T H E G R A P H I C N O V E L
James O'Barr, author of The Crow
James O'Barr was born in the January of 1960. He grew up in the area of Detroit and was raised in institutional and foster care. O'Barr has been a self-taught artist since his early teens - he learned his craft through direct observation. He studied Renaissance sculpture (particularly Michaelangelo's works), live models and photographic still lifes.
There were many influences on O'Barr's work, including such people as Will Eisner, creator of the 1940's comic strip The Spirit. This strip about a wisecracking masked crime fighter was really the first to bring cinematic visuals into comic storytelling. O'Barr learned a lot from Eisner's work, as well as the work of other artists at the time.
In 1981, he started work on The Crow, while he was stationed in Berlin.
After his discharge from the marines, O'Barr continued his painting and illustration as well as doing lots of odd jobs, including working for a Detroit body shop. At first, no-one was interested in The Crow, so it sat on a shelf for seven years, but at last someone wanted to publish it: Gary Reed of Caliber Press.
The first part of The Crow was dedicated to Ian Curtis, lead singer of the band Joy Division. Curtis hanged himself ,aged 23, the night before the band's first US tour, apparently because of his worsening epilepsy. The four comics contain many references to music: Some of the chapter names are Joy Division songs, there are quotes from rock poet Jim Carroll and lyrics by Robert Smith of The Cure throughout - even Eric's body movements are inspired by punk icon Iggy Pop. O'Barr listened to many bands' music when in Berlin, but it was in Joy Division and The Cure's music that he found most inspiration.
Eric himself is actually based on Peter Murphy from the group Bauhaus, who O'Barr saw in Berlin. Eric's makeup is based on Irony from British theatre's three faces of drama: Pain, Irony and Despair.
The Crow In Print
The first issue appeared from Caliber Press in February 1989. Four issues were released until financial problems forced the book to go on hold. It had been planned to end the series with a double sized chapter, Death. O'Barr turned to Tundra Publishing Ltd. to complete the story. Tundra repackaged the now out-of-print Caliber books (together with some re-written material) into a three-volume graphic novel ('Pain & Fear', 'Irony & Dispair' and 'Death'), the first of which appeared in early 1991. Death was released in May, 1992 and became the best selling single issue in Tundra Publishing's history.
In 1993, Kitchen Sink Press Inc. aquired The Crow, and released the three single issues as a 244-page graphic novel, together with unpublished art and an 8-page colour gallery (the currently available version of this is available from Titan Books). Finally, The Crow was truly complete.
A Little Piece Of Trivia...
Some Final Words From James O'Barr
The following extracts are from the Boston Phoenix:
O'Barr on the graphic novel;
On the death of Brandon Lee, and referring to Brandon's fiancé, Eliza (Lisa Hutton);
"Brandon and Eliza helped me make something positive finally come out of this. The helped me a great deal. And I had a lot of guilt associated with the money I made from this movie. It felt like blood money to me, so I've kept nothing for myself. I used the money to help a lot of people; international children's organisations, and hip replacement surgery for a 10 year old Brazilian girl who thinks I'm some big rock star or something over here - some money to my family."
Crow site designed and coded by Simon Bird - comments and suggestions always welcome.
© Copyright SJ Bird, 1996/97/98.