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 pictureboxinc.com. 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.
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…