Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Me, If I Were Radiohead's "The Bends"

Radiohead is, like, the greatest band ever. Except maybe the Beatles. I vacillate. At the very least, Radiohead took up the Beatles' banner, continuing in their spirit of musical experimentation and fearless innovation. But in lyrical content, I have to give the edge to Thom Yorke. Radiohead isn't saddled with the psuedo-stories of a Paul McCartney, and who doesn't enjoy an awesome song about alienation, isolation, techno-shock or rabbit diseases?

One of my favorite things about Radiohead is the way they marry graphic arts with their music. Stanley Donwood, Radiohead's artist friend, has created some incredible images... from the dreary collages of "Ok Computer" to the icy compu-landscapes of "Kid A" to the battered library books of "Amnesiac" to the info-overload street maps of "Hail To The Thief." Stan Donwood also worked with Yorke on the cover of "The Bends," Radiohead's second album. It was made, apparently, by morphing Thom Yorke's face onto a photograph of a medical dummy. It's not my favorite of Radiohead's album covers, but it was the easiest to make look like me.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Me, If I Were The Cheat

If you've never seen a Homestar Runner cartoon, stop what you're doing, right now, go to www.homestarrunner.com and then laugh hysterically at the antics of Homestar, Marzipan, Bubs, Strong Sad, Strong Bad and Strong Bad's best friend, The Cheat.

The Cheat is this adorable yellow thing with black spots. He has a gold tooth. He is criminally inclined and he makes crappy Flash cartoons with incredibly poor voice acting. The Cheat's cartoon, "Mile," is one of the funniest things I have ever seen in my life. My wife and I quote it on a weekly basis.

So here I am as the Cheat. Thanks for cheering me on!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

So, what the heck is Grimace, anyways? He's the mentally challenged friend of Ronald McDonald and Birdie The Early Bird, certainly, but exactly what Grimace is supposed to be seems to be a mystery.

He began as a villain in McDonaldland. He went by the name of "E. Grimace" (the "E." stood for "evil") and he had, for some reason, six arms. He debuted in an H.R. Puff-N-Stuff inspired ad in which he stole all the cups in McDonaldland to prevent anyone from enjoying frosty milkshakes or ice cold Coca-Cola. He was, of course, thwarted by Ronald (in the guise of a mailman). Somewhere along the way, he lost four of those arms and converted to the side of goodness and right.

Or, perhaps, E. Grimace is separate from the good Grimace we know and love?

I don't know if there's an official McDonaldland canon or not...

Me, If I Were A Communist Leader Portrayed On State Propaganda

This could be considered the one that started this whole obsession for me...

As the universal health care debate rages on, I've become increasingly annoyed with people chucking the word "socialism" out there like so much confetti. It's silly. I feel like we've thrown back to the era of McCarthy when communism and socialism were these terrible evils out to destroy the world.

Since a lot of my viewpoints were being criticized as socialist, I decided to change my Facebook profile picture to reflect that. So I drew myself in the style of an old Russian state propaganda poster. I wasn't sure I could convey the look, but I was so pleased the results that I started to wonder what I would look like as other things...

So this is, in essence, the debut of the whole concept. Looking at it now, it seems a little primitive to what I've made after, but that makes me happy. It means I'm getting better.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Me, If I Were Flip From Winsor McCay's "Little Nemo In Slumberland"

My favorite comic strip of all time is Winsor McCay's "Little Nemo In Slumberland." If that guy could've lettered his word balloons a little better and actually written dialog, there would have been no stopping the Little Nemo train. As it is, readers will just have to settle for lush, mind-bending art done in a beautiful turn of the (last) century style with gorgeous, muted colors and beds that grow giant legs and tower over the Empire State Building.

Flip, one of the characters, is a beard muzzled, cigar-smoking, conniving jerk who somehow becomes Nemo's best friend. He's also supposed to be a kid, which is weird, given the muzzle and cigar. And his skin is green.

