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File:Thecrow-small.jpg


"People once believed that when someone dies, a crow carries their soul to the land of the dead. But sometimes, something so bad happens that a terrible sadness is carried with it and the soul can't rest. Then sometimes, just sometimes, the crow can bring that soul back to put the wrong things right."
Sarah, from the movie version

In 1978, a drunk driver killed James O'Barr's fiancée, Bethany. O'Barr later heard a story about a couple killed for the woman's twenty-dollar engagement ring. The two incidents became one in O'Barr's mind, leading him to write a comic book titled The Crow, which saw publication in 1989, in an attempt to work out his angst over the incidents.

The Crow tells the story of two lovers, Eric and Shelly, who end up brutally murdered by a street gang after their car breaks down on the wrong side of Detroit. A year later, a crow spirit brings Eric back from the dead; guided by the crow, Eric tracks down the gang members one by one and kills them in increasingly creative and brutal ways, never stopping until they all end up dead and he can return to his eternal rest.

Alternately, The Crow tells the story of two lovers, Eric and Shelly, who end up attacked by a street gang after their car breaks down on the wrong side of Detroit. Eric barely survives -- but only in a purely technical sense, as the attack left him as a scarred, insane wreck of his former self who has refused to allow himself to die until he takes revenge on the thugs who raped and murdered his beloved. One year later, guided by the hallucination of a talking crow, Eric tracks down the gang members one by one and kills each of them in increasingly creative and brutal ways, never stopping until they all end up dead and he turns a gun on himself.

Unlike The Film of the Book, the comic never makes it entirely clear what happens in the story; of the numerous alternate interpretations of the story, the two summaries above remain the most clear-cut versions of events.

The comic received a film adaptation in 1994. The story changed the murders of Eric (Draven) and Shelly (Webster) from a senseless act of violence on the wrong side of town to an act of retaliation after Shelly's anti-eviction petition campaign pisses off the wrong person: Top Dollar, the kingpin of Detroit's underworld and the architect of an annual orgy of violent destruction on the night of Halloween known as Devil's Night. Even with the changes to Eric's motivation and the broadened scope of his crusade, the movie managed to perfectly capture the flavor and emotion of the comic book. The film carries a darker legacy, though: Brandon Lee (the son of Bruce Lee), who played Eric, died during filming due to negligence involving a prop gun.

The Crow caught lightning in a bottle -- the author committed his Creator Breakdown to print as it happened -- and as a result, it proved impossible to replicate. Attempts to continue the franchise in both comic book and film forms followed, but none of the sequels lived up to the original (either critically or commercially). The original remains a powerful, moving statement, no matter how you slice it.

A 1998 Canadian television series based on the concept -- The Crow: Stairway to Heaven -- lasted one season (22 episodes); while it garnered decent ratings, the show when Universal bought its production company, PolyGram. Universal eventually released the full series on DVD, Hulu, and Netflix.

Plans to reboot/remake The Crow have bounced around Hollywood in recent years, but thankfully, none of these plans have come to fruition.


Sequels to the original 1989 comic, created by Kitchen Sink Press, include: Edit

  • The Crow: Dead Time (1996)
  • The Crow: Flesh and Blood (1996)
  • The Crow: Wild Justice (1996)
  • The Crow: Waking Nightmares (1997)

Sequels to the 1994 film include: Edit

  • The Crow: City of Angels (1996). Last theatrical released entry.
  • The Crow: Salvation (2000).
  • The Crow: Wicked Prayer (2005).

