Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Jack Jethands

Professor Jack Jethands was an eccentric Victorian era scientist and inventor who was trying to discover a way to contact the etheric plane and the world beyond. When a lab accident caused the loss of his arms, he constructed a flock of gas powered, flying mechanical hands that he can mentally control.

Jack also perfected the science of "spatial folding," in which a large volume of space can reside inside a small container. This enables him to store several dozen additional jet hands inside the small pouches on his belt, which can emerge as needed. He also stores various weaponry and gadgets inside the belt pouches.

Jack now investigates scientific and supernatural events around the globe.

I've been doodling a version of this character since the 1990s, but this is the first time I've even drawn a proper illustration of him. The original version was quite different-- a skinny guy whose eyes were always covered by goggles, wearing a poncho from which jet powered hands would emerge. I never quite knew what to do with that version, so I decided to dust him off and retool him into something that made a little more sense.

Drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet.



Here's the original rough sketch of Jack. His weaponry is quite different here; much more retro than steampunk.



Here's the final tighter digital sketch.

Well, We're Still Here...

They finally turned on the Hadron Collider yesterday. As near as I can tell, we're all still here. Earth wasn't sucked into a black hole or shunted into a parallel dimension.

Darn. Nothing fun ever happens on this rock. Oh well. Better luck next time.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

HorrorHound Weekend 2010

My friend KW Monster and I went to the semi-annual HorrorHound horror convention in Indianapolis this weekend. It's a place for horror fans to buy videos, books, masks, toys and other horror-related items, as well as meet famous horror movie stars.

They've been having this show for 3 or 4 years now, and it grows a little bigger each year. It's always a fun time, but this year the fun was marred somewhat by the enormous crowds. They've been having the show in the same hotel since the beginning, and it's painfully obvious that it can no longer comfortably contain the show. The crowds this year were absolutely brutal. The hotel parking lot was filled to the brim, so we had to park about a good half mile away and hoof it to the hotel. At times the crowd in the main showroom was packed shoulder to shoulder, making it difficult to look at anything of interest. It was so bad that they started barring showroom entry until someone inside left. Hundreds of people were left cooling their heels in the lobby waiting for someone to leave so they could be let in. Luckily I didn't have to visit the restroom while I was there, because if I'd left the showroom I wouldn't have got back in. Crazy. I don't think they'll have any choice but to hold it at a larger venue next time.

Anyhow, we met and talked with quite a few horror movie celebs, including Joe Bob Briggs (famous drive in movie critic and TV personality), Robert Z'Dar (star of many b-movies) and Catherine Mary Stewart (star of Night of the Comet, The Last Starfighter and many other 80s movies). I have to admit I had a crush on Catherine back in the day, with her sultry eyes and giant 80s hair. She still looks pretty much the same too!

I've met quite a few celebs at this horror show over the past few years, and 99% of them have been extremely nice and accommodating. There's just one problem with meeting these celebrities-- while they're well known in the world of horror cinema, the majority of the population is clueless as to their identity. When I go back to work on Monday and gush to my co-workers that I met Sid Haig, Ken Foree or Michael Berryman, they'll all look at me like the RCA dog.

George Romero, Clive Barker and Elvira were also in attendance. We caught glimpses of them, but their respective lines were each several blocks long, so we didn't get to chat with them. I have a feeling the huge crowd this year may have been due to the presence of Elvira. I wouldn't be surprised if there are still a few people in line.

By the way, Elvira looked pretty much the same as she has for the last 30 years. Behold the power of makeup and the mighty bustier!

Death was also in attendance at the show. This was an awesome costume that was a good 10 feet tall, complete with an animated jaw, light up eyes, and deep, booming voice.

Death was pretty friendly too, and didn't mind posing for photos. Now when he comes for me someday, I can say, "Hey Death, remember me from that horror show?"

You don't see many photo ops like this every day. Here's Death posing with a zombie surgeon and a dead mother and her baby. This couple definitely had the most original costumes of the show. Hilariously as we walked to the car we saw them walking down the street back to their motel! That had to turn a few heads in the lobby.

Conventions can be exhausting, so be sure to take a few moments to rest your feet from time to time.

One Mr. Frederick Krueger and date.

The Miner from My Bloody Valentine (the 2009 version).

