James O'Barr

Profile of the creator

James O'Barr was born in january, 1960. He grew up in Detroit and was raised in the institutional and foster care. O'Barr was a self-taught artist, he learned his craft through direct observation.

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. He joined the army after some very close him was killed by a drunk driver. O'Barr wanted to forget, but all his anger and frustration had to get out someway. And someday he began to draw The Crow.

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.

Musical influences

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.

Some final words from James O'Barr

"I don't believe Eric is a hero. He can be absolutely cold-blooded and ruthless at times. When he goes into a room to get one person, everyone else in the room is probably going to die as well. I think what he's doing is terribly romantic, but I wouln't call him a hero."

A trivia:

In the movie, just right after the Gideon's pawnshop explode, the scene, where Albrecht talks with Eric on the street, in the background we can see a bunch of looters picking whatever they can from the ruines of pawnshop. The dude with the long, blonde hair carrying the TV is James O'Barr. :)

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