Monday, December 12, 2005

The Infamous Captain Underpants

Growing up I always wanted to be a superhero. Forget baseball player or fireman, or for that one weird kid in my kindergarten class who ate glue and picked his nose, garbage man. No, I wanted to be larger than life. So when nobody was around I'd haul out my secret uniform from under my bed - a pair of my father's tighty-whities, an Underdog t-shirt and a towel for a cape. Then I'd sneak down into the basement to fight crime where, for some reason, the washing machine set to spin cycle seemed to facilitate the flying process.

Usually I did battle with a series of menacing foes, from Mosquito Face who could drain a boy's blood in mere seconds, to the more sinister Hamburglar, a villain transferred from McDonald's and who I placed more enmity towards than the Ayatollah.

As far as secret identities go, mine was safe, save for a run in with my father who came home from work one day unexpectedly, shouted my name and, when there was no answer, started looking for me all over the house. Finally, when he opened the door and saw his only son, his pride and joy, in a full squat like he was about to take a dump, wearing his worn out underpants and a cape, he burst into laughter.

"What the hell are you doing boy," he asked, not really wanting an explanation, part relived I was wearing his underwear and not torturing animals with a screwdriver. "I'm flying," I replied. He looked at me and got very serious. "Be careful out there, son, and don't forget to come back for lunch."

Eventually I outgrew flying. Mainly because I grew and grew and grew. By the sixth grade I was 5'5" and 240 pounds - a pint-sized Suge Knight in a pair of tight-ass Lee Rider gaberdine pants. I was the fat cracker who dressed extra dapper. But I never outgrew wanting to be a superhero. Instead of flying, I submerged myself in the art-form, spending most my days tracing Superman vs. Ali comics.

Then I got my hands on a book called "Subway Art." It was a journal of early NYC graf by Martha Cooper and Henry Chalfant. And in an instant those comic books I had been tracing became irrelevant to me. Traveling to Newark or Trenton or NYC and seeing those pages come to life filled me a sense of excitement, but also of dread. How could I be one of those guys? They were the real superheroes. It was like having an anvil dropped on my head-all this new knowledge to soak in and learn. It hit me hard.

There was, and still is, this seductive visual lure to graf, both seemingly knowable and cryptic at the same time. Where every wall is like a puzzle and you have to decode the handstyles. Forget about the Marvel Comics cannon of heroes. My guys were COPE 2, DONDI, FUTURA, and T-KID...and they were untouchable. To find a wall with their work was like finding evidence of a great urban Rosetta Stone where I could trace my fingers along the concrete and feel what it must've been like to throw up their tag in the dead of night. It was the key that unlocked the door to everything: Hip-Hop, street culture, graphic art, design. It all stemmed from the throw-up, the concrete canvas and, at its heart, these midnight superheroes whose real Fortress of Solitude was the Boogie Down.

While my work was feeble by comparison - a suburban fatty standing on the shoulders of giants trying to fly once again - I nonetheless tried to leave my mark. My first tag was scrawled on my desk in sixth grade art class. It said "Ecko" after a nickname my mom gave me before I was born. I was such a herb. But regardless, like squatting on top of that washing machine, I felt like I was a part of something bigger than me. I couldn't articulate that, but I knew that scrawling my sorry-ass tag gave me and my na??ve sense of being an artist at that age a purpose. It was like hearing Ultramagnetic for the first time. It was foreign, but I was home.

I've spent the rest of my life chasing that feeling. Everything I do stems from my desire to touch on the emotions I first had when I fell in love with this stuff. Yet as hard as I tried, I always felt removed. But with this game, I get to be right back on the street. And so do you. It's a love letter to real life superheroes who fly every night. While I may not have the can in my hand, I get to tap that nerve and see a little bit of what it's like through their eyes. And so will you. Enjoy!


At 5:28 PM, Blogger Martha said...


At 8:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wanna have this fuckin book ,dude...

At 3:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

buy the book

At 9:09 PM, Blogger Jai Gonzalez said...

AND in turn you have carried the responsiblilities of a hero.
Thank you for my future assignment

At 10:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ecko's a poser

At 7:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the game better be tight i punched
two kids to get the last bootleg...

At 9:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

just wanted ecko to know that after a year of trying to beat his dam football team on madden 2002, I finally did it! i beat him and all his foriegn asshole friends!


At 9:10 AM, Blogger Knives said...

nice good game

At 9:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love your work and more importantly your message.

Freedom of speech.

At 4:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree...

Ecko's a poser.. claming to have tagged the prez's plane and now we find out it was just some old plane with a paint job. What a frikin moron.

Just another rich boy trying to buy & lie his way into some cause.

