The Man, The Myth, The Legend

The Life of

Damian Duffy


Who is Damian Duffy?
Man, myth, legend.  At least one of these words describes my gender.
So, yes, hi. I’m Damian Duffy. You may remember me from such collaborations with John Jennings as the graphic novel The Hole: Consumer Culture, the art show Out of Sequence, and the art book, Black Comix.  I’m a cartoonist, writer, and letterer, working on my PhD in Library and Information Science, teaching undergrad classes, and kicking it stay-at-home-dad style with my two-year-old son.  Life ain’t nothing but caffeine and Elmo.

How did you first get involved in the world of art and comics?
When I was a kid we lived in and around Chicago, and my mom took me to the Art Institute a lot, got me into Picasso at an extremely young age.  (She swears I was only into the suits of armor, but I remember a special affection for the work of Pablo.)  Anyway, my mom is partially to blame. My dad’s fault too, no doubt. I read my first comic at the age of 6. A Marvel Tales reprinting the story where the Green Goblin kills Spider-Man’s girlfriend. Mind officially blown.
So I re-read that comic roughly a million billion times, and then set about making my own comics. Maybe I didn’t understand that you could just go buy more comics? I don’t know.
I’ve been writing stories since I could write, but I really started focusing on comics again in 2001. My other comics partner Dann Tincher and I self-published three issues of a comic about psychic junkies called Whisp, in 2001.  

Tell us all about Black Comix.
Black Comix: African American Independent Comics Art & Culture is an art book published by Mark Batty Publisher and distributed by Random House coauthored by myself and John Jennings. It’s a collection of images by around 50 African American artists, a testament to the extraordinary talent and diversity of styles, stories, and subjects tackled by comics creators of color.  It’s a coffee table book, overflowing with pictures and punctuated with short essays on some of the important figures, themes, and events of black comics culture. It’s a gateway read into a wonderful and woefully overlooked portion of the sequential art world.
Not to be immodest, just to be honest, I think the Black Comix book is HISTORIC. We don’t know of another book out there that brings together the artwork of black comics creators, and we don’t know of any other book that documents the breadth of black comics culture. I think we’ve broken new ground with the book.
We try to keep that momentum going on the Black Comix facebook fan page, where I post links related to comics and multiculturalism, and at our website (, where I get my blog on.

How do you hope it will help the comic industry?
I hope it will help the comics industry to kneel before me! Kneel industry! Kneel! BWHAHAHAHAHA!
Sorry. Went to a weird place there for a second. Better now.
The comics industry is so diffuse these days, from comics shops to the bookstore market to webcomics, it’s hard to speak on the whole industry.  But, I suppose what I’d most like is if Black Comix helps bring new readers to comics, and helps inspires new generations of artists working in the medium.
It’d be great, too, if Black Comix helped inspire some of the larger comics publishers towards more progressive/diverse representations of minorities and women.  

What other kind of projects are/will you be working on?

Many. Writing/lettering the first issue of an action-adventure type comic called Agents of S.L.E.E.P. (pencils by Ashley A. Woods, finishes by John Jennings), about dream spies. We’re doing a Black Comix panel at the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo ( on Friday afternoon with a bunch of Chicago-based artists from the book. I’m working on a prose science-fiction piece called Mind Races, I’m writing and drawing a couple other comics called Vampironaut and Dr. Blue. John and I are talking about the possibilities of Black Comix art shows and speaking tours, but that’s all still sort of coalescing at the moment. I have a children’s book I wrote that Dann Tincher had better be illustrating even as we speak, or he will know epic doom by my hand.
And I have this family style comics strip I’ve been needing to draw for months.
Oh, and my dissertation. Gotta work on that.
But that’s all. Hee. Please ignore that gentle sobbing.

Where do you get your ideas and inspiration from?

Everywhere, apparently. I’ve gone back and read stuff I’ve written years later and realized that I was actually writing about stuff that was happening to me or on my mind or from childhood or whatever. Some projects, like The Hole, which is just this big anti-racist/anti-sexist screed, that’s inspired by outrage. Others, like this Dr. Blue story, which is sort of my try at a cosmic superhero, came from me sitting out in my work room and reading old Savage Dragon comics, watching House, and writing about how it makes more sense for the Green Lantern movie to feature the black John Stewart GL instead of the white Hal Jordan GL. John Stewart was on the JLA show dammit!
Most recently, I’ve been inspired by Yoshihiro Tatsumi’s autobiographical manga A Drifting Life.  That dude drew so many comics, I feel like I need to draw more comics. Every third page is like, welp, 60 more pages done.
I could try to give up sleep, go up in the mountains and become a comics hermit and just draw for the rest of my life and still not scratch the surface of the amount of comics that Yoshihiro Tatsumi put down on paper. 

