At last night’s LVHRD event Bi-fold: Paul Pope Meets Mark Denardo, a fellow attendee summed up Pope in the above statement. I concur. Paul Pope is a rock star.
Never mind that his medium is graphic illustration/comics. Pope has a list of projects that will appeal to most discriminating listener/consumer. There’s something for everyone. In addition to Batman, Pope is working on a children’s/all ages comic for FirstSecond publishers, a forthcoming artbook (entitled PulpHope), animated segments of Michael Chabon’s Paramount release Kavalier and Clay, as well as illustration work for Diesel (yes, that Diesel) fashion. As it is he’s got a window display of his fashion illustration up at Bloomingdales and the Diesel store in Soho is a Paul Pope fashion orgy.
This kind of market and cross media penetration puts Pope above being just a fashion designer, cartoonist (his description of himself as of last night), faux-rockstar. It makes him an ambassador of popculture.
Which brings me to my next conclusion: Pope is the Japanese artist for today’s America. His vision beyond comics is reminiscent of what the typical successful manga artist in Japan does. Animation, artbooks, comics for each and every age. He’s localizing it for an American audience and dousing it with a spoonful of sexy to help the rest of it go down.
Of course, Pope is just the surface. His execution is flawless and he does so with a subtle flair that at once brings to his work a sexiness and a pop savvy that makes it consumable for the masses. Not everyone can do that. But to a certain degree, it’s already happening. Young comics artists equipped with the marketing smarts of Microsoft and the passion and vision of Steve Jobs are already following in Pope’s delicate path. Animation, children’s comics, artbooks. It’s happening now. (Remember my small essay about Flight wonder Kazu Kibuishi?)
In a sense, Paul Pope as Mick Jagger is as apt a comparison that anyone can come up with. (As it is, in Japan comics artists are regarded as celebrity.) He’s the front man in a movement, the pretty face on the cover that will sell what’s inside. The great thing about comics today is that substance has become part of the style. There’s no need to sacrifice one for the other. So, since we’re making analogies, if Paul Pope were a baker, he’d make cupcakes. Style and substance, looks and smarts, fasion and film, comics and the movie adaptation. With Pope, you can have your cake and eat it too.
Rock on, Rockstar, rock on.