The Comics

We shall never forget and never Forgive. And never, EVER fear.
Fear is for the enemy.
Fear and Bullets.

Many of you may know that it all began when James O'Barr lost his fiancee' to a drunken driver. He was only 18 years old at the time, still too young to have such circumstances laid at one's feet. What began with his pain and loss, eventually culminated in a story that none of us who have been touched by the story shall ever forget. It is a testament to the inevitability of tradgedy, and the ability to overcome it.

James began work on the comic in 1981 while stationed at an Army base in Berlin, and he hoped it would help ease some of his grief. However, instead of becoming a catharsis, the project merely rubbed salt in unhealed wounds. In O'Barr's own words:

"...all I was doing was intensifying it--I was focusing on all this negativity. As I worked on it, things just got worse and worse, darker and darker. So, it really didn't have the desired effect--I was probably more f*cked up afterwards than before I started."

In 1989, the first volume was released by Caliber. However, the sales fell short of the company's expectations, and they cancelled the title. Tundra eventually picked it up 3 years later and finished out the volumes. Later still, the rights would go to the now-defunct Kitchen Sink Press.

I was among the many who saw the film first. I have spoken of its power over me already. Shortly after seeing it, I purchased the trade paperback version of the comics. Unlike in previous situations, I had absolutely no problems with the differences between it and the film. Instead, I embraced them.

The comic is a bit darker, and reflects O'Barr's mood at the time. One can also see the evolution of his artwork from beginning to end, since its completion took nearly a decade. For those of you out there who have seen only the film, please, by all means I urge you to get the trade paperback (easy now, since its back in print). Buy it, or borrow it from someone who has it if you have to, but read it. Even if you havent read comics for years, or have never even picked one up in your life. Take that step. For as the film can be considered a testament to the life of Brandon Lee, the comic is the pain of James O'Barr, made substance for our purview. Do not deny the possibility of tradgedy, open it up and learn what you have to loose. You may take far less for granted afterwards.

  • To find out more about James O'Barr, and the history of the Crow comic, please visit

    Comic Mini-Reviews

    The Crow
    Written and Illustrated by James O' Barr

    Hard-working construction-worker/Car-Repairman Eric and his fiancee' Shelly are brutally killed by a gang of thugs on a Detroit back-road for the simple crime of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. One year later, Eric reappears as an invincible instrument of vengeance, guided by a talking, ghostly Crow, that apparently only he can see. Guided by this specter, Eric goes on to destroy each and every punk responsible in any way for the death of Shelly and himself.

    Moody, Dark, and filled with pain in every single page, "the Crow" is J. O' Barr's masterwork. In many ways it is quite different from the movie it would later spawn. It is darker, more violent, and filled with less hope. Unlike the film, the Crow is a guide that only Eric can see, and it could be argued that it is a figment of his troubled imagination. A masterpiece that took several years to complete, "The Crow" is a must-have for any serious fans of comics, or of dark-dramas in general. The art is a treasure, as you get to see O'Barr's work advance through the time it took to render these books. It goes from good to excellent, and seeing the progression of an artist's work in this fashion is always something special.

    The Crow: Dead Time
    Written by James O' Barr and John Wagner and Illustrated by Alexander Maleev

    One century ago, A Crow Indian named Joshua is injured by a roving gang of marauders taking advantage of the dissaray following in the wake of the Civil War. Joshua must watch helplessly as his family is murdered. However, Joshua manages to free himself after their deaths, and burns down their house to honor his dead family. Mortally wounded, he staggers untold miles until he find the burial ground of his own Crow nation. A hundred-years later, Joshua find himself awakened in a horrible world...a modern city. A talking Crow reminds Joshua of what had happened to him in the past, and what must be done. Seeing that his face is painted with the war-markings of his people, Joshua questions the Crow, wondering how revenge can be gained upon foes long-since dead. He finds his answer in a murderous gang of thugs, the reincarnated marauders of a century before. Seeing the truth of his quest, Joshua deals out death to his reborn tormentors, and afterwards can finally rest. He is guided back to the burial ground of his people, where the assembled Crow warrors note that Joshua's face is now painted jet black...the color of revenge.

    A dark trip through time to find revenge delayed by the passage of a century. This miniseries is true to the spirit of the original series that spawned it. The twist of gaining vengeance on reincarnated foes is an interesting and original one, and like the film version of the Crow, Joshua can be weakened if the crow guiding him is wounded. However, through sheer will, Joshua overcomes his weakened state to gain final vengeance, and thus his eternal rest. The art is very good, and Maleev would go on to undertake the artistic chores for the next Crow miniseries.

    On the critical side, Maleev's art is still at an early stage, and despite the realistic detail that he shows in each and every panel, he still makes some very basic errors. For example, problems in artistic perspective crop up, and objects that are closer often appear smaller than they should. Also, at times his storytelling suffers, as some panels are hard to follow, events are sometimes confusingly rendered. In that same vein, he makes continuity errors at times as well. However, these are minor errors, and at the time I surmised that Maleev would recitify such mistakes given time and experience. He eventually proved me right.

