“I just really like Us Weekly,” says artist Zachary Johnson when I first ask him why he draws covers of the magazine every day. Of course, he is lying and there is much more to it than that.
Tabloids like Us Weekly are strange beasts, alternately elevating celebrities to the level of deities and bringing them down to earth in sections such as “Stars–They’re Just Like Us!” All while making actual celebrities’ lives difficult by placing a premium on photos of them trying to do the daily things that make them just like us. Dismissing such publications is complicated, though, when traditionally reputable news sources like CNN will cut away from an interview with a congresswoman for breaking news on Justin Bieber’s bond hearing. Johnson quietly expresses his dissatisfaction with this state of affairs on his Tumblr, where he is drawing a new cover from the tabloid magazine every day for 100 days.
“The project isn’t really about Us Weekly, specifically,” Johnson clarifies. “The point, for me, is that we’re constantly inundated with shit. I started drawing these because I was starting to feel depressed, and this just seemed like kind of a funny idea. Every one of these cover headlines is a variation on one of the same four or five basic things: Some person’s fat! (Or too thin! Or was recently one or the other!) Some person cheated on some other person! Someone experienced an awful personal tragedy/meltdown! Some people had a baby! The working title of the series was “Schadenfreude!” but obviously the better title is “Us.”
Each of the covers is sketched in pen. They scream at the viewer like an all-caps, exclamation mark-riddled tweet, exactly what the latest developments are, in a story that never changes–only occasionally cycling in new characters. In his faithful renditions, Johnson doesn’t explicitly comment on the covers. He doesn’t need to. In all their unadorned glory, these covers quietly indict the kind of information people seem to value right now. He leaves the commenting to the actual source material, drawing real covers just as they are. Well, most of them.
“There’s one exception coming up,” Johnson says, “which will be a sort of easter egg around the halfway point, just to amuse myself and anyone who’s still following along. I tried several made-up covers at one point, because it was starting to get a little tedious and depressing, but none of my attempts at parody came anywhere close to being as funny or horrifying as just copying the actual covers verbatim. “
Have a look through more of the covers in the slides above.