The Crow contains examples of the following tropes: Edit

Tropes specific to the comic book Edit

  • Arc Words: "Don't look!"
  • Art Shift: The art changes constantly in style, partially due to the length of time it took to make the book, partially due to J O'Barr's emotional state.
  • Ax Crazy: For justified reasons, Eric is barely in touch with this reality and often pauses to recount some memory that suddenly resurfaces or to quote lyrics or verse at his victims before brutalizing them. "What the hell you talkin' 'bout, man!" is a frequent reaction.
  • Cats Are Mean: Sort of. After returning from the dead, Eric finds that he has a magical power over stray cats, who eerily follow him everywhere. (The cats don't actually do anything bloody or cruel, however, as Eric does.) Subverted with Gabriel in both the comic and the movie, who has white fur and is named after a Biblical angel. In the comic, Gabriel was the pet of an old woman who was murdered by Tin Tin purely For the Evulz; in the movie, he belongs to Eric and Shelly and stays in their (condemned) apartment after they're murdered. (In the movie, Gabriel does become angry and bites Skank, but that was only because the thug grabbed him.)
  • Get a Hold of Yourself, Man!: The crow hits Eric with this repeatedly when he's lost in his grief, seeing it as useless self-pity.
  • Humans Are Bastards: One of the more unnerving aspects of the comic are the fact that the antagonists don't rape, murder and steal for some specific goal; they mostly do it because they can, or because they feel like it.
  • The Lost Lenore: Shelly just may be the most iconic example of this trope in comic book history.
  • Meaningful Name: Officer Albrecht and Captain Hook, both named after members of Joy Division/New Order. Eric's last name (gleaned from a file folder with Hook's thumb obscuring the middle) begins with "c" and ends with "s"; it very well may be "Curtis".
  • Mr. Fanservice: Like you would not believe. He spends half his time shirtless and the other half in skin-tight clothes, he's got scars and troubled pasts galore, and there's even a twenty-page pin-up section.
  • Never Heard That One Before: The police captain has the last name "Hook" - which, yes, makes his name "Captain Hook". It's implied that Hook found this funny earlier in his career, but over time became absolutely disgusted with people constantly bringing it up.
  • No Shirt, Long Jacket: Eric, constantly.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Averted ... poor Eric. It takes two to actually kill him.
  • Suicide Is Painless: Funboy accepts his unavoidable death, agrees to act as Eric's messenger boy to the rest of the thugs and talks things over fairly civilly with Eric rather than futilely trying to resist. Eric rewards him by allowing Funboy to kill himself by a massive drug overdose, sparing him the savage vengeance he inflicts on the other gang members.
  • Unflinching Walk: Eric, from his old house as it burns to the ground. With a cat on his shoulder.


