About 10 years ago, Wayne Alan Harold, a locally based director and comic-book fan who made short films for MTV, approached Kent-based writer/illustrator P. Craig Russell about making a documentary on his career as a comic-book artist. Russell gave him the green light, and Harold began filming. But every couple of years, Harold would upgrade his equipment and start all over. Russell says it was only recently that Harold finally started filming the footage you see in the film, Night Music: The Art of P. Craig Russell.
"Almost everything in this movie is about two years old," says Russell, sitting in the sunroom of the modest home/workspace where he's lived the past 23 years. "One of the things he did that was interesting was that he avoided the talking heads with the big slam-bam-pow special effects and all that. Wayne got out and around and about. We went to places like the Cartoon Research Library [at Ohio State University] because I was talking artwork down there. That gave us a chance to look at other people's work."
Essentially an overview of Russell's career, Night Music starts with recollections of Russell's childhood in Wellsville and recaps the time he spent working at Marvel (he got a gig there when he was 20). It also touches on his association with Neil Gaiman, with whom he's worked regularly — most recently on a graphic novel adaptation of Coraline. The film then traces the three-and-a-half years Russell spent in New York and his return to Ohio, initially to teach at Kent State University.
"I really liked the teaching," says Russell. "It forces you to really explain yourself. When you work alone in a room at your drawing board, you figure out how to do things and you know what's right and wrong. It was good discipline to have to explain and think it through."
Harold also hosted a party where he invited the various models Russell has used over the last 25 years.
"Sometimes the models are my friends, and sometimes they're just acquaintances," says Russell. "But that was one of the best parties ever. It was such a motley crew."
Russell and Harold introduce Night Music: The Art of P. Craig Russell at 7 p.m. Wednesday, August 26, at the Cleveland Museum of Art Lecture Hall (11150 East Blvd., 216.421.7350, clevelandart.org). They'll answer questions after the screening. Tickets: $8.