CCI: "Comic Book Tattoo" Inspires New Amos Music

Warning, adult language!

Tori Amos sauntered out from behind a curtain at Comic-Con International in San Diego and waved to the crowd. The shriek from the audience was deafening.

Joined by various creators who participated in the creation of "Comic Book Tattoo," Amos talked with fans about how the creators on the Image comic have inspired her, and how important creative freedom is.

Amos and Rantz Hoseley, "Comic Book Tattoo" editor, have known each other since 1986. Amos told Rantz how important it was for the book to be a safe haven for creators.

"I wanted to make sure the corporate side did not fuck it up too much," Amos told the audience. "So I got to play S&M artist with corporate."

The panel immediately accepted questions from the crowd. The first question was directed towards Amos. A fan wanted to know how it felt to hold "Comic Book Tattoo" for the first time.

"I almost felt the same way as when I hold my daughter. I know that sounds crazy," Amos told the crowd. "I've known Rantz for a very long time. To see him struggle, to then becoming this miraculous, magical creator - I cried. I'm so happy for him."

The crowd erupted with applause. Hoseley kept the clapping rolling with his next comment.

"This book came together so fast. The creators really need a round of applause," he said. "We had 90 creators on this book, and they all came in on deadline."

Indeed, "Comic Book Tattoo" came together at lightning speed.

"Literally as I was leaving San Diego, I stopped by the Image booth. I stopped Joe Keating, and said 'You know the Belle and Sebastian book?" Hoseley said. "Would you be interested in a Tori Amos book?' He didn't even let me finish my sentence. 'Yes, done!'"

Hoseley said they committed to producing the Tori Amos book in December and had the book wrapped just a few months later.

"We wrapped in less than half a year! I had the advance copy and I kept saying, 'What the fuck!?!'

"I read some interviews, and the editor is like, 'This will change everything, it's revolutionary!'" Hoseley said. "And then I pick it up, and it's a piece of shit! But then I got this book, and I'm like, 'This will change everything, it's revolutionary!' And you can harm women and children with this thing! It's 12" by 12", 480 pages."

Hoseley described the comic, appropriately, as a "music comic."

"It was important to Tori that this not be a corporate comic," Hoseley said. "We can do this thing 12" by 12", almost 500 pages, heavy stock paper," Hoseley said. "Image said 'Are you sure you wanna do it like this?' I said 'Yeah.'"

Hoseley said there were only two rules for creators on "Comic Book Tattoo": Do not directly interpret the song, and it's got to be an odd number of pages.

Kelly Sue DeConnick talked about working with Laurenn McCubbin on 'Silent All These Years.'

"In ('Silent,'), there's a lot of hurt. Talking about it right now with Tori right here is crippling,'" DeConnick said. "I had to take off my eye makeup and start over this morning.

"If I'm quiet and can allow it, I can get away from everything else that is not important, and I know what the right choice is... that's what this song is to me."

Ted McKeever adapted 'Past the Mission.'

"Rantz contacted me, the offer itself, I didn't know the details. I knew it was comic art, I knew Tori was involved. He said 'Pick a song.' I knew her songs extensively. 'Past the Mission' stood out to me. It became more than just relaxing and introspective. He said 'It's yours.' I didn't listen to the song again... I got the text. As I was laying out the story, I told Rantz, 'I don't want word balloons.' The main reason, I couldn't have a 300-pound character spit out Tori's words. It seemed to be insulting to me. I told Rantz, I told Tori, they said 'Do what you want.'"

McKeever said having a comic story with no word balloons was a risky proposition.

"It was terrifying. I was afraid people wouldn't get it, there was no context. The piece... is almost a soundtrack to what (Amos) did."

Amos talked to the crowd about how important it was to her that the creators have unrestricted freedom.

"I've had so many people ask me, 'Now, are you thinking about the demographic?' And I say, 'Why the fuck are you in the studio, and why did we feed you?'

"I wanted all these wonderful artists to feel like, 'I can be free.' Anything goes as long as you're really pushing it, and it's great."

Hoseley echoed Amos' feelings on freedom.

"Why are you asking me? Shut up and go. It's the beaten dog syndrome. We're trained to flinch, it's a natural instinct. Though I've been told to go over the line, I'm trained not to. As an editor, I said, 'Fucking go!'"

McKeever shared a story about having the leash held too tightly.

"I turned in a DC project once, for Superman. He had three belt loops. They said, 'No, he has four belt loops. I think to myself, 'They're busting my chops about belt loops, there's no way they'll let me do this."

David Mack, who adapted 'Flying Dutchman,' was ecstatic to work with Amos on the project.

"I had done some paintings for a Tori Amos charity in the past. (Hoseley) gave me a great back-story (on 'Flying Dutchman'). I think early on, when Rantz was talking about his comic dreams - like I did - he got a lot of blank stares. I tried to install that in the story. It's about a boy with wild ideas.

"There are certain expectations from parents or school - where they expect you to fit," Mack explained. "You go through life with feelings of what you are, and what you can be. How do you be the you you really want and need to be?"

A fan asked if Amos heard the songs being adapted when she read the book. Surprisingly, Amos told the crowd that the book made her hear all-new songs.

"Rantz would send me things, I've been able to watch the process develop. What surprised me is when I read it, I hear new music,"Amos said. "I've started now writing new things. My music was inspired - what I'm writing now - by what these people put forth. It's very cyclical."

Amos then talked about how hard it is to come up with truly original music, stating that she doesn't listen to other music when she's developing new songs.

"There are only 12 notes, OK? You listen to the radio and you say, 'I've heard that before.' Of course you did - we steal things. We look at our contemporaries. 'What is that David Mack doing? That slut,'" Amos laughed. "I'm not stealing this from David. (Musicians) don't realize they're stealing until they're listening to K-ROC - 'Oh, fuck - I stole this!'"

A fan asked what Amos' daughter thought of "Comic Book Tattoo." Amos told a story about her daughter 'discovering' some content from the book recently, and the conversation they had about it."'Mommy, these two girls are kissing?'"

"'Yes. How did you get this?'"

"'I got it on your computer.'"

"'You've been bad.'"

"'But you won't take away my DVDs because you want to sleep with daddy.,'" Amos concluded to laughter.

"I said, right now, I'm the boss. When you're 18, you can get tattoos and pierce your body."

Amos wrapped up the panel saying that the concept of "Comic Book Tattoo" gave her an empowering sense of freedom.

"It's marvelous, I've never done anything like this. It gave me the courage to stand up and leave Sony. It showed me freedom - 'I don't need them, fuck them.'"

Now discuss this story in CBR's Image Comics forum.

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