Before they made weird, totally beautiful magic together with Ice Cream Man, writer W. Maxwell Prince and artist Martín Morazzo crafted The Electric Sublime. Now, you can get your hands on the “re-lettered, remastered” edition with its “original intended name,” Art Brut.
Here, we follow our heroes, Arthur Brut the Mad Dreampainter and his faithful sidekick, Manny the Mannequin. Together, they must “dive back into the very paintings that made [Arthur] insane…or reality itself might just crumble to pieces.” The story is described as “equal parts police procedural, hyper-fantasy, and psychological thriller — a veritable Pollock-splatter of comics genres tossed onto one giant pulpy canvas.” Each of the “remastered” issues features brand-new covers as well as a “new Silver Age-style backup story.” If none of this has sold you already, there’s nothing more we could conceivably say.
With issue #1 due out next week (December 14), both Prince and Morazzo were kind enough to answer some questions recently via e-mail. That includes why the opted to revisit the project, how their collaborative process has evolved, and if more artists should remix their own works.
AIPT: This book actually predates your work together on Ice Cream Man, right? Why was it important to revisit it right now?
W. Maxwell Prince: This is the first thing Martín and I ever did together. I cold-emailed him (in like 2014) this idea for an art-history-fantasy-thriller, in which he’d have to 1) recreate famous works of art in his signature style, 2) superimpose (and edit) said famous works, and 3) expand upon the two dimensions of the famous piece. (e.g., show us what’s just offscreen in the Mona Lisa…). He was up for the challenge, and so began our enduring relationship.
As for why we want to revisit it, there are a couple reasons (some are boring ones involving rights reversions etc.), but I think the primary thrust of our desire to get this back on shelves is that we always thought the final product/story was very good and maybe (if we can table our modesty for a second) a little ahead of its time. A lot of my early work I look back at and just sort of shudder, totally embarrassed by the W. Maxwell Prince that was writing then. But with Art Brut (which we made in 2015)…that never happened. It always stood up, upon re-read after re-read after re-read.
And the story is about how art affects our consciousness, which seems to be a pretty important thing in the trenches of day-to-day life right now.
Martín Morazzo: We often talk about how much we love this story — and these characters! — and always felt sad we couldn’t do more than four issues, since numbers weren’t doing well by the time! Now, we got our publishing rights back and thought it was time to release it again and maybe, who knows, do more in the future!
AIPT: What exactly has changed in the “update” of this book? Is it a massively different experience from the original, The Electric Sublime?
WMP: For starters, the words “Electric” and “Sublime” no longer appear in the book, anywhere. That title (and it’s kind of shoe-horned into the original story) was born from our old publisher becoming worried that there was a similarly-titled Vertigo book coming out at the time of Art Brut’s initial release. And so I came up with just about the worst, most inelegant name imaginable: The Electric F-----g Sublime.
Re, what’s changed: It’s been re-lettered by our friend Good Old Neon; it’s got amazing, brand new covers by Martín Morazzo, Mat Lopes, and collage artist Alex Eckman-Lawn, for every single issue. And each chapter features a brand new silver-age-style back-up story about the early adventures of Art Brut—those are drawn by Martín, and colored by our Ice Cream Man compatriot Chris O’Halloran. If you liked our Pinky Ring story in Ice Cream Man Presents Quarantine Comix, you’ll go gaga for these.
MM: The experience is mostly the same but improved, and with an extra! We’re using the original title — Art Brut! — Good Old Neon re-lettered it and there is a short story — Silver Age style! after each issue!
AIPT: How would you prepare people who are maybe picking this up for the first time?
WMP: Imagine if being in a classical art museum got really exciting and really violent—and totally strange, too.
MM: If you’re familiar with Ice Cream Man, this book has a similar sense of dark and twisted, but mixed with fine arts!
AIPT: In the remixing process, did anything from your work on Ice Cream Man actually influence or shape your efforts here?
WMP: Martín and I are just on the same wavelength now from so many years of working together. Whether it’s bigger asks, like new covers, or little choices, like bubble placement in a panel, we both essentially think the same way about making a comic as good as it can be. Plus, as I mentioned above, we made new stories with the whole ICM team! (And, I should add, cover B of issue #1 homages the cover of ICM issue #1…)
MM: The original book remains the same beyond the lettering, but the new material, the short stories, are made in a style we first did on Ice Cream Man and thought it was gonna be fun to apply here!
AIPT: Should more artists rework their old books? Is there anything else from your respective bibliographies/catalogs you’d like another crack at?
WMP: I think it’s got to pass that litmus I mentioned above. If you re-read something you did a while ago, and you’re not totally ashamed of what you’re reading, then maybe it deserves a second life? Most of my old stuff has been stuffed in the desk drawer for all eternity, never to see the light of day again. But this one was an exception.
MM: If they think their book was great but something went wrong at any point of its creation/publication and they have a chance to solve that and release it again, I think it’s worth it to try!
I would probably have another try at Great Pacific! There were 18 issues and that allowed character development very much, but I got really invested with them and always wanted to tell more of their story! That is key to me: loving the characters!
AIPT: How has your collaborative process evolved or changed during these various projects?
WMP: I use this line a lot, but when it comes to “imagining” comics in my head (i.e., the way I envision pages looking when I start working on a story or a script), I always “see” it in what I call Morazzo-Vision — Martín’s illustrative style has become the prevailing way I think about sequential art, even if I’m not working with Martín on a given story. But I’ll say that we’ve always been kind of in sync: we defer to the needs of the story, not ourselves, in what we choose to include or exclude from a comic. We just want it to be as good as possible. It’s nice to have a partner in crime like that.
MM: We started working great from day one, but I think our understanding of each other, in terms of what we want to achieve and what we expect from the other, has been improving during these seven years! And I’m sure it will continue to do so!
AIPT: Why should anyone pick this book up?
WMP: It’s really fun and really good, I think! And you get to see some of your favorite works of art come to life. (As well as a very charming, 7-foot wooden mannequin.). Plus, who doesn’t want to see more pages drawn by Mr. Morazzo?
MM: Because it’s amazing! Ha ha ha; Art is going crazy, affecting the real world and there is only one person who can stop that: Art Brut — and his sidekick Manny, the wooden mannequin!
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