David Choe hand-wrote the entire, 34-page story of what would become Slow Jams in 7 hours one night in 1996. It's a tale of love, dedication, obsession, redemption, sex, betrayal, and violence. A few years later Dave made some drawings to go with the story, painted a color cover, stole enough photocopies from Kinko's to make about 200 copies (with color covers) and gave them away for free or real cheap at the 98 San Diego Comic Con. Then some of the story was reprinted in Jordan Crane's compilation comic series, "Non".
In 1999, Dave applied for and received a $5,000 grant from the Xeric Foundation to self-publish Slow Jams as a graphic novel. Bookending the story in several color pages of paintings, full color oil painted comic shorts, writings, photos, quotes (many of which first appeared in All In The Mind zine (see my last blog)) and guest art from Ezra Li Eismont. The new cover painting was Dave's interpretation of the classic Toulouse-Lautrec Moulin Rouge interior painting. The back cover is the original painted cover of the "stolen Kinko's" edition, and the inside of the book features yet another alternative cover painting. Plus a painting that was recently used as a cover for Juxtapoz magazine (image here)
I think a thousand copies of Slow Jams were printed, many of which Dave gave away to his friends or sold for only a dollar. The cover price was 4 bucks. I remember when at Dave's exhibition at Double Rainbow (ice cream shop) in Los Angeles they were for sale on the honor system... just put your money in the cup and take one from the pile. Just recently a used copy of Slow Jams sold for $200 on eBay!
Slow Jams is not your typical graphic novel. Aside from completely unrelated art items in the beginning and end of the book, the story itself is told with typed text that is then cut and laid-out among sketches, paint splatters, handwritten notes, xerography art, and found images. There are very few panel to panel sequences and a lot of splash pages. And, of course, the spelling is terrible.
The unique graphic style combined with Dave's gift for storytelling makes this a book you simply can't put down. Dave has tried to apply this dirty comic style to popular characters like Batman and the X-Men, but let's just say that the comic industry at large wasn't quite ready for him. Dave recently told me he is going to focus less attention on fine art and more on comics and printed matter in the upcoming years and I hope that is the case.
Coming up next episode: Bruised Fruit