Monday, November 7, 2011

Alphabeasts: D is for Dianoga

My D entry for Alphabeasts draws on a fictional universe a little better publicized than the comics of Trondheim and Sfar. According to the results of last week's poll, I'll be drawing not the dewback but the dianoga.

I was distorting things slightly in the poll when I referred to the dianoga as a "garbage octopus." In fact, although it sometimes dwells in garbage or sewage areas, it doesn't seem to have evolved in them, and I couldn't find any representations of the monster with exactly eight legs.

As is turns out, the true shape of the dianoga is something of a puzzle. We know it has a periscope eyestalk and at least one long, powerful tentacle. But where is its mouth? How many other limbs does it have? Sources do not seem to agree.

Kenner's plastic version of the dianoga, which I think came in a Death Star playset, has four stubby little tentacles, sort of like a cross between a cuttlefish and a seal. The Lego version seems to adopt a similar body plan. There's a model by Julian H. Betancourt that proposes one long tentacle attached to pile of six (I think) shorter ones. There's an equally plausible model that makes the critter into a sort of slug-worm-snake. And there's a ferocious picture at Wookieepedia that looks nothing like the monster from the movie.

So what was I supposed to draw?

I dodged the issue of the dianoga's mouth, mostly because, even leaving aside the plausibility of the trash compactor as an environment, I am not sure any of the extant images have it right. I think that if the dianoga had a mouth full of shark fangs, it would probably have bitten Luke (or bitten a leg or hand off) rather than just trying to drown him. More likely, the dianoga treats its prey (which must be only an infrequent part of its diet) the way an anaconda does: once the meat is dead, the beast slowly envelops it whole, digesting gradually over weeks or even months. (Go about 1:37 into this clip to see what I'm talking about, if you're not easily made squeamish.) I figure the mouth is down on the bottom of the beast, in the center, and the whole central "mound" of the body can be stretched out and distended, like in the pictures of the boa constrictor in The Little Prince.

With the mouth and eye at opposite ends of the body, maybe it has a body plan more like a coelenterate than a vertebrate: radial symmetry, a mouth that works like the aperture of a bag, and a ring of tentacles scooping food inward. That's my best guess, anyway. We can add it to Lucas's catalog of orifice monsters, dentata or not-a.

Next week: a "tribute" swipe from one of our brothers in cartooning.


Curious Art said...

This creature is just as deliciously disgusting as it sounded! Also I like the way you treated the under-sewage areas. (That goes in the category of "things I never thought I'd say".)

And the Dewback is great too. Now I kind of feel bad for dissing him. Anyone whose cuss-word is sassifrassin' is okay by me.

Isaac said...

I'm glad you like the way I treated the under-sewage areas. I think I'll want to repeat that phrase several times today.

It was, in its way, a shortcut: I just didn't ink the pencils below the waterline. (Actually, I also firmed them up a little bit in pencil after deciding not to ink them.) Since my color layer was set to "darken," a lot of the lighter pencil shades got swallowed up. Felicitous quick photoshoppery on this one.

Loops O'Fury said...

OR....maybe the dianoga secretes a poison that slowly turns victims' insides to mush, so he can slurp them down like wet noodles. He has to drag
Luke under in order to thoroughly marinate him and, hopefully, get him to swallow some of the trash compactor liquid, which is mostly dianoga drool.

Colin Tedford said...

Nice! I had that Kenner trash compacter set (previously owned, I think) when I was I kid. I didn't know the trash monster had a name, but yeah, the toy version was kinda goofy. I'm pretty sure it was an occasional member of our tub toys collection.

Anyway, your ideas on the critter sound sensible to me (as sensible as such a critter can sound, anyway)!

az said...

i like the way you drew
the monster in the trash compactr
i like star wars

and really again written by
az the 6 year old.

Isaac said...

Thanks, Az! When I was your age, Star Wars was only one movie! But I liked it a lot, and I had a lot of Star Wars figures to play with—but no dianoga.