We’ve featured pop artist “Butcher Billy” Bily Mariano da Luz several times. His comic book-related mash-ups are sometimes designed just to entertain, but sometimes to raise debate. His latest series definitely belongs to the latter group: the “War Photography X Vintage Comics Project” skirts good taste in order to make the viewer ponder all kinds of questions.
Superhero comics, a genre born at a period of global chaos, have seldom shied away from apocalyptic levels of horror and violence. Consider 1941′s Human Torch #5A, wherein Namor drops a tidal wave upon New York City. My personal benchmark remains Alan Moore and John Totleben’s Miracleman #15 (as described by Tim Callahan as “a vile disgusting condemnation/celebration of superhero violence (take your pick)“), which managed to be genuinely hellish and affecting, with none of its punch lessened by being frequently ripped off and swiped from by multiple lesser talents over the years. However, things get more sensitive whenever fictional characters get superimposed into real events, such as the howls of protest over J. Michael Straczynski’s Amazing Spider-Man #36, with its crying Doctor Doom.
Billy inserts classic superhero imagery into some of the most shocking and iconic photography ever taken. Sometimes the results resonate, sometimes they offend, sometimes they amuse, and at least one falls so flat as to be utterly banal. He describes his project as:
Butcher Billy, Brazilian king of the pop culture/comic book mash-up, is at it again. This time, it’s reimagining some of the key figures of post-punk and New Wave as the Justice League. Billy defines the dichotomy behind these images as “real people or imaginary characters, the incorruptible ideals of perfect superheroes or the human flaws and desires sometimes so desperately depicted in song lyrics.”
There’s some good likenesses there, but my favorite bit is when he Photoshops his designs onto T-shirts worn by his original models. I really can’t see the famously curmudgeonly Morrissey approving of being compared to a corporate flagship alpha male like Superman. That said, didn’t Mark Waid rewrite DC Comic continuity to make Clark Kent a vegetarian? Dunno if that still stands, though. There have been at least two reboots since Birthright, haven’t there?
Brazilian pop artist (and firm Robot 6 favorite) Butcher Billy recently told me he was working on a project that would appeal as much to readers of Time as to the readers of this blog. I believed him, and waited eagerly to see what he was going to come up with. He was right, and he’s excelled himself. He’s just posted The Legion of Real Life Supervillains at Behance, a gallery of images recasting some of humanity’s very worst as four-color miscreants.
In Billy’s own words:
“If back in the day comics and movies were pretty naive and faced only as pure escapism, today’s fiction has to evoke reality to create something truly meaningful… and frightening. This series is an experiment where a dictator, a psycho, a murderer (sometimes they are the whole package) or even a suspicious figure from real life is mashed with a comics bad guy - strangely related some way or the other with his counterpart. The depressing thing? Realising that if the comic book supervillains were actually the ones threatening real life, the world wouldn’t be such a bad place.”
This series raises all sorts of questions and invites all sorts of controversies. Some examples below, and be aware that Billy’s Legion of Doom includes a couple of choices whose presence in such nefarious ranks you may well disagree with. I might distrust Facebook’s ubiquity, but Mark Zuckerberg isn’t exactly a genocidal tyrant (yet).
Butcher Billy, the Brazilian artist sometimes known as Bily Mariano da Luz, is turning into something of a Robot 6 favorite. His latest project posted at Behance is “Batman: The Nolan X Burton Experiment,” smashing together Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman and Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy to sometimes humorous, often illuminating, effect. By placing their differing elements in proximity, these images reveal both what was good and what failed from these two adaptations. (Such as, hey Tim, you cast Lando Calrissian as Harvey Dent, then do absolutely nothing of consequence with the character in either of your films? What was that all about?)
As Bily writes: “But are they really that different? How much of all that is really classic and timeless and how much is pure recycling to modern times? Are those elements cool enough to stand even if taken from their own environments? How those concepts would work if they were mixed into one another?”
We’ve featured the Brazilian artist Butcher Billy a couple of times in Art Barrage; he’s an illustrator whose work demonstrates a keen eye for modern culture and a wicked sense of humor. His latest portfolio of work, posted at the creative network Behance, is “The Superhero Media Crossover Project,” a collection of images inserting comic art into stills taken from their movie adaptations. It’s very effective, and strangely moving, for this fan of classic comic art, anyway. These images demonstrate what, to me, is missing in just about every comics-to-film adaptation — a little pop-art brightness and fizz (Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World being the only one in recent times to get a pass on this matter — am I really the only one who wants to see sound effects rather than just hearing them?). In Billy’s own words:
Another day, another gallery opening an exhibition of loosely-themed pop culture-derived art. This time it’s “The Gang’s All Here” at the Bottleneck Gallery, Brooklyn, beginning Friday and continuing through Dec. 7 (my birthday, fact fans!), 2012. Above is Chris “Raid 71″ Thornley‘s contribution. Chris (creator of that much blogged Hellboy/Peanuts mash-up “Hellnuts” a while back) is also a major contributor to the charity Art V Cancer, well worth supporting. That’s one e-commerce site you can feel good about using. More comics-quoting work below from the fields of illustration and design, including work by Butcher Billy, Walter Simonson, Wally Wood, McBess and others — including one very famous NSFW image re-contextualized!