A Gammorean Guard somehow wandered into the horror convention by mistake. A side note: this costume could have used a little Fabreeze. I guess it's understandable; it's probably tough to dry clean a Gammorean Guard costume.

Meg Mucklebones from the movie Legend. For some reason, Meg was played by Robert Picardo, the holographic doctor from Star Trek: Voyager. What's that? I'm a colossal geek for knowing that without googling it? Why, thank you!

There was also a room full of mask makers and sculptors displaying their work. Some of them were amazingly lifelike and detailed, and would no doubt be displayed in a museum if not for the subject matter.

My favorites were a trio of full sized statues. Here's a Frankensteinian creature, complete with flashing L.E.D. brain. I couldn't believe all the detail. Realistic eyes, translucent skin, eyelashes, and those teeth! He even has individual whiskers, each one punched into this skin by hand!

Here's a zombie carrying a voodoo priestess on his back. Again, the attention to detail was just amazing. I can only imagine the amount of hours, effort and material that goes into creating something like this.

This was my favorite of the life-sized sculptures. A rich, psychotic dowager out for a night on the town, armed with her trusty razorblade. Her eyes and teeth looked absolutely real. Her skin was translucent and very realistic. Someone should make a movie starring this character. I'd pay to see it.

That's all the photos I have. It was a fun time, and hopefully they'll hold it in a larger venue next time.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Marathon Elephant

Tired of the other animals always calling him a fatty, Tantor started running in order to get into shape. I think he may have overdone it a little.

The elephant is all vector, drawn in InDesign. The background and shadow were done in Photoshop. I'm not crazy about that background, and may end up changing it.

It Came From The Cineplex: Repo Men (2010)

Not to be confused with 1984's Repo Man, Repo Men is a mediocre sci-fi action movie set in a world in which health care has run chillingly amok. People can replace their faulty bodily organs with pricey, hi-tech mechanical versions. Just don't fall behind on your payments though, or the company will come calling to repossess your mechanical liver. Even if you're still using it.

It's all very bloody, and more than a little silly.

The idea of a health care corporation that can break into your home, cut out your organs and leave you for dead is a terrifying notion, but laughably far-fetched. Is there no law enforcement in this world? The Union is basically engaging in the murder of clients whose only crime is breach of contract. Maybe I'm being naive, but I can't imagine any corporation ever wielding quite that much power.

It also doesn't help that the movie is so blatantly derivative. It cops bits and pieces from at least 7 other well-known sci-fi movies, and a Monty Python sketch to boot! There's nothing worse than being reminded of better movies while you're watching a mediocre one.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

MODOK Gets A Trim

Just because you're a Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing doesn't mean you don't need the occasional haircut to look good.

MODOK is of course, is a Marvel Comics supervillain, and like all their best characters was created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. MODOK is an artificial life form that was the leader of A.I.M., a super secret organization bent on world domination. He regularly had run-ins with Captain America.

I always liked the look of MODOK. Only Jack Kirby could come up with a character this bizarre; a rocket powered giant head with a Moe Howard haircut!

The guy in yellow is one of the A.I.M. soldiers. In addition to his terrorist training, he apparently also went to barber college.

Part of Brendan Tobin's awesome March Modok Madness blog. Check it out for tons more of Modok-ey goodness by hundreds of other artists!

Drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet.



Here's the original rough digital sketch. I was just trying to rough out shapes and composition here. MODOK's way too small in this sketch, he's supposed to be 7' tall or so. As you can see, I originally had the A.I.M. soldier armed with a hair dryer.



Here's the tighter final digital sketch. Everything's coming together better here. One good thing about digital sketches-- originally I drew MODOK too thin, so I just selected him and stretched him horizontally until he looked right. Can't do that on paper!

I ditched the A.I.M. guy's hair dryer and went with a comb, because I thought that looked funnier.

The Birthday Card Trap, And How To Avoid It

A word of advice for office workers regarding birthday cards:

Back in the 1990s I worked for Sony, designing artwork for CDRMs. In a large corporation such as that, there are naturally a lot of employee birthdays. Lots of birthdays means lots of birthday cards. At least two or three times a week someone would come by my office with a birthday card that they wanted me to sign.

At first I would just sign my name somewhere on the card amongst all the other signatures, but that seemed a little cold and impersonal to me. So I started adding little generic greetings, such as "Have a Happy Day!"

