Album artwork by Benjamin Marra for the 2014 compilation ‘Warfaring Strangers: Acid Nightmares.’
Comic artist Benjamin Marra‘s pulpy, outlaw artistic style has been used by notable publications such as The New York Times and another comic book company you might have heard of, Marvel. Several of Marra’s books have been published by Seattle comics institution Fantagraphics. In an interview Marra gave to The Comics Journal he discussed one of his most common themes of his work—his raw depiction of violence. Like so many of us, Marra was profoundly influenced by films he saw as a youth, though he steered clear of violent scenarios in his artwork because they scared the shit out of him. So, he began to include images bad stuff happening into his work in the hope that he might someday be able to conquer his fear. Well, it worked, and I’m thrilled because Marra’s art is kind of like a grindhouse film full of bikers and badass chicks battling it out in a grim neon netherworld.
Based in Brooklyn, Marra went to Syracuse University where he studied illustration, and then later for a time at SU’s art program in Florence, Italy. He received a B.F.A. from Syracuse and followed that up with an M.F.A. in illustration from the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. Marra still spends time at the Manhattan institution where he somehow finds the time to teach the in the Visual Narrative program. Marra publishes his far-out comics through his own company, Traditional Comics. There he puts out comics that are aligned with the kind of core values a real outlaw would be ready to die for, such as imposing your will upon the world, sex (and there’s lots of it in Marra’s illustrated world), drugs, gambling, and adhering to a personal code of justice that believes in vigilantism which provides for the right to exact revenge whenever you’ve been done wrong.
I first became aware of Marra after seeing the slick album art for a compilation series put out by the Numero Group in 2014, Warfaring Strangers: Acid Nightmares (pictured at the top of this post). However, some of you might be familiar with Marra’s balls-out 2010 comic that featured a gun-toting New York Times Op-Ed columnist, The Incredibly Fantastic Adventures of Maureen Dowd, or perhaps his contributions to the Henry & Glenn Forever series. Marra always seems to be putting out a new low-brow, day-glow piece of work and a quick look at The Comic Book Database revealed that his latest venture (with Fantagraphics) is a groovy-looking series called All The Time Comics with three different insane-looking storylines which you can see here.
I’ve posted some cool examples of Marra’s work below which are NSFW. Much like Marra himself.
Marra’s poster for the 2016 re-release of director Takeshi Kitano’s 1989 film, ‘Violent Cop.’
A sadly fictional ‘RoboCop in Vegas’ comic book cover by Marra. The piece was a part of an art tribute to director Paul Verhoeven in 2014 called “R-Rated Memories.”
Artwork for Marra’s comic ‘Night Business.’
A private commission by Marra, 2009.
The artwork for ‘The Incredibly Fantastic Adventures of Maureen Dowd.’
Album art by Marra for the 2011 record by The Naked Hereos, ‘Demon the Whiskey Down.’
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Badass bikers, drugs, and hot chicks: The outlaw biker art of David Mann
Outlaw Biker: The photography of Danny Lyon
Hell on Wheels: Vintage outlaw biker movie posters
The subversive world of Rock ‘N’ Roll Madness Funnies: Underground comic satirizes 70s rock
‘Henry & Glenn Forever’ is now a coloring book so all is finally right with the world