By Rob M. Gooze‚
Arizona Daily Wildcat
In less than two weeks, James O'Barr will become a household name. His comic-book cult creation-turned movie thriller, "The Crow," explodes into theatres on Friday the 13th. "The Crow" creator recently walked the Wildcat through his private world of angst and angels.
Wildcat: There's already a very positive buzz in Hollywood coming from the preview screenings of the film. Have you had a chance to see it?
O'Barr: I loved the movie. Though I'm apt to be the harshest critic, being the author, the film stays remarkably true to my vision. But the real star of the picture is Brandon (Lee), and he is just absolutely breathtaking in this role, just heads and tails above anything he's ever done before. He runs the whole gamut from crying sentimentally in one scene to being a total killing machine in another. He pulls it off brilliantly.
Wildcat: What was your inspiration in the development of "The Crow" project, which is heavily bent on revenge?
O'Barr: Basically, I had read a newspaper story about a young couple that had been killed over a $30 engagement ring. I thought that was totally outrageous, and I used that as a pivotal point, and then I had a personal tragedy in my own life that also fueled the whole working of the comic.
Wildcat: Is it safe to say then you find yourself relating to the lead character in "The Crow"?
O'Barr: Yes, I had a lot of anger and outrage that I really had nowhere to vent it. Luckily, I took up a safer route than self-destruction and started to almost document it on paper.
Wildcat: Previous to your career on the comics scene what were some of the other jobs you worked?
O'Barr: I've pretty much done everything. I worked in nursing homes, I did auto body work for six years, I was in the Marine Corps, went to medical school for three years. I'd do something until I got bored with it, then move on to something more challenging. I'm really having fun now and testing my boundaries in the comic field and film work.
Wildcat: Then your work with comic books has come only recently?
O'Barr: I started doing comic full-time two years ago. "The Crow," I did the entire thing part-time when I was working at the auto shop. I would hammer sheet metal and suck bondo dust all day working on cars, come home and draw until one or two in the morning. It was strenuous, but I was pretty obsessive about finishing this thing.
Wildcat: In retrospect, to have the film hitting theaters in a couple weeks and doing these interviews left and right, has this made up for some of the early struggle?
O'Barr: It has. And to see the fans who tend to be very critical of the film because it's something really personal to them, to see them really enjoy it, applaud it and say its one of the best films they've ever seen. It really makes me happy, because I had to fight long and hard to keep the original vision intact, as Hollywood has a tendency to do. You need to look no further than "Captain America" to see that.
Wildcat: It seems "The Crow" has made it fairly quickly from book to movie form. Don't most movie adaptations of comic characters sometimes take agonizing years to get to the silver screen?
O'Barr: It was pretty much unheard of, because it was bought for a film before it was finished. I hadn't finished the last issue when they started working on the script. It's been about four years, but if you think about how long it takes for some things to make it to the screen that's an amazingly short amount of time. I mean, Jacob's Ladder took like 12 years to make it to the screen.
Wildcat: The movie's soundtrack seems to have a distinct thematic quality to it. There's quick opening song, rocking and diverse middle section and a melancholic closing track. How much of an input did you have in the collection of artists on the soundtrack?
O'Barr: Quite a bit. That was part of my contract was that I had script approval and input on the soundtrack and the actors. I gave the producer a list of bands to approach about doing new songs, and a list with previously recorded material, you know, the things I was listening to when I drew and wrote it. What made it onto the CD was actually one-third of what was submitted. Smashing Pumpkins, Psychedelic Furs did some great songs. Sisters of Mercy had a song titled "Under the Gun," but after the accident they thought it was inappropriate and pulled it.
Wildcat: What are some of your favorites?
O'Barr: I really like the Jane Siberry song. The title of the song refers to a line that's said in the movie about four times. I'm really happy with the Cure song, too. Robert Smith has been a fan of the comic for awhile. He's one of the people I know actually reads the comic, because there are lyrics in the song that aren't in the film. The opening lyric is "Don't look, don't look," which isn't in the film, but is the basis for the comic book.
Wildcat: Aside from "The Crow," what other projects are you currently working on?
O'Barr: I'm doing a series ries for Dark Horse comics called Gothik. It's kind of a cyberpunk story, but there won't be a whole lot of high-tech stuff in it. It's set in Detroit five to 15 years in the future and has five main characters, one of them is named Blixa. He's basically a 7-foot killing machine, and the main character's name is Johnny Zero, who's kind of the antithesis of Eric (The Crow). He's a really fucked up young man with a drug problem. So I'm dealing with a lot of the same themes, but take them to even more of an extreme, and it's very difficult because a lot of it is based on true life experience, but I really think it's going to pay off for me.
Wildcat: Throughout the interview you've made references to Blade Runner, is it safe to say that's one of your all-time favorite movies?
O'Barr: Yeah that's one of my favorite films. I think I've seen it in its entirety almost 15 times and parts of it I watch just to see how Ridley Scott cuts from angle to angle and shadowing and things like that. I'm a big fan of the Cohen brothers stuff too, "Miller's's Crossing." I also liked "Barton Fink," the camera work and the way they moved in the film's atmosphere.
Wildcat: Looking ahead the next five years, what's in the future for you?
O'Barr: I don't really think that far ahead. I plan on sticking with comics for a long, long time. I do have a band I play in and we are going to have some releases on Trent Reznor's label. It's called Trust Obey. It's myself and John Bergin, who has done some comic work, and we have a five-album deal with Reznor's record label, but my main focus is the comic work. There, I get to be all the actors, the director, the screenwriter and I have total control over it. Read Next Article