Butcher Billy is an artist used to twisting pop culture icons, but his latest project involved turning a very modern TV show into a vintage comic
Pop culture has long been a muse for so many artists, and Brazil-based Butcher Billy has made a name for himself on the internet by taking well-known icons and placing them into some unlikely, and often famous, scenes.
With hit Netflix show Black Mirror though, Billy took the entire series to an unfamiliar place. The show is comprised of unrelated standalone stories, all with a focus on the horror of technology and social media. Billy turned each of the eleven episodes into a set of posters that took this dystopian hit out of the near future, and into a classic comic-book era.
We asked the artist on his influences, the project and its reception.
Definitely. I graduated in graphic design in college and I’d always been interested in graphic design as a kid. My subjects were always pop culture icons!
When it comes to who inspires me one way or another, I’ve got a highly unlikely selection of influences, including Salvador Dali, Stanley Kubrick, Jack Kirby, Tim Burton, Osamu Tezuka, Nick Hornby, Steve Ditko, Bettie Page, Malcom McLaren, David Bowie, Quentin Tarantino, Andy Warhol, Oscar Wilde, Roy Lichtenstein and many others. Most of them have nothing to do with each other, but in my head they all make sense.
I’d heard about Photoshop before I got to college. In my first year, a classmate came in with a printed piece of paper with a simple chocolate milk label that he’d produced in Photoshop with his name instead of the brand. My head exploded when I saw it and I didn’t rest until I’d done the same, only with comics and movie logos. It was then that I really started playing with Photoshop.
Recently I worked on ‘Butcher Billy Changes Bowie’, which involved taking the same image of Bowie and combining it with other icons – such as the Joker, RoboCop and Willy Wonka – to create different posters for each of his songs. Similarly the All-New Superpowered Post-Punk Marvels poster series combined post-punk singers such as Morrissey and Ian Curtis into classic Marvel posters and was featured by Behance’s Illustration gallery.
Well, I think overall the collection had to look as if there was a Black Mirror comic book back in the 70s that inspired the actual TV series. What interested me most is that the episodes are independent and have very distinct genres, which allowed me to play with classic comic styles such as romance, horror, crime and suspense.
I only discovered it recently when it featured on Netflix. But I immediately recognised a structure very much like vintage shows I used to love like The Twilight Zone and Tales From the Crypt, despite having a concept that deals with the future and modern technology. That contrast was what made me want to work with it. Tales From the Crypt was a comic in the late 60s when they decided to do the TV series in the 80s, so I thought it would be interesting to ‘reverse engineer’ Black Mirror.
It doesn’t necessarily have to start on paper, but it certainly has to start in my head. I spend a lot more time figuring out in my mind what I want to achieve than in the actual execution of it. I’m always amazed by the blend modes and filters in Photoshop, I love mixing that side of Photoshop with the illustrative side.
Yes! Charlie retweeted all of the pieces and then wrote to me to say he loved the project and wanted prints for his office.
Well, it’s a bit more than that – it turns out that I actually will be in the fourth series! Charlie invited me to collaborate on the production design of one of the upcoming Black Mirror episodes.
I’m taking part in a couple of exclusive pieces for a Transport For London exhibition in a couple of months. Also, a collection of approximately 20 different arcade cabinets decorated with my artworks is about to be released in Paris.