Tropes specific to the movies Edit

  • Adaptation Expansion / Adaptation Distillation: Apart from the additional backstory for why Eric and Shelly were killed in the movie, Top Dollar was changed from just being a low-level drug dealer to being a twisted crime overlord with the gang as his hit squad and Myca and Grange backing him up, Sarah was given a much larger role with a prior relationship to Eric and Shelly and a lot of drama was added to the climax, unlike in the comic where Eric just rampages unstoppably through the criminal underworld. On the other hand, Tom-Tom was removed, Funboy was given a much smaller role and any scenes of Eric in the afterlife were excised.
  • Animal Motifs: Besides the obvious, there's a non-animal one; in the second film the scene is set on the Day of the Dead, and the Crow's face is painted like a calaca doll.
  • Ascended Extra: Sarah has much more focus in the movie than her comic counterpart, Sherri; also, Sherri never knew Eric while he was alive, and called him "Mr. Clown Face".
  • Badass Longcoat: Eric takes one off the first thug he kills, and wears it for the rest of the film.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Albrecht.
  • Brother-Sister Incest: Myca and Top Dollar.
  • Bloodstained-Glass Windows: The final showdown takes place inside and on top of a great Gothic church.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: Top Dollar is a collector of antique weapons, and he uses a rapier to execute Gideon. Also see Katanas Are Just Better below.
  • The Cast Showoff: The final fight makes good use of Brandon Lee's Kung Fu skills. Three guesses whom he learned those from.
  • The Commissioner Gordon: Officer Albrecht is lower on the totem pole, and eventually gets suspended for helping Eric, but the feeling is there.
  • Composite Character:
    • Officer Albrecht in the comic is a white rookie patrolman, and reports to a black detective by the name of Captain Hook (ha, ha). If you're gonna pay for Ernie Hudson, you might as well use him.
    • Top Dollar in the film was also sort of a mash-up of several gangster characters from the comic - though his role in the story mostly stands him in for T-Bird (who, in turn, was relegated to being Top Dollar's lieutenant) and turns him from a drug kingpin into an almost ludicrously depraved monster.
  • Cool Old Guy: Mickey, who runs a hotdog stand across the street from Gideon's pawn shop.
  • Dark Is Not Evil
  • Deadpan Snarker: Eric in Gideon's shop. Gideon himself too. And Top Dollar. And Albrecht. You know what, pretty much everybody.
  • Digital Head Swap: Brandon Lee's face was digitally grafted onto a stunt performer's body for a small smattering of scenes not yet shot at the time of his death.
  • Disc One Final Boss: Eric kills off the members of the gang, only to find out Top Dollar wants a piece of him. Oh, and it turns out he was the one who gave the orders to kill him and Shelly anyway.
  • The Don: Top Dollar apparently has authority over all major crime in the city.
  • Dragon Lady: Top Dollar's incestuous consort (whose back is seen to sport a giant, colorful dragon tattoo during her character's introduction) is played by Bai Ling. Enough said.
  • Dragon Their Feet: Eric kills off the gang who attacked him and Shelly, eventually killing the leader, T-Bird. Skank, his right hand man, is the last member of the gang to die. While the gang might be considered a Quirky Miniboss Squad to Top Dollar, they were Eric's initial targets.
  • Good Thing You Can Heal: Eric's default strategy despite his fighting prowess. Officer Albrecht even lampshades this when his plan is for Eric to draw the bad guys' fire until they run out of ammo. Too bad his Healing Factor has been disabled at this point.
  • Fake Shemp: Since Brandon Lee died in an accident with dummy bullets, they had to use a stand-in for some of the scenes and used CGI to composite Brandon's face over his. It mostly worked unless you were paying close attention.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Top Dollar.
  • For the Evulz: Top Dollar's speech about Devil's Night is about his belief that Devil's Night should be about pointless destruction, not profit.
  • Guns Akimbo: Eric during the big boardroom shootout and Top Dollar at the church.
  • Heel Realization: T-Bird, an unrepentant rapist and murderer throughout the film, is visibly shaken and on the verge of tears after recognizing Eric Draven, a man he had killed.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: Eric.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Top Dollar is defeated by the misery he caused to Eric and Shelly.
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: Eric's death and return from the grave take place on Devil's Night. City of Angels had its resurrection scene on All Saints' Day, and its climax at a Day of the Dead festival.
  • "I Am Becoming" Song: The Cure's "Burn" (the movie's unofficial anthem) thunders on during the sequence where Eric makes himself into the Crow.
    • Although if you listen to the lyrics closely, it's clear that the song was written from the comic's plot, not the movie's.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Spoilers.
  • It Always Rains At Funerals:
    • Inverted Trope. It's raining when Eric crawls out of his grave.
    • Subverted Trope at the end of the film after Eric returns to the grave, the rain is easing off when Sarah places Shelly's ring on the headstone. It can't rain all the time, after all.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: Top Dollar has an entire cabinet full of swords, but uses a katana to fight Eric during the climax. Eric grabs one from the cabinet himself during the gang boss massacre. Ironic since Michael Wincott, the actor who plays Top Dollar, is an accomplished fencer in real life. The trope is somewhat averted earlier in the film, when a rapier (the Six Finger Sword) is shown to be the centrally placed in Top Dollar's sword cabinet, and is selected to kill Gideon.
  • Knife Nut: Tin Tin.
  • Large Ham: Top Dollar, especially in his Motive Rant scene.
  • Le Parkour: Eric leaps and sprints across the city rooftops in two highly atmospheric scenes.
  • Lighter and Softer: Comparably speaking. The movie is very dark, but the character is less manically sociopathic than his comic book counterpart, and the violence is less extreme. This does not imply that the movie is not violent, edgy, and pathos-filled though, merely that the comic it adapts would have reckoned some kind of world-breaking NC-25 rating if it had been adapted in full.
  • Man of Wealth and Taste: Top Dollar in the movie.
  • Meaningful Echo: "It can't rain all the time".
  • Meta Casting As Himself: O'Barr supposedly based the look of Gideon in the comic on the actor Jon Polito. Jon Polito played the part of Gideon in the film.
  • Mind Rape: "Thirty hours of pain! All at once! All for you!"
  • No Name Given: Top Dollar, Myca and Grange are not referred to by name until the end credits.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Myca (Top Dollar's Chinese half-sister, played by Bai Ling) normally speaks in a childish idiom that suggests a Cloudcuckoolander and sometimes borders on You No Take Candle. ("I like the pretty lights.") Yet she is really every bit as crafty as her brother, and she even comes up with a scheme to blunt Eric's supernatural power. Plus, she proves herself a capable Action Girl when she shoots Lieutenant Albrecht.
  • One-Hit Wonder: This was the only film that Rochelle Ballard (Sarah) ever made.
  • One Last Smoke: Subverted. Eric helps a wounded Albrecht have one, but he survives. And (supposedly) quits smoking.
    • Eric's "You shouldn't smoke these, they'll kill ya" line after taking a puff was ad-libbed by Brandon.
  • Quirky Miniboss Squad: The gang who killed Eric and Shelly were employees of Top Dollar. Played with in that while Top Dollar is technically the Big Bad of the film, they are the targets of Eric's revenge.
  • Pet the Dog: A rare anti-hero centric example, as Eric's relationship with Sarah humanizes him and keeps him from becoming the borderline monster that he is in the comics.
  • Race Lift: T-Bird, who is vaguely African-American or Pacific Islander-American in the comic, is played in the movie by Irish-American actor David Patrick Kelly.
  • Rise From Your Grave
  • Shaped Like Itself/This Is Reality: "This is the really real world! We killed you dead!"
  • The Slow Walk: Eric fighting Tin-Tin.
  • Something Only They Would Say: "It can't rain all the time."
  • Stuff Blowing Up: What Top Dollar and his Devil's Night gang like to do. Eric blows up Gideon's pawnshop as well as T-Bird's car with him inside.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Gideon, literally so. Just could not shut up when dealing with either Eric or Top Dollar. Eric blew up his shop. Top Dollar rammed a rapier through his throat and shot him twice.
  • Unhand Them, Villain!: Top Dollar.
  • Villainous Breakdown: T-Bird pretty much loses his mind the moment he recognizes Eric. Considering the verses he's quoting from John Milton's Paradise Lost ("Abashed the Devil stood ..."), this might also qualify as a Heel Realization.