    The Crow: Flesh and Blood
    Written by James Vance and Illustrated by Alexander Maleev

    Iris Shaw was working as an officer for the Bureau of Land Management when she ran afoul of local farmers illegally poisoning coyotes. When she questions the illogicity of the act, the yokels threaten her life. Later, these farmers ( who belong to a radical anti-government militia group ) would go on to plant a bomb in the small 2 story building where the local Land Management office is located, killing Iris, the Marshall, and an old woman on the street. Iris is brought back by a Crow, who tells her of her mission...a mission of vengeance which she gladly accepts. She goes on to question the locals about her demise, and manages to track down the cabal of killers. Iris does more to these butchers than merely kill them, burying the first pair of murderers alive, and she would go on to make sure each punishment fits the crime. As events come to a head, she finally faces down the architect of her sorrow and as his world falls apart, he too learns what it means to suffer.

    The first female Crow proves to be perhaps the most brutal of the bunch...taking revenge to truly appropriate lengths. Iris is a tragic figure in more ways than one, having been pregnant at the time of her death. Thus, her quest for vengeance is driven as much by the pain of life unrealized as for one cut short. In this tale, the crow myth takes a different twist, as Iris is merely a reanimated corpse...unable to heal, and her time is running out due to damage and decomposition. Thus, unlike previous incarnations of the Crow, Iris is a true Zombie...and she lives up to that grisly moniker.

    Once again, some of the same problems with Maleev's art crop up, and there are even more glaring perspective errors in these volumes. Some may think I'm being picky, but perspective is one of the first things you learn as a serious artist. Maleev draws ultra-realistic human beings, and each panel looks like a portrait. However, as my college art teacher showed me; however advanced your skills may be, you must continue to work on the basics.

    The Crow: Wild Justice
    Written by Jerry Prosser and Illustrated by Charlie Adlard

    A carjacking gone too far takes the lives of Michael Korby and his new bride Jan. The call of revenge waits fifteen years before Korby is awakened by a pair of Crows named Manny and Hugo. Empowered by the blood of the Gorgon, and his skin marked by its presence, Korby reconstructs his last hours and then seeks out those responsible for his death. As Korby awakens, Darryl Nichols is released from prison, having served 15 years for what really was an accidental shooting (on his part anyway.). A changed man, Darryl wishes to get on with his life and make his family proud. However, he is haunted by visions of his crime...and cannot shake the guilt that has been his companion for almost 2 decades. At his homecoming party, Darryl is greeted by Eric...the man truly responsible for the death of the Korby's. Darryl is given a new car by Eric, and on their test drive they are attacked by Michael Korby. Eric is knocked unconcious, but Korby drags Darryl to an alley where he finds he is recognised. Darryl asks Korby for forgiveness, but Korby cannot do so...he leaves Darryl alive, wanting Darryl to be fearful before he is killed. Before it is all said and done...Korby would find his mission harder than he had thought, and Darryl would find it in himself to accept his fate.

    One of the more thought-provoking entries into the Crow mythos, Wild Justice examines 3 different character perspectives through its 3 issues. Michael Korby's views in the first issue, Darryl's in the second, and Detective Frank Jacobs through the third. Wild Justice makes one wonder about the basic ideas behind taking revenge against those who have wronged you. What if someone truly changes? Do they still deserve punishment? And if they are truly their death justified? Or does the instrument of vengeance against a reformed induvidual become as much a monster as those who wronged him?

    The art is very good, and quite appropriate. And the Crow mythos is tweaked again, as Korby is infused with the Blood of the Gorgon from greek myth. The blood marks Korby's skin, and heals him...but its supply will run out if overused. Korby becomes increasingly tortured as the story progresses...wondering about the validity of his quest for revenge. The ending is heart-wrenching..and then hopeful. It is left up to the reader to determine the truth behind its imagery. Nice touch. Wild-Justice is definately the best of the Crow sequels, and is truly worthy of the legend.

    The Crow: Waking Nightmares
    Written by Christopher Golden and Illustrated by Phillip Hester and Ande Parks

    Mark Leung was a beat cop for the NYPD's 5th Precinct. His beat was New York's Chinatown...and his investigation into the affairs of the local Chineese Mafioso's (The Triads) cost him his life, and the life of his wife as well. His children were kidnapped, and sold deep into the kiddie-porn black-market. Days later, Mark is brought back by the powers of the Crow. At first he remembers only his death, and the death of his wife...and he gets his instant revenge upon one of the triggermen. However, his full faculties return and he remembers his missing children. While on the trail of the rest of the killers, Mark seeks to find his missing girls...a quest at odds with his mission of revenge. Mark's former partner begins to track down his killers as well, and finds their sudden deaths mysterious. As the body count rises, Mark finds himself increasingly frustrated at being unable to quickly find his endangered girls, and also increasingly angered at the Crow's ceaseless insistence that he work only for the dead and not the living. Eventually, Mark would find his desire to find his girls incompatable with the Crow's mission of vengeance, and for the very first time, a resurrected victim would reject the path of revenge.