I can't find the original panel I used as reference for this picture of me as Flip, but here's one to give you an idea of what the guy looked like when drawn by McCay.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Me, If I Were Jack Skellington

My first attempt to draw me as Jack Skellington (from Tim Burton and Henry Selick's "Nightmare Before Christmas") failed miserably. I was using a still from the film as reference. I just couldn't get it to look right to save my life. Luckily, my life didn't depend on it and I drew it this way instead. I don't know who the original artist on this piece was... I found this picture on several websites. I think it's rather nifty.

I like the curlicue goatee, especially. I came up with that on my lonesome.

Me, If I Were One Of H.R. Giger's Aliens

When I was in middle school, a girl I had a total crush on showed me a copy of H.R. Giger's Taschen collection, "Arh+," that her parents had, strangely, gotten her for Christmas. Apparently they were unaware of just how graphic Giger's biomechanical art could be. If you're unfamiliar with H.R. Giger, there are a LOT of varieties of mechanoid sphincters in his work. A LOT. And dead babies. It's not traditional Christmas fare.

One thing I did learn, though, is that the Xenomorph, the alien from the "Alien" movies, was also designed by Giger. And I thought that was pretty freaking awesome. The "Alien" aliens are incredibly creepy, disgusting looking and sufficiently otherworldly to make them a contender for modern horror archetypes... kind of a Universal monster for my generation.

They're also ridiculously hard to draw. This was reaching. I'm not even a mote of the artist that Giger is, so replicating an alien in his style was a challenge. While I didn't quite succeed, I think I managed a respectable showing... the glasses and goatee look especially like an afterthought on this guy...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Me, If I Were The Giant From "Twin Peaks"

Remember "Twin Peaks"? If you're a lot younger than me, probably not... because I barely remember it. But I DO remember renting the first seven episodes with my ex-girlfriend, like, ten years ago. The mix of soap opera and surrealism really appealed to me... how many prime time dramas have backwards dancing cosmic dwarfs and girl-hunting demons named "Bob"? Not enough, I tell you what.

When Bob, the demon who (spoiler alert!) killed Laura Palmer strikes a second time in the town of Twin Peaks, Special Agent Dale Cooper sees this crazy big blue-white giant (in a red bow tie) telling him that it's happening again. It's one of my favorite scenes in a series absolutely cram packed with awesomeness.

So here's me as the giant... I was tempted to draw myself as the backwards dancing cosmic space dwarf, but, as the dwarf explains, they're both the same guy anyways.

Me, If I Were A Kid In Calvin & Hobbes' Neighborhood

So, my second favorite comic strip of all time is Bill Watterson's "Calvin & Hobbes." I think he's a remarkable artist and the sheer variety of his strip, which features only a handful of regular characters, is staggering. Spaceman Spiff, Tracer Bullet, Stupendousman... all of Calvin's alter egos allow Watterson to explore and invent in other genres even as he pokes fun at them (not unlike what I'm trying to do with this blog...).

I'm a "Calvin" nut... I have all the books, including one printed for the 10th anniversary of the strip... That one's my favorite, because it allows a look in at Watterson's mind, his creative process, his struggles and his inspirations. Also, it opened a door on one of my favorite comic artists' prejudices. In one fantastic strip, Calvin delineates the different between "low art" (commercial illustration, like comic strips) and "high art" (an ironic painting of a comic strip). It's a valid point... why is Roy Lichtenstein, with his framed pictures of comic strip style art, museum-worthy, while the sketchy wonder of something like "Calvin & Hobbes" is ghettoized to "museums of sequential art." It's unfair and Watterson makes a good point.

Later in the book, though he takes a shot at "graphic novels," and how dressing up superheroes with a harder cover and better binding still leaves them just as dumb. But how is that fair, Bill? How can you judge an entire body of work with one simple, insulting adjective. There certainly ARE dumb graphic novels (I would say a goodly portion of them...), but there are WAY more dumb comic strips. So while Bill doesn't think it's fair to treat comic strips as "low art," he's perfectly content with keeping comic books in their sub-literature state. Not that that affects the brilliance of his work or anything... I just thought it was interesting.

