2019: RLGAV (Part Seven)

(Seventh in an intermittent series on Real-Life Gerry Anderson Vehicles – RLGAV)

https://arstechnica.com/cars/2019/06/radical-new-airliner-could-save-fuel-but-ride-like-a-roller-coaster/?fbclid=IwAR2O_8dzuI6ClgL_ukH4SEHU4F149xGuDbUteJFMyxr1GNKda9EiUjmC7JA

I figured that with Amazon’s Thunderbirds Are Go series ramping up for another season the only hardware with that Meddings/Trim “vibe” would be on the small screen, but this design could easily be Fireflash 2.0.

Flying V

Fireball XL5 (CGI version)

 

While shuffling through YouTube the other day I  found this CGI adaptation of Fireball XL5.  HarborsidePress LLC has produced a first and second half of the Granatoid Tanks story along similar treatment of the Planet 46 episode. All four offerings are a qualified success; it’s incredibly cool that someone would rework Fireball but there are several aspects of the production that have been done better.

While I kind of like the jet-bikes it’s a given that I am going to prefer my own reboot designs , and Venus’ clothing feels more like off-duty dress than a uniform. There are serious problems with both the structure and animation of the faces but in Harborside’s defense no one has come up with a decent treatment of a human face working through speech.

 

DR Venus : Color version

venus

Again –  a color version of a drawing that I’ve shown here in the past as a  black & white image:   My version of Venus from FIREBALL XL5 with some “tweaking” in both appearance and ability.

 (It occurs to me that in our current socio-political environment someone could assume some sort  of sordid intent with my use of the word “tweak” but please be reassured there is no ulterior motive.)

There’s a bit of challenge in maintaining uniformity in the XL5 crew (especially after you’ve seen color photos) so I kept the good doctor’s green jumpsuit but gave her a pointy-shouldered jacket to match Steve Zodiac’s uniform.

stevevenusjetbike

It also seemed a perfect situation for my beloved Trap-Jaw palette comprised of the tropical magentas/oranges and turquoises of that particular He-Man adversary. However,  I was putting this together it occurred to me that those colors just a matter of horking from Filmation’ s color choice – some of those colors can be found in  vivid sunsets of both dawn and dusk in Alaska.

trap-jaw

…and there’s yet another influence, one that  I thought I’d imagined for years – a toy set called Hamilton’s Invaders that was on the market for the blink-of-an-eye in 1964. It also used colors like chartreuse and turquoise found in my “Trap-jaw Palette” and while print advertisements were the only presence Hamilton Invaders had in the Last Frontier, what I saw was intriguing enough to have a permanent  aesthetic influence on me.

 

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

 

 

2018: In Praise of Middles

My father said it best:

“Between the optimist and the pessimist

The difference is oh-so-droll

An optimist the doughnut sees

The pessimist: the hole”

That idea/meme (or slight variations of that idea) have popped up in countless other times and places in my life. My particular favorite version came from engineer and SMOF (Secret Master of Fandom) “Uncle” Timmy Bolgeo: “ An optimist may see a glass of water half-way full while a pessimist see it as being half-empty, but show that glass to an engineer and he’ll see a storage facility with 50% excess capacity”,

I’ve decided that I am neither a half-empty or half-full person.

I like things in the middle.

The thought came to me as I opened a little carton of yogurt this morning. Actually that wasn’t my first thought – my first impression was a feeling of annoyance with the French, because before they introduced their six-ounce containers of Yoplait to America in 1977 we were all happy with hefty eight-ounce cartons. I’ve always wondered if that six-ouncer was passive-aggressive retaliation for all the French jokes we told in New England, but I digress,

Open a carton of yogurt and the first thought is “Do I really want to eat this too or will the poached egg take me all the way to lunch”. Your last thought is mild annoyance as you try to scrape the last ½ ounce from the embossed risers and ribs on the bottom of the cup.

….but in the middle?

Mmmmm!

It’s the same way with vacations. We were blessed with a two-week vacation back home to Alaska during both the summer of 1997 and the summer of 1999. Both visits played out pretty much the same:

  • jet-lag and nostalgia over-dose for the first few days
  • packing-anxiety and teary-eyed anticipation of parting AGAIN for the last few…

…but for four or five days in the middle of our stay it was glorious. We still had plenty of money left in our trip-budget, our friends and family had finally been able to adjust schedules to accommodate individual visits and the specter of departure was too far away to loom very effectively.

I think it makes for a healthy philosophy for life in general. Rather than fuss about what I didn’t get in the past (half-empty) or what riches I might amass in the future (half-full) I think I’d rather concentrate on the blessings I have right now.

In the middle.

Easter Eggs and Retro-Design

I’m not the first artist to hide Easter Eggs in work, but I think I might be in contention for the title of “most obscure reference.”. Take the nice little pen & ink drawing I did in the summer of 1988 depicting a British tank crew on the Western Desert ca. 1941. In the foreground is the commander sipping a mug of tea, in the background was an-obviously-recently-shot-down pterodactyl and on the hull of the tank itself is painting the Cross of St. George.

ST George

Unfortunately it all worked out the way a  visiting friend predicted:  ” Nice drawing but no one will get the reference”

Today’s drawing falls into much the same category…

2018-10-01 SkyDiver 1939

Never mind the fact that the idea has been retro-designed to approximately TL 1939…

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.)

Redesigned XL5 Jetbike

2017-12-02 Reworked XL5 Jetbike

They’re the first thing you see on an episode of Fireball XL5

“OK Venus?”  “OK Steve”  “Right…let’s go!”

SteveVenusJetbike

Some guys my age like to golf all the time. Other guys work in their gardens. Me – I like to re-design things just for the h*ll of it. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Fireball XL5, if nothing else but for the fact that it was my favorite show during 5th grade at Woodland Park Elementary in deepest, darkest Spenard…and it was time to give the jetbike a reworking….

Steve Zodiac w/ Thruster Pack

2017-08-04 XL5 Thruster Pack

My latest effort at re-designing Fireball XL5 involves the Thruster Packs used for either EVA outside of the ship or movement around a planetary surface.

Clunky technology is one of reasons I love Gerry Anderson’s work. The shows have vehicles and equipment that look futuristic but are in fact usually manifestations of a mature (dead-end) technology that will be tossed aside when the Next New Thing comes along. Think 8-track tape players or RCA Selectavision. The Hawker Hurricane vs. the Spitfire. – the  sort of thing I’ve referred to as “technodork” in other writings.

The search for a functional reason for those pointy-shouldered uniforms has bedeviled me since  1963 but other than aesthetics their main value was ease of construction and tailoring.   I left the pointy shoulders off the regular duty uniforms but incorporated them into the thruster pack design as a multifunctional breastplate of sorts  with concealed  mounts for accessories, mounting brackets for  propulsion units and foldable wings for fuel economy . It also provides  measure of protection while looking suitably “outer space-y” with the pointy shoulder features.

…now if I can just figure out how to make those “oxygen pills” work.