This article on which I was the visual collaborator concerned the degeneration of the city of Detroit from a thriving industrial centre to a city steeped in racialised poverty and violent crime. It takes the form of a short story about the violent demise of a young boy on a piece of wasteland and reflected on the lack of investment in public housing, the demise of the area as an industrial capital and ongoing problems of gun crime and drug abuse. The city’s history – such as the riots of the 1960’s and its rich musical past - are also themes of the narrative.
The artwork is painted and collaged. It is dark and intense, but with a sense of narrative comic art to reflect the dual nature of the story. Very detailed and dynamic, the piece was in many ways a departure from my usual work. My aims were to draw the reader into the drama, by intriguing rather than patronising, and to communicate the history of a neglected city. ‘Playboy’ has always contained the work of illustrators and in recent years it has become a showcase for editorial and narrative illustration attracting contributions from artists such as Robert Crumb, John Byrne, Mary Witshire and Robert Risko. ‘Detroit Death City’ was a serious documentary article for which I provided a narrative approach that would communicate the gravity of the subject and engage the reader.
The image was included in ‘Spectrum Art’, an exhibition art book showcasing the best of narrative illustration, published by Underwood Books, Nevada USA, in 2006. The book was the result of a selection competition judged by a panel of designers, art directors, publishers and fellow illustrators.