Fireball XL5 Re-boot: Ray Pistol

ray pistolRedesigning a cherished entertainment property is never an easy thing. You have to exercise your own creative abilities and instincts while taking into consideration input from editors, art directors and fans – and quite often people who want no changes at all. It’s a situation that proves the adage “Too many cooks spoil the broth” but there are times when lightening strikes in the same place twice. The recent Thunderbirds Are Go CGI series did a great job of subtly updating the look of International Rescue while extending props of the Derek Meddings, Mike Trim and the original design crew – and I always thought Rick Sternbach did a good job of extrapolating technology changes in the Star Trek Universe with Star Trek: The Next Generation.

As the project is purely personal my task has been little easier with my Fireball XL5 reboot – I’m the only cook stirring the spoon. Granted to some extent I have a responsibility to fandom in general and I would never do anything to besmirch the memory of Sir Gerry but for the most part I get my way.

…which is why Steve Zodiac’s redesigned pistol bear a slight resemblance to Napoleon Solo’s UNCLE special. Actually, I’ve always like the look of a pistol with an attached stock and I have more than one example of the concept hanging on my wall. I don’t know if it is just a case of looking totally butch or my fascination with clunky technology but adding stocks to a Mauser C95 or a Colt Nay .36 have made both pistols just look cool though I’m not totally convinced it adds any utility ( firing a black powder pistol that close to my face is an experience I’m not in a rush to repeat)

The original pistol design was so bland that I have no doubt it was a last minute “clear-out-the-bits-box” special but when I decided the baby-rattle flash-suppressor had to go I added hemispherical details to keep a little design continuity. I also beefed up the size and mass of the weapon to avoid an Austin Powers moment determining if “size mattered”

pistol clip 2

 

Fireball Junior Re-work

2020-05-01 Fireball Junior Rework

While wading my way though my XL5 reboot it has come to me that with all the attention Fireball Junior gets during the series would need it a separate drawing, especially when the nose area in the main ship rendering didn’t work out as well as wanted. If you’ll check the drawing on my XL5 reboot page you’ll see that I went for NASA-style inset windows much like those on the Space:1999 Eagles but at length I’ve concluded that they would give a claustrophobic feel to  the control cabin,

…so I compromised between the old and the new, using a bug-like look similar to that on the Navy’s A-6 Intruder

XL5 Re-boot: Roberta’s Jetcycle

2020-03-10 Robertas Jetcycle

I’ve personally had to battle severe mobility issues lately so it should be no surprise that the subject would manifest itself in my work as I was going back through my XL5 designs. In the original series Robert would use a regular jet-bike just like the rest of the crew but after I replaced legs with the “uni-ball” that option is – well – no longer  an option.

,,,then it occurred to me that given her modular construction Roberta could be plugged into the jet-bike rather than riding it which would save weight/mass/maintenance. I’m not sure where the unplugged parts would be stored while she’s flying around – there would be plenty of room on Xl5 and possibly room for internal storage on this vehicle.

 

LibertyCon X Program Book Cover

LibertyCon 10 Program Book Cover

Dimensional illustration ( or sculptural work photographed and used as editorial illustration) was a fairly short-lived discipline in the commercial arts. Used occasionally more as novelty it came into its own in the “80s and ‘90s and even had its own annual awards competition1 but by the turn of the millennium it had been thoroughly supplanted by computer graphics.

It was during that brief period of popularity that My Beautiful Saxon Princess and I were invited to be the Artist Guest of Honor at LibertyCon X, a regional relaxacon chaired seemingly forever by the late SMOF2 Uncle Timmy Bolgeo; given my interests at the time it was a no-brainer that I’d come up with something sculptural for the program book cover. As a subtle tip-of-the-hat to Sir Gerry Anderson’s work it has always been one of my favorites but at the same time it has been the source of frustration to me over the last 22 years, mostly because I’ve never had a decent image for my portfolio.

