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Straight for the art | My David Bowie Sketchbook, SPX & BKCGF ’09

by  in Comic News Comment

Origin story time: Back when I worked at Wizard, I was introduced to the concept of a themed sketchbook by coworkers like Ben Morse and David Paggi, whose Nova and Lockjaw sketchbooks celebrated their favorite obscure superheroes through the generous contributions of comics artists. My problem? I don’t have a favorite obscure superhero. The only hero I really love is Batman, and the problem there is that I’m sure most superhero artists doing sketches at cons are sick of drawing him, while most alternative artists doing sketches at cons are sick of thinking about him. Who could I choose that would fit the bill?

Then it came to me: David Bowie. He’s my favorite musician, and it’s fair to say his outlook and approach to art literally changed my life. Plus, with all those alter egos and ch-ch-ch-changes, he’s like a superhero anyway, right? And thus, at MoCCA 2007, the David Bowie Sketchbook was born.

I’ve since collected sketches of Ziggy Stardust, the Thin White Duke, Aladdin Sane, the Goblin King, Major Tom, or whatever else you care to call the former David Jones from 80 artists and illustrators. Below are the latest batches, from this year’s Small Press Expo in September and Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival last weekend. How must the others see the faker?


Benjamin Marra: When I approached Ben about being in the Bowie book, he insisted on taking it from me and working on it for some time. He killed it. This is a “wow” piece for lots of folks who flip through.


John Porcellino: I had no idea what the god of minicomics and minimalism would produce for this thing. He went with the harlequin from “Ashes to Ashes,” that look’s first and only appearance in the book so far. I love it — somehow it’s perfect for Porcellino.


Matt Furie: NSFW! Matt is the author of Boy’s Club, the funniest comic I’ve ever read, so this is fitting. The hermaphroditism is a nice touch for pop’s premier gender-bender.


Jon Vermilyea: Jon actually drew his piece on the loose sheet of paper I was using to stick behind artists’ pages as they drew so that ink wouldn’t bleed onto the subsequent page. So what, it’s still monstrously delightful like most of his work. Fun fact: I have a phobia of skin growths and yet this doesn’t bother me at all. Go figure.


Ben Katchor: Like Paul Karasik before him, Ben Katchor made it clear he wasn’t thrilled about drawing David Bowie. “I don’t think I want to draw David Bowie,” he said, as if he were narrating the thought as it occurred to him. “I don’t want to glorify him. What should I draw instead?” I told him anything he wanted would be fine, and lo and behold, he was kind enough to work the theme in anyway. Watching Katchor arrange space on a page is an all-time thrill.


James McShane: At SPX, James McShane became the first and thus far only person to turn me down for the Bowie sketchbook because he’d already decided what he would draw in it prior to my asking him but didn’t have the pencils he needed to do it with him. He wanted to draw Bowie from the cover of Earthling, so he needed the blue and red for the Alexander McQueen Union Jack coat. I caught up with him at BKCGF, he had the pencils with him, and everyone lived happily ever after. Earthling was my first Bowie record and is still one of my favorites, so I’m glad to see that era make its first appearance in the book.


Shawn Cheng: I’ve known Shawn since college, we’ve worked together, I’ve sold comics at his table, and yet all my attempts to get him into the Bowie sketchbook were in vain. UNTIL NOW. I catch a ’60s-illustration vibe off this one.


Mat Brinkman: Mat Brinkman changed the way I looked at comics with his book Teratoid Heights, no exaggeration. His presence at BKCGF was a big reason I drove there through the freezing rain in the first place. I imagine the way I gushed all over him and then shoved a David Bowie theme sketchbook in his face was a little disconcerting, but hopefully one of the 79 other artists I’ve done this to was able to contextualize it for him. Anyway he drew Bowie as a li’l monster, which is exactly what I wanted from Mat Brinkman.


Tunde Adebimpe: Tunde Adepbimpe is a member of TV on the Radio, which makes him, to the best of my knowledge, the only contributor to my Bowie sketchbook who has actually collaborated with Bowie. (Unless I missed something involving Michel Gondry.) So when I heard he’d be at BKCGF he became a must-get–but the care with which I saw him draw in another sketchbook, plus the fact that he might well have been the nicest guy at the whole show, woulda put him on the list regardless. Love love love the pink makeup–he brought a whole arsenal of drawing implements with him, and it shows.

Finally, this one’s cheating a bit as it’s not from my sketchbook, but I want to show it off anyway:


Isaac Moylan: This is an unfinished page (note the white trousers) from a biographical comic about Bowie’s less-than-healthy year-long sojourn in Los Angeles between the release of Young Americans and Station to Station in the mid-’70s; I wrote it and Isaac’s drawing it. As you might have guessed, I’m excited about it.

So there you have it, my Bowie haul for this fall. For past installments of my Bowie sketchbook, click here, here, here, here, here, and here, or see the whole shebang as a Flickr set. Thank you so much to all the artists who’ve contributed — you were my heroes, just for one day.