Tropes specific to the TV series Edit

  • Back From the Dead: Eric, of course, at the start of the first episode. There are a few other examples throughout the series, including Talon in "Birds of a Feather" and possibly Shelly at the end of the final episode.
  • Big Bad: Top Dollar. Even after being killed by Eric.
  • Blood Knight: Hannah Foster, aka Talon (the second Crow in the series).
  • Bouncer: Funnily enough, Eric starts working as one at the Black Out club where his band used to play (and still plays).
  • By-The-Book Cop: Lt. David Vincennes.
  • The Cast Showoff: Just like Brandon Lee in the movie, Mark Dacascos gets to show off his martial art skills in pretty much every episode.
  • Cool Bike: Eric owns one.
  • Da Chief: Lt. Vincennes.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The Skull Cowboy. And Eric's Crow half.
  • Evil Counterpart: If a Crow murders the person(s) who killed him/her, that person will return as a supernatural being called a "Snake".
  • Heel Face Turn: Funboy, eventually becoming The Atoner.
  • Immortality Immorality: What the Lazarus group is involved with.
  • It's a Wonderful Plot: The episode "It's a Wonderful Death".
  • Lighter and Softer: In comparison to the Brandon Lee movie.
  • Magic Music: In one episode.
  • Mind Rape: Eric does this to Top Dollar in lieu of killing him in the first episode.
  • The Obi-Wan: The Skull Cowboy is this to Eric.
  • Super-Powered Evil Side: The Crow persona is this for Eric.