Anyways, here I am drawn in Watterson's style... and I'm just noticing now I have five fingers on my right hand. In real life and in the drawing. *sigh* I should've caught that. Oh well.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Me, If I Were Heath Ledger's Version of The Joker From "The Dark Knight"

I absolutely LOVED Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight." Aside from Christian Bale's ridiculously annoying Batman voice, it was a pretty great film. The best part, of course, was the creepshow performance of Heath Ledger as The Joker. Now, I'm not even a huge Batman fan... I'm a Marvel Comics sort of kid. But The Joker is awesome. He's all crazy and green haired and giggly... Plus, y'know, he's got the creepy make-up. (Or not make-up? I've seen it both ways... like sometimes the Joker's face was dyed white by, like falling in a playing card factory acid vat or something. But in the movie, he's this sort of scarred up freakwad who applies facepaint quite haphazardly.) And he's loony. And sinister. And murderous. He's really quite dark for someone with the word "joke" right in his name.

Anyways, he looks way cool, and I got to thinkin', "Hey! I wouldn't mind lookin' as way cool as Heath Ledger's version of The Joker from "The Dark Knight." So I drew this. Just a little bit ago.

I struggled with the goatee.

Me, If I Were Gumby

From what I've heard, Gumby is here and he will be sure to stay... so, hey, why don't we all see what magical games he can play? Who doesn't love Gumby (besides Nazis and serial killers)? NOBODY. Everybody thinks this green guy is loads of fun... he can, of course, change into anything. He's got a horse. A flying seal friend who spits blue balls of clay at his enemies. He has a big ol' pet wooly mammoth. A fire-breathing dinosaur friend. Dude can enter the magical world of books that are just laying around. He drives a jeep. He fought moon people on the moon! He's a jack-of-all-trades, a lover, a fighter, big brother to Minga and a loving son who's not afraid to show villainous Blockheads who's boss. And he's got a moralistic streak a mile wide.

Art and Ruth Clokey's weird little green guy has been around since 1956 when he debuted on the unintentionally terrifying "Howdy Doody Show." Later, he got his own series of weird cartoons. As a kid, I would watch them at five in the morning, eating Cheerios in a dark living room after my dad had gone to work and before anybody else in the house woke up. I always liked the really old shorts the best, because they were a little more eerie and incomprehensible. Plus, a lot of them revolved around Gumby being on the moon. I thought Gumby was at his best on the moon.

Drawing me as Gumby was tough... I wanted it to look like a photograph, so I found a well lit shot of Gumby for reference. As an added bonus, Gumby was standing in front of awesome wallpaper, and I tried to mimic that as best as I could. I also took care to try to make the glasses and goatee look made of clay as well. It turned out pretty nicely, I think... when the picture is shrunk down to a small enough size, it does, in fact, look like a photo. When it was completed, I was a little disappointed that the most realistic thing I've ever drawn was Gumby with facial hair... but, hey, you take your little victories where you can.

One last point about Gumby: He WILL walk through a wall if you want him to.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Me, If I Were The Mad Hatter

"Alice's Adventures In Wonderland" is my absolute favorite book of all time. I'm totally obsessed with it. I collect copies of it. I have, like, a hundred and fifty or so. Seriously. I'm that weird. I love having different versions to see how various artists portray Lewis Carroll's surreal world. It's amazing how many different ways you can convey that a Hatter is, in fact, stark raving mad. When you include all of the filmed versions of it, the sheer variety of images is pretty darn staggering.

But in my head, the characters will ALWAYS appear the way Sir John Tenniel drew them in the first published edition. I'm sure a lot of people have the Disney versions as their mental "Alice" defaults (if, uh, they have any mental "Alice" defaults at all), but I think Tenniel's skritchy, detailed drawings capture the unbridled weirdness of Wonderland better than lush cell paintings ever could.

My favorite picture from the two "Alice" books is that of Alice holding the pig (that had once been a baby) after rescuing it from the Duchess' house. I, however, didn't want to draw myself as Alice, because, well, that'd be a little weird. So I drew myself as the Mad Hatter instead. Note the sneaky positioning of "Danger" onto his hat...