    The last two issues would be delayed for many months by the bankruptcy of Kitchen Sink Press. However, the publisher would overcome its financial difficulties, and fianally print the last 2 installments. The art isn't to my taste, but is effective. The story itself is a compelling one. Mark, like Eric from the first Crow tale, gets to watch the violation of his beloved before she is killed. And he is tortured to death afterwards. When reborn...his eyes are gone, but despite his empty, bleeding sockets...Mark can still see. Absolutely dedicated to rescuing his daughters, Mark eventually strays from the path of vengeance, and becomes vulnerable. However, still able to see, Mark manages to finish off his killers and rescue his daughters...but his rejection of the path leads to his damnation.

    The story is somewhat depressing...and the ending is a downbeat one. Despite that, Waking Nightmares delivers the goods for the most part...and its artistic flaws cannot keep it from becoming one of the stronger entries to the Crow mythos.

    The Crow/Razor
    Written by Everette Hartsoe and Illustrated by Jerry Beck, Albert Holaso, and Everette Hartsoe

    Several years after the deaths of Eric and Shelly, Eric is called back from the land of the Dead to again heed the call of vengeance. His uncle has lost more family members to the violence overtaking Queen city, and his pain has brought Eric back once more. Meanwhile, Queen City's psychotic vigilante, Razor, is also tracking down the source of the latest outbreaks of brutality. Eventually, she and Eric come to work together and find the ringleader of the huge gang overtaking the city...a man named Mr. Pain. In the end, Pain is revealed to be much more than he seems, and freeing the terroized city from his dark clutches proves to be a harder task than originally thought.

    It started out of the gate very strongly, with nice artwork from both pencillers and an intriguing story. However, it quickly went downhill from there.

    I strongly feel that the characterization of Eric Draven is way off base in many instances. What's more, I hate the idea of him being pulled back into the revenge game after he's already been through it once. And usually I'm not offended by profanity, but in this series it seems to be used just for the sake of having it in there. It's almost like a kid cursing when he is with his friends just because he can. The story really just doesn't seem to fit well within the framework of the Crow mythos.

    Also, the art is quite inconsistent. Maybe its just his style, but Jerry Beck's artwork seems very incomplete in certain panels. Its kinda frustrating because many of his panels are excellent! I just dislike that kind of inconsistency, but on the flipside, Beck is likely relatively new to the business and I imagine that he will get better with time. However, the final "finale" issue is terrible. The artwork was rendered by writer Everette Hartsoe in a "Manga" style. That's all well and good, but unfortunately its really bad Manga.

    All in all, Crow/Razor is the least enjoyable entry into the Crow series of comics, and should be avoided by most Crow fans unless they wish to have complete collections.

    The Crow - Monthly series by Image/Todd McFarlane
    Written by Jon J Muth and Illustrated by Jamie Togalason, Tommy Lee Edwards, and Paul Lee

    One year after the brutal double slaying of rocker Eric Draven and his fiancee', Shelly, Draven returns as an unkillable, undead weapon, with naught but revenge on his troubled mind. He swiftly finds those responsible, and ends their forfeit lives without remorse or mercy. However, his addled mind fails to see the exact nature of the reason for his rebirth, and his Crow companion cannot seem to get through to him. However, the Crow suspects that Draven may indeed eventually find the way home in spite of the bumps along the way.

    This is The Crow, complete with all the brutality and grief the mythos has brought along the way. Writer Jon J Muth began this regular, monthly series with a simple premise.

    "What if the Crow is wrong?"

    Like "Wild Justice", this series explores the notion that revenge is an empty goal, and can do more harm than good. The writing is poetic and thought-provoking, And, the series is just as brutal as any other chapter of the mythos has been. However, Muth has added that little dose of reality. In his own words:

    "The Crow is a description of the fufillment of certainties: our ability to reach beyond death and to rectify trespasses against ourselves. I believe in both of these things... but not the way Eric Draven does."

    Muth states that Draven's way will keep him from the peace he so desperately seeks, and he has to learn the rest of the story.

    This type of writing and this level of thought permiated this incarnation of the Mythos, and it was a very enjoyable read. What's more, the art was been excellent, from artist to artist. Its the Crow in a style not unlike DC's "Vertigo" line. Of course Muth's presence, and the contributions of Vertigo artists helped cement that atmosphere. Also, the desaturated color-scheme of this "color" title really stood out. It read ery much like the first Crow film in a visual sense.

    Unfortunately, this series didn't sell well, and only ran for 10 issues, but it is available in trade format. While its not quite the same idea of the Crow you may be used to, I highly recommend this thoughtful take on the material.

    This section is dedicated to James O'Barr, who made us think about what is truly important. We thank you.


  • This site is maintained by Randall Lilly
    corvus1970 at
    Last Revised: Tuesday, February 06, 2007 19:00:58

    The CROW, and all related Characters, photos and concepts are copyright © Pressman Films or James O'Barr (unless otherwise stated), and are used here without permission.