Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Beach Comber

Sometimes even monsters need to get away from it all and spend a relaxing 3 day weekend on the beach.

Hey, it's another vector drawing. It took me a while to warm up to vector, but I'm kind of starting to like it.

The vector monster was drawn all in InDesign. Once I was satisfied with him I imported him into Photoshop where I added the painterly background, because that's something you just can't do very well in vector.

Sorry, no sketch this time. He was all sort of made up as I went along. I had to look up a reference photo of a beach ball. That's one of those things that you think you'll be able to draw from memory, but you quickly realize you can't.

Scaping The Bottom Of the Star Wars Barrel

From 1978 to 1985, the Kenner toy company produced hundreds of Star Wars action figures based on the original trilogy. Then after a long dry spell, Hasbro, which had acquired Kenner, brought the figures back in 1995. Boy, did they bring them back. They've made hundreds, maybe even thousands of different figures from the movies, and they're still pumping them out 15 years later.

Every major character has been immortalized in plastic, some many times over. There are at least 50 different versions of Luke Skywalker. I once joked to a toy collecting friend that it wouldn't be long until they made a figure of Luke in his diaper from the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back. A month later, Hasbro came out with Luke Skywalker in his diaper, complete with his healing Bacta Tank accessory.

But all good things must eventually come to an end, and we may be nearing the end of the line for Star Wars figures. They're dangerously close to running out of new characters to make. Virtually every character that had even a few frames of screen time has had a figure made of them. Don't believe me? Then take a look at one Mr. Willrow Hood.

Yes, it's the exciting Willrow Hood figure, from The Empire Strikes Back. Don't feel bad if you don't recognize his name. It was never uttered in the movie, nor is it in the credits. Mr. Hood lives in Cloud City, and according to the back of the card, he works for the gas mining company on Bespin. So basically they made a figure of a guy who works for the gas company. Fun!

Here's a closeup of Willrow, decked out in his trademark orange jumpsuit, complete with doughy physique. The back of the card says that the white object he's holding is a computer memory core full of sensitive information that he's trying to keep from the Empire. In reality, many sharp-eyed fans of the Trilogy have recognized the "core" prop as a plain old terrestrial ice cream maker! Yep, as Willrow ran for his life from Cloud City, the only thing he took with him was his sweet, sweet ice cream maker. For many years, he was known in fan circles as "Ice Cream Guy." His popularity among fan boys (who must really love ice cream) grew until Hasbro decided to make a figure of him.

So it's come to this. No offense to Mr. Hood, but with the advent of his figure, we've officially scraped the bottom of the Star Wars action figure barrel.

By the way, if you're still scratching your head trying to figure out where Willrow appears in the movie, it's right after Lando Calrissian makes an announcement to Cloud City, telling the citizens that the Empire has taken control and if they're smart, they'll... I don't know, jump off the edge of the city or something. Willrow then appears for exactly 1.5 seconds as he runs past the camera, clutching his precious ice cream maker. That's right, 1.5 seconds is all the screen time it takes to warrant your own action figure.

Just for fun, here's a shot of my own Star Wars figure display. Note that these are only a fraction of the figures Hasbro has made over the years. They've made hundreds of Prequel figures, which I do not collect, seeing as how those movies... oh, what's the word... sucked. By the way, these figures and more are on display in a spare bedroom of my house that's become an official toy room. I try to keep the action figures confined to one room so that it looks like a grown up lives in my house.

DVD Doppelgangers 10: Hard Ride To Hell vs. Darg Me To Hell

It's time for another edition of DVD Doppelgangers, in which I call out art directors who deliberately copy DVD covers and posters of popular movies, hoping to fool the public into buying their knock-off version.

Today we have a pair of "Dueling Hell" covers. On the left is the 2010 movie Hard Ride To Hell. Haven't seen it and know nothing about it, but boy does that cover seem familiar.

On the right is the cover for the excellent 2009 movie Drag Me To Hell. If you've not seen it, I highly recommend it. I wrote up a review of it last year here.

So let's see how many elements Hard Ride cribbed from Drag Me. Flames of Hell and smokey background? Check. Screaming victim? Check. Demonic hands clutching at victim? Big check! "To Hell" in both titles? Check. I will give the designer credit where it's due-- in a burst of creativity, on his cover he inverted the composition so that the demonic hands are pushing the victim into Hell instead of pulling them down.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Monster Snack!

Sometimes a monster's stomping a city flat, he builds up a powerful hunger. When that happens, it's time to recharge with a delicious, nutritious snack!

Hey, it's another vector drawing. It took me a while to warm up to vector, but I'm kind of starting to like it. I doubt I'll ever abandon bitmap drawing for vector, but it's fun to dabble in it now and then, and it's another tool in the arsenal.

