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The Crow is a real life tragedy all the way back to its comic book roots

 The Crow: Special Edition Hardcover.
The Crow: Special Edition Hardcover.

1994's The Crow is one of the most beloved comic book movies of the '90s, with a tragic history tied to the death of star Brandon Lee during the filming of the movie. But tragedy is built into the DNA of The Crow, both in its heartbreaking story of romance, death, and revenge, and also in the real world origins of the comic book on which the movie is based.

Back in the mid-'80s, The Crow's creator James O'Barr suffered a terrible personal tragedy when his fiancée Beverly was killed by a drunk driver. To help process his grief, O'Barr turned to comics, creating The Crow and its undead, goth anti-hero Eric Draven.

Now, with Draven's story about to be told again in a new movie that adapts the original comic, we're looking back at the comic book history of The Crow.

The Crow #1
The Crow #1

(Image credit: Caliber Press)

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The Crow was first published in 1989 through indie publisher Caliber Press, with the original series running for just four issues, written and drawn by James O'Barr. The original comic tells the story of Eric (who wouldn't get the last name Draven for a little while) and his girlfriend Shelly, who are assaulted by violent gangsters one night when their car breaks down.

Though Shelly dies at the scene, Eric survives a bit longer, dying in the hospital while mourning Shelly's death. He is later resurrected by a crow, who becomes Eric's guide - and in some cases, tormentor - as he seeks vengeance on those who killed Shelly. The Crow guides Eric through four murders, each taking place in a different issue, with each one respectively subtitled Pain, Fear, Irony, and Despair.

And though the Crow empowers Eric and aids him in killing each of Shelly's four murderers, it also berates and chastises him for stopping to mourn her rather than continuing full steam ahead with his vengeance quest, seeing his grief as a distraction from his revenge.

The original series of The Crow was meant to end with a fifth issue titled Death, which wasn't actually printed until a few years later when the entire series was reprinted by Tundra Press, along with the previously unreleased fifth issue.

Just like with the movie, when The Crow first started getting sequels in the mid-'90s through Kitchen Sink Press (who also collected all five issues of  the original series into a single volume for the first time), the new stories were accompanied by new heroes embarking on their own quests for vengeance over murdered loved ones, with Kitchen Sink introducing around half a dozen new avatars for The Crow.

The Eric Draven story has also been retold in comics a few times, with the character also reappearing in some sequels and spin-offs over the years. And the Crow hasn't been limited to his own universe either, even crossing over into comics with Mulder and Scully of the X-Files in a 2014 comic limited series that somehow sounds like the most wonderfully '90s thing of all time.

Now, Eric Draven and Shelly's tragic story will get another retelling with the impending movie remake of The Crow starring Bill Skarsgård that seems to be taking the character's subculture-defining goth visuals in a new direction.

If you like stories that blend heroes and horror, check out the best supernatural superheroes of all time.