I haven’t been able to keep up with updates for the web page — so here is a recently finished t-shirt design for Goodman Games’ “Mutant Crawl Classics” based on a concept from MCC’s creator, Jim Wampler. I think it will be available on a t-shirt come Gen-Con, and it might also be used for a ‘leather edition’ book cover.
Here is my 2 page spread for chapter 3 of the Shaver comic. It changed a lot since I started it… I enjoyed working in the ‘seven deadly sins’ aspect as well as other little details.
This is a page from a ‘rough’ proof for Exqusite Corpses v2 that just arrived from Lulu (not on sale to the general public yet). Here we see the head of an angel with the body of an armored fiend and the legs of a space man alien. If you missed it the first time around, EC is a book with pictures of monsters divided into heads, bodies and legs/feet and by flipping the 3 tabs you can mix and match to create the creatures that mythology was always coming up with that stuck the ass of one thing onto the head of another. EC v1 was a crude product, but the idea was sound… this time I’ve teamed up with LOFP publishing to make it better. You can read old posts from this website on it.
How is it going to be better? The above illustrations, even in this crude proof, are much better than the ones from ECv1 and Jim Raggi encouraged me to do the book in COLOR (don’t be fooled by the fact that this preview is in B&W — this version is just a means for me to proof other issues) so in the final product they will be even better. We went from 26 ‘base creatures’ (for 17576 possible combinations) to 40 ‘base creatures’ (for 64000 possible combinations!). The text was moved off the drawing onto the facing page… so when you look at the angel’s head, everything you need to know (how smart he is, alignment, special powers, etc.; all the ‘gamey’ stuff) will be on the tab just to the left of it, etc. Each ‘part’ (head, body, tail/legs) also has a small table with unique qualities that can be determined at random that is unique to each monster… so the fish entry will have ‘fish-like’ super powers or flaws for the head, tail and body… the ‘angel’ entry will have angel powers (or flaws) for the head, tail and body, etc. Instead of being a ‘Lulu’ product, the new book will be a professionally printed book with die-cut tabs… meaning you don’t need to slit the pages along a dotted line yourself before use. And it will be printed much more nicely (in Finland!).
The book is ‘universal’ system and uses general properties, so it can easily be converted to your game system of choice. If you are not a gamer, the book is still fun for just creating strange, funny or bizarre creatures by flipping the tabs.
A search of this blog will reveal that long ago I released a little book called ‘Exquisite Corpses’ which was my love note to medieval bestiaries, the AD&D Monster Manual and mythology. It will also reveal that LotFP is going to publish a revised edition at some undisclosed date in the future and that the project is YEARS behind schedule. I was talking to a number of people about it recently and wanted to say that it is neither gone nor forgotten — just delayed because I am crap at enforcing my own deadlines on myself.
The original had 26 monsters that could be combined to create something like ~17,000 unique combinations. Each ‘monster’ page had a drawing of a creature (man, woman, dragon, lizard-man, slug, robot, etc.) divided up into legs at the bottom, torso in the middle and head at the top. If the pages were slit into three parts, the user could flip the tabs to put the legs of one creature onto the torso of another and add the head of a third creature. In addition to all of that, there were tables to add additional powers or weaknesses to the creatures, like ESP, a vulnerability to silver weapons, etc. I thought it was a good idea, but the execution was a little crude and the printing via Lulu left a little to be desired, plus people had to slit the pages themselves before they could use it.
Jim from LotFP expressed interest and I began to revise it. Jim has a printer in Finland who can do die-cut tabs and full color printing on better quality paper, so I began to paint the individual creatures with acrylics. We increased the number of ‘base’ creatures from 26 to 40 – a decision influenced by the use of print signatures by Jim’s better quality book maker as opposed to the ‘slap it together coil binding’ of print-on-demand like Lulu. I’m not slamming Lulu — as a creator, I don’t want to be saddled with the necessities of order fulfillment when it comes to shipping books out to all over the world and plan to release other things via Lulu in the future simply because it will allow me to get my work out there without having to make sure everyone who ordered a book gets what they ordered. Most ‘self published’ projects instituted by amateurs and artists seem to flounder on order fulfillment — having LotFP do that part while I concentrate on creating the content seems like the best idea.
In addition to delays from me being a really bad procrastinator and decision maker when it comes to my own projects (I’m capable of sometimes literally turning around assignments overnight when it is for someone else, but when it comes to my own projects, I keep changing my fucking mind), some problems arose. I had difficulty making the color versions work and fit together. I wasn’t happy with a lot of the creatures and didn’t think the acrylic paintings fit together, visually, as well as my original crude drawings had simply because the transitions from one creature to another were too abrupt. After finishing 40 paintings and experimenting with them a while by sticking the head from one creature onto the body of another via the magic of photoshop, I determined that acrylic was the wrong medium. I would need to do the creature images all over again.
I began to do them again, this time working in pen and ink and coloring them digitally. I decided that if I wasn’t happy with the digital color, I could do it over again or always color the ink version after inking. My experiments made me happier this time — the bold, black lines united the drawings a bit more when you switched heads, legs or torsos — for a book where the interaction of the user was primarily visual, I wanted to make the visual experience as appropriate as I could for the user/reader. But there were still problems.
