The Revelation of King Death
Recently, I’ve learned about additional meanings to symbols that I feel strongly tied to, revealing a deeper connection to my subconscious and designs that instinctively work together.
A Childhood Obsession with Skull Symbology
When I was 6-years-old I drew skulls, a lot. I was obsessed with grim, gruesome movies, shows, and cartoons like Puppet Master, Tales From the Crypt, and Skeleton Warriors. All featuring figures with exposed skeletal attributes.
Hell, my favorite comic book hero was Ghost Rider (and still is, even IF the movies sucked).
I can’t explain it and I’m not quite sure why, but somehow I became tied to skulls, skeletons, and symbols related to them. Perhaps it was the contrast of the hard, sharp monster-like structure that lies beneath the soft, smooth skin – as if what lies within versus without held a deeper truth about human beings. Or, maybe they’re just cool.
Me and my sister, Roxy, in 2004. Note the Jolly Roger tee and my replica Spanish treasure coin.
From Robotech to Hamlet
When I first created the skull and crossbones design that I use on a lot of my materials, it was a challenge to myself to reinvent the Robotech Skull Squadron emblem back in 2014. Originally, it was my plan to take and apply the Skull Leader’s colors and design motifs to my Ninja 300. Once I accomplished the design, it reignited my obsession with skulls. Eventually, it made it onto my motorcycle, but it found its way into ALL facets of my life.
The skull and crossbones have had various meanings over the ages, but the one that I most relate to is the original: a reminder of mortality for the intent to persuade greater fervor for life with humility and kindness in mind. I have a theory that we cannot truly appreciate the greatest qualities of life without having experienced their loss first.
You don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone.
The Dark Night of the Soul
Not until we’ve faced some trauma and perhaps considered death as a welcome alternative to despair can we know the greatest depths of love. Think of it like this, every action has an opposite and equal reaction, so for every low, there is an equal high. Emptiness and fulfillment work this way too… if we survive the dark night of the soul.
Facing the dark night of the soul was best described by Shakespeare, whom I have no doubt understood this sentiment exactly. Kenneth Branagh brought the famous HAMLET soliloquy to life, which I experienced one evening in a college English Literature course.
The soliloquy brought me to tears in class and sat there in my mind for years. It wasn’t until 2017 that I made a connection between it and the skull and crossbones when I won entry into an art fundraiser for the now-defunct Art Mundo in Fort Pierce.
The piece that won my entry into the fundraiser was titled, The Hamlet Series: Dark Night of the Soul.
The skull and crossbones became somewhat of my logo to anyone that didn’t know me. It was just associated with everything I did. From projects in design class to artwork in the community, the skull and crossbones were something I like to throw on everything. Maybe as much a reminder to myself as it was meant to be others.
Nah Bruh, We “Kings” Now
Recently, I opened up a t-shirt shop online with Spreadshop. While trying to formulate some designs, I was inspired to create one featuring the title, “King”. Tik Tokers use the term in place of “Bro” when referring to other male followers. I went for a graffiti-style, Basquiat-esque design that could be part of any urban wardrobe and threw the skull and crossbones design on the back as a signature mark.
During the research process for another, separate project (coming soon, the Terror Coast Tales), I made a startling discovery; the true name of the pirate flag and its meaning to the pirates. I’ve heard it called the Jolly Roger, and read about its meaning as a warning to prey ships, but in the book Twenty Florida Pirates by Kevin McCarthy, another name and meaning were revealed to me.
The Flag Was Called the Banner of King Death…
After coming across this revelation, the irony that I had just released a t-shirt with the title “King” featuring a skull and crossbones graphic slapped me in the face. It was so absolutely unintentional, and yet so coincidentally perfect. It invigorated me, my connection to this symbol and my theory.
The Proclamation of King Death
I was compelled to act on the idea of King Death, to reimagine the skull and crossbones, and craft a message that was both a reminder and motivating agent of change. I started with my original three-toothed skull design, added a jaw, and distressed it. Then, I considered what a King might do to spread the word about something as important as a claim on the souls of man. A proclamation!
So, I researched proclamations and took some words that fit my needs. Then, I referenced Shakespeare and tried to imbue the words with Shakespearean rhythm and rhyme, until I had before me…
To What End?
So, all of this development leads to a rightful question. Why? People don’t buy death. They buy life, they buy sexy, they buy optimism. Why do I continue to invest in dark, heavy subjects? I do art for money, that’s my design business (available for hire, by the way – email me). But I also do art to understand myself, to express my inner child, and to deal with the dark, heavy thoughts I have that many others probably also share.
What’s Support Without Embrace?
We talk about mental health, recovery from addiction, and suicide prevention as a society, but we only ever support it from the light, socially acceptable, politically correct side. The opposite side to those subjects is dark and heavy, just as they are. I don’t believe in fighting against an enemy that you can’t even acknowledge. We can’t combat addiction or mental health issues if we pretend substances and triggers don’t exist outside the walls of a recovery center. It’s only in the face of temptation that our will can be tested and we have the opportunity to truly overcome it. I deal with heaviness by accepting it, and acceptance is not just tolerance – it’s an embrace.
Much of what I create is about embracing the dual-natures within ourselves to be whole. So, while I haven’t yet found my audience (if I have one), I do this as much for myself as anyone else that embraces their dark side while walking in the light. After all, the brightest lights cast the darkest shadows.
Love The Design? Wear It!
I’ve turned this idea into a t-shirt so that others, like me, can wear it to inspire change through the realization and acceptance of our mortality. Life is short and not promised people… do what makes you happy and help others along the way.