T.J. Kosinski, one of our talented summer interns here at The Times, wandered around Comic-Con International a few weeks ago and interviewed some of his favorite comics creators. This is the second of his guest posts.
To me, Paul Pope is a comic-book rock star. He’s been called “the Jim Morrison of American comic books” for the delirious poetry he creates with his words and brushstrokes.
The creative mind behind Vertigo’s riveting “100%” and the Eisner-winning “Batman: Year 100” is now pushing his art off the page and into toys, design, electronics and even wallpaper…
Yes, that’s right, he is extremely busy.
In the past year, Pope designed exclusive screen-print posters for Diesel, worked on a clothing line for DKNY Jeans, released a monograph entitled “Pulphope,” illustrated the cover of “Pop Gun: Vol. 2,” and recently premiered his first action figure.
Then there’s the icing on the cake: a reissue of Pope’s long out-of-print “THB” series is scheduled for sometime in 2009 with “a lot” of brand-new material, he says.
Despite this hectic production schedule, Pope barely appeared at this year’s Comic-Con.
The only booth Pope attended wasn’t one of the major publishers or an indie press. It was Kid Robot, the loopy plaything company that partnered with Pope to create his first toy, a vinyl Masked Karimbah action figure.
For those not familiar with “THB,” Masked Karimbah is the “Itchy & Scratchy” figure for the comic; a cartoon the characters on the page like to watch on TV. The vinyl doll is huge; the Karimbah is astride a neon pink dog that is the size of a real-life Chihuahua. Thanks to its limited-run of 275 pieces (and despite its steep $160 price tag) the Masked Karimbah was one of the Con’s hottest exclusives, selling out during the weekend.
After signing toys, artwork, comics, and anything else fans brought to him, Pope traveled to the nearby bar at the Marriott, where he sat down to talk about his assorted ventures. Pope, who considers vinyl toys and his clothing line to be“new canvases for comics,” discussed what’s so appealing about the vinyl form.
“I’m interested in what hasn’t been done yet,” he said, explaining how toys highlight the sculptured form of his artwork in between sips from his vodka tonic.
His clothing line for DKNY Jeans, titled “NYC 2089,” launches in September with T-shirts, sweat shirts, and jackets adorned with exclusive Pope content. It goes well beyond comics-inspired characters: One of the line’s more extraordinary pieces is a jacket covered in a “new form of camouflage” of Pope’s creation, which is based on the natural patterns of a moth’s wing.
Talking about clothing design, upcoming iPod artwork, and the possibilities of designer wallpaper was all very interesting, but what grabbed my attention most was the future of “THB,” Pope’s independent comic begun in 1995. The futuristic series featured the exploits of a teenage girl, HR Watson, and her super-powered bodyguard, THB. That collection due next year will be half reprints and half unseen material.
While I was on the edge of my seat, Pope leaned back in his chair and opened up about “THB,” referring to it as “his baby.” “I’ve been working on it this whole time,” Pope explained. In fact, he’s accumulated so much new material that the complete collection of THB will total four volumes.
This isn’t just cause for celebration for fans of Pope’s independent work. It’s a reason for excitement for sci-fi and comic fans in general. When talking about the magnitude of “THB,” Pope cites epic illustrated sagas such as Katsuhiro Otomo’s “Akira” in terms of the impact he hopes to stir. Certainly bold words from one of comics’ rising stars, but there’s a sense that the best certainly yet to come from the 37-year-old creator.
Image from “Batman Year 100” courtesy of Vertigo/DC Comics.