Tropes common to the franchise Edit

 Torres: Don't any of your street-demons have real grown-up names?

    • Also furiously lampshaded by Eric at Gideon's:

 Eric: A whole jolly club with jolly pirate nicknames!

  • Crucified Hero Shot: Eric.
  • Disposable Woman: Shelly's unpleasant demise is the plot's kick-off point in the comic, first movie, and the TV series.
  • Elsewhere Fic: Much like the original works, many Fan Fics set in the Crow universe use original characters resurrected by the title bird to seek vengeance for their loved ones.
  • Eye Scream: Top Dollar's sister/lover/advisor Myca has a vast collection of disembodied eyes in the movie. Which they eat.
    • Also, the interrogation of the tattoo shop owner in the second film.

  "Go fuck yourself, you dried up BITCH!"

    • Look at the picture from the comic above. When Eric was shot the first time, the ballistic shock from the bullet actually tore his face open, creating the cut across his nose and damaging his left eye enough to turn the iris white.
    • Myca's eyes.
  • Forced to Watch: A key element in in the backstory of each of the leads, and often in the supporting characters. Eric intervenes in Darla's addiction, in movie and TV series both, not because of any drug message, but simply because Darla's daughter is watching her mother kill herself and is unable to stop it.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Completely averted. Eric is never condemned in-story for his acts of revenge, and in fact the entire premise of the story rests on the troubling stipulation that Eric actually must kill the villains in order to rejoin Shelly in Heaven. Strangely enough, the 1994 movie was marketed as a horror film (perhaps due to its "supernatural" content and nihilistic palette, and also because it happens to take place around Halloween), but the "monster" of the piece is actually completely sympathetic, and he does not experience a Face Heel Turn even in the midst of his bloodiest rampages.
    • The trope is actually mentioned outright in the comics, and it's implied that Eric's awareness of this is what causes him to give Funboy a painless death.
      • Played straight in the TV series and possibly the Image adaptation of the Eric Draven story, as it was Draven's willingness to kill that trapped him on Earth and prevented him from being reunited with Shelly. A Crow killing also turns his victim into a supernatural opposite called a Snake.
    • It is clear though that not one of the Killers feel any remorse and, as the rings in the pawn shop show, have done it many other times. And some deaths, such as T-Bird's, are played as being quite horrific.
    • This trope is in fact a big part of the comic. While Eric kills nameless mooks (and some with name) without remorse, he spends time with all main targets, asking them if they remember him (they do) to see their reaction. Only Funboy shows any signs of regret and is saved from his wrath. Others mock him, taunt him or try to bargain with him. Thus he kills them in cold blood. Funboy says that he would regret, or apologize but his soul is so twisted that even he admits that he is evil and beyond redemption. Thus Eric grants him painless death by forced suicide.
  • I Am Not Shazam: In the films, the main characters never refer to themselves as a "Crow". In most cases throughout the franchise, that phrase/title is reserved for the actual bird that brings people back to life, although Eric does call himself "the Crow" several times in the comic, and is referred to as such by the narration at least once.
  • Karmic Death: Myca, who's fond of using stolen eyeballs in rituals, has her eyes pecked out by the crow when she tries to take its power.
  • Looks Like Cesare: Eric.
  • The Lost Lenore: All the murdered love interests of all the Crow characters throughout the franchise.
  • Mook Horror Show: The basic premise is an unstoppable undead killer who obsessively hunts down his terrified victims. Thank goodness his victims are all evildoers.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: The protagonists could technically could be described as Revenants, spirits of vengeance driven to avenge their death and take revenge on those who did them harm during their mortal life.
    • One early script treatment from the first film has Eric Draven referred to as one of the Furies, members of the Greek Pantheon so terrifying even the Gods themselves didn't dare cross them, least they suffer their wrath.
  • Posthumous Character: Shelly.
  • Rape as Drama: Poor Shelly.
  • Ravens and Crows
  • Recurring Element: The basic plot is always the same (Protagonist is killed by bad guys, along with someone else close to him, revenge ensues) and all the protagonists' names reference crow or raven (Draven, Corven, Corvis, Cuervo).
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge
  • Scars Are Forever:
    • Aside from the scar on his face, in the comic Eric carves a stylized crown of thorns into his chest and cuts his arms with a straight razor. These wounds leave scars when they heal, unlike his other injuries.
      • The self-mutilation aspect is not left in the movie for obvious reasons, rather his arms get slashed by a straight razor during a fight. Eric in the comic and movie both wraps his arms in electrical tape to cover his wounds.
    • In the shirtless scenes near the start of the film, you can also see the scars left on his chest by the two gunshots that killed him.
      • Not to mention the brutal scar across his face left over from when he died. Some stories say the facial scar was going to be left out of the movie but Brandon insisted on it being part of his makeup.
    • In the third Crow movie, called "Crow: Salvation" (it would be the second best of the 4, for those keeping track), the makeup is actually applied to cover up the scars from his death sentence by the electric chair. Yeah, that's right, he was judged guilty of the murder he's avenging, and given the death sentence. He doesn't really know WHO he's supposed to be taking revenge on.
  • Scary Black Man:
    • Grange, Top Dollar's right hand man in the movie. (In the comic he's known as "Shelby the Giant," and Eric makes him eat his own fingers.)
    • Too many to count in the comic, most notably T-Bird (who, as mentioned above, got a Race Lift in the movie).
  • So Happy Together: Every scene of Eric and Shelly that doesn't involve them dying.
  • Street Urchin: Sherri/Sarah.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill
  • Unfinished Business: In both senses of the phrase.
  • Who Dunnit to Me?
  • Wretched Hive: Detroit, where the story takes place.