Originally I drew the monster walking along while snacking on the passengers, but I just couldn't get him to look right. I finally realized that was a dead end and redrew his legs so that he was standing still. That seemed to work much better. Also, the background was originally a reddish brown. It looked OK, and complimented the greens in the foreground pretty well, but at the last minute I played with the hue sliders just to see what would happen, and I decided I liked the greenish background much better.

The vector monster and the buildings were drawn in InDesign. I imported them into Photoshop where I added the painterly background, because that's something you just can't do very well in vector.

WonderFest 2010

Last weekend my friend KW Monster and I went to WonderFest 2010 in Louisville. It's an annual model kit convention, but over the years it's grown to include toys, books, DVDs and even some sci-fi and horror celebrities.

Unlike the terribly overcrowded HorrorHound Weekend we attended back in March, WonderFest was much more pleasant. There were crowds there to be sure, but they were just right for the size of the venue. We had a really good time there.

As always, Wonderfest is packed full of cool model kits and merchandise. It would be very easy to spend your entire month's paycheck there, and then some. I managed to restrain myself and only bought a few items.

Click below to read the rest of this entry!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Corey O'Blongata

Corey's been having headaches lately, so his doctor asked him to bring in a sample. Too bad the doc didn't specify he needed a urine sample.

Corey's a member of the O'Blongatas, a fine old family from the Irish part of the galaxy.

Drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet. For some reason I have a really hard time drawing the intricate folds of the brain, and getting them to look right. Luckily I never, ever draw brains, so it's not a problem for me. That's a joke, son.

Here's the original sketch of Corey. When I started drawing him for real, I felt that his body was a little too gangly, so I shrunk it down a bit.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Meeting James Karen

This past weekend I went to Wonderfest 2010 in Louisville and got to meet James Karen, star of one of my all-time favorite movies, Return of the Living Dead.

If you've not seen the movie, stop reading right now and go seek it out. It's an awesome horror/comedy from the 1980s, and the precursor of movies like Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland. I highly recommend it.

Mr. Karen gives an amazing and memorable performance in the movie. He's been in a ton of films over the years and has guest starred on just about every TV show you can think of. Among other things, he was the evil contractor who moved the tombstones (but not the bodies!) in Poltergeist, and he was the mean old land baron who bought up Walnut Grove and forced out the residents in the final episode of Little House on the Prairie.

By the way, I asked him if he ever got hate mail from people for causing Walnut Grove to be blown up. He said he did and still does to this day!

He was extremely nice to me and all the other fans, asking everyone their name and where they were from and how long they'd driven to be there. He graciously listened to me and everyone else tell him the same story about how much they loved him in Return of the Living Dead. His actress wife Alba Francesca was with him, and she was very nice as well, dutifully taking photos of everyone who wanted a picture.

In fact, he was so nice that he didn't charge to sign autographs or take a photo with him. He said he wouldn't be where he is today without his fans, and this is his way of giving something back. Now that's a rare and refreshing attitude!

He also participated in a Return of the Living Dead panel, answering questions and entertaining the audience with behind the scenes stories and anecdotes about the filming of the movie.

Believe it or not, James Karen is 87 years old! He certainly didn't look it or act it. I'd have guessed 70 at the most. He's still working too, starring in upcoming movies and doing voice over work. In fact right after WonderFest was over he was leaving for New York to record the narration for a documentary. I'm happy I got a chance to meet and talk with him.

Here're a few screen caps of Mr. Karen in action as Frank in Return of the Living Dead.

And as mean old land developer Mr. Teague in Poltergeist.

And here he is as mean old land developer Nathan Lassiter in Little House On The Prairie.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Hurley Title Card

With LOST just about to come to an end, I thought I'd pay tribute to it one more time before it's over.

I always liked the title cards at the beginning of old Warner Brothers and Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Some of them were true works of art. So here's my take on a title card if LOST was a Hanna-Barbera type of cartoon.

I've been a big fan of LOST ever since it premiered in 2004. I've seen every episode and I read a couple of show-related message boards, but even I have to admit that most of the time I have no idea what's happening on the show.

They crash on the island, they encounter the Others, then some other Others, then yet still some other Others, they see a smoke monster, they get off the island, they decide to go back, they crash again, they go back in time & visit the past for a while, they set off a nuke and now they both DID and DIDN'T crash on the island in the first place. It's a lot to have to sort out.

At one point I followed all these developments in minute detail, but around the last season it got to be too much and I gave up. I'm still watching, but I've decided to just go with the flow and stop trying to analyze everything that happens, and just watch the pretty pictures on the screen.

