Thursday, October 23, 2008

When The Wolfsbane Blooms...

... And the Moon is Full and Bright.

It's that time of year again, Halloween is nearly upon us. So I'll be giving over some posts to the theme again this year, though nothing like last year. Sorry, things just aren't what they used to be. Maybe I'll get wordier to compensate. Sorry, things haven't changed THAT much.

Today's picture, like a couple to follow, actually precede the idea for the Halloween postings this year. This, like the other recent postings, began as a drawing exercise, something to loosen up those drawing muscles. This one, however, I did in pen. Pen is an interesting drawing tool for an unrepentant sketcher like myself. There's no erasing, and at least with these pens, virtually no line variation. So it forces me to be much more... choosy about what I'm drawing, in terms of line choice. But since I wanted to be loose with the drawing, it ends up being a fine balance. Or, I sketch the hell out of the lines and hope something recognizable comes out of the whole mess. I actually did this while on the phone with a friend, which may explain why it turned out relatively well- by not concentrating on the drawing, I didn't overthink it.

As you can probably/hopefully see, this is the wolfman. No particular version in mind here, though it's not hard to see Chaney's influence (the buckle is also a direct homage to the original Wolf Man movie). I was thinking of a more traditional wolfman, rather than An American Werewolf in London style, or even the greyhound-like Lupin from the third Harry Potter movie (to which my friends rejoice...). Marvel Comic's "The Beast" must have interjected himself into the drawing at some point, hence the much bulkier figure. And, as I can't directly recall what Victorian-era clothing (referencing the upcoming Wolf Man remake), I just made something up. Like usual. Then, to mess with the whole thing, I inverted the coloring. Not sure why, as it's not a true inversion, but it lends a certain look to it that I like. So that's that.

The Wolf Man is one of my earliest 'favorite' monster movies. It was also my sister's favorite (and I think still is), and is well-known amongst the general public. The look of the Wolf Man himself, along with those of Frankenstein's Monster and Dracula, is completely iconic. Unlike those two movies, however, The Wolf Man had no literary background, and so is one of the first "original" movie monsters to stand the test of time. The story is a mish-mash of different legends and myths from around the world. The movie itself is a mish-mash, much like the creation of the movie's mythology: it's an interesting, if not always agreeable, juxtaposition of (then) modern-day America with Old-World Europe, modern sensibilities with long-standing tradition, even science and superstition. One of the visual cues that let's you know you're watching a Universal Monsters movie is that the town it takes place in has modern conveniences, not to mention cars, but is populated with villagers right out of the 18th century. Rather than pin themselves down to one era, Universal went for a 'timeless' country, and ended up with a crazy-looking retro-modern-historic town.

The Wolf Man is a great movie of its time, in my opinion. As a straight-up scarefest, obviously it doesn't hold up against today's storytelling. But in its day, it was something to see. Its oblique references to "the beast in us all", particularly men when around women, is certainly a timeless theme worth revisiting. Plus, it gave the world one of the best quotes from a movie:

Even a man who is pure in Heart
And says his prayers by night
May become a wolf when the wolfsbane blooms
And the moon is full and bright.

Interestingly, The Wolf Man is the only of the "big three" monsters to not feature a direct sequel. Dracula had a sequel called Dracula's Daughter, and Frankenstein begat a number of sequels. The next time The Wolf Man appeared on screen was in Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, but that's more of a mash-up than direct sequel (though there's a thin ongoing story with poor Larry Talbot; much like David Banner from The Hulk TV series, he wandered around looking for a cure to his problem). As a co-star of the monster movies, Wolf Man appeared a number of times in various "House Of" movies... and met Abbott and Costello.

Here Endeth the Lesson.

Music: "Woke Up This Morning" - Alabama Three

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