It was used for the convention program book and T-shirt – and while the shirt turned out pretty good the book cover was terrible, being printed black line on a dark-colored background. The original sold in the art show and while I was happy to have at least one month of my mortgage paid as a result of the sale the purchaser soon moved far away and all I had was a fuzzy ink-jet print to show in my book.

…then my good friend and digital ace Kent Gardener stepped in and did his magic smoothing out backgrounds and generally making the image presentable.

Production notes: The original measured approximately 24”X12”X5” and was constructed from Super-Sculpey, styrene plastic, wood, illustration board and paint.


Notes:

  1. Go ahead and ask me: “ David – did YOU ever win an award for your dimensional work?” to which I humbly answer : “Aw shucks folks I did win me a Bronze medal in 1993”

 

  1. SMOF: Secret Master of Fandom

The Wonder That Is Colin Furze!

I was actually indulging one of my secret vices (“Choosing Beggers” videos by YouTube content provider RSlash ) when I stumbled onto this young man’s work about a month ago. As I watched Furze document his creations via time-lapse video I was convinced that I was seeing some rather ambitious digital work but as I’ve gone through video after video I finally realized Colin is the person that I’ve always styled myself to be: the man who can make anything.

I’d like to say that Colin is a younger version of me – a 30+ year younger version but he has twice the skill-set I do, a rather hefty sponsorship from eBay and a physical presence I can only aspire to (think Bryan Adams with a Lincolnshire accent.) His life is the most compelling argument for young people to actively consider going into the trades as opposed to incurring crippling debt for a college degree.

I’m including just one of these video clips but there are plenty more to choose from.

Fireball XL5 Re-boot: Robert(a)

2019-12-01 Roberta the Robot

It seems only fitting that given the state of our current social/political world a little bit of gender-bending is in order for the synthetic member of the Fireball XL5 crew. As it is there’s plenty of room for change as Robert’s appearance was pretty bland to begin with and once you substitute Sylvia for Sir Gerry in the dialog department the aesthetic opportunities are almost limitless.

The biggest challenge would be to establish a feminine appearance without taking the Benny Hill route and resorting to chrome-plate T&A. Effective feminization required some basic research into the way evolution has hard-wired men to respond to feminine curves (hint: child-bearing and survival) and how that principle would apply to into cybernetic lifeforms (Hey Bay-bee! Will ya look at the power-cells on that one!) Just make sure that while studying the subject you DO NOT blindly Google “sexy robots” as the results will be most definitely NSFW.

However, if you were to type the name Hajime Sorayama to the search parameters you’ll find examples of sleek feminine form combined with gleaming chrome and streamlined automotive styling that made this Japanese artist the king of the sexy-robot field in the 1980s. He, along with the equally talented British artist Phillip Castle were powerful influences on airbrush artists and other illustrators of that decade but to be totally honest my inspiration was an artist whose work was popular even earlier than that.

His name was Russ Manning and he was a phenomenal illustrator who was tragically cut down in his fifties by Mean OId Mister Cancer. In the Sixties Manning bounced back and forth between advertising work and penciling Tarzan, Korak: Son of Tarzan and Brothers of the Spear for first Dell then Gold Key Comics but my personal favorite was Magnus: Robot Fighter , a kind of Tarzan-of-the-future who relied on martial arts (and the most totally bitching white go-go boots ever) to combat hordes of robotic enablers intent on weakening of humanity into a form of comfortable servitude.

Manning was a master of figure drawing and could draw a better figure with five lines than I could with fifty but was equally adept with mechanical figures prompting me to shamelessly hork the grace and form of his cybernetic aesthetic in every robot or android I’ve drawn … to include Robert(a)

One other important change: Robert was constructed out of Plexiglas but I’ve gone with an opaque exterior. It came to me that being able to see all Roberta’s inner, circuits, wires and structural components would be much like looking at my Beautiful Saxon Princess’s face and seeing all of the blood vessels, bones and sinus membranes under her skin…and while the ensuing suppressed gag reflex had me quickly changing my design I’ve had to work hard at keeping that yucky image out of my mind

…just like you will now be doing for the rest of this day!

