Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Space Vampire!

From the darkest depths of the universe, where it's always nighttime, comes... Space Vampire!

A quick little vector drawing, based on a doodle I did during a meeting. Don't worry, I can doodle and listen at the same time.

Originally I drew him with light green skin, but it didn't go very well with the other colors, so I changed it to a pale blue. I like the high contrast provided by the bright red cape.

I briefly considered calling this one "Alien Vampire," since I just did a "Space Accountant" drawing, but that just didn't have as good a rhythm as "Space Vampire."

This is a vector drawing, drawn all in InDesign. The text was hand drawn.

Here's the meeting sketch I did. Nothing much changed in the final drawing, with the exception of the markings on his forehead. I have no idea what that was about or what I was thinking when I drew it, so I opted to leave them out in the final.

Things You Should Know About Me: Backwards Movies

When I was a kid, my family and I used to watch movies backwards.

Well, maybe not backwards, but definitely out of order.

Back in the day my parents and I would often go into town and take in a movie. My Dad usually picked what we'd see so I saw a lot of westerns, war stories and spy thrillers as a kid.

Unlike normal human families, when we went to a movie we didn't consult the show times in the newspaper and plan our trip accordingly. Nope, we'd just show up, buy our tickets to whatever was playing (there were no multiplexes in those days) and barge right on into the theater. No killing time in the lobby waiting for the next show to start for our family!

This meant that the majority of the time we walked into a movie that was already well in progress. Sometimes we got there just a few minutes late, but most of the time we'd arrive over an hour into the run time. I'm sure the other patrons appreciated this as we blindly groped around in front of them, feeling for our seats in the inky darkness and disrupting the entire theater. We'd finally locate some empty seats, take a few more minutes to remove our jackets and get comfortable and then we'd start watching what was left of the film. Of course we had little to no idea of what was the hell was happening onscreen, so we'd sit there watching in puzzlement.

When the movie was over, we'd stay in our seats as the cleaning staff came in and straightened the theater around us. Then we'd watch the coming attractions and finally the beginning of the movie. When it got to the part where we first came in, we'd usually get up and leave. For many years I assumed this was how everyone watched movies.

There were some drawbacks to this method of movie going though, specifically in the areas of plot comprehension, character recognition, motivation and most of all suspense. It's hard to feel the tension that the director intended in a scene when you see the hero escape a trap before he falls into it.

For example, take the original Poseidon Adventure (Spoilers ahoy!). Naturally we arrived over halfway through the movie. As near as we could tell, a group of cruise goers were unhappy that they'd booked a trip on an ocean liner that was inexplicably upside down and were searching for the travel agent to get a refund. Shelley Winters' character consumed too much at the all-you-can-eat buffet, had a heart attack and died. This apparently made Gene Hackman very angry, causing him to question his faith in God and yell at everyone. Stella Stevens was so upset by the proceedings that she rent her garments and had to wear a men's dress shirt for the rest of the picture. Or something like that.

It all made a little more sense when we finally got to see the beginning of the movie and watch the ship tip over. Some of our initial assumptions about the plot were then proven inaccurate.

When the movie got around to Shelley Winter's death scene again, my parents realized this was where we came in, so we had to get up and leave, causing a big commotion and no doubt ruining the film for everyone else. As normal as it was for our family, I had to admit it wasn't the ideal way to watch a movie.

I have no idea why we went to the movies this way. To find the answer you'd have to ask my Dad, as he was the activities director and driver. I was just a kid and had no say in the matter. All I know is that most of the movies I saw during my childhood were seen out of order, Slaughterhouse Five style. I just assumed that this was how everyone saw movies.

As I got older and the day came when I could drive myself to the cineplex, I looked up the show times in the newspaper and arrived before the movie started. That way I actually got to see the beginning, middle and end of the movie, instead of the other way around. What a novel concept!

Friday, August 26, 2011


An alternate version of my recent Gojira illustration, sans the city background.

It kind of reminds me of a model kit box.

This is a vector drawing, done all in InDesign.

Gojira Vs. The City Planner

Hey, It's Godzilla, or Gojira as he's known in the Land of the Rising Sun.

I've always been a fan of Godzilla movies. Well written dramas with Oscar™ winning actors are fine, but every now and then you just want to watch a guy in a dinosaur suit fight a big moth on a string.

I've read that Toho studios is planning a new Godzilla movie and that for the first time he will be an all CGI creation, rather than the traditional man in a suit. I don't think I like that idea. The rubber suit and the intricate model work is part of the charm of these movies and I think it's a mistake to abandon them. Ah, but what do I know? You young kids get off my lawn!