Tropes resulting from the franchise Edit

  • Flashback Cut: This film technique obviously existed long before the original 1994 film, but became noticeably more common in thriller and horror movies since. Flashbacks to scenes from happier times when life was peachy and Lenore was yet to be lost must be accompanied with a "WHOOSH" sound effect. Most of them last no longer than about half a minute, and show brighter richer colours than exist elsewhere in the film.
  • Follow the Leader: Well, somewhat, anyway. The appearance of Eric Draven in the film was the inspiration for the gimmick change of professional wrestler Sting in 1997 from a happy-go-lucky, bleached-blonde uber-face to an enigmatic, trenchcoat-wearing, bat-wielding loner; allegedly, fellow wrestler Scott Hall suggested the idea to him (which wouldn't have been surprising, as Hall was known to look to famous movies as inspirations for his in-ring gimmicks).
  • Gothic Punk: The Crow was a big influence on the Goth subculture in a lot of ways.
    • Just remember what The Lady of the Manners always says: Friends do not let friends dress like The Crow.
      • She also says, though, that if you really want to, you should go right ahead, to hell with what anybody says, provided you put effort into it.
    • Parodied in the South Park episode in which Satan throws a huge costume party on Halloween. His only rule is that nobody can come in if they're dressed as "The Crow." Satan claims that tons of guys do this every Halloween just to attract girls. "It's totally lame." (Pretty funny already, but guess what Satan's original costume for the party was going to be?)
    • Heck, Evanescence even borrowed that closing line, "People die, but real love is forever," from the first The Crow movie in the Grief Song "Even in Death".

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