Moriarty Drives To Irvine For A Sneak Preview Of COMIC BOOK TATTOO! 50 Comic Stories... Based On The Songs Of Tori Amos?!
Published at: July 25, 2008, 2:23 a.m. CST by Moriarty
Hey, everyone. “Moriarty” here.
I have real trouble prioritizing what to go do and what to go see and what to read and what to watch these days. There isn’t one waking moment where I don’t have at least five or six immediate options plus a whole backlog of other things I should be doing as well. So a lot of times, no matter how much I’d like to do something, I can’t. People send me impassioned invites to things that sound great, or they want to share their personal passion projects with me, and when it doesn’t time out, I feel terrible about it.
But sometimes, I try to take a chance. Make a little time. And I have to follow my instincts on what might reward such a chance. Case in point: about two weeks ago, we started getting some e-mails at AICN from a guy named Rantz Hoseley. He talked about a comic book project he was working on with Tori Amos, and he wanted to figure out some way to give us a preview of the book, which he said he was very proud of. And trust me... he should be.
Take a look at the cover:
Anthologies are tough in any medium. As someone who’s worked on an anthology show the last few years, I can tell you that I think the format’s inherently flawed. There’s too much accommodation for the mediocre in order to get to the occasional gem. I think the attitude is basically, “Well, it doesn’t matter if they’re all good as long as a few of them are.” That seems like a terrible way of approaching it, in my opinion, but not uncommon. Rantz Hoseley approached this one a little different. He set out to create something where every single story would contribute something to the whole. He worked hard with the various writers and artists contributing to make sure that every single story could stand alone as a piece of art, even if that meant rejecting contributions from some well-known talent.
In the end, the list he put together is impressive, a mix of established artists and relative newcomers. According to Amazon.com, they include: David Mack, Josh Hechinger, Matthew Humphreys, Jonathan Tsuei, Eric Canete, Jason Horn, Dean Trippe, Sara Ryan, Jonathan Case, Rantz A. Hoseley, James Stokoe, Tristan Crane, Atticus Wolrab, Kako, Nikki Cook, Drew Bell, Kevin Mellon, Jeff Carroll, Mike May, Jeremy Haun, Amber Stone, Leif Jones, Elizabeth Genco, Carla Speed Mcneil, Kelly Sue Deconnick, Andy Macdonald, Nick Filardi, Cat Mihos, Andre Szymanowicz, Gabe Bautista, C.B. Cebulksi, Ethan Young, Joey Weltjens & Lee Duhig, Omaha Perez, Irma Page, Mark Buckingham, Rantz A. Hoseley, Ming Doyle, Mike Maihack, John Ney Reiber, Ryan Kelly, Alice Hunt, Trudy Cooper, Jonathan Hickman, Matthew S. Armstrong, Neil Kleid, Christopher Mitten, Kristyn Ferretti, Stephanie Leong, Sonia Leong, Peov, Kelly Sue Deconnick, Laurenn Mccubbin, John Bivens, Hope Larson, Emma Vieceli, Faye Yong, Chris Arrant, Star St.Germain, Mike Dringenberg, Paul Maybury, Jim Bricker, Craig Taillefer, Dame Darcy, G. Willow Wilson, Steve Sampson, Neal Shaffer, Daniel Krall, Adisakdi Tantimedh, Ken Meyer Jr., Mark Sable, Salgood Sam, Tom Williams, James Owen, Seth Peck, Daniel Heard, Ivan Brandon, Callum Alexander Watt, Leah Moore, John Reppion, Pia Guerra, Mark Sweeney, Kristyn Ferretti, Jessica Staley, Shane White, Ted Mckeever, Chris Chuckry, Jimmie Robinson, Lea Hernandez Derek Mcculloch, Colleen Doran and Jason Hanley.
So who is Rantz Hoseley and how did he end up in charge of this project?