The very first Godzilla movie was actually quite serious and somber and commented on the legacy of the atomic bombings of Japan. As the series progressed though, things got quite a bit sillier as it devolved into pitting Godzilla against ridiculous looking monsters in slapstick battles.

I think Godzilla movies were the first to teach me of the evils of pan & scan. When I was a kid and watched Godzilla movies on TV I noticed that the battles often seemed poorly framed and hard to follow, and much of the action took place off-screen. I wasn't imagining it; most of the films were shot in 2.35/1 aspect ratio, meaning the image was 2.35 times as wide as it was tall. When the movies were shown on TV, they were usually chopped down to 1.33/1 in order to fit the home screen. That means we were missing almost half the picture! No wonder they looked bad!

Do yourself a favor and check out the original Japanese language versions of the films if you can. They're presented in their proper 2.35/1 aspect ratio and are much more coherent than the appalling Americanized versions, with their atrocious dubbing and crude editing (that quite often changed the plot!). 

Godzilla went through quite a few looks over the years, as Toho studios built a new suit for just about every movie. All of the suits featured a lumpy, striated texture. I tried to recreate this texture in my version of Godzilla, but it just didn't work out. He ended up looking more like a watermelon than a giant lizard, plus it just looked too dense and complicated. So I scrapped that plan and went with a more simplified and cartoony texture.

This is a vector drawing, drawn all in InDesign. I'm experimenting with blurred vectors again, trying to make the background and foreground buildings look out of focus.

This illustration went through quite a lengthy gestation period, and ended up looking quite different from my initial tries. At the top is my original vector version of Godzilla. He's looking pretty stiff and uninspired, and quite honestly doesn't look much like any movie version of Godzilla. I got fed up and shelved the drawing for several months.

Much later I decided to try it again. The second version has a bit more energy, but he still doesn't look much like Big G. In fact that nose looks more like a pig snout! Once again I shelved the drawing and moved on to other things.

The problem with these is that I was trying to be a big shot and draw him from memory, and I failed miserably. 

Once I finally admitted to myself that I really didn't know what Godzilla looked like and used some actual photo reference, things improved quite a bit. Here's the sketch I used for the final illustration. Finally he's starting to look like himself! That's today's lesson, kids. Don't be afraid to use photo reference.

Hurricane, Schmuricane Redux

I posted this blog entry just about this time last year, when the meekly named Hurricane Earl was bearing down on the East Coast. With the equally blandly-named Hurricane Irene now threatening the East Coast this year, I thought it was worth repeating.

Here's something else I've always wondered: Why do they always give hurricanes such bland, everyday names?

For example, right now Hurricane Earl is bearing down on the East coast of America. No offense to any readers out there named Earl, but you've got to admit, that's not a name that strikes fear into people.

If I was sitting in my house and the weatherman came on TV and said, "Run for your lives! Hurricane Earl is heading right for us! Take only what you can carry!" I'd shrug and go on with whatever I was doing.

Maybe more people would have evacuated New Orleans five years ago if Hurricane Katrina hadn't been named after a sexy Russian exchange student.

If they want people to take hurricanes seriously and evacuate the coastlines, they need to stop naming them Otto and Virginie* and start calling them Hurricane DESTRUKTORR or Hurricane EXTERMINUS. Now that would get the population's attention! No one would ignore a hurricane warning like that!

So here you go, National Hurricane Center. I'm sending you a revised list of 21 hurricane names for 2010 to replace your wimpy monikers (spellings are intentional):

· Annihilator
· Blastarr
· Crusher
· Destruktorr
· Exterminus
· Fearasaurus Death
· Ginormitron
· Hellsender
· Implosionator
· Jackal-gnashor
· Killotronn
· Lay-waste-acuss
· Maimakuss
· Neutralizorr
· Oblitoratorr
· Pillaguss
· Ransackulon
· Slaughteratorr
· Terminatus
· Vandalon
· Wreckkorr

Good luck during hurricane season, World (note that I am not trying to make light of recent hurricane victims and the extensive damage, rather I'm mocking the National Weather Service for what I consider a stupid naming system).

*Believe it or not, these are actual names on the 2010 hurricane name list.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Deadly Tofu

Harold shuffled into the dark kitchen to get a drink and take his pills. He reached up, turned on the light and was startled by an object sitting in the middle of the room. When his heart began beating normally again, he saw what it was. It was That Thing again. No matter how many times he and Agnes shooed it out of the apartment, it always found a way back in. 

What what That Thing? Was it some sort of alien creature that found its way to Earth? Was it a cube of pure, undiluted evil? Or a chunk of tofu that sat in the refrigerator for too long, until it became sentient... and hungry.

