Tuesday, March 31, 2009

From the Crypt, 11: It's Not Death If You Refuse It

7/11/92... Happy Birthday to me! Good to see I was out celebra... oh, wait, I was home drawing...

Well, this is good ol' Eric, otherwise known as The Crow. You've seen him on this blog before, though it's been some time. This particular version of him is based on the comic series that, like The Evil Dead and Sandman, was a gateway for teenagers into whole new worlds of fiction beyond those boring old superheroes.

Driven to create the comic in the wake of his girlfriend's tragic death, James O'Barr created a haunting, lyrical, disturbing and beautiful work of art about love, death, revenge and redemption...

Or at least that's how I saw it then. To be honest, I've not read it in many a year- part of me is afraid to, fearing that, like so much of the past, it won't stand up to the harsh light of time. Perhaps I'll take it off the shelf and give it a read through sometime soon. Who knows, it might still have some of the impact it had then.

This picture was heavily influenced by O'Barr's drawing style- his Crow was drawn as though he were almost sculpted, but with a fluidity to the character itself that always reminded me of a dancer or gymnast. I tried my best to bring some of that to my version here, though as with most of my characters, it can't help but look stiff and poorly posed. Not to mention all the anatomical errors (I've just now noticed how out of proportion it is). Damned little hands, too. I also just now remembered all the hell I used to give myself when it came to drawing the boots. They were always just supposed to be combat boots, coming to below the calf. However, with my drawing, they always seemed way too big... I've only now realized it's because I was drawing with the 'superhero' proportions (at least 8 heads high) rather than a more realistic height- so his legs were always too long to look right. Ah well. Anyway, that's that. I've done more than a few Crow pictures throughout the sketchbooks; it was a big influence back then. I'm pretty sure it will turn up again before long.

MMMMMmmmmaybe something Friday. We'll see.

Music: "Dead Souls" - nine inch nails

Sunday, March 29, 2009

From the Crypt, 10: Bat Attitude

June 10, 1992.

Batman was one of the first DC heroes I really liked. I was a die-hard Marvelite (or Marvel Zombie, if you like) from my earliest days; it wasn't until I got back into reading comics in the late '80's that I found the DC heroes. I can't remember which issue of Batman or Detective I first picked up, but I remember well the craziness of "A Death in the Family", the famous story-arc/publicity stunt whereby readers were given a 900-number to vote on the fate of Robin. They killed him. I gravitated to Batman because, like a lot of kids, I thought Batman was cooler because he was 'dark and grim'- it would take a number of years for me to first realize a) 'dark and grim' can kind of wear on a person and b) a good writer can make ANY character cooler than any other character- there have been a number of comics showcasing Superman (often the less-favored of the two characters- too much a boy scout), showing just how fantastic a character he can be.

But that's now, this was then- Batman ruled.

Nothing fancy about this one, either- just a picture of Batman leaping through the air. Possibly from a great height. Note that, for one thing, I didn't muck around with the costume, as I (and many, many other comic fans) would in the future... Chris Nolan's armored Dark Knight, and even the more armored-looking Keaton Batman, are a few years away. I'm not too sure about the mechanics of the muscles here, either- I'd not really spent any time looking at anatomy or reference books, other than comic books. And, as I recall, overly-musclebound heroes were the rage back then. I do still like how the hands were drawn, though. Hands and feet, tougher than anything else to draw.

So there's ze Batman; he'll turn up here again before too long, I'm sure.
Obviously, not a new picture. This weekend turned into one mildly productive, so I set aside plans to work on the new picture. I think I should get it fixed and posted this week, though... but you know me, don't you? Something will show up again soon, either something new, or something... not.

Music: "The End is the Beginning is the End" - Smashing Pumpkins

Thursday, March 26, 2009

From the Crypt, 9: The Times, They Are A-Changin'

June 4, 1992.

Oh 1990's, how I miss you so... cyberpunk-styled cyborgs were such the rage back then- undoubtedly some type of latent self-mutilation/body modification, cry-for-help-or-at-least-attention. Cyborgs were all over the place back then, certainly in comic books, or at least godawfully huge machine-wearing people were with guns as big as small cars- you know who you are- yes you with no pupils and tiny feet, you know I'm talking about you. The whole latent image problem business could just be so much bunk, but the big cyborg thing was very real, and I bought into it wholeheartedly. Couldn't even tell you why, really, other than I was a big fan of Robocop and a big fan of rampant technology in general. Also, it looked cool.

These two were my first attempt at an idea that's been with me ever since- like the best ideas (or like a Hollywood producer), I came up with the name first, then the rest sorted itself out. I won't spoil the name just yet- the concept evolved from this first idea, that of a group of 'highly-trained operatives, with state of the art cyber-enhancements' doing massive amounts of property damage, into something less... '90's, and into something I think is a big more interesting, or at least copywrightable.

