Death and loss is something all of us are going to have to deal with at some point in our lives, and no matter what we think, no matter what anyone tells us, we will not be ready for it. We will not come away from it clean.
The Crow was first published by Caliber Comics in 1989 and was written and drawn by James O’Barr. The story follows protagonist Eric as swaths a bloody path against the men responsible for the death of both him and his fiance Shelly one year prior.
There has been so much said and written about the Crow as both a comic book and a film franchise, so much said about the heartbreaking experiences the creator went through to write and draw this story that I am almost guaranteed to do this story a disservice. But here we go anyway. The older I get, the more I can find The Crow a quasi-relatable story. While I never have had to deal with a loved one being taken from me, the fact that I will have to one day, gives me a sense of dread that I am incredibly uncomfortable with. The inevitable presence of death is personified in the “hero” of The Crow, Eric, and the unyielding and violent campaign against his murderers is a not so subtle metaphor for what waits for us all, patiently and methodically inching towards us.
As the four-issue story unfolds, we find out more and more who Eric and his fiance Shelly were before they died as well as a glimpse at the horrible, cold October night they died. As Eric moves ever closer to eliminating the men that killed him, he also forces himself to remember the good times he and Shelly shared. While Eric, thanks to the crow that carried his soul back to our world, cannot physically be hurt or feel pain, the memories of him and his bride-to-be, are what actually hurts him while acting as a form of therapy. As he confronts more and more of the small, intiment moments he and Shelly shared, he comes to terms with his death and feels ready to complete his vengeful plight against the drug dealers that tore his life from him.
As Eric uses these painful memories as motivation to complete his work, writer and artist James O’Barr used this book as something akin to therapy to dealing with the death of a loved one, a woman he wanted to marry. Over the nine years it took him to complete the book, it’s unknown how much the Crow helped him grieve, but in the years since, O’Barr is still with us, and that is a good thing. I go back every year or so and I read The Crow and feel a bit sadder every time I finish it.
Sure, The Crow has become something of a media darling that has spawned many films, inspired many great songs and is probably a little responsible for the rise in Hot Topic stores. But the Crow, to me, represents something that honestly scares me. When my wife, or my parents leave, I have no idea how I’ll react or what I’ll do. While the overall message of The Crow, I believe can be found in the chapter titled “Death”, where Eric meets a little girl he has befriended name Sherri for the last time. Sherri is a neglected little girl that is cheerful and optimistic despite the random despair that is her life. Her and Eric embrace after Eric tells her that he is going to be with Shelly, a woman Sherri knows is dead.
“Don’t be afraid Sherri.” Eric says. “Some day, all things will be fair, and there will be wonderful surprises.”
It may sound sappy of me to say this, but I do ave hope that the trying times we find ourselves in sometimes do have an expiration date, and that we don’t have to feel like we’re in some kind of endurance race with the devil. Whether this was O’Barr’s intention with The Crow or not, I can’t say, but what I do know is that this book is something that I find tasked to read when days are gray and I am not at my best. While all things are inevitable, it’s up to us how we get there, even when it seems we are not.
for James and Brandon