I thought this was going to be a quick and simple little illustration, but as usual I underestimated the time it would take. I had planned on adding some kind of pattern to the man's boxer shorts, and I just noticed I forgot. Oh well. I spent more than enough time on the thing and I'm not going to go back and add more to it. There comes a point where you have to let go of a drawing and set it free. If it comes back to you, then it's yours. Or something like that.

The text was hand lettered, based on my new all time favorite font, Burbank. I changed the text a bit from the sketch as well.

Drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet.

Here's the original sketch of Harold and That Thing. Pretty rough stuff.

Here's the much tighter second digital sketch. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Psst! Hey, Buddy!

Mr. Johnson was walking home from the office and made the mistake of making eye contact with someone on the street.

Sadly, that was the last anyone saw of Mr. Johnson.

This was a very quick (about two, maybe three hours) little experiment to see if I could make a kind of soft focus illustration in a vector program (which generally is best for creating sharp, hard edges). The result: I'll let the viewer decide, but I think it worked.

Drawn all in InDesign.

Here's the original sketch. Not much to look at, but I guess I saw some potential in it somewhere.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dr. Schmerton And Inspector Thorlock-Crammington (Scotland Yard, Ret.) Are On The Case!

Detective Inspector Reginald Thorlock-Crammington was a preeminent detective for Scotland Yard for many years, specializing in cases involving the strange and usual. When his partner, the eccentric physician Dr. Schmerton, was transformed into a demon by a wizard masquerading as a local chemist, he came out of retirement to help his old friend.

The two now travel the Queen's Realm investigating the curious and astonishing.

Hey, how'd you like that biography I just made up? I had no idea who these two were when I first doodled them. I do that a lot; doodle the character first, worry about who they are later. That's probably backwards from how most people do things, but it seems to work out OK for me.

This is a vector drawing, drawn all in InDesign.

Here's a look at the sketch page for these two. You can see the early versions of the characters at the bottom. Obviously they started out as two totally separate characters and originally weren't meant to be together. There are lots of other guest star sketches on the page as well. That's Dr. Smith and the Robot from Lost In Space at the top left. I don't know who the black-eyed guy is. Next to the Robot are Dorian and a Headless Monk from Doctor Who. I ain't saying who the stern-looking guy at the right is supposed to be. I was trying to draw a celebrity from memory and it didn't work.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Planet Of The Obvious

All the hoopla over the recent Rise of the Planet of the Apes movie got me to reminiscing about the original. Planet of the Apes is a genuine classic with top notch writing, an all-star cast and Oscar-winning makeup. It's a thrilling sci-fi adventure story with a side dish of social commentary thrown in.

That said, I never understood everyone's startled reaction to the so-called surprise twist ending. At the end of the film (50 year old spoiler alert!) Taylor, the human hero, and his girlfriend Nova ride a horse down the shoreline until they come upon the ruins of a decimated Statue of Liberty. Taylor freaks out and starts chewing the scenery as he realizes that he didn't land on an alien planet ruled by apes after all, but has been on Earth all along.

My reaction upon seeing this for the first time (at age 11 or 12) was, "Yeeeah, so?"  I couldn't understand Taylor's reaction. I thought maybe he was upset because the Statue of Liberty had been damaged.

The next day at school my friends were all talking about the brain-melting twist ending. I thought, "Huh? That was supposed to be a surprise? Was I not supposed to know he'd been on Earth the entire time?" It honestly never occurred to me that Taylor was a moron who didn't even know what planet he was standing on.

Understand that I'm not saying I was a genius or prodigy who saw through Rod Serling's well crafted screenplay. Nor am I implying that anyone who was surprised by the twist is an idiot. It just never dawned on me that I was supposed to think he was on another planet.

I very naturally assumed Taylor and company had crashed on Earth in the far future, after apes and man had switched places. Taylor's obsession with the year at the beginning of the movie was just one thing that made me think that. There were many shots of him looking at the ship's chronometer, which showed that, thanks to the magic of relativity and time dilation, they were thousands of years in the future. He was constantly talking about how everything and everyone they knew were dead, buried and forgotten. Why would the year matter unless they were on Earth? 

I'm aware that Taylor makes some weak argument that he and his crew have crash landed on a planet 300 light years from Earth, orbiting a star in the Orion cluster. But even the other characters don't buy it and dispute his theory. I know how they feel.

Let's examine the rest of evidence in the movie, shall we?

First of all the movie's called Planet of the Apes, for poop's sake. It's not called Planet of the Sentient Alien Creatures Who Resemble Terrestrial Simians. There were chimpanzees, orangutans and gorillas living on this planet. OK, so they were talking apes, but they were apes just the same. Why would you put apes in a movie and then expect the audience to think it took place on an alien planet?

There were also humans running around. They couldn't speak, but they looked and acted like men, and the apes even called them "humans." So we've got humans and apes. Again, why would I not think they were on Earth?

