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Mascots & Mugs Book Cover
Doze Character Major Pull Character
David Villorente & Todd James
  December 2007
Mascots & Mugs
David Villorente & Todd James


“A book about characters is long overdue. From the earliest years of graffiti, writers ransacked the pop culture storehouse for figures, or invented new ones to project the desired alternative persona... Todd James and David Villorente, who served long apprenticeships on the trains and rose to the top of their game, are the best guides to lead us through this rich iconography.”
—Henry Chalfant, co-author, Subway Art

In the graffiti world it's the name that brings the fame, but what about the figural components of this urban typography? Some of the most iconic pieces in the history of graffiti have earned their place in the pantheon with the help of a masterfully rendered figure that lends additional presence to these works. Mascots & Mugs is the first book to examine these integral elements of graffiti art, and it traces the history of these characters from the earliest examples by writers such as Stay High, Cliff 170, and Blade, to those of later masters such as Mode 2, Doze, and Tack. Drawing inspiration from Saturday morning television, printed comic strips, and the dense urban landscape itself, graffiti writers could create characters free from the constraints of their usual letterforms. The result was outlandish visual sidekicks that, over time, became so prevalent that any would-be king needed at least a few in his artistic arsenal. Filled with never-before published photographs, rare interviews, and arranged chronologically, Mascots & Mugs is a must have reference work for anyone interested in cartoons, comics, graphic design, or the way in which subway graffiti has influenced contemporary art.

“Graffiti writing is a cryptic language, often intended solely for an audience of its peers... The appeal, then, of adding a character or drawn image was that it immediately made a work more accessible... A person who can't decipher a name may not accept it, but a good mascot can immediately bridge the gap to understanding. There is a whole evolution and history of the graffiti character, and it's the mission of this book to trace it.”
—From the Foreword

“The photographs in this book unveil graffiti's origins in tribalism, cave painting, and cargo cult... What's delivered so often by the creators here, with the immediacy typical of the pop impulse, is the slick and chaotic vocabulary of commercial culture decanted brilliantly into folk idiom, on the spot, in the dark, on the fly.”
—Jonathan Lethem, from the Introduction


David Villorente is one of the foremost practitioners and ambassadors of graffiti art in the world. His reign as the ten-year editor of both the "Bomb Shelter" and "Graf Flix" graffiti features in The Source magazine cemented his position as an important arbiter within the graffiti community. His written work has appeared in magazines such as VIBE, Complex, Mass Appeal and YRB, while his firsthand knowledge of the graf game and all its past, present and future players makes him an indispensable source for dozens of other publications. Clients for his mural art include Sprite, VH1, Adidas, Turner Network Television, Reebok, Ecko Unlimited, Converse, and many others. Villorente currently resides in his native borough, beautiful Brooklyn, New York.

Todd James is an internationally recognized fine artist and designer who began his art career as a child in the New York City subway system. His commercial work over the last fifteen years has helped shape the aesthetic of contemporary youth culture, and his logos for clients like The Source, Eminem, Mobb Deep, and the Beastie Boys remain some of rap music's most enduring icons. He is the production designer for the hit show Crank Yankers and the co-creator and executive producer of the cartoon show Minoriteam. On the fine art side, James' work has been shown at the Venice Biennale, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, the Tate Museum in Liverpool, the Parco Gallery in Japan, and at Deitch Projects in NYC, among other venues. Todd James lives and works in downtown Manhattan, New York.

8 1/2” x 11”
272 pages
450 photos
Full color throughout
ISBN: 978-0-9725920-4-8

A deluxe, clothbound and slipcased limited edition, complete with a screenprint of some classic mugs signed by graffiti legend Doc TC5, is also available. Only 300 were printed, of which 250 will be offered for sale.

ISBN: 978-0-9725920-5-5

Testify Books is a New York Based Independent book publisher distributed by D.A.P./Distributed Art Publishers, Inc Testify Logo