Monday, April 9, 2012

Alphabeasts: Z is for Zarbi

This is going to be my last Alphabeasts post. It's hard not to be a little wistful about the passing of this project. It drew a lot more artists to make a lot more art than the organizers could have imagined, and personally I think my cartooning has improved a lot over the last six months, at least within the idiom I've been working in.

If you'd like to see all of my Alphabeasts posts in one place, you can click on the tag, of course, but if you'd like to see all my drawings without the accompanying text, you can also trace back through the alphabet here behind this link.

(While you're looking over there, consider checking out the full string of D&D creatures drawn by Ben Towle, the wacky yokai by Leah Palmer Preiss, the mega-fun kaiju by Joey Weiser, the spontaneous watercolors of Lupi McGinty and the crazy inventions of her daughter AZ, Caitlin Lehman's fun and stylish drawings, the often-hilarious cartoons of Henry Eudy, and the energetic and stylish digital sketches of Andrew Neal, the guy who deserves enormous credit for managing the whole big project. Those are some terrific sets of images by some of the people I've been really happy to meet over the course of this project.)

Anyway, about the zarbi.

You might be wondering how I made it this far into my alphabet without using Dr. Who. I don't really know a lot of Dr. Who lore—I'm much more a Star Trek nerd than a Dr. Who nerd—but my impression is that most of the alien menaces on Dr. Who are, though weird looking, pretty sentient, and my original parameters for the project therefore excluded things like daleks and cybermen. Also, once I started doing my research, half a year ago, I found this:

The zarbi are officially a race of insectoid alien monsters, but to me they sure look like some dude wearing a gigantic ant body over normal pants and shoes.

This is what people are talking about, clearly, when they say that the special effects on the old Dr. Who were not all that great. The zarbi appeared in the second series of Dr. Who, in 1965. Maybe I shouldn't be too critical. I've never seen those early episodes, and I know that Star Trek wasn't doing a whole lot better four years later.

Anyway, that's it for me on this project. I'm pretty sure I'm going to be on board for the next alphabet, which is supposed to be illustrations of characters from books. I might be able to scrounge up a few blog posts between now and the next letter A, but to tell you the truth I'll probably need the time for grading or sleeping.

Alphabeasts: Z is for Zistle

It's the last week of the Alphabeasts project, and I want to send things out with a bang, so I'm actually drawing two different "Z" creatures (from two different sources) today.

The first comes from the National Geographic book Our Universe, which I pored over intensely as a kid. In particular, I was fascinated by the four or five pages that had paintings of weird non-humanoid aliens that might conceivably live on the other planets (and moons) in our solar system: zeppelin-monsters for Jupiter, toad-monsters with a perpetual hotfoot on Venus, and a weird fuzzy-tailed elephant-deer on Mars.

The most distant of these critters dwelled on a planet that is no longer even considered a planet. This week, Z is for Plutonian zistle.

There's not much lore about these little crystal sea-urchins, but I hope you'll go look at the original image and read the original description.

Another weird alien in just a few minutes!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Alphabeasts: Y is for Yahoo

Okay, I'm writing my Alphabeasts post at 4:00 AM and I still have some legitimate work to do tonight, so I'll keep the prose brief.

This week, Y is for yahoo. Not the search engine, of course, but the hominid beast imagined by Jonathan Swift in the fourth book of Gulliver's Travels.

Oh, sure, with the way that the satire works, the Yahoos are just a mirror image of the reader, savage human beings. But I have no doubt that Gulliver would have felt no compunction about putting a Yahoo in a zoo. Thus: beast.

I'm not really happy with the way my finished version turned out, but I have a few "process" doodles to show you. One is the sketch I used to create my final image, and to tell you the truth I wish I'd been able to translate it a little better. I like the energy of this pose a lot more, and I don't understand why.

There's also a little doodle that's meant to show a slothful yahoo in repose. That, too, could have turned into an interesting finished version.

As an extra bonus, here's a classroom doodle that I did when I was studying Gulliver in grad school. This would have been in the spring of 1995, I think. It was a very doodly semester for me.

Apparently my idea of the yahoo hasn't changed much in 17 years.

Next week, for the big finale, I'm hoping to do a double entry in Alphabeasts, with a creature from the deep past of a well-loved franchise and a different creature from the distant reaches of our solar system.

Okay, it's 4:30. Time to get back to work.