The apes also rode around on horseback. Last time I checked, horses were native to Earth. And when the apes were hunting the humans they rode through a large corn field. I believe corn grows mainly on Earth.

Taylor could understand the apes' speech and once he regained his voice, they could understand him. OK, so this happens in pretty much every sci-fi movie and TV show, but still. The apes could also read Taylor's handwriting. So everyone was speaking and writing in English. Earth!

Many of the ape characters had Earthly names. Cornelius, Julius, Lucius, Maximus and Galen. Those aren't just Earth names, they're Roman names! Now we're getting specific in our Earthiness!

The apes also used slightly altered Earthly phrases as well, such as "Human see, human do" and "He never met an ape he didn't like." Would anyone say things like that on any planet but ours?

When you add up all that evidence, I just don't get why anyone (including Taylor himself!) would think for even a minute that the story took place anywhere but on Earth. I suppose it's possible that the audience was meant to think Taylor crashed on an Earth-like planet, one that was very close to Earth, but with a few differences. The original Star Trek used to do that kind of thing all the time. But that never occurred to me either.

Sorry, Rod Serling. You were a beloved and respected writer known for your twist endings, but you lose this round.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Space Accountant

Everyone's heard of Space Cowboys (especially Steve Miller fans), and there've been tons of stories about dreaded Space Pirates. But not many people have heard of that rarest of stellar occupations: Space Accountant!

Marvel at the thrilling adventures of Space Accountant and his amazing Universal Calculator, as he balances the galaxy's books! Gasp in wonder as he calculates asset depreciation! Gape in awe as he issues financial statements! It's Space Accountant!

This is another one of those drawings that took forever. Most likely because I redrew each character several times. After I drew the initial sketch, the whole thing just seemed kind of meh. The Cowboy and Pirate both looked more dull than the Accountant. So I scrapped them and kept plugging away at it until I came up with the versions seen here. That's today's art lesson, kids: Don't settle for the first thing that comes out of your pencil. Push yourself to come up with something better. 

Another reason this drawing took so long is that there are a lot of little details. Every time I'd think I was done, I'd remember something I meant to draw, like the star on the Cowboy's chest, the Pirate's earring, and even his robotic parrot! Yes, I actually forgot about the parrot. By the way, the robotic parrot gave me some trouble too. I wanted it to sit on the Pirate's shoulder of course, but there wasn't room with his giant helmet. I tried having the parrot sit on top of the helmet, but that didn't look right either. Eventually I came up with the idea of a perch jutting out of the side of the helmet.

The text was hand lettered. It might look like the "SPACE" in each name is identical, but they're all slightly different.

Drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet.

Here's the original sketch. Like I said above, kind of meh.

Here's the second sketch. Much better. These versions of the characters have much more personality, in my opinion.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Welcome To Monster Burger

"Me Welcome Monster Burger. Would like Monstersize order?"

Uh-oh, looks like Gorthank had to get a part time job at Monster Burger to make ends meet.

This is a vector drawing, drawn all in InDesign.

Here are the original sketches I did.

One More Reason To Love Lucy

August 6 was the 100th anniversary of the birth of Lucille Ball. You may not realize it, but if you're a Star Trek fan, you owe her a big thank you. If it hadn't been for Lucy, there would be no Trek.

After Gene Roddenberry created Star Trek, he began shopping it around to various studios around Hollywood. They all turned him down, except for one: Desilu, the studio formed by Lucy and husband Dezi Arnaz. By the time Roddenberry pitched his idea to Desilu, Lucy and Dezi were divorced and she was the sole owner of the studio. Lucy must have seen something she liked in the series and gave it the green light. The rest, as they say, is history.

Star Trek was an expensive show to produce and as hard as it is to believe today, suffered from dismal ratings during its original run. The Desilu bean counters pleaded with Lucy to cancel it (along with Mission: Impossible, another expensive Desilu show), but she refused, saying that she liked it. As Lucy was one of the most successful, shrewd and powerful women in television, you didn't say no to her. Perhaps she knew a good thing when she saw it. Maybe she saw the value in a product that could be syndicated. Or maybe she thought Spock was sexy. We may never know.

By the end of Star Trek's second season, Lucy decided to sell Desilu. She sold the studio (and all its TV properties) to Paramount, which was the beginning of the end for Star Trek. Paramount kept it on the air for another season before ultimately pulling the plug.

You know the rest of the story. Star Trek became a huge hit in syndication, often scoring higher ratings than first run shows. That led to a worldwide army of rabid fans, a series of movies, FOUR more TV series and a merchandising empire rivaled by no other.

And to think we owe it all to a dizzy redhead.
Related Posts with Thumbnails
Site Meter