Sunday night saw Los Angeles comic book retailer Golden Apple's release party in honor of the new Tori Amos-inspired anthology "Comic Book Tattoo." On hand to sign copies of the huge 480-page Image Comics tome were David Mack, Ted McKeever, Mark Sable, Matthew Humphries, Eric Canete, Andy MacDonald, Omaha Perez, Ivan Brandon, Jonathon Tsuei, and editor Rantz Hoseley. The writers and artists took time out to talk about Tori Amos's music, their work on the project and to draw sketches for those fans that requested them. Golden Apple owner Ryan Liebowitz was on hand to handle a silent auction for signed and numbered prints, autographed tour books, and other items with all the proceeds benefiting the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. Free food and drinks were made available as well for everyone in attendance as artist Jim Mahfood created art in the front window of the store for Golden Apple's upcoming Method Man party.
The fans in attendance crossed the spectrum in terms of age, race and gender, with the name "Tori Amos" drawing some people into Golden Apple that hadn't visited a comic book shop their entire lives. For Hoseley, it was nice to finally see the project out in the hands of fans. "It's awesome because it's one of those things where we got the advanced copies four weeks ago and we knew right away that people would have to actually get it in their hands before they really understood it."
Indeed, marketing of the uniquely formatted book became difficult for Hoseley as people have become jaded to the hype in comics whereby every other title is "revolutionary" or "totally amazing." "It was very hard for us to really try and get it across to people that this is a massively different thing," Hoseley said. "It's a very different kind of experience of reading comics and looking at comics then what you're used to and there really isn't a frame of a reference." Now though, the word is out and "Comic Book Tattoo" has begun crossing boundaries not usually seen, even with such an ambitious project. Re-orders of the book have doubled within the first week and even bookstore chains have gotten into the act. Barnes & Noble and Borders are both featuring the title as one of their books of the month for August and it will be displayed prominently in over 700 stores nationwide.
David Mack was in attendance, drawing sketches and selling prints of his work. This wasn't Mack's first work that involved Tori Amos; the celebrated "Kabuki" creator has been painting portraits of Amos for the calendar she puts out every year to benefit her charity RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network). Originally, Mack was going to work with Leif Jones on a story for "Comic Book Tattoo" but that was soon to change. "Leif had a pretty cool idea of what his story was going to be and he wanted me to write it for him," Mack explained. "It sounded like he had it worked out pretty close and I was like 'I think you should write this as you have it worked out pretty good." It was then that Mack was offered "The Flying Dutchman" by Hoseley, a song Amos had actually written about Hoseley. "It was written when both he and Tori were in their early formative careers when they were still figuring out what they were going do and how to make that happen," Mack said. "It was very helpful to have a lot of the back story from Rantz."
Ivan Brandon, writer of "NYC Mech" and "Secret Invasion: Home Invasion," made an interesting choice with his song, 'Pirates,' an early track from Amos's first band Y Kant Tori Read. "Out of the entire catalog, I went and sought out the song that I thought thematically had the most to draw inspiration off of," Brandon said. "It wasn't a question of being a fan of one song over another as a music listener as much as, as a writer, what song I felt made for the best story and looking through the entire catalog. 'Pirates' just struck a chord with me." Though she has expressed some embarrassment about her time in that band, Brandon didn't meet any resistance with his choice. "From what I understood she was very into the idea and I ended up being the only guy with a Y Kant Tori Read story."
Others had a more difficult time in getting the song they originally wanted, like Eric Canete and Jonathon Tsuei, who worked on the story based on the song "Girl." "The original story that we wanted to do was 'I Don't Like Mondays,' Canete said. "I was a huge fan of that song and unfortunately it was a cover song that Tori did from another artist and there was a lot of legal technicalities." Tsuei added, "We spoke with Rantz just trying to find a song that was similar in tone and similar in meaning. Rantz suggested 'Girl' and that was a song that as I just kind of listened to over and over again a story formed in my head."
Omaha Perez found himself so inspired by Amos's work that he had a hard time deciding which song he wanted to do, finally deciding on "Father Lucifer." "I gave them two different story pitches," Perez said, "One was pure fiction and one was autobiographical, and very personal, and actually that was the one they wanted me to do. It was a real great opportunity to do a real personal piece that I don't know if I would have done otherwise."
While creating a story from a song might seem like an exercise in testing their writing muscles, the legendary Ted McKeever found the experience of creating a story based on "Past The Mission" to be a natural experience. "I don't read a whole lot of comics, I don't spend a whole lot of looking at artwork in that sense," McKeever said. "Music plays a real big part of the creative process for me, so when I was actually sitting down to start working on this I found it really natural in that I listen to music a lot when I am working. Music always plays a big part in my creative process, so for doing a Tori project it felt like a natural progression."
Some fans have noted there is a "Volume One" notation on the back of the "Comic Book Tattoo" cover, and with such a great response from fans, retailers and distributors -- plus numerous songs remaining to be used-- people are wondering if that means there will definitely be a second volume of "Comic Book Tattoo." "You never say never," Hoseley said. "I think the main thing is the same way we wanted to do something radically different with this we wouldn't want to repeat ourselves and just do another volume in the same format and the same kind of approach. There's a lot of discussion going on with Tori and I on possibilities and we'll see how things go. "
For more on "Comic Book Tattoo," check out COMIC BLOG TATTOO, the official creators workblog, right here on CBR.
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