.
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Name: James O’Barr
Profession: Writer, Painter
Notable Work: The Crow, and minor series for almost every comic publisher
“It’s not death if you refuse it… It is if you accept it.”– James O’Barr –The Crow
James O’Barr may not be the most heard of name, and he is a rather reserved individual to boot. However, in seeing him in interviews or if you meet him at this year’s Denver Comic Con, you would not expect him to be the creator of one of the most iconic characters in comics and cinema of The Crow. Although there have been multiple comics, films and even a television show based on The Crow, James O’Barr was only involved in the first and by far the best film starring Brandon Lee.
James went through some pretty traumatic events to be able to create what most would call his masterpiece. He lost his fiance due to a drunk driver, which frustrated him as it would anyone. James went and joined the Marines to try and add structure to his life after this happened and, while in service, he started drawing the character of Eric Draven, who would become The Crow in an attempt to let out some of his emotions and he felt a character that symbolized that love could transcend death and carry a soul to a place where injustice could be justified.
The Crow remained unpublished for years until Caliber Comics published it almost ten years after the initial creation. The delay was due to the fact that O’Barr did odd jobs once he returned home from the military, including detailing cars and making t-shirts, all while perfecting his writing and art style for The Crow. O’Barr actually did extensive studying of the human form which helped make his characters look like normal human beings and not the usual spandex-wearing muscle-bound heroes we see in comics. The Crow was, and continues to be, the best-selling independent graphic novel of all time, which is quite the achievement when you think of the many other independent comic book characters that we have seen become international sensations. Because of the success with the initial printing, The Crow was turned into a film starring Brandon Lee with multiple sequels (sadly, not starring Brandon Lee) and a television show that remains internationally syndicated. IDW had recently begun running a series for The Crow and there is a reboot of the film in the works for which James is a consultant.
Other than The Crow‘s initial run at Caliber and the recent Pestilence series at IDW, O’Barr has been the author of two other Crow series at IDW – Curare and Skinning the Wolves, but he is not just a one-trick Crow; he has worked on minor projects for such publishers as Anubis, Dark Horse, Image, and Marvel. One of which that gained some attraction is a short story he wrote for Dark Horse Comics series Dark Horse Presents which was titled Frame 137. As with his other writing and design, it was very gothic in nature and was loosely based off of the Wizard of Oz but in a dreary, post-apocalyptic setting. O’Barr originally wanted this to be a series of graphic novels, but during his planning, he had to go out and do some press for The Crow which made him too busy to continue the pursuit of a full graphic novel series and so he settled for release through Dark Horse Presents. This story caught the attention of the Australian filmmaker Judd Tilyard, who decided to turn it into a short film. O’Barr joined in and even created new artwork for an animated sequence in the film.
The biggest project he has worked on besides The Crow though is a motion comic through Motionworks comics that he has been working on for years titled Sundown. This project has been around since 2010, but not made much headway as far as a release. This series is a Western comic, which is definitely out there, as it includes a talking horse, is about three vampires in the old west, and it is likely the first gothic western comic of any kind. The vampires are not your typical vampires though, as he has given them actual diseases one of which is a blood disease and the other a skin disease that causes them to be allergic to the sun. These three characters travel around looking for a cure all the while the Civil War is happening all around them. O’Barr wanted to try and redefine the western by doing this book as well as redefining his writing and creativity. This story will definitely be one that any fan of The Crow will enjoy as nobody does gothic creepiness and beauty like James O’Barr. Only recently was the first issue released but as of right now it is only available on iPad but is going to be coming to iPhone and Android soon. So keep your eyes out for that as it will definitely be a series you will not want to miss.
None of the media in this article belongs to Hush Comics; it all belongs to their respective properties (Caliber, IDW, Motionworks Comics and the photographer, Luigi Novi). Join us tomorrow as we continue our countdown to Denver Comic Con with Chew creator, John Layman.