I’ve spent some time over the last four years trying to figure out a graphic novel project that a writer friend and I could collaborate on. I like his writing. He likes my illustration. We never did find a story that we both were willing to invest the time and money to take to completion.
At one point, while working out a possible scene in a possible plot, he asked whether I wanted the protagonist to battle a tyrannosaurus rex or a giant squid. My first thought was “Why not both?” but I think I told him that I preferred a tyrannosaur.
The “Why not both?” thought stuck with me and the “both” element had me decide to combine the two creatures into one. Sorta.
“Words could not adequately convey the repulsiveness of the thing. It was endowed with a trunk and great, uneven ears, and two enormous tusks protruded from the corners of its mouth. But it was not an elephant. Indeed, its resemblance to an actual elephant was, at best, sporadic and superficial, despite certain unmistakable points of similarity. The ears were webbed and tentacled, the trunk terminated in a huge flaring disk at least a foot in diameter, and the tusks, which intertwined and interlocked at the base of the statue, were as translucent as rock crystal.”
One of the reasons that I’m so fond of the so-called Cthulhu Mythos is its breadth and diversity. H.P. Lovecraft may have originated it but it has long since outgrown his writings. Howard Belknap Long was a writer who added to the Mythos during Lovecraft’s lifetime. His most notable creations are the Hounds of Tindalos and the fellow above, Chaugnar Faugn. All of Lovecraft’s work is in the public domain, easily found and therefore easily read. Long’s work is still under copyright and, because Long has not retained a lot of posthumous popularity, requires some effort to track down. As far as I can tell, the Seattle Library has nothing by him in its collections. As such, I haven’t read The Horror from the Hills, the story that first features Chaugnar Faugn.
But what the hell, I have read T.E.D. Klein‘s Black Man with a Horn, featuring a version of Chaugnar Faugn that only vaguely resembles the original, and I felt like drawing an eldritch abomination so … here he is.
These are the finalish character designs for this year’s abandoned graphic novel project. I say “finalish” because, until I had actually started penciling the story pages I’m sure that we would have made more adjustments. The big guy’s artificial eye’s final design was still being worked out. The uniform probably would have gotten a tweek or two.
Am I likely to ever use these designs for characters in a project of my own?
Mostly not. They were designed with a specific story in mind and so, with one exception, they’re not likely to continue living in my imagination. The one exception is the monster. I’ve gotten found of the critter. I can’t use it for any version of this story – the writer owns the plot – but I can imagine it turning up in other places.
I had mentioned recently that I expected a chunk of my time this year to be caught up in drawing a graphic novel.
That time has been freed up. The writer and I have, amicably, agreed to abandon the project due to that old standby – creative differences. We were both enthusiastic about the story but, unfortunately, we were enthusiastic about different, and incompatible, versions of the story. So he’s keeping his story, perhaps to have another artist illustrate, and I’m keeping my character designs.
And since I like posting stuff on this weblog I’m showing those designs to you. Today’s post is the initial character designs. I did a number of preliminary sketches prior to these where I worked to distill the characters into individuals that I could draw multiple times from multiple angles. The uniforms that these folks are wearing didn’t survive this stage. The chest pockets looked okay on the guys but terrible on the women.
I’ve given away a lot of my drawings over the years. Friends will kid me that they are hanging onto them until I become rich and famous. Then they can cash out. Silly people. I’m pretty sure I was never on a path to fame, much less fortune.
Recently one of my more sensible friends sent me photos of some of my drawings from back in the day – the “day” being some thirty years back – sometime in Eighties, a time of big shoulder pads and nuclear holocaust. She said that she was reducing her possessions in advance of a move and some of the drawings were going to get reduced along with the rest of the stuff.
I’m fine with that.
The work I did before the Nineties has life and energy but a poor awareness of anatomy. I thought it would be fun to do new versions of some of the characters in those old drawings.I thought the two fellows above looked like they’d be good traveling companions so I worked up an illustration that featured them both.
I just noticed that the big mutant is lacking the earrings I gave his original. Aw well, I haven’t worn my earrings in years either.
Time passes. Memories fade. When human civilization goes, some of our books will outlast us. If they have been stored somewhere dry and comfortable. Our films? Our films will go when we do. Without the technology to play the film and the power to run the technology, a film is (most accessibly) just a spool with a sequence of images or (less accessibly) an obsolete digital file.
And we’re back to our regular schedule – a black and white illustration posting on Sunday with a color version posting the following Wednesday.
I don’t have any real nostalgia for drive-ins. They weren’t a significant part of either my childhood or my adolescence. If I had a choice I’d have rather seen a film in a theatre building rather than a drive-in. I know people often used the drive-in for activities other than watching movies but I’ve got a one track mind. I go to the movies to watch the movie. I only remember going once, to see a double bill of Godzilla vs. Megalon and Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. I’m sure that I have more than that but none of the films have stuck in my memory.
I do have sympathy for ghosts and creatures who have outlasted their original era. Most of us become the latter and, eventually, all of us become the former.