For some, including readers of this publication, he’s known simply as Tomb. Those who’ve caught his band Forbidden Dimension at any one of the dingy live music venues around town are likely more familiar with the frontman called Jackson Phibes.
Both the stage and pen name, of course, are just cheeky personality extensions of one of Calgary’s most prolific musicians and illustrators, Tom Bagley.
Fans of his work — of whom there are more than a few worldwide — have long been hoping he’d make the jump into a full-length published book, perhaps a graphic novel or at least a compendium of his work.
For the time being, they’ll have to keep waiting, although there’s now a teaser of sorts — a 32-page full-colour self-published sampler of relatively recent works entitled Tonight, I Paint in Flesh Colour. Bagley prepared the slender volume to have something to show off and sell at the recent Red and White Comic Expo.
“I would like to do something larger,” he says. “Originally when I was putting the book together I was going to have a whole section of all the [Forbidden Dimension] T-shirt designs and stuff, but that would take almost eight pages. So I decided to keep it breezy — just scratching the surface.”
Other possibilities for future ventures, says Bagley, include revisiting short comic-style stories he penned in the early ’90s, though he admits having some misgivings about how well they’ve held up — “Looking at it now, it’s a little primitive, the style. I kind of just started going in the more cartoon-y direction. I’d probably go in and change a few things.... Self doubt kicks in after 25 years.”
Also, although there are two pages in Tonight, I Paint in Flesh Colour devoted to his work illustrating a certain column for this publication, he says he would be interested in expanding that as well.
“I’d still like to do a book of the Video Vulture drawings because… 52 of those a year for seven years — there’s a lot of drawings there. Somebody’s got to do a book of that,” he says.
In the meantime, Tombs’ little tome ought to whet appetites — what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in the crisp quality of his ghoulish but humorous pieces, including galleries of Forbidden Dimension and other Calgary band posters, album artwork, pieces from an art exhibits, a look at his three-dimensional glow-in-the-dark Fimo sculptures, and more.
The book also offers insight into some of the featured pieces, including the story behind a poster he was commissioned to do for the Calgary stop of a large metal tour — the image of a big beast rampaging through Calgary and sporting a whack of purple pubic hair apparently offended a member of upper management, even though you’d have thought she’d be well used to that sort of thing.
“It was for Monsters of Rock, which was Ozzy and Judas Priest and Three Inches of Blood — the usual bands you see at those,” says Bagley. “It was all done and coloured and everything like that and they sent it off to the staff and management at, you know, Ozzy Osbourne Incorporated, and Sharon [Osbourne, Ozzy’s wife and manager] said that she found the ‘treasure trail’ disturbing.”
If the so-called Prince of Darkness’ spouse has a problem with Bagley’s work, it’s safe to assume that his scary scribbles might not be for everyone — though it’s difficult to imagine anyone being seriously off-put by his images of killer, one-eyed Santas (a.k.a. “Santaclops”), purpled-pubed behemoths and sea monkey witches, considering the sense of mirth with which they are imbued.
“I kind of like to have a bit more humour in it and try to avoid the real obvious clichés,” says Bagley of his take on the macabre. “I still love drawing gore, but I like it to be in a cartoon context, I guess. Terminal adolescence — I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of drawing blood and guts.”
For a calorie-free Halloween treat, you can order a copy of Tonight, I Paint in Flesh Colour from Forbidden Dimension’s Facebook page or at Phoenix Comics.