After debuting in 1969 in Detroit, Mich., iconic rock magazine Creem became the irreverent voice of the music scene, home to influential pieces from authors including Lester Bangs, Patti Smith, Cameron Crowe, Robert Cristgau and more. Also gracing its pages was the work of cartoonist R. Crumb, who had conceived the publication’s cheeky mascot, Boy Howdy, which appeared in nearly every issue for two decades.
The publication, which billed itself as “America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine, stopped publishing in 1989, but this past June, the publication reemerged as “Creem Entertainment,” with a website housing its classic content as well as a new quarterly print mag, the first of which will drop this September. To herald its return, Creem tapped Fable.works, the indie agency launched last fall by creative vets Marcel Yunes and Rick Williams, to create a wild, animated trip through rock-and-roll history.
The story begins in 1989, the final year of Creem’s main print run, and opens on a scene of Boy Howdy. Seemingly on his deathbed, he escapes a final encounter with the Grim Reaper on the wings of a bat, zipping past covers from Creem history and colliding with many big personalities that will likely be familiar to fans—a messianic rap figure, a weed-smoking Goliath, a top hat-wearing ghoul with heavily shadowed peepers—it’s a a guessing game filled with nearly 70 references to famous music figures.
According to Yunes, the original brief from the client “was about balancing nostalgia and discovery. Not only ‘How do we replant Creem’s flag,’ but ‘how do we romance generations of fans who don’t know who the hell we are to climb aboard this crazy train?’”
To create the film the agency worked with animation collective Lobo, who happened to be “massive” fans of Boy Howdy creator Crumb. “They immediately understood the level of detail, painstaking 2D work, late nights and love this would take,” Yunes said. “They jumped in the fire with us and never looked back.”
Music, of course, was key, and Fable.works worked with Human to create the soundscape.
“They not only nailed an authentic, original Detroit rock track, but the sound effects brought a ‘Peaky Blinders’-level sonic tapestry that elevated the whole story,” Williams said. Specifically, they tapped Motor City-based composer Zach Shipps, who created the film’s anthem “Southside” in a garage that happened to be a mile away from Creem’s original Detroit office. “For us, it’s authentic as it gets,” he added.
Along with the film, the campaign also includes out-of-home assets such as mysterious posters that appeared on walls and record stores as well as bar coasters featuring Boy Howdy’s backside. In September, the first new issue will come with a keepsake “mega-poster” featuring all the film’s Easter Eggs in a single image.