Not wanting to feel like a hack, that same old greeting was gradually replaced by little sayings like, "You're only as old as your knees," or, "Is that your age or were you carbon dated?"

I quickly ran out of pithy birthday sayings, so I turned to adding little drawings inside the cards. Nothing elaborate, just an excited little cartoon man shouting, "Happy Birthday!" I drew that on every card that came my way for a few weeks, but then began to feel I was stagnating, so I started drawing more elaborate images.

People liked the drawings and would look forward to seeing, "what that Bob drew this time." As an artist, I didn't like repeating myself, so I would try to come up with something original for every card. Eventually I found I was spending an hour or more trying to think of ideas and draw pictures in stupid birthday cards. It became more and more difficult to find new material for all the cards that came my way. I started dreading the sight of the designated "birthday lady" heading towards me.

It was a lot of pressure that I didn't need. In desperation I tried going back to the simple plain signature, but that would just offend the card's recipient. A grown woman actually accused me of implying she wasn't as good as the other employees because they got drawings in their cards and she didn't. So I couldn't go back to the old way.

It became so stressful that I quit Sony and went to work for a marketing agency. What a relief! At last, a clean slate. When the first birthday card at the agency came to me, I simply signed my name and went about my business. I felt free and liberated.

I've been simply signing my name in cards ever since. I'll never draw a picture in a card again.

So let my tale be a warning to all office workers. When the office birthday lady comes by with a card for you to sign, do not write a witty slogan or draw a funny picture in the card, no matter how great the temptation may be. Sign your name and get on with your life. You won't regret it.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Please Don't Feed The Bears

Looks like that new Ranger didn't see the sign.

I don't do a lot of vector drawing, mainly because it takes so much longer to draw than a traditional line drawing, but I like to try it now and then.



Here's an alternate version of the drawing. I ultimately went with the toothpick version, but thought I'd go ahead and include this one for comparison and posterity.

Drawn in InDesign. For now I find it easier to do vector drawings in InDesign rather than Illustrator. I just think InDesign's drawing tools are easier to use. I really need to try and learn Illustrator though. Someday. When I have time. And my schedule's clear. And there's nothing good on TV.

I did draw the scratchy background box in Illustrator, because InDesign doesn't have scratchy pen tools. And I placed a grungy jpeg over the top of everything.



Here's the original sketch, obviously drawn before I googled what a ranger hat is supposed to look like.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

"Pardon Me..."

It's the world's most polite cyclops monster. I wonder how he'll finish that sentence?

"Could you direct me to the nearest haberdashery?"

"What time does the train leave for Stuttgart?"

"Would you mind terribly if I were to rend you limb from limb? There's a good chap."

For some reason this very simple drawing took forever. I was busy this week and didn't have time to draw for 3 or 4 days, so I think I got out of practice. Use it or lose it, kids!

Drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet.

Here's the original very rough sketch.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Karate, Schmarate

There, Hollywood. I fixed your poster for you.

From what I can gather from the trailer, the new and completely unnecessary (is there any other kind?) remake of The Karate Kid takes place in Beijing, rather than California.

Apparently the producers believe if you've seen one Asian culture, you've seen them all, or else they'd know that Karate originated in Japan. Kung Fu is the martial art of China. Way to go, Hollywood! Maybe next you can make a Civil War movie where the East fights the West.

In a recent Yahoo article, star Jaden Smith said that the filmmakers knew that the title was inaccurate, but kept it "out of respect for their source material and because The Karate Kid has such name recognition among audiences." Yeah, well, if they really had any respect for the original then they wouldn't be remaking it, would they now?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Denied!

Help me out here, faithful readers. I submitted this t-shirt design to Threadless.com, and they denied it, saying it needed some work before it was up to their standards.

I was a little surprised by this-- not because I think I'm a flawless talent. Far from it. I was surprised because this robot image is one of the most popular on my Flickr page, with almost 1,800 views. Almost every day someone adds it to their group or asks if they can use it in some publication. That's why I decided to submit it as a t-shirt design. There must be something about it that the public likes.

I'm honestly not sure what to do to make it more palatable to Threadless. They didn't offer any advice, which wasn't very helpful. If anyone out there has any ideas, I'm all ears.

Truthfully I'm not quite sure what Threadless considers to be a good design. There's some amazing art on display there, but there's also some that, well, to put it nicely, baffles me. Some of the designs are so... unusual that I'm not quite sure what I'm looking at. Maybe I'm getting too old to understand that special Threadless vibe.

