Thursday, September 19, 2013

How Gary K. Wolf became a male model – A.K.A. The origins of the first Roger Rabbit EVER

The First Roger Rabbit ever

This giant rabbit plush looks like your average giant rabbit plush, right? Well, take a second look at him: this handsome fella is, in fact, THE ORIGINAL Roger Rabbit.

Yup: this giant rabbit plush is the first accurate portrayal of Roger Rabbit as a character, based of course in the description of him wrote by Gary K. Wolf, author of “Who Censored Roger Rabbit” and the whole Toontown concept.

Do you wonder who’s the owner of this particular rabbit? If your answer is Gary K. Wolf, you’re absolutely right!

In fact, he was kind to share with us the origin of the first Roger Rabbit ever, which is in fact tied to the very origins of “Who Censored Roger Rabbit” and his own characterization as Eddie Valiant in the first cover of the novel.

Let’s allow Gary speak for himself:

How I Became A Male Model

I published the first Roger Rabbit novel, Who Censored Roger Rabbit?, in 1981.

The publisher asked me for a book jacket photo for the inside back flap.

For my science fiction novels I had done a variety of poses. The kinds of poses writers were doing back then. Me out in the woods looking ethereal in long hair, long scruffy beard, and a turtleneck sweater. Me wearing a cowboy hat, bush jacket, and my military medals. Me slouching insolently against an alley wall wearing my leather Air Force flight jacket, white T-shirt, and shabby blue jeans.

For the Roger Rabbit novel I wanted something different, something more in keeping with the premise of the book.

I arranged for a toy company called Kamar to do me up a rabbit based on my description of Roger in the book.

I put that toy rabbit into a trench coat. I wore what Eddie Valiant wore, a shirt, tie, trench coat and period hat.

We shot the photo looking at me over Roger’s shoulder.

The hardest part of the photo shoot was holding the lighted cigarette. This was way before we could add that effect with Photoshop. We had to do the action for real. I’m not a smoker. I kept coughing because the smoke was drifting up my nose.

I sent the picture, which was black and white, to the publisher.
They got very excited. They said the pose would be perfect for the book jacket.

They hand tinted the picture to give the scene a period look.

They used the photo on the cover of the book.

The flap jacket copy says “The detective on the book’s jacket is portrayed by Mr. Wolf.”

I was a very happy guy.

Doubleday brought out a hard cover book club edition.

They changed that edition to an all-artwork cover. They drew Eddie Valiant as I had described him in the book, a craggy, clean-shaven, Robert Stack-type.

Except they didn’t change the flap jacket copy. That still said “The detective on the book’s jacket is portrayed by Mr. Wolf.” Which of course it wasn’t. Not even close.

When I do autographings, I still get copies of that book to sign. The owner always looks at the cover then looks at me suspiciously. I can tell they suspect I’m an imposter.

I do always draw a beard on that artwork Eddie after I sign one of those book club editions. That brings him a little closer to me.

We continued the Censored tradition with Who Wacked Roger Rabbit? Once again, the detective on the book’s jacket is portrayed by Mr. Wolf.

As an interesting sidelight, ever since the Wacked cover got released, I’ve been getting calls from Abercrombie & Fitch. They want me to be the cover boy on their next catalog. I’m gonna decline. They want me to take off my shirt, pull down my pants, and show my underwear.

I’m sorry.

I’m just not that kind of guy.

At least not anymore.

You can find more of Gary’s anecdotes and memories (as well as some wonderful and funny ramblings) on his own blog and his Facebook wall.

Thanks again for sharing this history with us, Gary! Of course, you and Roger look as great as ever =D

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