Monday, November 28, 2011

Alphabeasts: G is for Grue

The poll for this week's Alphabeasts entry told me to draw "a fearsome beast no one has ever seen."

Well, if you were playing text-adventure games in the '80s, you know exactly what is likely to eat you if you spend too long in pitch-black darkness.

That's right, friends: this week, G is for grue.

There are, so far as I know, no canonical illustrations of the grue, which after all always ate you before you saw it. So I guess I have some latitude.

When I was zorking around as a teen I always pictured them looking a lot like the aliens from last year's Attack the Block. (Let me digress briefly to say that I want to thank "Film Crit Hulk" for convincing me to see that movie. You can Netflix the DVD, y'all, and it's really good.)

I really love that design, and in the movie it's way more effective: the monsters just absorb all light, except for the blue luminescence of their own teeth. They're scary. My impression is that if these aliens actually have a name, however, it does not start with G.

Also, these aliens have no compunctions about entering a well-lit area.

If you want to see genuinely photophobic aliens—so leery of light that they actually get called grues by some people—then you'll need to look to Pitch Black, which is also a pretty good movie, I think, though getting a good look at the monsters in it is in the end sort of disappointing.

Of course it's better when they exist only as menacing sounds in the darkness. It always is.

But, you know, looking at those weird wyverns from the Vin Diesel movie, I can't help wondering why they don't like the light. They don't seem to have eyes, or to need them. How do they know that the suns are shining? And they sure appear to be the top predators on their planet, so its not like the cockroach's negative phototaxis, scurrying away from the things that might eat them.

I figure the grue must live in nearly total darkness, but still mostly hunt with its eyes. There are deep-sea fish like this, and it's at least a semi-reasonable explanation for why the grue would avoid even a lit match. The bright light must burn.

So, long story short, I set about to design a grue of my own, with great big eyes, powerful claws, and a big jaw full of teeth (all the better to eat you with).

There's not much room in that body for a stomach, but I'm sure the grue has some adaptation to deal with the digestion problem.

Let me know if you want to see any "process" images for these finished color versions. I took three different coloring approaches in Photoshop this week.

...And next week? An alphabeast from my very favorite book to read aloud.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Alphabeasts: G is not for Graboid

Last week's Alphabeasts poll was the last one I'm going ot do for a few weeks, because I have plans for almost all of the rest of my creatures. And I have to say I wasn't rooting for the graboid (from the 1990 "science fiction horror comedy" Tremors) last week, but I'm disappointed it made such a poor showing.

I know I'm not the only person who is not drawing a graboid this week. But my heart goes out to the big stinky wyrm. It deserves more recognition.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

One More Run at the 3-D Cosmic Whale

As I mumbled and mulled this morning, it occurred to me that there's no reason my red-green 3-D image of the four-dimensional space whale would necessarily need to start from a grayscale version of the image. If I stripped all the magenta from one side and all the cyan from another, I'd still have some vestiges of "true" color, right?

Don your 3-D glasses. Click and enlarge.

I'm not sure how successful it turns out to be, but the background planets do seem to be different colors in that version.

And now I think I can lay this experiment to rest.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Improved 3-D 4-D Space Whale!

After I posted the four-dimensional space whale last night, I realized there were several missed opportunities in my 3-D version of the drawing. Apparently I couldn't let it rest until I made another attempt.

I've also made the "ghosting" in this red-green version less aggravating, I hope.

That should be pretty fun to look at through 3-D glasses. And if you can do the "magic eye" method of relaxed-eye stereoscopy, you should be able to get more fun out of this image than out of the one in the previous post:

2-D, 3-D, 4-D! Whee!

Alphabeasts: F is for Four-Dimensional Space Whale

The winner of last week's poll was "Moby-Dick analogue," so this week's entry for Alphabeasts is "F is for Four-Dimensional Space Whale."

These aren't the only space whales out there, of course. Like, remember, O Nerd-as-a-Kid, those ones who healed Storm when she had a Brood larva in her? Too late to draw them for this alphabet. Then there's the critter that nursed itself on the engines of the Enterprise-D after Captain Picard killed its mom. And it's been ages since I read this other book, and maybe those whales were off in the distant future, not in space, but they do start with W if you want them.