Nothing much to say regarding the drawing itself, other than it was plenty of fun to draw at the time, I got a kick out of coming up with the crazy weapons and tech, and man, she's got a really small hand... and I just noticed, they apparently have the same sized waist... jeez...

Okay, that's all for now. I think next week I might just post something new, to break up the monotony of all these flashbacks.


Music: "Demolition Man" - Sting (yes, originally done by The Police, but this is the specific version I'm thinking of)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

From the Crypt, 8: Groovy

June 2, 1992.

Ah yes, to be a teen and exposed to movies.

I think every teen finds a movie, or set of movies, that becomes a bit of a touchstone for their age- something revelatory, stretching their boundaries and ideas of what can be done in film, or something profoundly in-the-moment, something that will always draw their memory to a time or place, something that will always say to them, 'you were doing this at this time when you saw this' and open a floodgate of memories. For some people, one can become the other- those eye-opening moments of 'wow, there's a lot of stuff out in the world' can become a half-wistful, half-chagrined walk down memory lane, thinking back to the idea that a movie really could change a person's life. Of course, for just as many people, those movies get locked in time, put in a place of importance, and relevance, beyond all reason. It's all a matter of perspective, of course- one man's Clerks is another man's Citizen Kane... If you're of the former thoughts, you all know someone like I'm describing. If you're of the latter, chances are you really have no idea you're like that. I'm sorry, but while Reservoir Dogs was a great movie, it was hardly the greatest film put to celluloid. Nor was Highlander. Or Clerks. Or, for that matter, The Evil Dead.

But we're speaking of then, not now. And for the then-me, The Evil Dead was damn near the best thing ever filmed. Specifically, Evil Dead II. The first movie (the one without the 'II', of course) was an ultra-low budget horror movie directed by some guy named Sam Raimi, who would go on to eventually direct Spider-Man. Back then, pretty much a nobody. The movie was a genuine horror movie though, with plenty of scares and gross-outs... but also a pretty wicked sense of humor, and a knack for the left-turn into the bizarre that seems to cater to teenage boys everywhere. Nothing highlights this quite so much as when, in Evil Dead II, the main character Ash (played by champion to nerds and Old Spice fans everywhere, Bruce Campbell (a guy awesome enough to teens that friends of mine wrote a song about him back then)) cut off his hand when it went bad... and replaced it with a chainsaw. That, my friends, is cinematic gold. Then the third movie came out and dumped the character into medieval times... and not the restaurant. I can certainly look back on those movies quite fondly- and honestly, they still hold up pretty well for what they were- but mostly, I look back at them and realize how many more great movies (and not so great ones) I've been exposed to because, once I found the joy of Ash and the Deadites, I wanted to know "what else is out there to watch?"

This picture is essentially a swipe/homage to the original poster to the first movie... or at least a poster for the first one...

See you around- sorry about the randomness of the posts, but a number of illnesses and a trip to the hospital have left me with some serious catching up to do. Hopefully Friday, but don't hold me to that.

Music: "Man in the Box" - Alice in Chains

P.S. If someone comes up to me and seriously tries to compare Clerks to Citizen Kane, they get punched in the face.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

From the Crypt, 7: Do You See What You Hear?

May 29, 1992.

It was near the end of the school year, and our English Class had pretty much wrapped up by that point, so it was essentially a free period to do whatever. So naturally, I had out pencil and sketchbook. I popped Nirvana's "Nevermind" into the tape player, turned it up, and drew. "Breed" was the song that was on, and essentially made me draw what you see above. I had no idea what to draw until I actually heard the music playing- this is what came out. Sure, it's pretty typical of what I was drawing at the time, but I really liked the energy that came along with the music when I was drawing this. Nothing fancy, but pretty enjoyable.

This is one of the earliest pictures I can find that links my enjoyment of music with my love of drawing. I've drawn to music since then, but this rests most clearly in my mind. Since then, I've taken to thinking of music much more visually- not just in terms of how the music makes me want to draw, but actually drawing based on what I'm listening to- both in terms of the lyrics and the music (which can sometimes compliment, sometimes contradict, each other). One of many incomplete projects I've got on my plate is a number of pieces based around music. Some folks have helped with with ideas over the years, and I hope to get around to working on it. Time, Skill, and Energy willing, of course.

Next time- a surprise! (I forgot to look ahead)

Music: "Breed" - Nirvana

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

From The Crypt, 6: ...Bring Me a Dream...

