Summer Sasquatch

Summer Sasquatch

Little gifts would be left on the back porch, or sometimes by the barn. Wildflowers planted in strange places. Stick figures hung from tree branches. They believed the.. creature.. was trying to be nice, in its own way. Perhaps it was saying “thank you” for not shooting at it, when the neighbors often would. Maybe it was just trying to give back a little something, in trade for what it took.

They appreciated its thoughtfulness, but still wished it would stop mauling their sheep at night.

Life Lessons

street fighter

“Of course it’s not fair. This is a street fight, kid. You’re trying to end the fight as fast as you can, and you’re trying to teach anyone that messes with you a lesson. There’s no cheating here. There’s just laying on the ground spitting out teeth, or walking away laughing. You want to put the guy down, and make it memorable, really fuck their shit- Ah, crap. Sorry about the language kid, I keep forgetting you’re.. how old are you again?”

“I’m twelve.”

“Geez yeah, twelve. Maybe I shouldn’t have showed you that stuff with the brick..”

“It’s fine sir, you have been very instructive. This was really great. My ride is here so I have to go, but I hope I can come back and learn more from you. will you be here next week?”

“Yeah, sure, I’m here most days, kid.” The boy paid the man triple what he asked for, thanked him again and walked to the waiting limousine.

“Did you learn anything valuable, Master Bruce?”

“I did, Alfred,” the boy replied, his eyes narrowing. “I learned there are no rules.”

My Little Death Dealer

death dealer new

“Hi I’m Twilight Sparkle! What’s your name?”

“I am The Death Dealer. My steed was killed in battle. I wish to ride you.”

“Into battle?”

“Yes. It will be glorious.”

“How about we go make friends instead? Would you like some friends? Here [Bamf!]! I just made your axe thingy magical. Now when you hit people with it you’ll make them happy. Some might even sing! It’s always better to make people happy than to hurt them. Right?”

“I.. yes? Wait what are… you’re doing something to.. my head.”

“I’m Twilight Sparkle. What’s your name?”

“I’m the Death Dealer.”

“No. I SAID, what’s your NAME?”

“I’m.. The Friend Maker.”

“Yay! Let’s ride!”

Life of Pooh

life of pooh

After the storms, and the pesky birds, and that very peculiar shark, Pooh was tuckered out. Tigger cavorted as ever, nevermind their predicament. Pooh wondered about Christopher Robin, whom he had not seen since the frightful waves took him away. But he did not worry, for deep down Pooh had a pretty fair inkling that he was Christopher Robin’s dream. So how could Pooh think the thought, Pooh thought to himself, if Christopher Robin wasn’t out there, safe and still able to dream his thoughts for him?

So Pooh lived his life as best he could, protected his hunny from those pesky birds, and secretly wished that peculiar shark would come back around. Because Tigger was very, very annoying.

Ant-Man vs The Hulk

Hulk vs AntMan

I learned how to draw from comic books. I’d copy the shapes, make my own stories, and in the process learned a lot at an early age about composition and visual storytelling. Don’t get me wrong, I have a degree in classic studio art and art history too, and there’s no substitute for submersion in the classical arts. But I take the history of the comic book medium and how much it shaped my creative and professional life, very, very seriously.

The earliest drawing I remember, when I was six years old, was of The Hulk farting so hard he knocked down Manhattan.

Et tu, Croute?

Crute

I heard it from a key grip, who heard it from a set designer, who heard it from the 2nd unit director of “Cannonball Run”, who said it was told to him by Ricardo Montalban one night over dinner with friends.

This is a true story.

Actor Roddy McDowell, Montalban’s friend and sometimes co-worker, spent much of the 1960s and 1970s dressed up like a man-sized chimpanzee. First as Cornelius in the original “Planet of the Apes”, then in later sequels as other ape characters. Unfortunately the elaborate makeup took forever to remove, so Roddy was often last to the catering table, and forced to live with whatever he could cobble together. So he usually just took some romaine lettuce, and mixed it with lemon, olive oil, some egg, and worcestershire sauce. This light concoction had the added benefit of not staining his ape makeup, so he could eat without doffing the mask. He would later perfect his recipe with black pepper and croutons.

Over the course of his ape-career it became a regular staple. By the time filming began on “Conquest of the Planet of the Apes”, the catering crew made it special for him. When other actors asked what he was having, the caterers named it after his character’s name: “It’s Caesar’s Salad.” The rest is history.

The Last Mouse and Cat

Mouse and Cat

“Oh shit,” the hawk thought, as its shadow fell directly over Mouse. But Mouse continued to forage, unaware of the danger above. The hawk, cursing his sloppiness, adjusted his angle to account for the sun and started the dive. An instant before the fatal impact, Mouse surprisingly darted clear of danger. Before the hawk could react the trap was sprung, Cat pounced from the tall grass and locked her jaws around the hawk’s throat. As the hawk sputtered “What the fu-” SNAP went his neck.

