Imagine a world in which an unchained Django is the one who shot J.R. Ewing. Where instead of a cat-eating extraterrestrial, the Tanner family adopted the pawnshop gimp from Pulp Fiction. And Steve Buscemi's Reservoir Dogs character, Mr. Pink, is the love interest of both Andrew McCarthy and Jon Cryer in a John Hughes classic.
In the new coloring book Pulp Friction, local artist Kurt Isensee mashes up Quentin Tarantino films and ’80s pop culture in ways that are delightful in their absurdity.
"To me, pop culture is just culture, especially in the 21st century, where it’s pervasive," says Isensee, who also publishes the zine Tiny Dumb Love. "It’s always been part of my life, starting as a child with comic books and toys — two things I still buy. I’ve been doing mashups since high school and college — back then it was stuff like rock bands as superheroes, and stuff about KFC. I found KFC odd and uncool/cool before the current advertisers did."
The coloring book was supposed to be something else at first, but Isensee decided illustrations of classic Tarantino characters needed a twist. Hence, Tom Hanks' Bosom Buddies character becomes Mia Wallace on the cover. And psychotic schoolgirl assassin Gogo from Kill Bill appears alongside Jo, Blair, Natalie and Tootie in The Facts of Life.
"I think Tarantino is the perfect pop-culture mashup filmmaker," Isensee says. "[It's] a natural fit for the type of coloring book I did." Isensee is already working on a sequel that includes an image of Golden Girls Dorothy, Blanche, Rose and Sophia inside the car from 2007's Death Proof. He considered taking his pop-culture nostalgia back to the ’70s, but is moving forward into the ’90s instead, hoping to appeal to a younger audience of adult coloring enthusiasts.
Still, it's irrelevant to Isensee if anyone actually colors his drawings. "Once the idea is communicated, it’s irrelevant if it's in color or not," he says, although he's considering having Pulp Friction illustrations blown up and printed on canvas so people could paint them and hang them as art.
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At the end of the day, Isensee is just a pop-culture fan honoring things he loves. "My favorite ’80s sitcom is Taxi. I still watch the reruns. Beautiful, often moving and melancholy," he says. "I'm halfway through doing a set of illustrations of its characters (a couple are on the Pulp Friction Instagram page). My favorite Tarantino film is Kill Bill, which I also find beautiful and moving; I teared up at the end of Kill Bill 2 during the credits with the 'Malagueña Salerosa'/'Goodnight Moon' songs. To me, Kill Bill is poetry; pure art and passion. It’s also a lot of fun; very much like a comic book in some respects."
Pulp Friction is available locally at Meltdown Comics, Amoeba Music, Yolk, A Shop Called Quest, Hennessey + Ingalls and Vacation Records, as well as on Amazon.