In order to work as a book, the tabs all had to be the same size but I had not drawn them that way. In discussions with Jim from LotFP, we had agreed to place details on the creature on the left hand page facing the illustration on the right hand page… and this information would include what the creature was, how tough it might be, how it might defend itself, etc. Because of printing restrictions, the three tabs needed to all be the same size… but I hadn’t drawn them that way. Fortunately, I figured this out BEFORE I did all 40 of the illustrations for a third time, but there are about 20+ illustrations which, in addition to the 40 acrylic paintings, that I cannot use. I’m having to figure this stuff out as I go along.
Unfortunately, humans and other creatures have all sorts of unusual proportions — the legs of an ape are very different than the legs of a human or a horse. I knew I could take liberties with the more fantastical beasts, but if there was too much distortion in the bodies of the more mundane creatures, it might not fly. I had to draw several of them several times to get it right and am still struggling to get this part right — the legs of a given drawing need to look “right” in the original drawing and when added to every single other creature in the portfolio. This, and the text, are the parts I am still struggling with. I’m incorporating collars, belts, etc., to provide “breaks” where one creature type can join up to another without looking too abrupt.
Here are some samples of recent versions which (hopefully) will make it into the final version:
They will eventually be colored in some fashion and details as to their habits, disposition and abilities will appear on the facing page. The list of creatures is about 90% firm – a few of them might need to be swapped out for alternates unless I can figure out a way to draw them so that they fit with the parts of all of the other creatures. This illustration should show you how I hope to create a book which will allow you to combine a woman, a tree-man and a tentacled creature into a strange mythological creature of strange habits and abilities:
I really hope to have this done before 2015 is over… which is (unfortunately) what I also said last year… but in the last two months I have managed to move the baton substantially closer to the goal line so there is hope. In any case, rest assured that I wont ‘kickstart’ or ask anyone for money until my part is 100% done and I am ready to hand it off to LotFP to get ready for the presses.
Would Edward Gorey even be able to find someone in the US willing to publish his work if he were working today? I grew up with Gorey’s books and loved the humor, his fantastic drawings and his weird characters… but somehow suspect that humorous references to pedophilia (like in the below
limerick poem) or alphabet books about children getting killed in various tragicomic ways (The Gashlycrumb Tinies) just wouldn’t fly in 2015… but the actual children’s books I was given as a very young child were probably pretty sick by today’s standards*, so what the hell do I know?
*I grew up with books like Hoffmann’s Der Struwwelpeter or Busch’s Max und Moritz that claimed the high road by insisting that they portayed children being burned, maimed, attacked by animals, etc., in order to scare the little fuckers out of misbehaving. I don’t believe that they actually worked that way — looking at the picture of the kid who got his thumbs cut off or seeing Max & Moritz ground up in a mill probably got me MORE interested in what was dark and twisted rather than less.
Pedro Gil of La Marca Del Este send me preview pdfs of the adventure I illustrated which has just been sent to the printers. The final title is, “La Cripta nefanda de Uztum el Maldito,” which I think translates to, “The Nefarious Crypt of Utzum the Mad” (my Spanish is pretty bad, though, so take my translation with a big spoon of salt). Here is the cover — looks pretty swell in a lurid, pulpy way if I may say so:
In addition, I’ve been doing some B&W work to practice and develop my skills a little. These are done mostly with crow quill pen and brush on Bristol, with textures added with these fancy schmancy “manga” fine tip pens I bought at the art store. The first is a ‘future woman’ confronting a mutant:
The second is an illustration of a story I am sort of mulling over in the back of my mind… it involves horrible monsters, eunuchs, slaves with exploding torture collars and hair-raising adventures… guess I should start to write this stuff down before I forget it all. What form (if any) this story will finally take is up in the air… I am not much of a writer… maybe it will just be some drawings and a brief outline at first.
I spent most of yesterday at U-Con (in Ypsilanti, Michigan) where I hung out at Roy Snyder’s’ game sales/DCC booth, signed a couple books and made some new friends. I got a chance to see some of Doug Kovac’s art up close (it looks even better in person if you can believe it — the images just GLOW) and played in Adam Muszkiewicz’s DCC game (“Slaves of the Silicon God”), ate too much and then had to come home because a sinus infection has been kicking my ass lately and I knew I had to get up today to clean our gutters before the first snow. “Slaves of the Silicon God” was a real hoot and if you get a chance to play in one of Adam’s con games, do it. My first PC (“Jerkal the Blazing!”) managed to survive a rock thrown to the head and a face plant after a 10 foot fall from a rooftop onto a balcony only to get pecked to pieces by giant evil birds inside a ruined temple — probably not an unexpected result when running around with just 1 hit point. His replacement, a cleric of L. Ron Hubbard, survived the adventure after having incurred great disfavor from his god while blowing spell rolls and heal rolls left and right and will probably spend an eternity stuffed inside a volcano as a result. As a party we managed to more or less accomplish our mission but also probably doomed ourselves and others because of our trusting natures and propensity to fuck around with shit we really probably ought to have left alone.
Today, after gutters were cleaned, I caught up on chores and finished this drawing for the new Expanded Petty Gods book being ushered into existence by Richard LeBlanc / Save vs Dragon. Like I always said, it doesn’t count as full frontal male nudity if you can’t see the tip.