Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Overhauling a Tragic Past

Sometimes an artist will look back into their past sketchbooks from the days of their youth and discover they were chock full of great ideas.  That being said....my college years in the mid 1990’s were, apparently, a bit....rough.  I recently went through some old file cabinets and storage boxes in search of a vehicle title and in my search I stumbled upon alot of old drawings from, what I’m conservatively calling, THE YEARS OF SELF-DELUSION. 

For as long as I can remember, I had big dreams of making it big in the comics industry.   I spent my days and nights churning out artwork and immersing myself in all things comics because I was optimistic that I would make it in the biz someday very soon.  I was sure I could be the next J. Scott Campbell.  But....They’re called dreams for a reason.....The reality was apparently not so promising. 

As I was sifting through pages of hideous scrawlings, I came across an old Trapper Portfolio folder.  This thing screamed of 80’s and 90’s with it’s teal and hot pink color scheme.  I opened it up and out fell a bunch of cut-outs of characters I designed for my comic series THE VOID back in spring of 1995.  These characters had, at one time, been tacked to the cork-board next to my art desk and I used to gaze up at them almost daily.  I cringed at the bad anatomy, winced at the haphazard use of cross-hatching, and I almost cried at the sheer terribleness that was once thought of as “cool ideas” back in 1995.  But were these characters really all that bad?  It’s been said that a comic artist/writer sometimes comes up with their best ideas when they’re young and will revisit those ideas for inspiration throughout their lives and careers.  Being that THE VOID, JAMES CROW, and THE BABY NINJAS were all brainchildren of my youth, I’m not one to argue with that.  So as I gazed at these sad little cutout designs from the misguided youth of a wannabe comic-superstar, I could hear the guy from the 6-Million Dollar Man. “Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology....”.  I suddenly was compelled to give these wayward souls another shot at greatness.  I was going to redraw and update them!  That was a week and a half ago and now I’m feeling the need to have a reveal of my painstaking work to make these characters workable.


The first one on this list is a character that I loved the design of back in 1995 and still kinda do.  Her name apparently was Zelena MacBride....because I thought that was cool or something.  I dunno.  But her superhero name was Range.  I think her original power had something to do with optic blasts which is why she wore the kerchief but now I think she actually wears it because she has a messed up eye or no eye.  I’m still toying with a power for her.  

I realize I did very minimal tweaking to this design.  She’s still in cut-offs and a tank (only this one actually fits her), and the overall package remained mostly the same.  Guess she really wasn’t so bad off after all.


Next up is Dominion and Breeze.  I really don’t know what I was doing when I created whatever Dominion is supposed to be.  He looks like a tumor carrying a hoe.  I mostly kept him the same too.  I just made his anatomy actually work. Breeze is my attempt at diversity in my comics as she’s Native American.  I was mostly trying to un-90’s her uniform a bit and actually attempt to make her look more ethnic. The guy at the bottom of the page is just a headshot of my character Kyle from my comic idea FOURPENNY ONE, that I hope to put out there someday.


In THE VOID, I had plans to introduce the Greek and Egyptian gods as ancient warring factions of space mutants and genetic experiments.  This is the Greek goddess NYX.  The goddess of the night.  I really just redrew here here, used better anatomy and tweaked her armor a bit.  Nothing to heavy.


In an attempt to be cool and score brownie points, I decided to use my friend Sanna as inspiration for leader of a band of crusading mutant refugees.  She herself not being a mutant but having as sister who was.  Sanna sorta helped me out with this one and named her (herself) Contrabandier....because she thought it would be cooler to have a French name I guess.  Anyway, Contrabandier and Her crusaders were to have a Yacht that they traveled the globe in, seeking out injustice to thwart.  Enigma was the right hand (wo)man to Sanna’s character.  She had a martial arts instinct but with no formal training.  

With Enigma, I mostly just added the belly wrap, fixed up the arm-guards and changed the hair.  With Contrabandier, I obviously had to do alot more.  Again, I really needed to de-90’s this one and her outfit sort of ended up looking kind of like Huntress from Batman lore.  I am very pleased at the outcome though.  I think Sanna would be happy with it.  


