Daniel Crosier’s studio on Denver’s Blake Street looks more like a trauma ward than an artistic sanctuary.
Shoved into one corner is a latex torso from a horror show, flayed open at the ribs and dripping fake blood onto a model of a severed leg.
On a shelf is a grisly werewolf “cocoon,” fashioned out of plaster chunks, for a movie concept where a human vomits up its own shell and emerges as a murderous canine.
And then there’s the drawing desk, an OSHA inspector’s nightmare. Crosier, 32, may be the only comic-book artist going whose main tools are a miter saw and a wood-burner. Crosier’s work on the “Bartholomew of the Scissors” series consists of wood-burned planks of pine, with the thick grain’s contouring curving across every page like a topo map.
He may also be one of the few comic-book stylists who have accidentally set their pants on fire during welding class. For Crosier, his formative moments at Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design were about “having a lot of fun making big messes.”
Colbert, PBS are hip to him
“I learned the integrity of materials and the joy of experimentation,” said Crosier, who grew up in Kersey.
Crosier’s laboratory musings have landed him a couple of book series with Bluewater Productions near Seattle and a fair shot at bigger fame with the likes of comic-book legends Marvel or DC. He’s pitching a new style for the Marvel sorcerer Doctor Strange and is installing a gallery show of his “Bartholomew” wood panels in the Ballpark neighborhood.
He’s now been lauded on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” and PBS’s “NewsHour.” Ain’t It Cool News, the prime website for adolescents and college students who love superhero and horror movies, called “Bartholomew and the Scissors” “bizarrely beautiful,” an endorsement that can move copies.
Another northern Colorado success, gory props maker Distortions Unlimited, is teaming up with Crosier for his next series.
Distortions builds ghastly animatronics for haunted houses and Hollywood that sell for tens of thousands of dollars.
On this project, Crosier will illustrate a series for Bluewater that’s based on the Distortions character Rage, whom he describes as Sasquatch meets the Incredible Hulk.
“Fanboys” are in control
Crosier’s sunny disposition belies the phantasmagoric images he puts to wood and paper. He loved comics growing up but cheerfully acknowledges the misfit, Dungeons & Dragons reputation of self-important comic lovers as portrayed in “The Simpsons” and other pop culture.
Such “fanboys” can be tough on artists who take a new look at Spider-Man, for example, and lament, “You killed my childhood.”
“But those are the fans, and they’re the ones who line your pockets,” said Crosier, sporting a black T-shirt with a white drawing of a Minotaur. He loves the arguments, finding them far more constructive to his art than well-meaning friends who keep saying “It looks cool!”
Crosier’s articulate self-awareness and willingness to collaborate make an impact on his creative partners.
Chad Helder, the Seattle-area writer of “Bartholomew,” said he was skeptical when the publisher suggested a wood-burning illustrator.
“Didn’t get it”
“At first, I didn’t get it,” said Helder, who also grew up in northern Colorado but never met Crosier. “But then I saw the first few pages and I understood what the whole aesthetic was going to be.
“I love that you can see the grain of the wood; you’re aware of the fact you’re looking at wood at the same time you’re inside the story. His art transformed all aspects of the story, and we got along great.”
All artists want a paycheck. Crosier wants something even more specific: a health plan to cover severe asthma and allergies. He says that one allergic reaction, during which he “flatlined,” put him in touch with an otherworldly dimension of artistry and an urgency to finish his work.
But Crosier knows that dungeon-dwelling artists don’t always succeed at promotion and glad-handing.
“That’s why I have a girlfriend who does public relations,” he smiled, sheepishly.
Girlfriend Wendy Manning’s other job is to get Crosier to focus. At any given moment, he’s burning wood, filming a short movie, practicing a swordfight for an ensemble performance art piece or writing a proposal for a graphic novel. The performance art group filmed a sketch called “The PPP,” in which each donned pink robes and hoods.
“The PPP is made up of multi-ethnic homosexuals,” laughed Crosier. “In other words, everything the KKK hates.”
He’s looking forward to feedback from Marvel editors when he finally sends off the new Doctor Strange concepts. Head shaved and eyes intense, he appears ready to take any flak.
“We used to have these brutal critique sessions at art school,” Crosier said. “Half the class would leave crying. Those were awesome.”