Powell Peralta Ripper

Perhaps the most identifiable skateboard graphic ever, the Powell Peralta Ripper still feels like a different world.

The Design

Vernon Courtlandt Johnson (VCJ) created the Ripper in 1978. The design took 6 months till it was completed in the form we see today. The focus was to create some kind of skull image that focused on breaking through a barrier. Indeed, breaking through a barrier is something we all face as skaters.

Vernon’s first graphic was actually the similarly famous ‘Skull and Sword’. Court had asked George Powell whether they could purchase a skeleton to reference while drawing. Indeed they did and named her Rosie (She now live in the Skate Art Department).The success of the Skull and Sword deck design exceeded all expectations and the best was yet to follow.

white skull ripping through canvas with the text Powell above Powell Peralta Ripper

Powell had felt that Court had unwittingly stumbled upon a Jungian archetype (archaic patterns and images that derive from the collective unconscious and are the psychic counterpart of instinct). He felt that a skull reached people on a subconscious level.

With Powell’s observations in mind, the ball was in Court’s court…

Court put pen to paper and developed a design of the human skull that now endears itself to skaters worldwide. ‘It was Court who suggest a skull popping through a wall during one of our brainstorming sessions, it sounded great to me so I encouraged him to develop it’, Powell said.

There were 2 issues that took many iterations to perfect. The 1st was the ripped background, which evolved from a broken wall – to fabric ripped back in shreds. There was also one stretch tight between the hands and skull to create the appearance of tension. The 2nd was the eyes. Court designed dozens of eyes looking for one that was ‘not dark or whimsical, but just light enough to place a smile on your face of horror.’

When looking at the Powell Peralta Ripper, you can notice that the eyes are quite flat in comparison to the shading of the skull. This gives the eyes a truly sunken eerie look but then the vibrant sun yellow pulls you out of it.

Powell Peralta Ripper Video

There is also an awesome intro for the Bones Brigade videos that still sends shivers down your spine. We couldn’t help but show it below.


The Merchandise

The Ripper first appeared on a Bones T-shirt, however, it surged in popularity quickly and appeared on a lot of decks, catalogs, and stickers.

Powell Peralta Art Show – Rip the Ripper

On January 23rd, 2009, Powell-Peralta hosted the Rip the Ripper Art Show. The show celebrated the Ripper graphic by inviting a large group of 58 artists to interpret the Ripper in their own way.We wish we were there.


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