Sunday, May 2, 2010

Meet James Crow and Rex!

Inspiration comes in many forms. In 1988 mine came in the form of two dinosaur stuffed animals. Back then I was really into making little audio skits with my dual cassette recorder. I would often compose news reports or comical adventures with various recorded sound bytes recorded from TV or radio integrated here and there. I was inspired in this by local DJ's and their integration of sound clips into their intros and such. Also my love for the Dr. Demento show played a huge hand in it as well. Most of the time these were only funny to me, my cousins and my friend Pat but we all loved making them and listening to each others newest creations.

One summer day I decided to make a parody of James Bond. I needed a lead character fast but didn't really have one fresh in my mind so I began looking around my room. My eye was drawn to two colorful and cute plush dinosaurs sitting on my book shelf. A purple Pterodactyl and a blue T-rex. Why not?! But I needed a name to play off the James Bond Parody. James was a must but I needed the last name. Out of my love of Mystery Science Theater 3000 came CROW from the character CROW T. ROBOT. The sidekick was a desperately easy one since he was a T-rex. Somehow Johnny Rex was a no brainer for me. So with my 2 lead characters figured out I created my first audio skit of JAMES CROW. I even used a TV recorded James Bond theme as the intro. It was a hit with my cousins and especially with my friend Pat. Soon Pat was creating James Crow skits too and we would each spend hours recording them as well as sharing them with each other. With each new episode we would try to raise the bar on funny sound clips and clever plots...although, most of the episodes followed a certain repetitive formula. It didn't seem to matter to us though....we we young and easily entertained.

After years of doing the audio skits it was time to bring the James Crow characters into a new visual medium. Pat and another friend named Eric started drawing their own comic books in school under the FAR-CRY comics monicker. I was encouraged and inspired to do my own so without hesitation I went straight for James Crow. Doing it in comic form was far more liberating than doing the audio skits. Now I was able to see the secret agent characters in action and further expand their universe.

In issue #2 of James Crow I introduced a new character called THE VOID. Though I loved James Crow, eventually he ended up taking a back seat to this new super-hero character. I still did an occasion James Crow book here and there but I mostly focused on developing THE VOID.

One notable villain in the book was the BABY NINJAS. If you've followed me on the convention circuit, you probably know that I've published 3 comic strip style books based of the Baby Ninjas and I still sell copies of those books at shows today. Though they had origins from mock newspapers I drew up years earlier, their inclusion in the James Crow comic book was where these terrible tots really started to develop for me.

It was in the hayday of the IMAGE comics years that comics became dark and brooding and so did our titles at FAR-CRY Comics. Not even James Crow was exempt. Death and tragedy had creeped it's way into the once comical and slap-sticky comic and in a lot of ways, I think it sort of sullied it. The darkest moment was when Johnny Rex ended up dying on a space station in some convoluted crossover I tried to do with JAMES CROW and THE VOID. That was the last time I drew the book.

Poor James Crow and Rex only showed up in the occasional sketchbook or FAR-CRY pinup in the years following the last comic appearance but I could never forget these two. They like all my children are very special to me and I would always come back to visit them.

And so I did visit them again a few weeks ago in the warm-up exercise for the class Becky and I teach. I pretty much kept the original design elements but tweaked their anatomy's just a little to give them more structure and style. It was fun drawing these old friends again and the kids really seemed to enjoy them and the brief back-story that accompanied the drawing. I even brought my old plush dinos in the following week to prove to them where my inspiration came from.

This has got my mind going on maximum warp a bit and I plan on going back for a complete overhaul on these characters again very soon. Maybe make them look more like the actual dinosaurs they represent. I'll keep you all posted on the progress as it developes.


Idiot Press Comics said...

This is fantastic stuff Matt. I don't think I've ever seen these characters. You've been holding out on me. I love the history here and the progression. That updated killer pin-up is just the cherry on the top of this great stroll down memory lane. You're earlier artwork kicks ass too. I hope to see more of these history's on your blog.

Lester DiLorenzo said...

downright fantastic! I'm glad you made a post about these guys!

ANMPH said...

That is awesome dude. I think I still have the same purple stuffed dinosaur pteridactle thing. I love that toy. had it for years.
Nice blog post

Lawrence said...


I'd like to buy your purple Pterodactyl. It's strange, I know but I'm serious. Let me know if you're interested in selling it.

My email is...

Add "mymailgoes" then do "@gmail" then ".com". Thanks.

If you don't wanna sell it, could you tell me the label information and where you got it? I'd really appreciate it.