Real Deal: The Real Story


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

By my own (and some popular) demand I interviewed Lawrence Hubbard aka Rawdog, the artist behind the mysterious Real Deal Magazine, a six-issue masterpiece of comics that began in 1989. One of the rare contemporary African-American created and published comics, Real Deal depicts L.A. underworld life with visceral, bone-dry humor and gross out violence rendered in Hubbard’s uniquely gnarly line. Anyhow, I was also happy to discover that Hubbard still has some back issues of Real Deal, so PictureBox will be representing with the original printings of issues 1 and 3-6 at MoCCA and, shortly, online at Prices at the festival will be $10 for issue 1 and $6 each for the rest.

How did Real Deal begin? Where and when?

Back in the early nineties I was working at California Federal Savings (now defunct) in the IT department (because of family and money problems I have always had to have jobs outside of my art). Anyway I was hanging out in the sub-basement of the building where my buddy HP Mc Elwee worked in the record storage dept, anyway we were just shootin the shit when he showed me these crude stick figure pictures of these characters GC, Ace Brogham, Slick Willy and Pork
Butt, GC’s old lady. Anyway the shit was so funny we laughed like hell for hours, and I thought it was so funny that I said “Hey man you know I draw!” so I took the characters and fleshed them out and made them more realistic. Anyway it was so damn funny to everybody we showed it to that we decided we wanted to publish it. At first we sent out samples to the usual suspects, Marvel, DC, Mad and got clowned by all as usual, Marvel actually sent us a personally written letter, but said sorry we can’t use it. Anyway we said “fuck it” and decided to publish it ourselves, the first issue came out in 1989, and we did comic shows and stuff like that, but because of lack of money, distribution problems (Damn I wish the internet was like it is now back then!!) it didn’t quite work. Anyway we managed to get 6 issues out, but HP McElwee died of a stroke and heart attack at the age of 43. Anyway, one thing that keeps me going in this is the fans!

You mentioned that people you showed the work to would laugh like hell … so did you go into Real Deal with the idea of making your own Mad? A humorous comic for adults?

In a way, a sort of satire from “The Hood” for adults, and one thing that was different in Real Deal was that the characters are older guys whose youth was in the ’70s and they just kind of stayed there (kind of reminds me of a story a guy I used to work with named Ben told me. He said he left Iowa in 1974 for California, when he went back in the early ’90s for a visit, he said a lot of the guys he knew still had the same cars) while most books about this sort of thing would have been about some young hip hoppers. The ’70s is when we came up, Blaxploitation, Disco, double knit rags, pimp mobiles, Funky Music, Soul Power, Can you dig it Baby?? And the main thing was we didn’t see anything else like it.

Where did the characters come from? HP’s own life experiences? His observations?

What’s funny about that is the characters are from both of our lives, we had been friends for years before he came up with it, and it was a culmination of people we had known in both of our lives, convicts, hustlers, drug addicts, crack hoes, car thieves, murderers etc. People we used to talk about. HP’s brother was a car thief, he had been to jail so many times he didn’t seem to mind it.

Do you think of Real Deal as being specific to L. A. and L. A. culture?

Yes most definitely, this is where I grew up, this is where I live, if you look at the backgrounds in my art, you can tell it’s L.A.

What were you main influences in comics and art? Were you a part of a large scene?

My main influences were Marvel and DC comics and especially Mad Magazine, I loved the work of Mort Drucker and Angelo Torres, George Woodbridge. Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, E. Simms Campbell, Doug Wildey and a host of others. There is a downtown scene here in Los Angeles, artist lofts parties etc, there was a printmaker called Rollo, I can’t remember his last name that used to do posters for alternative bands, he did a print of some of my work. unfortunately I have been stuck most of the time doing jobs that have nothing to do with comics.

How did you and HP divide the labor? Did he write scripts?

HP originally wrote all the scripts, and I would add my input and I would show him the pages as I was drawing them. Since he passed away I have been following his formula, and amazingly enough it’s not that hard to write a Real Deal story. You take a simple everyday situation: Going to the store, the car wash, buying some food, you have a confrontation, nobody backs down! And next all hell breaks loose!! And the main thing is none of the characters give a shit about the consequences.

What else do you do for work? Do you publish your work elsewhere?

I’m not publishing anywhere else right now, but soon I plan on doing a big push for Real Deal to put it where it belongs, Right now I work in the IT industry as a Production Control Analyst.

[UPDATE: 5/29/09]

In response to some of the questions in the comments section, I asked Lawrence about some specific L.A. influences, to which he responded:

You know I didn’t know Gary Panter or Raymond Pettibon by name but when I looked them up I immediately recognized their art; they are very good. I think I developed my style from all the cartoonists I named in my interview. One who I always admired was Doug Wildey of Jonny Quest fame, when I used to watch those episodes on TV when they were new, I always admired his attention to realism, I try to bring that to my art. Even though my characters have cartoon faces which fits the style of what I’m doing, I try to make the bodies, hands, backgrounds etc as real and on perspective as possible. I’ve always admired cartoonist who could draw in a goofy cartoon style and then change up and do realistic illustrations, you would look at it and say, “Is this the same guy?”

