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  • Writer's pictureAdam Braun

The Crow by James O'Barr changed my life!

One thing I thought I would do with this blog is give some insight into the things that shaped who I am as an artist. We all have things we love about pop culture... music, movies, literature, art, etc... I want to talk about what I love and what has had an impact on my core identity. One of the first things that comes to mind is a story that really opened up my narrow view of comics, and the world in general... I want to start with James O'Barr's The Crow.

As a kid, I was all about superheroes... Hulk, Spider-Man, anything from Marvel's House of Ideas was quickly consumed and enjoyed by young me. Into my teen years, Punisher, Avengers, X-Men... comics with more of an edge, but still supers in spandex. It wasn't until I was exposed to independent comics that my eyes were opened to different aspects of the world. I can't exactly remember my first exposure to The Crow,

but I do remember my friend had some of the Tundra reprint editions. I don't recall seeing the book when it first came out (even though one of the guys I bought comics with had picked it up), but when I saw the art on the cover of the Tundra edition and opened it up, I was floored! First of all, the black and white format was foreign to me, as I was used to the color and pop of the mainstream books. But what really had an impact on me was the style of the art. There was scratchy, chaotic linework, then the next sequence was painted what a more realistic feel... a collage of images evoking an emotional response... a turn of the page, and more chaos of lines creating a visceral explosion of pain, heartbreak, anger. It was truly compelling!

At this point, I was hooked. I had to read the whole thing, had to KNOW the story and what lead to all this emotion. I think my next step was to get my hands on my friends reprints, and i'm not sure if he had them all, or if I even read the whole story at this point. I just remember a new appreciation for independent comics. My eyes had been open to the new, darker world of the comic industry's "underbelly":) And it was glorious! (I'll go more into my independent comics adventures another time.)

The Crow is the story of love, loss, and revenge. We are introduced to a dark, ghostly man with a painted face, seemingly seeking vengeance on a group of thugs, murderers, and drug dealers.

There is action, horror, gore... but the narrative is interlaced with poetry, eloquence, and beauty... the story is told in such a way that takes the reader on a roller coaster ride of emotion, expertly weaved by it's creator, James O'Barr. The main character is Eric Draven, who was with he fiancé when they were brutally attacked and killed by a gang of street thugs. Eric is resurrected by a crow and seeks vengeance on the murderers, while lamenting the loss of his love. The pain and trauma is shown through the intense imagery created by O'Barr in different media, drawing harsh scenes of death and destruction, yet at times, painting beautiful pictures of happiness and peace. This comic is not just read, it is "experienced".

Needless to say, I wasn't the only one impacted by this book, as it was praised by many, garnering attention and acclaim, even leading to a quick movie adaptation, which regrettably was filled with hardships and turmoil of it's own, including the devastating accidental death of the film's lead, Brandon Lee, on the set during production. The movie was eventually completed and introduced a new audience to the illustrated masterpiece.

I remember buying the the trade paperback around the movie release, finally having a collection of all the issues in my possession. I even bought the original comics and was lucky enough to own an original page from the series (all of which were eventually sold, leaving me forever filled with regret). If I had to recommend any comic book, to new readers or stalwart comic fans, The Crow would be top on the list, and in my opinion, epitomizes how great comics can be.

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1 Comment

Nov 27, 2023

It is funny. I was first introduced when the books hit the stands. The younger brother of my best friend in high school got them and i borrowed them to read. Up until that point, I had never touched a book outside of DC or Marvel. I was instantly hooked on The Crow and to this day, the movie is my all time favorite.

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