Anyway, feel free to suggest changes.

Anderson, The Meanderin' Neanderthal

Sorry, but I don't have much to say about this drawing. I drew Anderson in about an hour (not counting time out for a snack and to obsessively check my Flickr account).

Science currently tells us that Homo Sapiens (that's us, kids) didn't evolve from Neanderthals after all. They were a completely separate species that either died out or was wiped off the face of the Earth by Cro Magnons. Imagine if the Neanderthals hadn't become extinct-- there'd be two completely separate humanoid races walking around right now. I'm not sure the Earth could survive that.

Drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet.



Here's the original sketch of Anderson. The biggest difference in the final drawing is obviously the size of his nose, and a more well defined expression of vacant stupidity.

Coney McLagomorph

It took 8 or 10 sketches before I got Coney's proportions just right. He kept coming out too thin, or too tall, or too something. I was finally able to wrestle him into a shape I could live with.

Not sure about the white patch on his belly. He looked too plain without it, but something about it's bothering me. Maybe I need to adjust the shape of it.

"What the heck's up with that name?" I hear you asking. Coney is a British word for rabbit, while Lagomorph is any member of the order Lagomorpha, comprising hares and rabbits. So it pretty much means Rabbit Rabbit. There, you learned something today.



Here's the original sketch of Coney. After I doodled this I wondered if it might be too similar to Big Buck Bunny. But then I figured those guys didn't invent giant rabbits, so what the heck. There's room in the world for more than one big bunny.

Drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Cranky Crankerson

Cranky here pretty much sums up my feelings for the world and life in general lately.

I don't do a lot of vector art, mainly because it's so time consuming (for me, anyway). I bet it took me 75 times longer to draw this in vector than if I'd drawn my usual way as line art. I think it's because instead of simply drawing lines, everything here was a shape that had to be constructed. But it's fun to experiment and try new things now and then.

Drawn in InDesign. I cheated a little and overlaid a grungy jpeg image over the background.



Here's the original sketch of Cranky. I should draw a normal line version of him to compare and contrast with the vector version.

Hurley Says I Rock!

Back in December I sent out my official custom-made 2009 Christmas Card. In addition to sending it out to friends and family, for some reason I got the notion to send one to Jorge Garcia, Hurley of TVs Lost. I'm not really sure why I sent one to him. I didn't expect anything out of it. I guess because I'm a fan of the show, and also a follower of his blog. Maybe I felt some sort of kinship with a fellow blogger.

Anyway, I mailed him a card and promptly forgot all about it. Then last week, I got a big envelope in the mail. Inside was this autographed photo of Jorge. Awesome!

Hurley says I rock, dude!

Why I Stopped Buying Comic Books

From 1985 to 2000 I collected comic books. I used to buy a lot of them. And I do mean a lot. I don't buy them anymore. There are two main reasons for this. The first is price. The average comic book now costs a whopping $4. I just can't afford that, especially since comics are like potato chips-- you can't buy just one.

This is the other reason.
This is the cover to Justice League: The Rise Of Arsenal #1. That's right, the cover. It involves the Red Arrow, seen here, who was the former partner of Green Arrow. The supervillain Prometheus brutally attacked Red Arrow, ripping off his arm shortly before destroying his home town. Among the casualties: Red Arrow's young daughter. Oh, to top it off, Red Arrow's power is that he's a super archer. Or was, I guess.

Jeez, now I need to go look at a sunset or play with some puppies to try and push that paragraph out of my head.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

AWK-ward!

You can almost feel the tension in the air. Something's driven a wedge between them. I wonder which one will be the first to mention the elephant in the room (I'm trying to see how many cliches I can stuff into one paragraph).

Drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet.



Here's the original sketch.

Deceptive Packaging 101: Silly Surgery

I saw this a few days ago while shopping at the local Big Lots. It's a kid's game called Silly Surgery, from a company called Banzai. As you can see from the box, it's pretty much a ripoff of Milton Bradley's classic Operation game, but with 75% less fun. This game's not even electric, so there's no buzzer to sound if you mess up. I guess you're on the honor system.

I'm not going to go into the fact that Big Lots is selling a kid's game that consists of an inflatable bed. With a man on it. With a large gash near his groin.

