Monday, September 7, 2009

The Inhumans Art

I made this drawing/art/wall hanging a few years ago as an Xmas present for my friend Keith. It's the Inhumans, one of my favorite Marvel Comics superhero teams.

The Inhumans were created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and first appeared in Fantastic Four #45, way back in 1965. They started out living in a secret city in the mountains on Earth, but eventually moved their entire race to the moon. I'm sure neither Stan nor Jack had any idea this little team they whipped up would prove to be so popular and go on to last as long as they have.

I don't know what exactly it is about them that appeals to me so. Maybe it's their wild, Kirby-designed costumes. Maybe it's their bizarre powers. Only Jack Kirby could come up with a guy whose whisper is more powerful than an atom bomb, a lady with prehensile hair and a teleporting bulldog all in the same team.

Marvel has tried giving the Inhumans their own book several times over the years, but they never last very long. Maybe they're the kind of characters that work best in small doses, or need an air of mystery about them. Sort of like Boba Fett, before George Lucas ruined him by needlessly showing us his origin.

Anyway, several years ago I visited one of the late, lamented Warner Brothers stores and was browsing through their animation section. They had tons of animation cels and lithographs of the various DC Comics characters on display there. I was particularly impressed by a lithograph consisting of a lineup of Batman villains from the animated series. Sadly, the price was far out of my ballpark. But as I stood there staring at it, I thought I could probably make something similar myself.

That started the wheels turning, and I thought why try to recreate a piece of art that someone's already done; why not do something new? So I decided to make a similar art piece of my favorite team, the Inhumans.

I tried drawing them in a style similar to the Batman animated series that was all the rage back then. I drew the characters on paper, inked them, then scanned them into Photoshop where I added color and shading.

Then to help get an animated cel look, I printed the drawings on clear acetate, the kind used on overhead projectors. I then carefully cut out each character (which was easier said than done, especially the Medusa character!), then lightly glued each one to a piece of illustration board.

I then cut out mattes, framed it and in just 87 short steps I had a piece of animation art just like the ones costing hundreds of dollars at the Warner Brothers store. Well, close enough, anyway.

And then I gave it away. Oh well. I still have the art, and can always make one for myself some day.

Here are some closeups of the Inhumans characters.

First up is Black Bolt. For those not in the know, he's the leader of the Inhumans, and husband to Medusa (the Inhumans are all related in some way or another). His power is his voice-- even his slightest whisper can level whole cities, so he spends his days in silence. Don't ask me what's up with the tuning fork on his forehead. Lockjaw has one too. I suspect it's there because it looked kewl.

Medusa is the wife of Black Bolt, and sister to Crystal. Her power lies in her super strong, prehensile hair. She can pick up objects weighing tons and hurl them at enemies, all without getting split ends.

The shading in her hair was done in vector with Freehand (which they don't even make anymore). Did it take a long time to draw all those curved highlights and shadows in her hair? Yes. Yes it did.

Gorgon is a cousin of the Inhumans, and has super powerful legs with hooved feet. He can create seismic waves by stomping the ground. Only Jack Kirby could make a guy whose power is stomping seem cool.

Karnak is the brother of Triton, and has the power to smash through anything with his super powerful hands. I suspect karate was just becoming popular in America when this character was created.

Triton is brother to Karnak, and um... can swim fast and survive the ocean depths. Basically he has the powers of a fish. And Aquaman. He even has to wear a special suit to help him survive outside of the water. That ought to come in handy, now that they moved their city to the moon. He looks cool though.

Lastly we have Crystal and her faithful dog Lockjaw. Crystal is Medusa's sister, and she can control the four elements (earth, air, fire and water). Lockjaw has super powerful jaws (natch) and can teleport himself or anyone who's touching him. For decades he was portrayed as a dog (albeit a very intelligent one) until sometime in the 1980s when Marvel decided he was actually a person who just looked like a dog. That revelation was so colossally ridiculous, even for a comic book, that I chose to ignore it. I say he's a dog, and nobody can make me believe otherwise.

As I mentioned earlier, I was trying for an animated look here, so it's a bit different from my usual style (the thick black outline around everyone was to make it easier to cut them out of the acetate sheets). There's a million things I would do differently if I was drawing this project today; for example I wish the line weight would vary a bit instead of being so monotonously uniform. I'd also get rid of the crosshatched shading as well. That's the way it goes though.


  1. great drawings, and great post! i have never heard of the inhumans before...i am sure there will be a crappy movie about them soon enough.

    pretty nice gift!

  2. Thanks! I was surprised to hear several other people tell me they'd never heard of the Inhumans as well. I always thought they were more well known.

    Maybe I'm just old!

  3. I've always liked the Inhumans. Very cool drawings!


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