XL5 Rework…with color added

xl5colorrework

I ran the black-and-white version of this drawing in 2016 but never got around to adding color. I’ve yet to decide if it was artistic vision that prompted a white fuselage or if I was just to lazy to work up all the reflections and shadows in a metallic look. I’m also not totally sold on the inset Gemini-style windows in Fireball Jr. Even as a ten year old I had a hard time buying off on a big bubble canopy but this configuration seems awfully cramped.

UFO: 1908 Moonbase Commander

The only thing better than the stuff Sir Gerry Anderson and his crew thought up is tweaking the details. I love retro-designing vehicles and costumes and when I was dusting some of my “trophies” in the sitting room I got the idea for a uniform for the Moonbase ladies had SHADO been organized in 1908 instead of 1980.

2018-12-03 UFO Moonbase 1908

 

 

Amazon Review “The Protectors”

(I make no secret of the fact that I am a fan of Sir Gerry Anderson’s work, both live-action shows like UFO and the Supermarionation programs like Thunderbirds.  The following is a piece I wrote for Amazon reviewing one of his lesser-known productions)

We don’t go out to eat often but when we do there is always a lively discussion involving restaurants and menu selections. My Beautiful Saxon Princess is a gourmet, savors her meals and is quick to try new tastes. To me food is fuel and I’m not one to experiment –when I acquire a taste for something like a cheeseburger I’ll order it quite often and feel no need to change.

It’s a similar situation with The Protectors, a Gerry Anderson production that offered neither marionettes nor nubile young women wearing purple wigs and silver suits seemingly applied with spray paint – it’s definitely an acquired taste. Starring Robert Vaughn, Nyree Dawn Porter and Tony Anholt, The Protectors is one of that vanished breed of television programs that the British did so well: The half-hour action adventure series. It ran from 1971 to 1973 and  chronicled the activities of a loose network of agents that travelled across Europe fighting crime, defeating terrorism and generally being twentieth century Lone Rangers.

With only 22 minutes to work with there wasn’t much time for character development, though we did know that Harry Rule (Robert Vaughn) still cared very much for his ex-wife, Nyree Dawn Porter’s Contessa enjoyed the privileged life of widowed nobility but also held a very subtle candle for Harry Rule, and Tony Anholt managed to show loyalty and likeability though the façade of Paul Bouchet’s Gallic pride. Despite their brevity the stories were engaging , with occasional innovations in plot and camera work that were pioneering for early Seventies. For example the  pilot episode involved sky-diving but there were some interesting shots made via car mirrors that focused your attention in a very effective albeit low-tech manner.

If I had a complaint it would be budget. Sir Gerry wasn’t given much to work with and money was cut even further with the second series, causing the loss of the strength and wit of the Contessa’s chauffer Chino (played by Anderson regular Anthony Chinn).  Directors were also careful with location shooting, limiting Continental segments to Copenhagen, Paris, Venice, Malta or coastal Spain. At  each of these locations the crew would film exterior footage for several episodes then they would fly back to London for interior filming and editing. To the producers’ credit they spaced the shows out avoiding back-to-back adventures in the same city, but on a rainy day you can zip through your DVDs and piece together what was shot when. I particularly enjoyed the location shots as they let me see the real Europe rather than an idealized version as portrayed in shows like The Avengers that were tailored to appeal to what Americans thought the UK was like rather than how it really was.

So now we’re down  to my regular closing question: Does The Protectors consist of the finest visual literature?

No.

Is it fun?

That would be a resounding, echoing “YES” – but a qualified “yes”. The Protectors might not be everyone’s favorite, but if you have an appreciation for well-written short form video, a desire to see an honest glimpse of Europe forty years ago, or have a hankering to hear Robert Vaughn  deliver dialog in the way only he could, then The Protectors is the cheeseburger for you.

(Episodes of The Protectors are available from Amazon in both DVD and streaming format. YouTube clips are pretty sparse but I managed to find one episode – not my particular favorite of the lot but enough to give you an idea of what the series is like.)