'Simpsons' Cartoonist Celebrates Detroit-Area Musicians in Wyandotte

Former Downriver resident and successful cartoonist Bill Morrison came to River's Edge Gallery on Saturday for a meet-the-artist event to kick off his 'Detroit Pop' exhibit.

The spirit of the Detroit music scene was alive and well Saturday night in Wyandotte, thanks to the work of

Morrison, a 1977 Lincoln Park High School graduate, was at for a meet-the-artist event, kicking off his unique tribute to the local music scene in an exhibit known as "Detroit Pop." The exhibit will be showcased on the gallery’s second floor until July 16, with part of the proceeds from sales going to The Arts Education Fund for Lincoln Park Public Schools.

of musical artists such as Eminem, Aretha Franklin and Iggy Pop juxtaposed with Detroit-area pop culture images like Faygo Red Pop, Vernor’s Ginger Ale and Paramount Potato Chips. (To see all eight pieces, )

Also featured on the gallery’s second floor are drawings Morrison has done for The Simpsons, Futurama and Disney cartoons.

Throughout his career, Morrison has worked as the art director for Futurama, done illustration work for Disney and co-founded Bongo Comics, along with Simpsons creator Matt Groening.

As the songs of local musicians appropriately played throughout the gallery Saturday, several people filed in to check out all of Morrison’s work.

Joshua Eagal of Trenton was one of the many visitors on-hand and said he was impressed with Morrison’s art and his use of a wide array of styles.

“I really do enjoy the detail he put into a lot of the paintings,” Eagal said. “It was really nice to see a different variety of artwork that he used for the paintings.”

Dearborn's Emily Musie said her favorite works were Morrison's Futurama drawings. However, his paintings of the Detroit music stars made a strong impression on her as well.

“I liked it a lot actually,” Musie said of "Detroit Pop." “(The paintings) are pretty cool.”

Many in attendance also took the chance to meet, or catch up, with Morrison, who left the Downriver area for California in 1983, soon after graduating from the former Center for Creative Studies in Detroit.

While he grew up Downriver, Morrison said he was a frequent visitor of the former Wyandotte Theater as a child. Occasionally, he even walked all the way there and back from his home in Lincoln Park.

“When I was younger, that was my favorite place to hang out," he said.

As Morrison reached his teens in the 1970s, a connection with rock music in the Detroit-area began to grow.

Shock rock artists such as Alice Cooper and KISS, which is from New York, were evolving onto the music scene, and were fully embraced by many Detroit-area music fans. To this day, the members of KISS acknowledge that Detroit fans were the first to strongly support them.

The costumes, makeup and elaborate stage props of such groups all gave the bands a larger-than-life image, similar to what Morrison said he was seeing in the comic books he loved so much.

“When I was a kid, I was a huge comic book fan,” Morrison said. “When those artists started to emerge in the early 1970s, it was huge turn on. The music was great, (as were) the theatrics and visual aspects of their persona.”

It wasn’t until about eight years ago, however, that he was stirred to create an artistic tribute to the Detroit music scene. That inspiration came after hearing Detroit City, one of Alice Cooper’s more contemporary songs.

Eventually Morrison established a list of more than a dozen artists he wanted to paint in the "Detroit Pop" style, but said for now he was best able to visualize the eight that are currently on display at River’s Edge.

River’s Edge owner Patt Slack said she is extremely happy to showcase the work of a successful artist with local connections, such as Morrison.

“Having someone who has their roots in Michigan, and even the Downriver area, and has made it so big, it’s huge for us,” Slack said.

for the current exhibit, Morrison said there is a strong possibility there will be a "Detroit Pop 2." That exhibit, which he said he would like to host at River’s Edge again, could possibly feature such artists as , The White Stripes, The Four Tops, The Supremes and Insane Clown Posse.

“There’s a whole wealth of celebrity musicians from Detroit that I haven’t tapped yet that I plan to,” Morrison said.

Did you attend the event? If so, you can upload your own photos above.


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