There was no cheering, nor tiny high fives. Mouse and Cat simply set to the work of preparing the kill for supper and travel. The hunt each day was all that kept the unlikely pair from murdering each other during the night. Or so Mouse thought. But Cat was bound by a promise, a promise she cursed herself daily for making, but that she could never break.

Shiny Things

Shiny_Things

Explorer: The indigenous lifeforms were easy enough to reprogram. I am in control of a creature with a penchant for finding metallic objects and clever enough for basic puzzle solving. With any luck I can use it to help secure the parts I need to repair my ship and get off this strange rock. It attacked me a couple of times, but the force shield held well enough. Down to forty percent power but I think the beast is smart enough not to try it again.

Creature: Alien put buzzy thing in my head, tells me to do things. I do what it tells because it points me to shiny things. I like shiny things. When it stops taking me to shiny things, I think I will kill it and eat it. I hope it is soon because my suit itches, and my helmet keeps fogging up.

Measles Party

Measles Party

“My Mom says we don’t need shots,” Becca announced, “because the diseases aren’t around anymore.”

“That’s pretty dumb,” Zoe observed, balancing precariously on her head. “The only reason the diseases stay away is because everyone keeps getting shots.”

“Did you just call my Mom dumb? Wet Willy!” Becca yelled, licking her finger and wiggling it in Zoe’s ear.

“Ah, stop! Ok I’m sorry,” Zoe squealed, losing her balance and tumbling to the ground. “I didn’t mean it! Ew! At least she didn’t make you go to a measles party! That was gross AND dumb.”

“Hahaa! No you’re right my Mom’s pretty dumb,” Becca admitted, turning a cartwheel on the grass. “Yours too. Isn’t it weird to be ten years old and know we’re already smarter than our parents?”

“I know! How did that hap-” Zoe interrupted herself, head cocked to one side. “That’s my Mom. I have to go to the funeral now.”

“Another one? Geez that’s like three this month,” Becca exclaimed.

“Yeah, and they’re so boring! But I’ll try to bring back some rice-krispie treats. Seeya!” Zoe turned a quick cartwheel then sprinted towards her house.

Becca waved until Zoe was out of sight, doubled over and coughed for a few minutes, then went back to play with her other friends on the playground.

Climb Change

Climb Change.jpg

“Nonsense! There is no such thing as “man-made climb change”. How high or low in the sky we reside is a natural occurrence, nothing more. To believe our tiny forms could affect the massive land beneath our feet in any way is the height of arrogance.”

And Then There Were None

Cars_part_2.jpg

The arm’s doing a lot better, so I think it’ s time to graduate to something more complicated and retire this “pop culture vehicle” series. It feels appropriate to bring the series full circle back to cars. Interestingly, it seems that our infatuation with cars somehow came to a close with the 1980s. What happened?

Personally, I think the cultural shift might be traced to the lack of individualism in modern cars. Starting in the 1990s the design paradigm shifted towards sleek, rounded sameness. No sharp edges, no distinguishing characteristics of any kind. Is it a Nissan Sentra? A Toyota Corolla? Honda Accord? A Camry? Sonata? Without a logo most people would be hard pressed to pick any of them out of a lineup. And the high end cars dispensed with descriptive names altogether, and just went with a random assortment of letters and numbers. “A8L”? “XF”? “Q40”? “528i”? “S600”? These hardly match the evocative names of yesterday’s “Challengers” and “Stingrays”.

On the big screen it’s a tough sell symbolizing stoic individualism, when the hero arrives in a car so unmemorably interchangeable that they have to pull it right up to the camera so the audience can see the logo up close.

Maybe we’ve moved on from the symbolism. A character no longer needs a horse or a car or a helicopter as a stand-in for his innate prowess. The Jason Bourne’s of the world can excel driving anything, even a clunker mini. The Fast and Furious can just build their own cars to spec, then crash them without concern, because they can just go build another. Maybe we’ve just externalized what cars represented and grafted it onto the characters directly.

Or maybe modern cars are just really boring.

It’s About Adventure, Darkness and Death

Submarines

Submarine movies for me are basically all horror movies. Compartments are always going to flood. Someone is always going to drown. Someone is always going to have to make the terrible decision to let someone else drown. Someone is going to have to watch someone else drown through a small porthole. Someone will often be electrocuted. Someone will occasionally be crushed by explosive compression. In some rare cases, someone’s head and/or body will explode from explosive decompression.

While submarines are similar and often used as a substitution for spaceships in adventure stories, they come saddled with a key difference: we know how water works. We’ve all choked on a drink. We’ve all gotten water up our noses. Most of us know how to swim, or not, and have inhaled water instead of air while submerged. We’ve had leg cramps and found ourselves unable to swim those few inches back to the sky. We’ve been knocked down by waves and lost our sense of up or down. Some of us have been caught in riptides. Some of us have even drowned and been revived.

For most of us space is a fantasy, and all of the ways that things can go wrong in space we think of abstractly. But with submarines, we know very personally and viscerally what the consequences of the worst case scenarios are. Water is mean in so many ways that we can only imagine space to be.