I actually thought the video was cool... until I saw the clip of him saying why he tagged the plane and then found out he tagged some plan he bought. Hollywood at it's fineist! HAHA

Then again.. I should have expected that from him.

At 4:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How freakin irresponsible are you Mark? How many ex graffiti artists do you know who have gone on to anything more than a bad drug addiction and destroyed family.

You are a lucky man, but fighting for the rights of under 18s to "purchase" spray paint? You must be kidding. I was an 'artist' for years man and NOBODY buys paint; you know that. It doesen't fit with the whole 'f___ the system' thing does it? Your feeding off disaffected middle class wannabees using the frekin' fashion industry as well!!! Your clothes are made in modern day concentration camps asshole!

Graffiti 'Aritsts' live miserable lives until they grow up and realize that life is about helping others, not trying to show everybody where they've been and how 'brave' they are doing it. If you want to be an artist, buy a brush and hang out at home. It's better to create in a comfortable environment than with a cop on your ass.

As I used to say: SUCKERS


At 8:22 PM, Anonymous ecko lover said...

dear mark,
i think you are the swellest dude. i think its great how you feed baby rhinos. i think we should all feed them. i think its sad the government will not allow kids under 21 to posess items that could potentially do graffiti. what next, youll have to be 21 to buy cigaretts? or 22 to buy alcohol?

i also think that kids should be allowed to buy a gun. but not bullets cause thats dangerous. just a gun. or maybe just bullets but not a gun. or maybe white guys could buy bullets and black guys could buy guns. that way if they wanna make a usefull item they have to be friends and not hate eachother. but thats bad because maybe a latino guy could come while they are sleeping and take the gun and bullets and shoot both of them if he doesnt like them.
i dont know its just a thought. or some thoughts. how come its ok for a kide at any age to buy a baseball. you could throw that through a window and that would probbably break the window. if it was a regular window.

how come you could buy crayola sidewalk chalk? oh, forget that because it washes away in the rain.

I got a real good question. howcome you cant collect social security money till your like 65 or somhing. i got a friend who is 26 and he worked pretty hard already for the past like 8 years and he wants to collect some of that social security money so he could buy an ipod, but they say hge has to wait till he is 65!!! thats like 15 years or somthing. nuts man.

the govermnt can take our money but they cant give it back when we need it. unless we have a huricane patrina or somthing like that. that was cool when yougave like millions of dollars of free stuff to the patrina victums. i never saw such fly dressed homless people in my whole life.

just seenig some poor guy going down main street, floating on his front door, but smilling cause he had a bran new ecko hoodie, made me feel good.

anyways man,
if you ever wanna come hang out by my place, it would be cool. my parents will be away next weekend so we could stay up as late as we want.

keep it real. or keep it lookin like its real.

i think there is somthing wrong with your still free websight. its so cool what you did, but you keep saying "you tagged airforce one". all i saw you tag was the presidents plane. i didint even see you come close to tagging up any sneakers. maybe its cause the fotage was bad. if you want, next time you want to paint sneakers, you can borrow my parents camcorder because it think its better. just not the weekend after next because when they go away i think they are taking it with them.

anyway man, be cool and dont worry, if i go do some graffiti after school tommorow, and get caught, and go to jail, and have to pay lawyers to get me off, i wont blame you for influencing me to do it beacuse this is america and i think we should have freedom to not really have to get sued for no reason or anything.

peace out and dont get gout.
Ecko (the little rhino in california)

At 6:21 PM, Anonymous TRANE said...

yo, mark, it's really nice how you give charity and do nice things and shit, but if you REALLY wanna do the world a favor i would spend some of that charity money on getting you some public speaking lessons. that video was sooo bad it looked like you were reading off a paper, a paper that your dad wrote for you. if you still suck bad, then go get one of your ecko partners to do it for you, cuz man, YOU SUCK.

thanx for listening,

yours truly,

At 3:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please put dhe children's clothing back on the web site. Thank you

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At 7:03 AM, Blogger Daneerod said...

Global positioning systems, digital photography and computer databases are joining the humble paint can as U.S. cities battle to obliterate graffiti and catch its shadowy perpetrators.

"In the past, authorities had no way of keeping track of who was doing the damage in their city," said Tim Kephart, president of Los Angeles-based Graffiti Tracker, whose systems are being purchased by a growing number of American cities.

At 7:05 AM, Blogger Daneerod said...

Global positioning systems, digital photography and computer databases are joining the humble paint can as U.S. cities battle to obliterate graffiti and catch its shadowy perpetrators.

"In the past, authorities had no way of keeping track of who was doing the damage in their city," said Tim Kephart, president of Los Angeles-based Graffiti Tracker, whose systems are being purchased by a growing number of American cities.


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