This next one is *ahem* a little bit...well you could sure tell I was 19.  Just for the record....I wasn’t popular AT ALL with the ladies....so things like this happened.  Back at that time Marvel was doing this AGE OF APOCALYPSE thing in the X-books.  So naturally, I conceptualized ideas of what MY characters would be like in a post-apocalyptic future.  I called this possible idea THE CENTURION AGE.  I had Heavy-Metalesque versions of many of my characters figured out, including Void and this chick.  To be honest, I don’t really remember if this was supposed to Void’s girlfriend, Shanna, or a thrashed up, underdressed version of the Contrabandier character above.  

I know it’s gonna sound like I’m still the pervo that drew this 17 years ago, but I kinda wanted to keep that techno-tribal, almost not clothed thing on this.  So I mostly cleaned up the anatomy, armor and added the string clasp things to help keep that vest somewhat covering this gal’s chest area.  


BLOOD!  Pretty much my version of a Sabretooth character from X-men.  Not sure why I chose to have his mouth all bandaged up but then I’m not really sure why he’s wearing all that spandex either.

I really only kept the do-rag and the fact that his mouth is covered.  Other than that, it’s an obvious overhaul on old Blood here.


The next two are Sapphire and Synergy.  I never would have guessed that two of my least favorites from the bunch would be two of my favorites after their overhauls.  Sapphire was this nigh-invunerable and apparently gigantically tall woman.  Probably based on Gen 13’s Fairchild.  And Synergy was supposed to get her poweres from the earth.....and she wears some weird leg thingy.

The revamp on Sapphire is really only the boots and the addition of the gloves.  That, and she’s not 10 feet tall anymore.  I really like how this one turned out and think she’d be fun in a fight....like Rogue was in the early 1990’s only with slightly less (depending on who drew her back then) clothing.  Synergy’s outfit got an overhaul, making it sleeveless and with shorts.  I also added running shoes and decided the thing on her leg would be an armored leg brace.  Oh and her “earth powers” are now geothermic in nature.  


What can I say about Sonnet and Prism?  Sonnet was supposed to be this ballet dancer turned martial artist and Prism....Prism was a trainwrecked version of a raver-chick with light manipulation powers.  In my defense, I lived in Alaska at the time, so any fashion or pop culture that came up there was either 6 years our of date in the rest of the world or it was a completely bastardized ghetto version of it.  So between that and MTV.....this must’ve been what I actually thought a raver-girl looked like.  UGH!
Well Sonnet needed a less shiny unitard and I decided to give her brown curly hair instead of slicked back black.  I still wanted her to be this dancer-turned martial artist but I decided to take the ankle guards and add some to her forearms as well. So when she’s pirouetting, vaulting and twirling, she could cause maximum damage on her foes.  Prism I actually revamped years ago as one of the best friends of my character, Jane, from FOURPENNY ONE.  I did away with the neurotic, demented raver things and made her a high-school punk chick.  Same light manipulation powers though....just in a less tragic package.


Finally we have Nicodemus.  Yeah....A man-bear.  Not sure why I chose a Biblical name for this guy but it still seems to work for me.  His powers are.....He’s a man-bear....And YES....I'm aware of that one episode of South Park.

First off, on this revamp, I wanted to make Nicodemus resemble an actual bear and not the weird otter thing in the 1995 version.  Fattened him up, streamlined his armbands and tweaked his pants and just made him so much better.  

I guess the moral of this whole story is for my fellow artists.  Don’t disgard you old ideas.  You never know what turd, with the right amount of polishing, might be gold. 


Idiot Press Comics said...

Although we do cringe and want to vomit upon looking at these old drawings, you know back in the day this would've gotten you tons of friends and collaborators. The 90's style was the sh!t and everybody and their mother was trying to ape it. I know I was but I sucked hard at it.

Some of the old designs are bad but the artwork was pretty solid. Some though had tiny heads and long or bigger bodies...

But your redesigns, so sleek and streamlined. You're rite that with enough polishing you can get gems out of duds. Your new versions really seem like they can create a whole new universe for Void. It really does open new doors and makes you think of what kind of storylines can be told with them. Of course you've already plucked a couple of these gems for your FourPenny One book and that's also cool. No character left behind.

Always great to see your old work and no doubt seeing your new stuff in comparison. Keep it up.

Mattroplex said...

Horray! A comment on my Art Blog that is more than a one-liner. Thanks for that man and the kind words too!

These characters have been fun for me. I haven't really been too inspired in a very long time and this little sketch experiement got me excited to sit in front of my art desk and sketchbooks again.

I really dig my new take on that Sapphire character. I've been throwing some ideas around in my brain that involve that could involve her. Someone needs to create a cloning machine right now because I really need one.