Brazilian visual artist Butcher Billy took his passion for pop culture and mixed and matched it in his series about post-punk and new wave music stars as superheroes. We interviewed him recently about his roots and influences in pop culture, as well as his views on art and superheroes. Also, he tells us if he’s a DC or a Marvel guy.
Your body of work is heavily influenced by retro pop culture. Where does this over-riding nostalgia for the icons of the past stem from?
I was born in the late 70’s, grew up as a child in the 80’s and a teenager in the 90’s, so probably I’m a living mashup of all the pop cultural references from these decades. I was practically raised by television and all that came plugged on it, like VCRs, videogames, geekness and alienation.
I’ve always been a big fan of cinema, games, comics, music, tv and arts, but also an observer. I remember been just a little boy and reading music industry magazines – I didn’t even know the music but I was interested in the stories, the lifestyles and everything about that world. I guess I was always fascinated by cult icons – the way they can be larger than life, more than just normal people and become characters in people’s minds.
Who was your favourite musician to draw as a Superhero and how did you match up the musicians with the Superhero characters?
It usually takes long to figure out the right take to the concept of a project, but I’m actually interested in the ideas that are really simple. As simples as ingenious. The ones that make people think: “How can I never thought of that before?” I guess that’s the common reaction to pieces like Ian Curtis as Batman and Morrissey as Superman. They are mashups of totally opposite visual sources, but in the weirdest way they make total sense. That’s what I try to achieve.
I first had the idea of draw Morrissey as Superman because of the glasses, the chin and the “S” that could easily stand for “Smiths” if seen in that way – not to mention the status of santity that Moz seem to inspire in people – that would match not only the visual aspect of it but also the psychological. Then I realised I could expand that idea into a full project, since Ian Curtis personality started making so much sense as Batman. From that to a whole Justice League of Post-Punk, it was just a step.
You said before that, ‘The references we are exposed and specifically the ones we choose to absorb make us who we are’. How did superheroes shape you as an artist and a designer?
I guess the superhero concept as inserted into the pop culture in general mean everything to me, since that started shaping my interest in cinema, music, games, comics, TV and art since childhood – Robert Smith, Salvadro Dali, Johnny Rotten, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein – they have always been as iconic to me as Spiderman or The Hulk, and all of them inspire me in a way or the other. I could say that pop culture is mainly the reason why I chose to be a designer in the first place.
Are you a Marvel or a DC kind of guy? And which comic book series or character is your favourite?
I like Marvel just as much as DC Comics, so I’m quite aware of the differences between them. Marvel characters were always more human, dealing with real problems and issues of our society. The characters in DC Comics were always seen almost like gods between men, above human race. So for the concept of the Post-Punk project those heroes seemed more interesting to play with.
The graphic novel that had the biggest impact on me is for sure Kingdom Come. But I was also shaped by the classics, like The Killing Joke, The Dark Night Returns, Watchmen, Arkham Asylum… currently I’ve been reading compilations with the very first stories published of my favourite character of all, John Constantine, written by Jamie Delano.