In response to people asking about Roberta from my XL reboot.
Once you get past the Fireball crew and the headquarters personnel there aren’t too many recurring characters. One of the few is the engineer/mechanic Jock. Following the “tweaking” trend I’ve set for myself the dour Scot Jock has been transformed into the purple-tressed Jaqui, the Indian subcontinent’s contribution to the team, equipped with a mechanical prosthetic.
(Sound of incredulous reader tapping their foot)
OK! OK! Her hair isn’t purple (nice nod to the live-action series UFO and the lack of skin color makes her ethnicity hard to determine. I am the victim of a collision between artistic passion and the realities of aging. I got the drawing done but my ever-present fine tremor has not been so fine lately and any attempt with markers or colored pencils looks like a Jackson Pollock painting
Thought I haven’t written about it for quite awhile my Fireball XL5 reboot is never far from my heart and mind. Unfortunately, I am coming to the end of the named characters, so I’ll have to go through my DVD collection and come up with guest characters.
A lot was made of the fact that Space City is located on the equator on an island in the Pacific. Finding it has proved to be somewhat of a challenge as the “landing back on earth” sequences show a mirror image of South America with Brazil pointing to the West instead of the East. It looks like the Space City island is located roughly in the location the Galapagos islands exist in real life. How that works out with the reverse UNO card dealt to Brazil is beyond me.
Yep at this point I am definitely overthinking this, but while I was overthinking things it occurred to me that names on the personnel poster should reflect the Central/South American location so Commander Wilbur Zero became Commander Null Jade Jaguar of the Mayan contingent of the World Space Patrol complete with a pet flying serpent named Quetzalcoatl.
Redesigning 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”
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
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.
It seemed only natural to have a Fireball XL5 re-design as my first finished project for 2020. While I continue to adapt classic uniform details and as was the case with LT Ninety I’m changing the Professor’s back story a bit, giving him a Welsh surname which enhances the “realness” while continuing the pun (“Matthew-Madoc” vs. “Matthew-Matic”.
I’ve also given him a specific rank, which brings up an interesting point: granted this is a kids show, and a kids show from wwaayy back but even at age ten it bothered me that naval ranks were interspersed with ranks used in the army/air force/marines. With the World Space Patrol part of an integrated service maybe the source of commission determines what type of title you are given: go to Annapolis and you become an ensign upon commissioning, go to West Point and you start out as a second lieutenant
It has been one if those days. Somewhere between all the text on my Facebook turning into Spanish and a tub of Bondo tipping over and spilling in my studio cabinet I sat down with my markers and worked up a color version of Robert(a)
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!
As much as I love Fireball XL5 I have to admit that it was one of Sir Gerry’s earlier “sophomore” efforts and definitely aimed at young children, so there were often some rather broad liberties taken with actual science as in spacecraft speeds and most especially extra-vehicular activity.
(Even Sylvia Anderson groaned during an interview years later over the subject of “oxygen pills”.)
Well, this drawing will hopefully address some of those problems as I’ve incorporated aspects of the thruster packs with a life-support suit styled after the original pointy-shouldered World Space Patrol uniforms. The image is based on a sketchbook drawing I shared here a couple of years ago but there are two very important additions: The first and most obvious is the clear Plexiglas helmet while the second is the unit Steve is wearing on the lower right side of his harness used with the round disk held in his right hand – an “oxygen pill”
I’d like to say that I was the first one to think of a breathing unit based on an solid-form air supply but Wally Wood used it first in an updated SCUBA rig in his excellent apocalyptic adventure series M.A.R.S. PATROL /TOTAL WAR published by Gold Key Comics in the 1960s…but to be totally but to be totally fair Wally did some “borrowing” as well.
For several decades the United States Navy has used a breathing device that uses heat combined with potassium superoxide and sodium chlorate produce oxygen for personnel in fire-fighting operations. While it’s I’ve taken my own liberties with science in terms of the size and duration of the chemical air supply I think it solves the “Oxygen Pill” issue with a minimum of fuss