So it looks like this one was done around April 9, 1992, and this must've been around the time I picked up the fourth trade of Neil Gaiman's genre-defining magnum opus (I could write copy for movie posters, I swear), Sandman. When I first picked up the original two trades (at a comic show in the old Holiday Inn in Monroeville, back when they were locally run and filled a small room), I had no idea what to expect. I'd heard plenty of good things about it, but I wasn't sure I was ready for it- no costumed heroes, for one, although the skinny pale guy dressed all in black, so that was something. I tore through those first two trades, as fast as I could, then re-read them- not just because they were amazingly written, but because there was so much more going on than what would be seen from a single reading.

Sandman is like nothing I'd read before, and to this date still stands apart from all that have come since then. It was a comic with no real action in it (although Morpheus faces down the legions of Hell in the first story arc), but was as gripping as anything I'd ever read. Breaking down social, sexual, religious and storytelling boundaries from page one, it redefined what comics were capable of being, and elevated the art to true literature - though surely not single-handedly; Watchmen came first, of course, but this broke down the boundaries of acceptability. Goth kids everywhere found a new hero. It was the first comic book to win the prestigious Hugo Award (first and only- they changed the rules after it won), and the author, Neil Gaiman, has gone on to critical and public success with a number of novels and stories.

Anyway, one of the great things about the series was that it used a number of comic artists, with wildly varying styles- so if you didn't like one guy, wait a few months, and someone else would show. This particular version of Morpheus was heavily influenced by the great Kelley Jones. He used heavy, heavy blacks and wildly stylistic characters to define the Sandman for many people. The cloak is all Jones.

There's a good chance that you'll see more of Morpheus as time goes by- each time I would pick up a new volume, I'd invariably return to drawing the character.

For folks who aren't into superhero books, but aren't adverse to trying something different, I can't recommend Sandman highly enough.

Music: "Enter Sandman" - Metallica

Sunday, March 8, 2009

"Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?"

In honor of this weekend's viewing of Watchmen, I thought I'd post a picture of one of my favorite characters, Nite Owl (II). And, in honor of the fact that it takes place in 1985, I thought I'd do it up a little retro. I drew this entirely with the line tool (except the moon, obviously), which is how I used to draw on the computer way back in the day (1987-1988) with my Apple IIc. I guess to be really retro, I should've done this in greenscale, but you can't have everything.

And yes, I think I'll be writing some thoughts on the movie, but not until I've seen it at least once more. But yes, it is good.

Music: "Hallelujah" - Leonard Cohen

Sunday, March 1, 2009

From the Crypt, 5: It's Uncanny!

Man, it was great to collect comics in the 90's. Books were routinely selling over 1 million copies an issue, there were multiple covers for all your favorite books, and just about every character had their own comic (actually, it was really just great to sell comics in the 90's). And no one was bigger than the X-Men. The biggest artist in American comics at that time, Jim Lee, was drawing the biggest comic in world, X-Men, written by one of the most popular writers of the day, Chris Claremont. The X-Men was everything good in comics...

And everything bad.

Convoluted plots that went on and on, only to go nowhere, badly-written dialogue, and yeah, the art was great, but spawned (inside pun there) so many bad knock-off styles that, after a surprisingly short period of time, seeing any hatchmarks to indicate shadow (or worse yet, to indicate hatchmarks) drove me to twitching.

But all that was in the future. At the time of this piece of unfinished business, I was completely in love with Jim Lee's art, and the X-Men comic in general. Though I'd never be able to draw like Jim (though I've done a decent knock-off-- excuse me, homage-- in my day), I loved the action and dynamics he brought to his characters, not to mention the cool as hell poses, so I did my best to mimic that here. As near as I can recall, these aren't based on any specific poses he did- but the poses are so generic, it's hard to say that for certain (Joey, maybe you can correct me on that). Regardless, it was fun to draw, no doubt. And of course, not finish. I remember having plans for the rest of the picture (as you can see, two characters- Rogue and Psylocke- are missing, as is the logo), but not why I never finished. Probably because drawing women is tough. Was then, is now.

This picture is a great example of how my 'style', such as it is, has changed through the years. I always found a great deal to like in the dominant style of the day, whatever day that was, but I never did a great job of taking it to heart. This is probably as close as I would get to that painted-on, well-defined muscle-bound superhero look- as defined by the clean lines of Jim Lee (before the hatching, obviously)... actually, this isn't the most well-defined muscle look I've ever done- that's coming up later on, and we'll get to it, but this is probably the most super-hero style I've ever done. In some ways, I wish I could return back to this style, if only to apply what I've learned since then in anatomy and composition, with the dynamism and cleanliness of what I've done here. Clean lines, without being cartoony (as I tend to veer into nowadays).

Anyway, there's a new bit of look-back for you. More to come later this week. If I'd paid attention, I could tell you what's next... but I didn't.


Music: "International Bright Young Thing" - Jesus Jones