That’s it for now…

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27 Responses to “Real Deal: The Real Story”
  1. Ryan Cecil says:

    Hey, great interview, coming from one of your readers who first heard of Real Deal on the comics comics blog.

    “Going to the store, the car wash, buying some food, you have a confrontation, nobody backs down!”


    “Damn I wish the internet was like it is now back then!!… Anyway we managed to get 6 issues out”

    That’s an interesting statement…

    I want to pick up an issue, but in the meanwhile, I’m really curious to know the format – how big, how many pages? ONLY comics, or anything else?

  2. Dan Nadel says:

    All comics. The first issue is tabloid sized and the rest are comic books.

  3. noel troll says:

    Did they know about Pettibon or Panter? Do they think of themselves as related to any of that?

  4. EZ-King says:

    yeah, the linework reminds me of panter.
    rolo’s last name is castillo. he lives in pomona, and has a gallery/printshop called 5iftybucks

  5. Frank Santoro says:

    wow, Dan. Nice detective job.

    I really appreciate Mr. Huubbard’s comment that they “laughed like hell for hours” over the initial idea / drawings for the series. And that it was this enthusiasm that led them to publish.

  6. dylan sparkplug says:

    You have justified your existence Frank (sorry). You rule.

  7. Frank Santoro says:

    dude, this is DAN’s post.

  8. Frank Santoro says:

    Dan rulez

  9. Benjamin Marra says:

    Dan, would it be possible to reserve copies prior to MoCCA? If not, I’ll be the first one at your table to get these. You probably won’t be done setting up.

  10. Dan Nadel says:

    Mmmm, reservations are too difficult for my addled brain to deal with. Just show up in the first few hours. I’m going to have plenty.

  11. flycliches says:

    damn this looks cool. looks kind of like some of spain’s stuff too, i don’t know if that could be an influence or not.

  12. Benjamin Marra says:

    Excellent. Thanks, Dan. I’ll be there with a fist of full of bills.

  13. knut says:

    I can only hope that somewhere right now there is a little boy who will grow up and recontexualize my own shitty comics and thus one day make them cool.

  14. dylan sparkplug says:

    Dan doesn’t have to justify his existence.

  15. JT says:

    Tabloid sized? Wowsa.

  16. Frank Santoro says:

    that was lame

  17. dylan sparkplug says:

    I’m with Frank on that. Lame, nuff said.

  18. knut says:


    I’m not saying they aren’t cool, in my opinion they are near irresistable. What I’m saying is that the comics haven’t changed, their context has changed.

    Because of our cultivated appreaciation for counter-intuitive, naive, or as you would say “retarded” comics we are now able to appreciate “Real Deal” on a different level.

    There are plenty of comics being produced today in the “artist alley” underbelly of comics self-publishing that possess very comparable aesthetic properties to “Real Deal”, it’s just that the pop culture tropes that they utilized haven’t aged like aged like fine wine yet.

    Nobody knows what the context or tastes of tomorrow will be. In that light it’s totaly possible that a comic that I would be embarassed of today could be all the rage tomorrow.

    In other words, I’m not trying to say that Dan is being a dick by bringing this lost treasure to light. He’s doing a good job in my book.

  19. Dan Nadel says:

    Actually, Real Deal WAS appreciated while it was being published. Not so much in the comics press, but there was a feature on it in Grand Royal, and the cult around it has grown over time. So I don’t think it’s about “re-contextualizing” as much as it is just appreciating. It’s not “retarded” or bad. It’s just plain GOOD comics, really.

  20. knut says:

    Yeah, but you wouldn’t deny that there is a “heta-uma” dynamic in play here right?

    I mean, it’s no secret that we are attracted to this because we see hints of Panter and CF and Ben Jones, etc. here.

    These comics are initially fascinating because they are so off-putting and exotic. Does it surprise me that there is some good comics in there underneath that surface? Not at all. An even better reason to ultimately read them.

  21. Anonymous says:

    I first discovered these comics at Comicon in ’00 and they totally blew my mind. The RD guys even had a booth there and everything. I remember everyone there was talking about this book. I’ve had all my RD issues sitting next to my drawing table ever since.

    -Johnny R

  22. Cheese says:

    I remember buying each issue of Real Deal every year at San Diego comic-con. I still have most of my copies and have shown them off to anyone who would look. Jim Rugg and I have talked to RD a few times over the years, I still think it’s one of my favorite comics ever published. I can’t wait to get new copies as mine are falling apart. I guarantee you’re gonna sell out of these.

    Fuck Jason Lutes, RAWDAWG!

  23. noel troll says:

    Dan, thanks for the update post. I’m pumped about these comics.

  24. Frank Santoro says:

    comment for the update:

    So, essentially, he’s a Toth fan.

  25. Turok Reader says:

    this is not heta-uma. This is just umai.

  26. negobrown says:

    yo!!! manos adoro esse blog com comic sao demais valew, send me news.thank you.

    God bless you…peace.

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