Next weekend, “The Dark Knight,” the latest movie in the Batman franchise, opens in theaters nationwide. Hidden away in Red Hook, however, is another look at the Caped Crusader — and what it lacks in box office glitz, it more than makes up for in graphic authenticity.
Eric Cherry, a Red Hook resident, has been working as a comic book illustrator for 15 years, and now through July 31, a retrospective of his work, “The Art of Storytelling,” is on display at the Lucky Gallery on Richards Street. Cherry has put ink to paper for well-known comic books, children’s books and his own graphic novels, and now in his first gallery show, the artist himself gets to be the superhero.
“It had been in the back of my head for years,” Cherry said of showing his art in a gallery. “I had a whole lot of comic book art laying around … and it gave me an excuse to get it framed. It’s something I should have done a long time ago.”
So, when his pal, and Lucky Gallery owner, Ed Rosko suggested an exhibit, Cherry jumped at the chance. And after all the work he’s done, there’s plenty to show for it.
Over the years, Cherry has illustrated everything from the covers of young adult thrillers to “Choose Your Own Adventure” books and in 2004, he wrote and illustrated “Batman: Gotham Knights 48,” his very own chapter in the Dark Knight’s story. Currently, he’s working on a new graphic novel, titled “Nadruvia,” which follows werewolves from ancient Prussia to modern-day Brooklyn.
Unlike comic enthusiasts who fall into the genre to escape their everyday life, Cherry grew up with drawing all around him: His father worked as a police artist in Washington, DC.
“The first time I saw somebody drawing, it was my dad,” he said. “That was my first inspiration and from there, I followed my tastes.”
Although he claimed to only be a “mild consumer” of comic books — mentioning Boerum Hill’s comic shop Rocketship but disavowing obsession — it’s obvious that Cherry has a knack for and keen understanding of the business.
“I do love the genre. I like the comic books from when I was a kid, because I liked the art and I drifted toward more artistic stuff, a lot of the European stuff,” he said. “If you like comic books, you’ll like the [Lucky Gallery] show. And if you don’t, I’ve still got something for you. It’s a lot of eye candy.”
Rosko agrees, “It’s a very complete work by a very talented guy. I don’t know how often people interested in the comic book genre get to see this type of thing. When he announced he had 40-something pieces to hang, I was a bit nervous, but when you spend time with the work, it’s obvious that this show needs to be seen — people will go nuts for it.” The show features complete panels, sketches and final art.
And despite being up against the summer blockbusters for the time being, Cherry — who said, “I’m not so into comic movies,” but professed to being a fan of the “Batman” films — thinks film is a natural progression for comic book characters.
“It’s inevitable [for comics to become movies]. You see people like Marvel really crank it up and make a real push to take all of their creative capital and turn it into movies,” he said. “I think it’s brought a lot of good entertainment and fun, except for the occasional flops.”
Would his work score boffo box office?
“I have some other ideas for comic books, but they’re not superheroes, they’re more like stories,” said Cherry. “They don’t have the same cachet. The stuff I do on my own is a little more cerebral.”
Eric Cherry’s “The Art of Storytelling” runs through July 31 at Lucky Gallery (176 Richards St. at Wolcott Street in Red Hook). The gallery is open Friday, from 11 am to 4 pm, and weekends, from noon to 6 pm, and by appointment. For information, call (718) 852-9232 or visit www.luckygallery.com.