Written by Neil Greenaway
At DINK 2017 I had the chance to sit down and talk with Daniel Crosier of Misassembly Productions about his take on publishing indie comics. This interview originally ran on Bleeding Cool on 4/14/2017, and you can read their version of it here.
At this year’s Denver Independent Comic and Art Expo (DINK!), I was introduced to the work of Colorado local artist Daniel Crosier. As an artist, Daniel creates most of his pieces by drawing directly onto slabs of wood. We talked about the difficulties of translating a comic from a wooden slab to the page, his work with famous circus performer The Enigma, and how he recently made a film based on one of his comics.
Neil Greenaway: It looks like most of your art here today is ink on wood. Can you tell me how you got started using those mediums?
Daniel Crosier: Sure! My background is in fine arts, academically, sculpture. I graduated from the Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design with a BFA in sculpting. What I was doing was big, wooden, assemblage pieces and I would incorporate illustrated pieces into them. With that, back when MySpace was a thing (good ‘ol MySpace), I would post some images online. Small, mostly horror, publishers started contacting me to do cover art for their books. That sort of segued into doing sequentials and writing my own stuff. And it has all been done predominantly on wood. I do traditional stuff on wood, like graphite, pencils, inks. I do hand wood burning. When I learned that laser engraving was a thing, I figured out how to make a laser engraved comic book. Now I’m doing really line saturated artwork, mostly ink directly onto the wood.
NG: When you made the switch to drawing in ink, why did you keep wood as your canvas?
DC: Because it’s hard! (laughs) No, it was just something I felt comfortable with. I love the texture and the grain. I do illustrate on paper, but if I do that it’s because I know that the final product is going to be laser engraved. Its a lot cleaner just to do it straight on the paper, get the digital scan file, and send it to the engraver. The one time I illustrated directly on the wood and sent that to be laser engraved we figured out that the computer can’t read the gradations between the wood grain and the black ink. It just looks like mud.
NG: You have several traditional comic books that you’ve illustrated. Is that all done on wood as well?
DC: Yeah, a lot of that stuff was done on wood. Like Caustic Soda, which I did with writer Shane Roeschlein, that was illustrated entirely on wood. Basically, in my house, I’ve got a stack up to my waist of the original art for four issues of Caustic Soda. Which has all been collected in our graphic novel. Also, I have here original pages from the Dark Reaches anthology that Rus Wooten (from The Walking Dead) put out. Luckily that does not stack up so high, I only did a 4-page story and the cover. So that’s a little lighter!
NG: Your main comic series, Show Devils, stars Enigma. Can you tell us a little bit about your relationship with him and you guys started working together?
DC: I think that it was around 2010, a buddy of mine named Jeremy Atkins, he produced a Dark Arts Festival in Louisville, Kentucky. He was nice enough to fly me out for the show, and the headliner was “The Enigma” who at that time was on Show Devils with his partner Serana Rose. I had vaguely known of Enigma before that. I couldn’t tell you where I saw him, but that seems to be the case with a lot of people. It was a three day show, and we ended up hanging out every night with the coked up servers at the local IHOP. We would talk about comics and I would tell Enigma, “You’re basically a walking comic book action figure. You’re like Hellboy without any supernatural aspect.” So, with that idea, I developed a storyline where they would go out and do this gig for an eccentric millionaire artist. Turns out, he likes to skin people and turn them into displays. And who better to skin than Enigma? He is a walking canvas. From there, it just sort of continued. We are working on the fourth issue right now, the last issue of the Show Devils series. We are working on a new issue for a feature film project which we just pitched to Project Greenlight. This time, we actually have Enigma’s friend Clive Barker along as a mentor. We’ll have to see if that project has any legs. But Enigma and I just keep having this good working relationship, and we keep trying to develop new things. We also have a T.V. show that we’re trying to put together.
NG: Would that also have to do with the Show Devils?
DC: No, that would just be Enigma. Show Devils was a stage show, but Enigma and Serana have gone on to do their own separate things. But I still try to work with both of them whenever I can.
NG: Do you have any other comic projects that you are working on right now?
DC: Right now I am working on my laser engraved comic series, which is Mr. Skinsman’s Lime Green Yogurt Mythology. In it, Mr. Skinsman is basically my Superman. He’s my hero who could do anything. But he is also a ridiculous introvert, to the point that he is almost suicidal over having to interact with people. Since he can do anything, I thought, how does someone who has these powers but also some serious personal hang-ups actually function? The answer is that he really doesn’t. He sits there and negotiates peace treaties between the grass and the concrete in the yard, so that the grass won’t grow into the concrete and crack it. He is really just manipulating molecules, but in his head there are whole conversations. People walking by don’t know what’s going on. His only real emotional outlet, the only way he self medicates, is by doing lone spoken word pieces in a night club. Like Marc Maron, only much worse.
NG: Mr. Skinsman’s Lime Green Yogurt Mythology is currently only available as a wood-cut piece. Do you ever see yourself translating it to a traditional comic?
DC: I really like it as a wood-cut. I’m not above it being printed, but if it ever was, it would be from the wood-cuts. We have been working on a prototype of issue #2, we didn’t get to finish it before the DINK show, but it’s an easy read. The poor guy is a klutz, and he’s tripping (literally) around the universe, over planets and then crashing into the next planet.
NG: Having spoken a bit about your other comics, can you tell me something about Isolation Man and The Vanishteer?
DC: All right. Isolation Man is a mockumentary film. It’s based on and is a continuation of my Exquisite Vanishteer comic book. I did that book about 10 years ago, and the immigration talk was being re-introduced, and a lot of people were being vilified. Needlessly. And I wanted to do a reflection on that, because it wasn’t just one side. It wasn’t just conservatives. I had liberal friends saying that they felt our culture was being assimilated into a Latino culture. And I was like, “You’re an idiot.” We live in a mass of pop culture, and it is influenced by ALL the other cultures. Who cares? The more, the merrier. So the Vanishteer is a reflection of those attitudes. He is short minded, un-empathetic, not very clever or smart. But he does have amazing powers. He has the power to make anything vanish. So in the comic book, he has a very bad day and accidentally makes the entire human population of the western hemisphere vanish. But he can’t bring them back. He doesn’t have that power. Once its gone, its gone baby! And the film picks up where the comic left off. The eastern hemisphere wants to know what happened, so they send journalists and documentarians to try and figure it out. They come across this sad sack POS of a human being, and its the Vanishteer. As far as they know, he’s the lone survivor in all this. But it turns out he was actually the cause! They have this whole exploration trying to find out, does he understand empathy? Atonement? All these large concepts. But he is just SO shallow. He really can’t relate to anyone outside of the 4-square feet that he occupies. It becomes this fantastically feudal thing to explore. It is absolutely hilarious. We made it with a group of friends, so anybody who could do an eastern hemisphere accents. European, African, Asian, anything, and of course they are all bad. So we had a lot of fun. We were poking fun at something that we can see that sort of trivializes the American experience. It’s fun, but trashy. So trashy. It is my little nod to John Waters and really abstract humor like Monty Python.
NG: You guys are planning on having a showing of the film on Sunday night here at DINK. Are there any plans for distribution after that?
DC: Ah, I am glad you asked, my good man! This week we are rolling it out on Vimeo for free. For free digital download. Everyone who reads this will be able to download it, watch it, roll your eyes, and share it with your friends.
NG: Thank you for that! If people wanted to see more from you in terms of your art or your comics, where would they look?
DC: They can go to DanielCrosier.daportfolio.com, that is my online portfolio. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. My production company is at Misassembly.com. Right now we are working to develop our next wave of comic books and film projects.