Me, If I Were The Old School Early Version of Charlie Brown

As with most cartoonists, Charles Schultz is one of my heroes. What he could do with a few simple lines, a dot or two and squiggle was just freaking amazing. Half a century has a way of diluting the power of anything, much less a gentle comic strip about philosophizing children, and the overexposure of the "Peanuts" brand has made Charlie Brown and his friends such a staple of our pop culture that it's easy to overlook just how good those comic strips were. Especially in the beginning. Charles Schultz drew "Peanuts" for decades, and his style morphed and his sense of humor changed and to keep up a daily grind, he eventually started resorting to increasingly bizarre stories and totally weird punchlines before he surrendered the strip just prior to his death. Even those later strips, I believe, have value, but I believe his best work was done at the dawn of the "Peanuts" era. In the beginning, the kids all had enormous craniums and wide faces and a fluid look to them that become stretched and pinched as time went on. Personally, I think the early version of Charlie Brown squashes the later one like a grape.

So, here's me as the old school early version of Charlie Brown. The picture is cribbed from the cover of the first volume of "The Complete Peanuts," which features Charlie taken from an early strip panel and then given a shadow by the cover designer (and another of my favorite cartoonists) Seth.

I've heard it remarked that NOBODY but Schultz can draw Charlie Brown and get it exactly right... there's always something off about it. Better men and women than me have tried and failed. But I think I did ok. Not quite up to par, but I've seen worse.

Good grief!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Me, If I Were "The Scream"

So, "The Scream" by Edvard Munch must be one of the most recognizable paintings on the planet. This planet. Our planet. Not, probably, on Alpha Centauri... unless, I suppose, we've beamed it to them. But even then, it couldn't have gotten there yet. But, here on Earth, it's awfully recognizable. If you showed it to most people, they'd probably be all like, "Yeah, I know that painting. It's 'The Scream.'" I'll bet some of 'em even know that Edvard Munch painted it. But more people probably just know the name. It's a pretty great painting. And famous.

So here's a picture of me, y'know, if I were "The Scream." It's just a detail... I didn't think I needed to recreate the whole picture. So I didn't.

Me, If I Were Harry Potter

My wife is a HUGE fan of the "Harry Potter" books. I like them well enough, but, as someone who grew up on "Dungeons & Dragons," I've read an awful lot of fantasy novels over the course of my life, so I don't believe J.K. Rowling is quite as creative as people think... she cribbed a lot of her ideas from other sources that are obscure to non-nerds. That said, she still made quite an impressive little world, and, admirably, had her characters progress and grow over the course of the series. She also taught a whole generation of kids that books can be pretty nifty. I only read up to the fourth book, "Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire," (upon which, of course, this picture is based) before deciding the movies were enough to keep me apprised of the magical doin's of the Hogwarts' kids. One thing I do love about Harry Potter is that it is not a flash-in-the-pan fad... it's the "Wizard of Oz" of our times, and I think it will show itself, in generations to come, to be one of those enduring classics, one of the rare breed that is remembered for decades, if not centuries. And that's pretty awesome.

So, here's me if I were Harry Potter. Like I said, the picture is based on Harry from "The Goblet of Fire," (the U.S. version) drawn by Mary GrandPré. It's my favorite of the U.S. covers, even if Harry looks a little ridiculously happy.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Me, If I Were One Of The Kennedy Clan

So, in memory of Senator Ted Kennedy, I present this quick sketch of me, if I were one of the Kennedy clan.

Me, If I Were A Grainy, Faked Black And White Photo Of An Alien From Area 51

There's a relatively famous (famous enough that it comes up several times in a Google image search) "photograph" of a grey alien from New Mexico's Area 51. The photograph, even setting aside its improbable subject matter, is an obvious fake... but there's doubtlessly a smattering of folks who believe that it's proof positive of life on other planets.

So, here's me if I were a grainy, faked black and white picture of an Area 51 alien. Sinister, yes, but with a faux-hipster cred that can't be denied anywhere in the universe!