Anyway, to get my faux-Kirby space whale up against my faux-Kirby background, I had to put a lot of my linework right against flat black; if you want to see the drawing itself, it's here:

I actually hadn't yet seen the Futurama episode ("Möbius Dick") that features this creature until this weekend. And I'm not sure how I feel about these latter seasons of Futurama, to tell you the truth, though it's nice to see the characters (and the cast) back in action. We don't learn a whole lot about the four-dimensional space whale in that episode, anyway, except that it feeds on obsession (not the fragrance) and only "breaches" into three-dimensional space to fill its lungs with vacuum.

(There's a pretty cool sequence starting about 11:55 into the episode where the Planet Express ship gets dragged into the fourth dimension on a "sleigh ride" behind the harpooned whale. It reminded me of an interesting old post I wrote about violations of the two-dimensional page by three-dimensional creatures.)

(Also, at 10:30 into the episode, the space whale blows out a breath in the form of a fractal, which is a nice math joke I guess.)

Anyway, all this talk about "four-dimensional this" and "three-dimensional that" made me want to work up a 3-D version of my 4-D Space Whale, so I tinkered with the method I'd used on Ben Towle's Kirby ukulele way back in the day. If you can do the "magic eye" method, you should be able to relax your eyes and see a 3-D space whale between these two images.

Or, if that method never works for you, you can whip out some 3-D glasses and try to see it here. I had trouble with the hues, though, so there's some "ghosting." Maybe that's just the four-dimensionality coming through.

UPDATE: better 3-D versions are in my next post.

Next week, I have a couple of different ideas for creatures to draw. What would you like to see me do?

You have until Friday evening to tell me.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Alphabeasts: F is neither for Flukeman nor for Flying Spaghetti Monster

Once again, the people (eleven of them, this time) have spoken. When I draw my Alphabeasts creatures this week, I will draw neither the Flukeman nor the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Sorry, guys. Better luck next time.

At least they're being good sports about it.

(You may now commence singing about the Flukeman to the tune of The Kinks' "Apeman." The Flukeman won't mind. He don't shiv.)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Alphabeasts: E is for Erina

I was thinking about hoaxing up a different source for this week's "Alphabeasts," but let me come right out and admit the truth: I got this week's critter from our friend (and the organizer of these alphabet projects) Ben Towle.

You see, when I say that E is for Erina, I am borrowing a demon from his (Almost) 100 Demons minicomic, which I think mainly survives as this tag on Ben's blog. (Ben, if the mini is still in print, let me know how people can order it!)

Ben's demons represent an awesome amount of visual inventiveness, and in a way it's a shame that I'm not drawing more of them. But if you want to build a whole alphabet out of Ben's demons, though, let me tell you right now that there aren't entries for Q, W, X, or Y. (So much for that plan.)

Looking at Ben's original Erina, I was stumped for a little while about how to pose my version. This is probably the single creature in my "Alphabeasts" set about which I have the least information—just a name and a single drawing.

At first, I thought that since the opposable thumbs give the Erina more ability to manipulate the world, I'd try to make the six-limbed canine devious, tricky, and canny ...

But looking again at Ben's drawing, the erina looked to me a lot more lupine than coyotine, so I rethought my ideas about the erina as a trickster demon. And since the erina seems to be a lone wolf, not a pack creature, I thought, "What's the main personality characteristic of the wolf?"

Then, looking yet a third time at Ben's drawing, it occurred to me that the erina is much sturdier even than the largest living canine—those are some thick legs. And so, I thought, it must be pretty big. Let's have it eating a bison.

I leave it for you to speculate about what it might be defending its kill against.

By the way, Ben's demons happen to have been created independently right around the same time that Mike and I were drawing our own sets of a hundred demons. I've still got copies of our Demonstration minicomic, if you're interested in getting a copy of it...

For next week, I have a few options. What do you think I should draw for the letter F?

You've got until Friday evening to tell me.

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.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Alphabeasts: D is not for Dewback

Well, the people have spoken. Clearly, this week, D is not for Dewback.

Stay tuned.