In 1995, David Bowie was probably at his most anti-commercial. For Outside, his 19th studio album, he decided to tackle the fictional diary of a government official whose duty it was to determine if murder could be considered art. If you guessed that this was too much of a WTF endeavor even for a man once known as Ziggy Stardust, then you are correct. Unexpectedly, it led to one of the most unique pieces of memorabilia for the Thin White Duke.
Years later, Bowie himself stated that he thought the album was dead on its legs before it hit stores, due to the concept and massive length of the record (75 minutes on a single CD). But at the time, he and his label had to stand behind it and make it attractive for the record-buying public. At the Mexican offices of BMG, his label at the time, record exec and future reality TV judge Arturo López Gavito brainstormed a way to give fans an incentive to buy the album. He thought a comic book would better explain the story within Outside.
He contacted Mauricio Hammer, editor of the long-running Círculo Mixup magazine, and recruited him to produce the comic book. Hammer, for his part, assigned the execution to a young graphic designer called Victor “Pico” Covarrubias, who was entrusted with the task of illustrating the short story Bowie wrote in the liner notes of Outside. With help from fellow illustrator Jotabe, he penciled and inked the whole thing, with Mauricio printing the short run. The comic, titled Art Crime, was given to shoppers buying the CD. It is unknown how many copies were made, but judging by the amount of information available, we can assume it was an extremely limited pressing.
Gavito and BMG were very pleased with Pico’s work on Art Crime, so they hired him to design the label’s future releases, launching his career in the process. His illustrations appear on albums by Zoé, Ely Guerra, Moenia, Alejandra Guzmán, and many others. His most infamous and controversial work, however, came just a few short years after this comic book, in the form of the cover for Molotov’s debut album ¿Dónde Jugarán Las Niñas?
As for Bowie, word came that he was delighted with the end result. In return, he gifted the people responsible for the comic book with signed posters.
Special thanks to Mauricio Hammer for additional reporting.