This had one of the longest gestation periods of any of my illustrations. I got the idea to do a title card of Hurley being chased by Smokey well over a year ago. I kept trying all these complicated layouts that just didn't work, no matter how I arranged them. I finally gave up in frustration and shelved the drawing. Then a week ago, while watching LOST, I remembered the drawing. I opened it up again, and suddenly a simplified layout that worked popped into my head and I drew it up. Ideas are like tomatoes. Sometimes they're not ready to be picked and need more time to ripen.

Drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet. The yellow title text was hand lettered.

Here's the original digital sketch. It's not much to look at this time. There wasn't a lot of planning this time, as I mostly just made it up as I went along.

If you're not familiar with the title cards I'm always talking about, here are a couple of samples. Hanna Barbera used these on all their shows in the 1960s and 1970s. They kind of faded away after that, but some of the recent Cartoon Network shows have started using them again.

Friday, May 14, 2010

DVD Doppelgängers: Onechanbara Vs. Samurai Princess and Frankenstein Girl Vs. Vampire Girl

It's time for another edition of DVD Doppelgangers, in which I call out art directors who deliberately copy DVD covers and posters of popular movies, hoping to fool the public into buying their knock-off version.

Tonight we turn our gaze to the Far East, as we see that DVD Doppelgangers aren't just an American phenomenon. It happens in Japan as well. We'll also learn the meaning of the word "blatant."

First up is the 2008 movie Onechanbara. It's based on a popular video game that I've never heard of, and features a bikini-clad, zombie killing young woman looking coyly over her shoulder as she brandishes a couple of samurai swords.

Apparently the designer of cover of the 2009 movie Samurai Princess was such a fan of the Onechanbara cover that he or she copied it pretty much verbatim. Samurai Princess features a bikini-clad, robot killing young woman looking coyly over her shoulder as she brandishes a couple of samurai swords.

You probably won't be able to read the title, but the third entry is the poster for the 2009 movie Frankenstein Girl vs. Vampire Girl. That's Vampire Girl there on the cover. In a burst of originality, this cover features a school uniform-clad, monster killing young woman looking coyly over her shoulder as she brandishes a samurai sword.

I don't know anything about this movie, but with a title like Frankenstein Girl vs. Vampire Girl, I have got to see it.

Obviously the designers of these Japanese covers know what sells, and they clutch their tried and true formula like grim Death.

You Say It's Your Anniversary?

I just realized that the first anniversary of my blog slipped by unnoticed! My very first post was on May 3, 2009. Happy Anniversary to my blog!

FYI to all my loyal followers: according to tradition, the first year anniversary gift is paper, in case you feel like sending a token of your appreciation to celebrate my blog's special day. If you need any hints, I believe money's made out of paper!* Feel free to send any bills you may have lying around the house!

*Actually money's made of linen and cotton, but who cares?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

R.I.P. Frank Frazetta

I was very saddened to read of the recent death of Frank Frazetta. I first encountered his work in the late 1970s, and I've been a fan ever since. I even foolishly attempted to emulate his style when I was a kid, but gave up when I realized that it was futile. If I practiced for a thousand years I'd never be as good as he was.

The first place I ever saw Frazetta's work was on the covers of the Conan the Barbarian novels. I didn't even like the Conan stories very much, but I bought several of the books just to have some samples of his art. Not to take anything away from Robert E. Howard, but I can pretty much guarantee that Conan wouldn't be as popular or well known as he is today if not for Frank Frazetta's awesome covers.

Don't believe me? Check out the images below. On the left is the original cover of Conan the Barbarian from the 1930s, and on the right is one of Frazetta's covers. Now tell me which one more accurately portrays the raw power and savagery of the Conan character, and which one you'd be more inclined to buy? There's no contest.

Frazetta had a long and varied career and in addition to his paperback covers, he worked in comic books, comic strips, movie posters and even advertising. He even drew Al Capp's Lil' Abner strip for a time.

Frazetta was definitely a man's man. When a series of strokes left him unable to use his right hand, he simply switched to his left hand and learned to draw and paint all over again. After hearing that, I figured he was invulnerable and would outlive us all. Alas, it was not to be, as he died of a stroke May 10, 2010. Rest in peace, Frank.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Pantsy McTrouser

Hey, when your body's only 2 feet high, it's tough to find pants that fit right.

Based on a doodle in my sketchbook.

Drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet.

Here's the original sketch of Pantsy. Not a very appealing sketch. It's pretty stiff and uninspired, but there was something about it that made me want to develop it further.

Here's the second sketch. I reworked him quite a bit, and tried to give him some more energy and style.

Ridiculous Ratings #1

A few years back, the MPAA– that wonderful organization that assigns ratings to all movies– began adding short content descriptions to their ratings to better inform overprotective parents.