Where do you see the future of comic industry going? The African American comic industry?

I see the future of the comics industry as a whole going digital, because it is, has been, will continue to. I will miss the direct market comics shops, but I think the more diverse stores in bigger cities will stick around.  The round the corner, down in the basement, superhero-exclusive Wednesday crowd clubhouse local comic shops are going away. 

How can the people get in touch you?

E-mail is:, I blog at, I’m on Twitter as DamianD2Duffy but I never actually use twitter, and John and I post art at

Is there anything else you would like to add?

C2E2, Friday, March 18, 2011, 3:30-4:30pm, the Black Comix panel. Be there:
The panel will be dedicated to the memory of Dwayne McDuffie and the future of comics of color.





The Rhythmistic Artist


What kind of artist are you?
 I refer to myself as a Rhythmistic Artist: This is to be at one future-primitif and multiglobal. Fine and commercial.  Deep and humorous. Intelligent and ignant. LOL, BTW I earned a BFA in Art Education and a MAAT in Art Therapy from the School of the Art institute when it was the number one art school in the USA. And I did it the Rhythmisitc way!!!!
Talk to us about Future Funk. 
 I first published FFin 1982 to give attention and a voice to a lot of underserved and overlooked visual creativity that was streaming outta Chicago on a world class level, but being minimized by most observations.  Instead of complaining or acting out I chose to do something constructive about it. The name says it all.  Funk will always be in the future. It will never die.  It will cure.  It will earn.  It will be funky.
Tell us about the art festival that you run.  
Since 1993 I have hosted the world’s first ever Black Age of Comics Convention. It celebrates in a diverse and open manner all kinda folks who contribute to the growing Black Age / indie movement in graphic novels,  games,  comic books and related forms of creativity.  “I” being my network and operation that goes by the name of ONLI STUDIOS.  It would not happen over the past decades without them.  To which I am grateful.  Now there are similar fests or events in Detroit, Philadelphia, and Atlanta. We be nation wide. Yup!!!!
Tell us about your art style.
 I apply Rhythmistic aspects to commercial, fine, or wearable art along with illustration and graphic design to prove my point that the visual arts must open up to new genres created by folks of color..  I used to illustrate for WGN and CNN as a courtroom illustrator and for Playboy.  Rhythmism is tested proven and very influential.  It addresses and expresses the intellectual and passionate aspects of being an Africanized visual thinker in the industrialized Western World of our co-creation.
Where do you see the future of black comics and black art as whole? 
 The Black Age movement will finally lift American Comics to the level of being a respected art form.  It will overcome the tradition of the Black on Black commercial boycott.  It will cure ignorance, violence, hatred, sexism, racism, overcome language differences, creating jobs, restoring faith and good citizenship. It will replace drive-by shootings with drive-by readings! Cure all “hypes” of all addictions while making the true Black Age art stars household fames.  It will end prostitution on all levels.  It will improve eating habits. It will end chronic obesity.  It will establish interplanetary colonies after balancing the nation debt. Yes I said it.  Why?  Cuz I do it….one mind and soul and customer at a time.  Slowly does not mean never!!!!!
Keep in mind I was an Art Therapist for 12 years along with being a 20 year public school educator. As a child I was raised by my grandfather the legendary Pentecostal Preacher and pioneer Biblical illustrator, The late Rev. Samuel David Phillips who was a registered faith healer in those days. I see things.
Who are some your influences? 
 Rev. Phillips and his wife Naomi, King Bubble of the Egyptian Cobras, Jack Kirby, Jimi Hendrix, John & Alice Coltrane, Steve Ditko, Kush Bey, Walt Disney, Berry Gordy and the superbad ass of them all, muralist Bill Walker who launched the “Wall of Respect”.
What advice can you give for aspiring artists, illustrators and designers?
Work and think very hard, often  and deeply.  Never date or follow anyone dumber than you. Try to be a hardcore vegetarian for at least five years.  Play a sport to a competitive level. Take on every world class situation you can.   And always celebrate your achievements alone in the same good company you had when you struggled to do the kick ass great creative work your are so proud of.  Avoid produced talk TV shows and most reality TV.  Make real friends of the other gender and other races and cultures whenever possible.  The news is real enuff.  Lastly keep family, friends, business, your creative life and personal or sex life separate.  A time and place for everything. Otherwise it becomes the gumbo of the day or the vomit of the hour.
What keeps you motivated?
They never showed me the “stop” or “pause” buttons when they left me here as a ship wrecked alien.

