The year was 1992—isn't it always?—and I'd just started working in the World Industries art department after getting the steel-toed boot in the butt from Powell-Peralta. I was fresh off the boat in Torrance, you could say, and not yet savvy to the internal affairs and politics at World, most of which stemmed from the still relatively new kid on the block, Plan B.
I know no one honestly gives a good goddamn now, mainly because I've seen people go goo-goo-ga-ga over a certain Mike Carroll "Gremlins" graphic that we about pissed ourselves laughing at when it hit the warehouse, but Plan B graphics were the infamous butt of many jokes in the office then (Rick Howard's "Hobo" will always hold a special place in my black heart). Obviously the team was topnotch and a video was all that was needed to carry the brand upward and onward, but Steve Rocco still kept telling Mike Ternasky that he needed to work on improving the company's graphic image. Since I’d just come onboard, Mike approached me to do some art. Not knowing any better, I did one graphic for Sean Sheffey and was on the verge of starting a "Hellraiser" one for Danny Way when Natas told me that if I continued to do work for Plan B he wouldn’t be able to use my services for 101. The reason was understandable: he didn’t want any graphic similarity between the two companies. I much preferred the unique and quirky art direction of 101, so I simply dropped what I was doing for Plan B. This decision did not sit well with Ternasky and consequently led to an odd friction between the two of us, a situation made all the worse by the incessant jabs made by Marc McKee and I regarding Plan B’s graphics.
Eventually this elitist attitude got the better of me and I began working on a Ron Bertino graphic for his first board on Blind that mocked the fresh* elements of Sal Barbier’s models (anyone remember the dope "Babarbier" graphic?) and the horror movie theme of Danny Way’s. The concept was a “Fresh Freddy Krueger,” dressed in an oversize baseball jersey and cap, flashing a gang-sign with his gloved hand of blades. I was no more than a quarter through the pencil drawing, though, when Rodney Mullen came into the art department one morning and warned me to expect trouble in response to the graphic, which had now escalated in interpretation to a personal dis at Ternasky.
According to Rodney, Mike and Danny were at Rocco’s house the night before and up in arms over the graphic which they'd seen on my desk at the office. Rocco allegedly declared that Mckee and I were “out of control” and left it at that. Well, two hours after Rodney’s warning the next day, Danny aggressively confronted me in the main hallway of World and told me that it would be in my best interest to quit dissing Plan B. Now I've heard about fanatics who swear they’ll die by their art, but I sure as hell ain’t one of them, especially when it’s just over a damn joke. (Incidentally, no actual blows were thrown, contrary to the largely exaggerated version portrayed in Thrasher’s "Trash" column). So instead of "Fresh Freddy," Bertino** received a graphic of Rocco’s direction that was a swipe of Doonesbury's smoking advocate "Mr. Butts." Each deck came shrink-wrapped with a “smoker starter kit,” consisting of a single cigarette and wooden match. Perhaps you had one? Perhaps you sparked up for the first time? What a time to be alive pre-Internet!
Anyway, over the years the unrealized graphic kept a claw in my subconscious. Not because I thought it was an awesome idea or anything, mashing up the two themes***, but because I genuinely wanted to see and feel if I could have gotten the layers of screened ink to simulate scarred and charred skin. So, ultimately, it was this perverse tactile desire that eventually pushed pen on paper to fulfill the dream and bring closure to this longstanding nightmare of mine. —Sean Cliver
* "Fresh" was indeed a very fresh word used amongst the World elite in 1992, much like the modern day usages of "lit" or "fire." We heard this slang slung around the office and skate park so much so then that it sarcastically seeped into the early pages of Big Brother magazine. Here are several examples, because what better use of my time than scanning old nonsense…
** I should add that Ronnie had absolutely no idea about the "Fresh Freddy" graphic that was in the works for him and would not have wanted to rock the boat at all with his brethren skaters. Rocco was right: we were out of control! Good thing might made right in the end, because that pen versus the sword shit is all fine and dandy while sipping wine but rarely so when applied to practical physical confrontation.
*** Some, I'm sure, will say, "But DGK!!!" and yes, I am well aware that they did in fact do a horror-hop graphic series. Did the idea come from the pages of Disposable: A History of Skateboard Art, published in 2004, where I memorialized the "Fresh Freddy" tale**** along with remnants of the original sketch? Who gives a shit! Well, clearly I do or I never would have bothered mentioning the matter, but it also didn't stop me from realizing my own twisted dream of getting all Helen Keller on the screen-printed face of a burn victim. I do know for a fact, though, that many of the graphic "call backs," "tributes," or "homages" done in last couple years have fallen on completely deaf historical eyes that have no fucking clue what is even being referenced anymore, much like this very own esoteric incident from the early '90s (which may as well be the 1890s at this stage of the game).
**** An asterisk aside within an asterisk aside? Get the fuck outta here! But I did want to acknowledge the fact I liberally pillaged the above post copy from the pages of the aforementioned book. "It's good to be the author!" said in my best Mel Brooks voice.