Have Time Machine, Will Have Already Traveled

TimeMachines

Is time travel more interesting as mere transportation, or as a reality changing tool? If you really had a properly functioning time machine that could move backwards and forwards through time, what problem could you not solve? Just go back in time and fix it. Screw it up? Go back in time and fix it again.

Which may be why the scope of time travel is often limited. The time machine is broken, or stolen, or out of power. Or there’s no machine at all and a person is just randomly propelled through time and space. Sometimes, the problem is simply ignored, with mixed results.

Doctor Who, for example, uses a functional time and space machine that can go anywhere and anywhen in the universe. Yet nearly every episode features a “beat the clock” sprint through streets and hallways. Why? Why not step into the Tardis, roll the clock back fifteen minutes, then casually stroll to the doomsday machine and save the day? Because that’s boring. So they just pretend they don’t have a time machine, until they want a time machine.

Or Terminator. From our perspective it’s been 30 years of humans foiling killing machines sent from the future. But what’s Skynet doing exactly in the future? Was it sending a Terminator in, then looking around for a few seconds to see if it worked and the future changed? Would it even be aware the future changed? Or was Skynet just a cold, calculating dick, sending dozens of Terminators back at the same time, each to a different year in the past?

The only film so far to really attempt to deal with time travel causality with truly brutal logic, was Primer. It showed how complicated the consequences could be from even a very limited time travel ability (backwards one week only). The events and story were so complex fans of the film created a massive flowchart to track all of the different realities and characters generated. It’s almost required to watch the film again immediately, multiple times, just to keep up. For many people that sort of time and brain investment isn’t entertaining either.

So is time travel more interesting as mere transportation, or as a reality changing tool? We may never know. But what we do know, having read all of this, you have now traveled ten minutes into the future. Ta daa!

Helicopters Were Cool Once, and Young

Helicopters

There was a time, sometimes referred to as “The Nineteen Eighties”, when nothing was cooler than a helicopter. Hot cars? Sure. But the most extreme, the most awesomely radical heroes, all rode or piloted helicopters. They had ridiculous names like “Stringfellow Hawke”, and it didn’t even matter, because they were pilots, and had experimental stealth attack helicopters hiding inside mountains.

And the actual pilots, the stunt pilots that pushed these machines in between buildings, or into car chases under bridges and power lines? Pretty much all of them were Vietnam veterans. Probably no coincidence most of the show characters were ex-Vietnam vets turned private eyes. That was cool, too.

Unfortunately a couple of high profile on-set accidents (Twilight Zone: The Movie was the most tragic) led to significant safety reform, and that was pretty much the end of helicopters in tv or film as anything other than transportation. Now whenever you see an actor near a running helicopter, the rotors are CG, and if the budget is low they don’t even spring for the wind machine to blow their hair around.

But I’ll never forget that special time, the era when cars chased helicopters chasing cars.

It’s About Survival

vintage_boats.jpg

I noticed a trend on completing the third entry in what’s quickly becoming a series on fictional vehicles. It turns out each vehicle type has a sort of narrative personality.

Cars, for example, are used mostly to either escape or chase. They’re almost always in some way representing freedom; freedom to run away and freedom to pursue. They basically replaced the horse in pop culture storytelling. Marshals and gunmen became cops, robbers and detectives.

Spaceships, with similar roots in classic westerns, tend to focus on exploration. It’s seldom about reaching a destination, and more often about the adventure that happens while on the journey. They represent the frontier, the unknown, and our curiosity to see what’s out there. Star Trek as Lewis and Clark, Battlestar Galactica as Wagon Train.

And ships? Well, unfortunately with ships the narrative seems to focus on getting lost, claustrophobic imprisonment, and watery graves. The “drama” with ships is apparently most potent when everything goes wrong. It makes some sense narratively, as ships and boats are often majestic to be sure, but kind of slow-moving and dull when trying to tell an exciting story. So it’s mostly when ships are attacked, or sinking, or sunk, that they drive an exciting narrative.

I’m thinking of doing fictional helicopters next. I’m curious to see how their narrative roots fit into the series.

Jumping is Just Falling With Style

Jumping_Cars

I did not fall with style. I went down in that hard awkward way when physics and gravity conspire. All it took was a deep hole in the sidewalk, some leaves, darkness and shadow to keep it a surprise, and I was on the ground before I knew I was falling. I dislocated the ulna (elbow) on my right arm, and snapped the radius in two. I dislocated the ulna on my left arm as well, because why not.

Three weeks, two surgeries, and a shiny new titanium plate later and I’m finally on the mend. Naturally I’m right-handed, so I’ve had to do everything wrong/left-handed, while also recovering from a dislocation. So today’s illustration is the first thing I have attempted to draw since the break. It was actually what I had planned to draw the day I fell, except more complex (a dozen cars instead of just five). It took three times as long to draw less than half the planned sketch, and it’s excruciating, but at least I can still put pen to paper.

Xray with new titanium plate for those interested.