Is there anything else you would like to add? 
Buy and gift with every product created by ONLI STUDIOS and the great Art Stars of the growing Black Age movement. For info see and





Neo Jazz-Age Comic Artist


Who is Martin French?

Martin French is an illustrator & educator who lives and works in Portland, Oregon. The grandson of an Italian Cowboy, he grew up in the suburbs of the San Francisco Bay Area soaking up the graphic language of DC and Marvel comic books, dreaming that one day he would grow up to be either a super hero or an artist, preferably the former.  He chairs the illustration department at the Pacific Northwest College of Art, conducts creative workshops for teens living with HIV/AIDS, and seeks to make art that explores the wild story that for short we call life & culture.

Explain your style of art.

Well, one book critic described it as a neo Jazz-Age comic book pastiche, which I kind of like. I’d call it graphic expressionism – an interplay of chaos and order. Visually, I’m looking to push a series of diverse contrasts: Flat graphic areas to textural, organic rhythms; distinct light and dark patterns; elegant curved lines against straight hard strokes; the simplification of form vs. fine detail. A graphic sensibility with a love for aggressive, primal mark making.

Do you consider yourself a commercial artist?  Can you tell us a little bit about being a commercial artist?

I’ve been accused of being too commercial by some people, and too much of an artist others. I suppose I’m an artist who isn’t afraid of having commercially viable work.  I feel the distinction between fine and commercial art is a false premise ultimately. Making art is a commercial context, where the needs of the client and an awareness of your audience are of equal importance with personal expression is a challenge. But, I’ve always been energized by the demands of commercial work, “working against a hard edge” as illustrator Philip Hays put it.  With that in mind however, the need to have a clear artistic vision, beyond a visual style, is essential for sustaining a professional illustration practice. There should always be a sense of the artist’s agenda apparent in the work. Any commercial assignment in one sense builds a cage around us. Our job is to plant ideas within the cage that extend past it’s bars, and in some cases, causing the cage to explode. The constraints often times lead to the most profound ideas and vibrant personal statements.

Who are some of your clients?

Atlantic Monthly, Barneys New York, Candlewick Press, Discovery Channel, DreamWorks, ESPN, Grammy Awards, Joffrey Ballet, Major League Baseball, NFL, Nickelodeon, Nike, Scholastic, Sony Entertainment, Sports Illustrated, Time/Warner, United States Olympic Committee, The Village Voice.

How did you get into the business?

It was a very conscious choice. I grew up looking at comics and magazine illustrations, finding myself mesmerized by the images. I studied design and illustration at ArtCenter with the plan of having my own illustration studio from the start. I worked as a designer, then as a design director for ten years after graduation before opening my studio in 1996. I grew my free-lance career initially by entering the juried shows, creating an audience for my work that led to commercial assignments from a diverse list of clients.  Things grew from there.

How do you think art affects our world?

Creative expression is a crucial component of life. Rather than a non-essential aspect of culture, art is fundamental for our understanding of what it means to be truly human – to create an authentic interaction with each other and our planet. Art enables us to observe clearly, to think deeply, and to connect to the spiritual realities all around us – to see and live beyond ourselves

What are some of your influences?

– Poster Art, specifically revolutionary posters from Latin America and the WPA poster movement.

– Tom Purvis, a British poster artist from the 1920’s-30’s.

– Art Deco in general.

– Jazz by Henri Matisse.

– Aaron Douglas, one of the leading visual artists from the Harlem Renaissance.

– Batman.

Where can your work be viewed?

I have several on-line galleries:

How can potential clients get in touch with you?

e – / v – 503.926.2809 / Stopping by Barista Coffee in NW Portland on a Friday morning around 8am.

Is there anything else you want to add?

Draw a lot and dream big. Thank you for having me.










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  5. I love the piece with the wings.. Looks like a dark angel or something.. I love the fact that French says he is an artist that isn’t afraid of being commercially viable. No limitations, no fear! Beautiful work!

  6. […] Art […]

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