These descriptions never fail to amuse me. My favorites are the descriptions that warn that the movie contains "mild peril," "fantasy violence," or the most ubiquitous of all, "thematic elements." Yes, God forbid we inadvertently see a movie with a theme.

Anyway, last weekend I found my new all time favorite rating description. I was watching a movie called Alien Trespass. It's a fun little movie that's an homage to 1950s sci-fi films such as War of the Worlds, and I highly recommend it. However, the MPAA rating at the beginning of the movie said– and I swear I am not making this up– that it was rated PG-13 for "Historical Smoking."

Wow. Where do I even begin the mocking process? That may be the stupidest rating I've seen so far. There's a professor character in the movie who is constantly smoking a pipe, as many people did in the 1950s, so I must assume that's what they mean by "historical."

So now a character smoking in a movie now automatically gets it a PG-13 rating. What makes the rating even more ridiculous is that the movie features an alien that kills people by absorbing all the nutrients in their body, leaving only a small puddle of sludge behind. The alien even kills a five year old girl in this fashion! The rating, however, doesn't say a thing about that. So apparently aliens absorbing kids is OK, but the mere sight of a man smoking is so shocking and traumatic that we must prevent anyone under the age of 13 from witnessing it. I really need to move to a new planet.

I know they're doing this to try and prevent kids from smoking, but it's all a bunch of bull. I watched thousands of hours of TV and movies as a kid that were chock full of people smoking, and I never once had the urge to start. I even used to buy candy cigarettes and bubblegum cigars when I was little, and although I'd act like I was smoking those, I still never took up the habit for real. If a kid can be that easily swayed by a movie, then he was going to pick up the habit anyway, and no amount of censorship is going to stop it.

By the way, does anyone out there know of a good way to take screen caps of DVDs? I used to be able to do it, but something on my computer must have changed, and now I can't for the life of me figure out how to do it now. I finally ended up taking a photo of my stinkin' monitor to get the screen cap above. There's got to be an easier way.

The 24th Century Came Early!

Lord knows the world doesn't need another blog entry about Apple and the iPad, but I thought of this a couple days ago and had to mention it.

When I first saw images of the iPad online, something about it seemed familiar to me, but I couldn't figure out what it was. Then it hit me– I'd seen the iPad before… in the 24th century!

On all the Star Trek series from The Next Generation on, you'd always see various crew members diddling around with a device called a PADD. It was a flat, tablet sized portable computing device with a touch screen interface that could display video and information. Sounds kind of familiar, doesn't it?

Funny how many of pieces of Star Trek technology have made their way into our lives already, 300 years ahead of schedule. I'm still waiting for a transporter though, so I don't have to sit on a plane for 26 hours when I want to visit China.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Will Scare For Food

Seems like everyone's been affected by the bad economy. Lately even monsters have felt the pinch. With families cutting back on things like cable TV and vacations, few can afford to employ a monster to hide under their child's bed these days.

It's sad to see a hard working monster reduced to panhandling.

I went through a bunch of options for his cardboard sign. I started out with "Will scare for food," but thought I could do better. I thought about, "Will hide under bed for food," or "Will hide in closet for food," but there wasn't room for either of those. I tried, "Will eat children for food," which has a certain absurd logic, but in the end went back to the original.

Drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet. Originally I was just going to have the usual scratchy, painterly background that I always do, but then I decided it would work better to place him in an actual environment.

Here's the original pen & ink sketch. Not bad, but I felt his legs were too long.

Here's the second digital sketch. I shortened his legs up, lengthened his tail and tried to make him look more depressed and despondent.

Ad Fail: Shorthanded

Take a look at this poster for the upcoming Jonah Hex movie:

If you can manage to tear your eyes away from Ms. Fox's pushed up decolletage for a few seconds, you might notice that something about Jonah seems a little... off. Mr. Hex seems to be a little skimpy in the arm department. He's either a world class contortionist, or he's got the right arm of a twelve year old boy.

I took the liberty of superimposing an anatomical figure over the poster. As you can see, his arm is a good eight to nine inches shorter than it ought to be in the real world.

Obviously the artist shortened his arm in order to fit it to the proportions of the poster, and hoped moviegoers wouldn't notice. Once you see it though, it's impossible to unsee it. That tiny arm is also a bit unsettling.

There's more than enough room at the left of the poster to simply bend his arm and still fit the gun above the title. Why they felt the need to shrink his arm, I have no idea.

Shrinking body parts and objects to fit the poster is nothing new. The first time I noticed it was way back in 1983, on the Return of the Jedi poster:

Luke's lightsaber blade was always a good three feet long in the movies. This stubby, economy-size poster version barely clocks in at two feet in order to fit. Maybe we've caught it in the act of powering up?
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