Daniel Crosier on burning comics into wood panels and the making of blood cannons

Daniel Crosier seems like a perfectly sweet guy, yet there must be something bubbling beneath his jovial facade. Okay, he drinks a little too much coffee, too, but his work as a comic artist, filmmaker and theatrical prop maker expresses a whole other tarnished side of the coin: The man literally channels a comic-book darkness so raw that he can't just draw it. He has to woodburn it (a technique otherwise known as "pyrography," if you get my drift) right into the smoking pulp, presumably in a shower of smoke and ash.

And in his spare time, he's created live-action monsters and blood cannons for his performance group OdAm fEI mUd, and is now making a "mockumentary" called Isolation Man about his comic character the Exquisite Vanishteer. "He accidentally makes the human population of the western hemisphere vanish, and the film is about the repercussions of that, which can be mind-numbing," he says. Does all of this have its comic side? What is Daniel Crosier thinking? "Yeah," he agrees. "I'm a cynical and dramatic guy. No, I'm kidding. I'm really so full of shit."

A woodburned Batman, yo.
A woodburned Batman, yo.

Crosier likes to tell the story of his life-changing near-death experience, when, in his early twenties, he collapsed from an allergic reaction and, according to doctors and friends, stopped breathing. It could almost be a comic book story in itself, echoing that of the transformative moment when a super hero finds his wings (spider-sense or whatever...): "They told me I went without oxygen to my brain for quite some time," he explains. "And it really put a little number on me." At the time an illustration student at Rocky Mountain School of Art and Design, he found that in the aftermath, things were just not the same.

"Cow Over the Moon."
"Cow Over the Moon."

"I was in the illustration department, but they were starting to focus on computer graphic design," Crosier recalls. "And I was having hard time focusing; I was blacking out a lot and getting migraines. So I went over to Chuck Parsons in the sculpting department, and that's when I met the Motoman guys and starting using chainsaws and making fantastic messes. Then I began taking a step further using that stuff as tools for storytelling, which translates well into comics. Some publishers saw me on MySpace, where I had pictures of old wood assemblage pieces and illustrations on wood panels. They contacted me to ask if I could do some covers for them. Then the woodburning was suggested to me at a comic convention. I had originally gone into illustration with the intention of doing comics. Life has a strange way of bringing things around full circle."

If that story drills a hole in your brain, you can meet Crosier tonight when he hosts a Talk and Draw with Daniel Crosier tonight at Illiterate Gallery as part of Illiterate's ongoing comic-artist series. He'll embellish this story and talk further about his influences and lead a hands-on workshop: "I'll be bringing little wood panels, and the participants are asked to bring their favorite marking utensils to draw on the wood. Then, I think we'll try to assemble it into an exquisite corpse, and hopefully I'll have enough caffeine in me to keep up with crowd." And there will be other surprises; it costs $5 to $8 to reserve a seat at the table. Visit Illiterate's website for details. And if you can't make it, check out Crosier's wood comic panels and comic books at the I Heart Denver store in the Denver Pavilions.

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