Robo7 is the artistic alter-ego of New York-based artist John Bellotti Jr., who's cool, tokusatsu-inspired pop art has made him a fixture of conventions and fan meetups for years. That dedication and fandom have paid off in a big way, as Robo7 and Tsuburaya Productions have paired up to bring John’s incredible Ultraman artwork to posters and t-shirts everywhere.
The first design to come from this collection is the Ultraman poster, featuring the original Giant of Light surrounded by a number of the greatest Kaiju to have encountered him: Bemular, Jirahs, Pigmon, Gyango, Gomora, Ragon, Keronia, Seabozu, Zarab, Dada, Guesra, Dodongo, Mefilas, Jamilar, Red King, Baltan, and Zetton. The poster is 18” x 24”, printed on Matte archival paper, and retails for US$50.
Ultraman Connection caught up with John recently, to discuss the journey that brought him to working with an enormous brand like Ultraman, and his own personal life as an artist.
UC: You’ve had a long career before this collaboration. Tell us about your history in the arts.
JB: So, like every artist everywhere says in every interview everywhere, I’ve been drawing since I can remember. I took a lot of art classes, I was always the class artist in school. Fast forward to art school in Manhattan, at FIT, where I majored in illustration. I was all gung-ho about being a comic book artist when I graduated, but the comic market was dead in the late 90s-early 2000s, so I instead pursued a career in movies and television as a scenic artist — things like designing and painting sets.
I started with an internship at the Juilliard school for a year as a scenic artist, working freelance for a little bit. After that, I got into the Scenic Artists Union, and have been working on movies and TV since 2010 in New York City. While doing that full-time, I’ve had what the kids call a “side hustle” of doing fan art that I would sell at conventions around the country.
My subject matter was tokusatsu movie posters, reimagined using digital drawing techniques. I was doing very well with them, to the point where each year I saw more and more success at the conventions, right up until Covid hit. I’ve been slowly starting getting back into doing conventions, and I’m still producing art to sell directly to fans, since Covid has receded significantly around the country.
UC: How did you become a fan of the Ultraman Series?
JB: I was first exposed to Ultraman when I was a kid, when the Australian-produced series Ultraman: Towards The Future (Editor’s Note: This series is also called Ultraman Great) was airing on Channel 5 here in New York. I tuned in every week to watch every single episode, because I’ve always loved anything with giant monsters in it.
Then, for years, Ultraman went dormant here in the United States, and that was it; until I started catching glimpses of this character called Ultraseven, that I read so much about in Japanese fantasy fanzines. It wasn’t until I came across the full set of Ultraman and Ultraseven episodes in the early 2000s that I became a much bigger fan of the character and his world.
UC: Tell us what inspired you in developing this new collaboration with Tsuburaya Productions and the Ultraman Series.
JB: When Covid hit, I switched gears to doing some freelance work and fan art for people. I started to think about life without conventions, and what that would look like, so I pursued work doing Godzilla artwork, as they were giving out the license to American companies since the Legendary movies came out. To this day that’s been a very elusive gig for me to get; in the meantime, I’ve done everything from horror movie posters, to Japanese-style vinyl toy header cards for clients.
Then, my good friend Chris at Seismic Toys got the license to make Ultraman merchandise for the American market. I didn’t think much of it in terms of doing art for Ultraman, until one day last year. After being completely fed up with the Godzilla situation, I decided to try a different direction, and be the master of my own destiny. I love Ultraman and I noticed that, at the time, nobody was making Ultraman t-shirts for the Western market.
I knew Ultraman was going to make a big splash, especially with the Netflix animated series, so I figured hey, why not get in on the ground floor with it, and see what happens. Long story short, here we are now!
UC: What’s your favorite Ultraman?
JB: My favorite Ultraman by far is Ultraseven, followed by Tiga, Gaia, Nexus, Max, Agul, Hikari, Zero, and Belial. [Editor’s Note: Quite a list!]
John’s journey with Ultraman is just beginning, but if you want to check out some of his fantastic, officially-licensed Ultraman posters and apparel for yourself, you can find his work right here at ROBO7 OFFICIALLY LICENSED ULTRAMAN ART & APPAREL.
And for more fantastic Ultraman merchandise and creator interviews, stick close to Ultraman Connection.