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O'Barr, an orphan was raised in the foster care system. He studied Renaissance sculpture live models and photographic still lifes.
In the 1990s O'Barr was affiliated with the experimental metal band Trust Obey, which was signed briefly to Trent Reznor's Nothing label before the band was dropped. Trust Obey released the album Fear and Bullets: Music to Accompany The Crow in 1993. The album was packaged with a special edition of The Crow
As of the mid-2000s, O'Barr resides in Texas
In 1978, O'Barr's fiancée, Beverly, was killed by a drunk driver and he joined the Marines in an effort to cope with the loss. He was stationed in Germany and illustrated combat manuals for the military. While living in Berlin in 1981, O'Barr began work on The Crow as a means of dealing with his personal tragedy. O'Barr was further inspired by a Detroit newspaper account of the murder of a young couple over a $20 After his discharge from the Marines, O'Barr continued his painting and illustration as well as doing lots of odd jobs, including working for a Detroit body shop. The Crow sat on a shelf for seven years, but at last someone wanted to publish it: Gary reedof Caliber Press. In The Crow, Eric and his fiancée Shelley are murdered by a gang of criminals. He then returns from the dead to hunt their killers.
O'Barr's own hope that his project would result in a personal catharsis went unfulfilled, he told an interviewer in 1994, saying, "[A]s I drew each page, it made me more self-destructive, if anything....There is pure anger on each page". The Crow has sold more than 750,000 copies worldwide.
The book was adapted into a successful film of the same name in 1994, but it resulted in further tragedy. Brandon lee who played the main character, was accidentally shot and killed during filming survived by his then-fiancée Eliza Hutton.