From Chapter 48: DOOM (Spring 2012)
Words and images: James Reitano
To think this all started with a single cold email, sent back in 2003. I had a few music videos under my belt (notably Kutmasta Kurt / Kool Keith, Biz Markie, The Dickies), so I felt confident enough to cold call. I emailed Chris (Peanut Butter Wolf) at Stones Throw and pitched an animated music video for Madlib. Chris said, “We got a single from MF DOOM we’re putting out called ‘Money Folder.’ (When did it turn into ALL CAPS?) Maybe you could do something for that. There won’t be a lot of money in it, but it could be fun.” (Did he say MF DOOM, or Madvillain?)
I’d heard some of DOOM’s stuff, but mostly knew him as the guy with the comic-book record covers. I soon realized he was actually Zev Love X of KMD (who rapped a few verses on the 3rd Bass classic “Gas Face”).
I’ve done plenty of projects with indifferent clients, and I wasn’t sure how DOOM would be. But once we had our Marvel Comic conversation it was pretty clear he was a hardcore comic- book fan. When someone starts talking about artists and writers and editors of comics, you know you’re dealing with a real aficionado. And we did just that for the better part of an hour. At that point, I figured I had his blessing to do what I had in mind.
Even more than ’70s comics, my biggest inspiration (for the video, or in general?) was Jack Kirby. As a kid I couldn’t stand Jack’s art, but as I got older and my tastes rounded out, I realized how wrong I’d been. Jack wasn’t just great for his action scenes and psychedelic layouts; he was great for his subtlety. This meant doing the video’s characters and art with huge black lines and bold embellishing.
Most animators I knew said, “You’re animating huge black key lines? That’s the dumbest thing you can do!” I pressed ahead nevertheless. I also became obsessed with CMYK dots and how they could be worked in. And yeah, everyone was right. It was a huge pain in the ass. I quit my job working at a small studio where I was doing animation for PBS and dedicated myself full time to the effort.
What I ended up with was a couple hundred drawings. Instead of comic art—which deals with moment-to- moment transitions—this was break- ing comic art into something more split-second. I’d wanted to get much more elaborate with the animation, but I was already over budget and behind schedule, so I had to deliver something much less ambitious.
Meanwhile the folks at Stones Throw weren’t bugging me too much about my progress. Peanut Butter Wolf would call occasionally to ask how it was coming. I said, “It’s prob- ably gonna be pretty weird.” “Weird is good,” he said, which reassured me that I was working with guys who had similar sensibilities.
About 3/4 of the way through, I started to lose my mind. I was inking and drawing and redrawing so many frames that I started to lose track. I just pushed ahead and hoped it would all come together. And at that point it’s always hard to tell if what I’ve so far is any good.
The label ended up loving it, and DOOM seemed pleased as well. Little did I know how many doors this thing would open. I started getting into film festivals, and did a string of other music videos for Stones Throw (who have to be just about the most fun label to work for). The DOOM action figure is probably one of the high- lights of my life thus far. The Danger Doom project gave me a chance to work with both Cartoon Network and Danger Mouse, and ultimately led to a graphic-novel project with Wu-Tang Clan, which eventually crashed and burned in a blaze of glory.
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