Stüssy today unveils a collection of graphic T-shirts in collaboration with Marvel Comics, whose 5000-strong library of mutants, superheroes, thunder gods and armour-clad geniuses have been engrossing the world for seven decades. Released in two parts, the first half of the collection features prints from vintage comic covers and rare collectors’ posters from the 1960s-90s, and the second, hitting shops on May 6, sees nine artists - from legendary LA tattooist Mr. Cartoon and New York graffitist Todd James to British cartoon luminaries David Shrigley and James Jarvis - pay tribute to a Marvel character of their choice.
We caught up with James Jarvis to hear his thoughts on this Stüssy-Marvel meeting of minds, and why he chose The Thing, whose battle cry “It’s clobberin’ time!” made him one of most memorable characters of the entire Marvel catalogue.
Dazed Digital: What made you choose The Thing as your character for the Stüssy collection?
James Jarvis: As a kid I preferred the British comic characters to the American ones, but one summer in the 1970s my mum and dad bought me a Marvel Holiday Grab Bag from a motorway service station. In it were some large format reprints of some of the classic 60s Marvel characters, including The Thing, who’d appeared in the first issue of The Fantastic Four in 1961. I loved The Thing from then on, but also the American artist and writer who’d created him, Jack Kirby. For me The Thing was as much about Jack Kirby as the character himself.
DD: How did you re-interpret the character?
James Jarvis: Re-interpret is the wrong word, I think. The Marvel superheroes are such strong characters already. They are who they are. But all the artists added their own little embellishments. My trademark cartoon characters are simplistic and minimalist, so I removed a few things, took away his ears and gave him three fingers instead of four.
DD: Since collaborating with Stüssy on their S/S10 collection, and also London-label Silas, your name has become synonymous with street wear. What is it about your art that makes it click with labels such as these?
James Jarvis: I was forty last year, so to be honest I find it hilarious to be associated with street wear! I suppose that when street wear was evolving fifteen years ago I was in my twenties. The guys behind brands like Stüssy, Silas and Supreme are all my age now. Everyone in that world has grown up. But street wear will always be connected to youth culture, youth culture to independence. I think that’s what makes us click - a spirit of independence. Although I collaborate with some big corporations, I work in my own world.
DD: If you could be any superhero for a day, who would you be and what would you do?
James Jarvis: You’re asking the wrong man! I’m a tired forty year-old! These days, I’m obsessed with exercise, so I’d be Haile Gebrselassie, the Olympic gold-medallist athlete.
DD: you’ve always been preoccupied with fantasies and alternate realities. Why is that?
James Jarvis: I’ve loved comics and cartoons for as long as I can remember, and I’ve never seen them as a poor relation to the other arts. In fact, I think the opposite. Cartoon, as a medium, is on a higher level in that it’s all-encompassing. It draws on so many other disciplines too, such as writing and graphics.
DD: You recently collaborated with Coca Cola and designed some limited edition 125 year anniversary cans. How does it feel to see your work next to one of the most recognisable logos in the world?
James Jarvis: Honestly? It feels totally surreal. I work alone, locked away in my studio, and I feel like I’m not really doing it for anyone else. The rest of my life is filled with ordinary things like taking my kids to school, so I don’t have much sense of proportion. Seeing my designs on a can of coke is like suddenly stepping outside of a very small box.
DD: What was your favourite toy as a child?
James Jarvis: Lego. By far.
Official US release dates for the Stüssy-Marvel two-part collection are April 27 and May 6 2011, and the clothes will hit shelves in the UK a couple of weeks later