What interests me is the box art and copy. Judging by the size of the inflatable bed in relation to the kids in the photo, it appears to be 4 and a half, possibly 5 feet long.

But if you look closely you'll see a blurb shouting, "HUGE! Almost 3 feet long!" I wouldn't describe an almost 3 foot long inflatable bed as "huge."

What's hilarious to me is that the cover photo makes the bed look large enough for the kids to lie on comfortably. But if it's "almost" 3 feet long, then that must be a family of Hobbit children. Seriously, look at them. Each one of those kids is shorter than a yard stick. They could almost stand in the palm of your hand.

This is not the first time this Banzai company has intentionally distorted the size of their products. They're notorious for doing this kind of thing. They seem to specialize in backyard inflatable water slides and such. Their box art always deceptively implies that the toy in question is large enough for several kids to play in at the same time, when in reality it's barely big enough for one kid to squat down in. Amazon is chock full of consumer complaints about their products, demanding refunds and lawsuits.

From the info on the back of the box they appear to be a Chinese company, but "Banzai" is a Japanese word. Curious.

I do like the blurb on the back of the box though: 

Insert all inflated wacky objects into the patient belly. Is there a doctor in the house? Draw a card to see which wacky object you have to remove from the patient. Remove the object pictured on the card to perform a successful surgery. Perform the most successful silly surgeries and you win! Paging Doctor Fun! 

That is some pure classic marketspeak right there.

DVD Doppelgangers 6: The Final Battle

It's been a while since I've posted any DVD Doppelgangers, in which I call out deceptive studios and lazy designers who mimic more successful DVD covers in hopes of getting you to buy theirs!



First up we have American Pie, a successful teen sex comedy from 1999. You remember 1999; that was back before the entire world went to hell. Incredibly there have been a whopping SIX sequels to this movie. Of course only the first three of them ever got anywhere near a theater. The remaining four went straight to home video. None of the original actors, save poor Eugene Levy, have been in the last four either. Apparently the American Pie name is the star.

Before we move on, I have to point out the girl at the middle right of the cover. That's a pretty sorry example of Photoshopping there. She seems to be quite interested in something only she can see, some distance off screen. Not only was she nowhere near the rest of the cast during this photo shoot, I'm not even sure she was on the same continent. The red-headed girl next to her looks suspiciously plopped in as well, given that she's the only one not touching or overlapping someone else.




Then we have 2005's Standing Still, the story of an alcoholic actor who reconnects with a group of his college friends at a wedding several years after graduation. So... not a teen sex comedy, but boy is it trying its darndest to look just like the American Pie cover. Same crowd of wacky people, topped by an amazingly identical logo. Everything about this logo is identical. Same red color, same rectangular outline, same small word topping a horizontally stretched larger word. They even copied the scratchy "distressed" look. I will give credit where credit's due though-- in a burst of creative energy, the designer tilted this logo the opposite way of American Pie's. Bravo sir! Sheer genius!

Thanks to my pal Keith for spotting this!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Suburban Chicken

Everyone in the suburbs is obsessed with their lawn. Even that chicken family next door.

Drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet.
Here's the original rough pen & ink sketch. The idea's there, but not a lot of detail.

Here's the tighter digital sketch.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Moonlight Shopping

After I saw the new Wolfman movie a couple of weeks ago, I got out my DVDs and watched the original version starring Lon Chaney. I think I like it better. Chaney definitely made a better werewolf than Benicio del Toro did. I watched Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman too, which is also pretty good.

This is based of course on the original Wolfman movie, of course. One thing I've always I've always thought was funny was how the Wolfman ran around in a nice dress shirt and slacks. He even managed to keep his starched shirt buttoned up all the way as he roamed the countryside slashing and killing. Hey, just because he's a rampaging supernatural killer, that doesn't mean he can't be a sharp dresser as well!

When you think about it, all the Universal Monsters were snappy dressers. Frankenstein is the only monster I can think of who wore a suit jacket. Dracula always wore a tuxedo and cape. The Phantom of the Opera dressed in a tuxedo as well. The Invisible Man wore a suave smoking jacket, complete with ascot.

This drawing took way longer than I expected, what with all the product labels. Remind me not to start drawing something like that again.

Drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet.




Here's the original rough sketch. The idea's there, but it needs some work.



Here's the tighter second sketch that I used for the final drawing.
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