Then and Now: Houston fanboy merges child- and adulthood fantasies in comic-style artwork

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HOUSTON — It’s clear mainstream audiences no longer consider crusaders and cartoons the two-dimensional fantasies of pubescent boys and children. And while no one can pinpoint the exact moment superheroes shifted from nonsensical statements like ‘Holy astringent plum-like fruit, Batman!’ to a sex-packed montage of Deadpool’s naked butt thrusting on the screen for nearly five minutes, the new direction couldn’t be more clear: adult-rated if not adulthood.

Professional artist Bobby Ramos sits inside a booth at an authentically vintage diner in the heart of his neighborhood, The Heights. In his mid 20s, Ramos represents the age group big-budget filmmakers have been working desperately to impress for the last decade with portrayals of a more raw, more edgy superhuman.

“As far as the genre, I think it’s great that they’re doing something with the movies to where everybody is included,” Ramos said. “It’s not an exclusive club that you can’t be a part of. It’s not like ‘Oh, no! Only true fans can watch the movies!’ and only true fans can enjoy this or that.”

A member of the younger generation of fanboy, Ramos dreams of one day becoming a published comic book artist. He started drawing when he discovered his mother’s college sketchbook filled with impressive drawings of still-life and scenery. He then continued on like most elementary school aged artist — tracing his favorite cartoon characters.

“I want to bring back childhood memories that you may suppress now that you’re older — things you don’t want to get excited about like toys or characters,” Ramos said. “I like to bring in different characters and combine them with things we like in adulthood: cities, cars, architecture and things like that.”

Ramos said he believes Hollywood producers have been smart in their approach to gain new fans with the success of the Marvel and D.C. franchises. He said the newcomers have made contributions to the fanboy community through spending time and money on discovering their favorite characters.

“The movies only show you about so much — about 20 percent of the character — and if you go and read backstory, the time that they’ve fallen and the times that they’ve gotten back up, it shows a very human aspect to the super human,” Ramos said.

On the other hand, Ramos said he sees the negative side to the fanboy bandwagon.

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“You have people who think they know everything because they’ve seen every movie, and they’ve seen every outtake,” Ramos said.

Ramos said the trend in comic book characters has done just as much to help his artwork sales as hurt it.

“There’s a certain number of people that say ‘Oh, he’s just doing it because it’s a trend right now,’” Ramos said. “But I’ve been doing this style since I was little. Pokemon. It’s very trendy right now, and people have been making all kinds of Pokemon stuff, but I’ve been drawing Pokemon since I first knew about it in the ‘90s when it was even bigger and I’ve continued to do so.”

The goal is to blend childhood and adulthood elements together in a manner that makes his artwork simultaneously nostalgic and new, Ramos said.

“When you see it, you can get excited about it because it’s not solely that character,” Ramos said. “It’s more so you ‘then’ and you ‘now.’ And then there’s also the classic stuff that is purely nostalgic and in the exact same style as older comic book artists and illustrators.”

The illustrations of comic book legends Jack Kirby and Jim Lee have had a major influence on his style since he first started drawing, Ramos said.

“When people pass by, they recognize that style and often say ‘Oh! That’s straight off the comic book,’ or ‘Oh! That’s straight off of X-men No. 23’ or whatever they’re connected with,” Ramos said.

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“If they come to the convention and leave with a hundred prints, they can leave with one of my paintings that means a little bit more to them than just the new stuff.”

Ramos has created his own rendition of the creation of Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam.” The piece explores traditionalist principals of sin such as vanity and hedonism.

The painting shows Adam reaching to touch God’s hand but unlike the original his face is turned away — he’s distracted by a cellphone. The piece explores conservative beliefs about sin such as vanity, hedonism and sexual curiosity. In the background, a second person lies behind Adam.

“All you see is a calf, so it really isn’t clear who’s sleeping behind him,” Ramos said. “Maybe it’s Eve — but then again, maybe it’s Steve.”

He said he likes to give the observer space to make their own interpretations of his work. Art is about bring out certain feelings not necessarily dictating how the viewer should feel about the artwork, Ramos said.

“You buy a piece of artwork not because this what the artists says this is what it’s supposed to be, you buy it because it might have one spec of something that you that like — that’s exactly what I want and that’s exactly what gets to me,” Ramos said.