Well, aside from having an awesome name that sounds like a John Wayne character, he’s infamous in certain circles as “the guy who introduced Neil Gaiman to Tori Amos.” Seems that Rantz has been part of Tori’s life since before she ever began recording music. He was the one who pushed a tape of her work on Gaiman, kicking off a friendship that has informed both of their creative output over the years. More than that, he’s working on various Image titles of his own, like VIX and DISPLACED PERSONS, and like Amos herself, he’s a longtime comics superfreak who takes the medium seriously. The two of them set out to use this anthology project as a way of showcasing talent they felt needed the leg up in the business, people still establishing a voice, as well as great big names who felt some pull to the material.
The artistic challenge to each of the creators involved was fairly simple: take any one of Tori’s songs and use that to create something new. No illustrated lyric sheets. No literal beat-for-beat interpretations. Instead, they wanted the artists to take the mood, the impressions, the feelings of the music, and create new work. Nothing literal. That’s very freeing, and the result is this amazing huge 12”x12” book. That’s album cover size, so when you open this thing across your lap, it’s like looking at the most amazing gatefold album artwork possible. It’s great when you get a chance to see artwork reproduced at this sort of size, because you can really see the details, the craft that’s gone into it. It helps that Rantz has a long history in graphic layout, so he approached this the right way, making sure the art works in synch with the size and the format, rather than having splash pages that get lost in the fold.
This isn’t a review of the book, since I didn’t have enough time to really read it. Instead, in the hour or so I spent paging through it, I just barely got a chance to see the entire thing. It’s almost 500 pages long, pages like this:
There are three versions of the book. A hardcover, a softcover that’s the exact same size, and then a limited edition that’s leather-bound and built to last. There are only 50 of those still available, and they’ll be brought to Comic Con where they’re first come, first serve.
If you’re in LA, there’s a signing tomorrow at Amoeba Records. I might make the drive down since I’ve never had a chance to meet Tori and I greatly admire her work. I’ve been a fan since LITTLE EARTHQUAKES, and even at her oddest moments, I find great beauty in so much of what she does. I can see why artists would feel free to reinterpret what she does. The abstract nature of so much of her best work is about how things feel rather than what explicit sense they make.
When I talked with Rantz about how he chose the song he decided to adapt, I was intrigued to see how the choice snuck up on him. He explains it beautifully in this blog piece about the process, which also features some more sample art for you. It’s a good site to bookmark if you’re interested in this title, because many of the contributors are going to write pieces there to explain the work they did. For example, the second blog entry was about the creation of “Pirates,” which this comes from:
One of the coolest things Rantz mentioned to me was that Tori’s been so inspired by the stories that she’s actually creating new music because of it. So her songs fed these stories which feed more music. What a great symbiosis for all of them.
The signing tomorrow is the first time anyone outside of the editorial team is going to be able to see the book for themselves. The copy I paged through was Rantz’s personal copy, one of only three of them in anyone’s hands last week. I think once fans get a look at this (it should be in comic stores and Barnes & Nobles and many, many other outlets starting this week), they’re going to see that it’s one of the most ambitious book projects of the year, whether you’re talking about comics or not. That ambition seems to have been richly rewarded by all the contributors, and the first comparison I’d make would be to Harlan Ellison’s brilliant DANGEROUS VISIONS collections, which led me to discover any number of new authors when those books were published. Here, I plan to spend some time with the last few pages of the book, where you can find website addresses for everyone involved. I love that I’m going to be turned on to all these new voices and also that I’m going to be able to discover people I should have known already, like Trudy Cooper, author of PLATINUM GRIT, which I’d never heard of, but which Rantz swears is one of the best comic books ever. High praise, certainly, but finding an artist like this because of their story in the book is exactly what a great anthology can do.
I’m hoping I’ll actually be able to review this for you, and that the boys at AICN COMICS also get a look at it soon. I think they’ll be as impressed as I was, and I think you guys will be, too.