Every so often in life a "perfect storm" will blow up out of nowhere. For us, that was the other week , which just so happened to coincide with an unexpectedly "accelerated" release of two new pro model graphics. You know the ones. The Kirby-esque inspired designs for Max Murphy and Timothy Johnson that I've been carpet bombing all over our Instagram handles to the 200-odd followers who actually get them dropped into their feeds. Normally I would provide a direct link to them here for your purchasing ease, but at some point in the future those coded connections will "break" and that results in a negative ding to our website's overall performance score—its "health," if you will, according to Google Analytics. Being an overachiever at heart—although, sadly, not always in practice—I simply cannot let such things happen any longer; a bulletproof percentage grade on Google means much more to me than making your idle clicking life easier. But I'm no dummy. Chances are no one was ever going to click on those links anyway. Plus, our Playskool site isn't exactly on some labyrinthine level like that of the Overlook Hotel's hedge maze. So, go look on the home page. Or click on the boards tab. See, I'm not a total jerk.
Anyway, clearly there's never been any shame in my Parker Bros. Game of Life, so here's a bit of backstory as to how and why these graphics came to be: I was an avid reader and collector of comic books as a kid. Okay, a teen, too. And yeah, an adult as well. But the point is that right up until the very moment I walked into a skateboard shop my dream was to become a comic book artist. We even had an honest to god comic artist living in our town, Dennis Jensen, an inker for DC, who'd taken a few of us under his wing to mentor in weekly comic art classes. It was during this immersive experience that my friend Brad Overacker and I started our own little line of minicomics published under the moniker of Alien Phlebotomy Coalition, aka APC, that we traded and sold through an underground network of Xerox junkies, all of whom had US postage stamps on their tongues as opposed to monkeys on their backs.
If this is all starting to sound painfully familiar to you, that's because I've written about these minicomic escapades once before (you can find out more about these mortified moments here in case you're new to these obesely verbose posts), so instead of re-trampling over that graveyard of words I'll go off the deep end to ramble on about another source of consequential embarrassment from my youth: Brad's older brother Dean.
Dean Overacker was a motherfuckin' cool ass cat—an anomaly, really, growing up in a small town like ours in the '80s where one really had to "do the distance" to learn about (much less find) anything outside the mainstream norm of ball diamonds, gridirons, and hunting seasons. Dean dressed cool. He slung cool slang. He listened to cool music. He read all the cool comics. He made cool art. He drove a cool car. He had a cool girlfriend. And now, since I was best friends with Dean's younger brother Brad, my dad, a junior high teacher at the time, made it known to me in a subtle but stern manner that Dean was very much on the school system's radar, so to speak, as he was obviously grooving to a different beat than any of the other students passing under their collective wary eye. And by god did that make him all the more cool to me.
I, however, was the antithesis of Dean. In every conceivable way. So whenever we were around him I was always keenly aware of how uncool I was. Not that it mattered much. I'd already embraced this fact of misfit life early on and bore it like a cross through every waking school day. I mean, hell, I was gonna become a comic book artist! Talk about being on the fast track to living in social oblivion. But once Brad and I started making minicomics—what I presumed to be an unmistakably determined step toward my dream career—Dean took one look at some pages I'd drawn and dismissed them to Brad by saying, "Looks like [Sean] has that How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way book." Brad was quick to relay this tidbit from Dean and while I did my outward best to take it in nonchalant stride the truth is my soul had been sufficiently crushed. Not only because, yes, I did own that particular book—I carried it around like a pimple-faced Mormon on an oh-so-righteous Bible-thumping mission—but Dean's one quick cut of criticism exposed the one insecure nerve about my art that I'd suspected but not yet wanted to acknowledge: I had no personal style. And, just like skateboarding, style does matter .
Fortunately, I was only a year or so away from walking through that fabled portal on Main Street into the alternate dimension of skateboarding, and once that transpired I immediately ceased to draw comics the Marvel way and switched influential gears to draw skate graphics the VCJ, Pushead, and Jim Phillips way . All in all, this turned out to be a much better path for my illustrative skillset. I've always lacked a certain loose yet deliberate flourish that is required to churn out page after page of flowing comic panels, and I not slipped into the skateboard industry via a cosmic crack in the universe then I definitely would've had all my comic art aspirations dashed on the harsh rocks of reality for the very reason Dean had reckoned. But I thought, you know, maybe just this once that I could draw heroes, just for one series.
Jesus H. Christ, was that ever a long way to go just for an awkward if not throwaway Bowie quip. —Sean Cliver
1. I guess what I'm not so nimbly trying to say is that we had a fuck lot of things going on and I wasn't at all able to rally my synapses to pull together this standard promotional aspect of the release in a timely manner. Now, a week and change after the launch fact, I probably didn't need to spend valuable time doing this, but I still wanted to find a home on the site for Max and Timmy's "Pop Art" VX video effort.
2. Occasionally I would attempt to do so all at once with precisely the horrific three car pileup of styles you'd expect.
3. Take this from the guy who, as mentioned before, knows all too well that it looks like he's trying to communicate via ASL to an invisible assemblage of deaf spectators while skating.