Sunday, September 23, 2007

Art Department Strikes! 1

A long time ago, I used to be a fairly imaginative guy. An 'idea man', if you will. As I mentioned in my first post, you could often find me around work with a scrap of paper (or cardboard) in hand, jotting notes down for one epic idea after another. The ideas usually came out in a plot form with lots of dialogue and scenes laid out (known as a 'scriptment' in Hollywood). They were to end up as either a story or as a comic book. I would usually catch on one basic idea (the "hook", if you'll allow the continued Hollywood analogy), then hang the plot around that. Sometimes the hook was nothing more than a quote I'd heard somewhere, or a basic question I wanted to answer. Then, characters to fill the needs of the story. Then, and this was my favorite part, the world-building.

One of the things I love best about books and comic books, and to a lesser extent, some movies, is the amount of world-building that goes into it. To me, the world-building is all of the history, science, culture, characters, and whatnot that goes into the world the story inhabits, but doesn't necessarily directly influence the story itself. This is most common in science fiction- Peter Hamilton's "Night's Dawn Trilogy", for example, uses some 600 years of future history to explain current events in the series, but only indirectly mentions those events. It's left to the reader to make the connections, and create the history. Some better examples of this world-building include J.K. Rowling's Wizarding world in Harry Potter (him again!), Gene Roddenberry's 23rd-century Utopia in Star Trek, and most famously, J.R.R. Tolkein's Lord of the Rings, in which Tolkein actually created the entire history of Middle Earth, along with languages, people, lands, etc., most of which never ended up in the main story.

I think the reason I love this part the best is that it makes those worlds feel that much more real to me- like it would only take finding the right road to wander down to end up in Middle Earth, or Godric's Hollow, or any of a thousand imagined worlds. So, I used to spend plenty of time developing the worlds my stories would inhabit- histories, technology, historical characters- all of them were worked out beforehand. To be honest, I frequently spent more time on the world-building than the story itself, which would explain the lack of actual stories.

Where was I? Oh, yeah, the picture.

I decided, since I was drawing again, to go back and revisit some of those ideas that had been rattling around either in my head or in a box somewhere for the past 15-20 years. This is the first of the sketches looking back at those old ideas.

This guy is called the Dragonheart. Why? Well, cause he has the heart of a dragon.

(Time for an aside- this name may sound familiar to you. "Dragonheart? Wasn't that some crappy movie from the mid-90's with Dennis Quaid and Sean Connery?" Why yes, it was. However, I actually came up with the idea for a character who possessed the heart of a dragon some 3-4 years before the movie came out. This happens an appalling amount of time to any creative types who focus on genre-specific stories. Oh sure, you can write an O. Henry-ending to just about any old movie and get away with it, but try to write another story with a guy who's got a dragon's heart and see if you can avoid the cries of "rip off!". sigh... welcome to genre entertainment...)

Anyway, this guy's got a dragon's heart for his own- and as a result, he's immortal, can throw around fire, and some other stuff I can't remember. His outfit is more an attempt to show he's been around a long time rather than any specific design/costume idea. It's meant to show a number of eras (pocket watch, armor pieces, etc.) And no, that's not a robotic arm- it's armor covering his arm. A cyborg magician? That would be silly... He's one of those times where I came up with a character, but he had no story to go with him. See, he had plenty of backstory, but no story. So, he languished, until I came up with another idea into which his story could play out. But, that's a tale for another time.

Alright, seriously, this went on longer than expected. Carry on now. I'll be back Wednesday.

Weekend viewing highlight: "The Fountain", by Darren Aronofsky, starring Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz. An amazing movie, and one I need to watch again, since I'm still not sure how I feel about it. Recommended.

Music: "Please Stay" - Warren Zevon (because of the movie)
Bonus cut: "Radio Nowhere" - Bruce Springsteen

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