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 wasn’t just the move from Alaska to Tennessee that brought about culture shock during the winter of 1990-91, it was also the collision of graphic design hipsterism with the more casual business world found in science fiction conventions. All of this playing against the backdrop of yet another artistic upheaval, namely the transition from physical hand tools like waxers and X-acto knives to the use of computers in the practice of graphic design itself.
It all felt I was trying to take just a little sip of water out of a fire hydrant but I had a family to support so I did my best to integrate new skills from the university with the solid skills I’d developed as a successful illustrator…and I had to do something: Though I’d been a full-time freelancer for a decade I was feeling real heat from new competition and figured that I needed to do a better job in promoting myself and my work.
My CATalogue project seemed to fit the bill by combining basic computer design work with rendering skills and a dash of humor to present my work in the best way possible, an approach that was made even better when marbleized paper to create hand-made book folders for presentation. Unfortunately to this day I am still trying to figure out just how effective the campaign really was. It was so labor-intensive that I only sent out two dozen books with mailings spread out over a six-week period and it was tough to make a connection between “who got a book” and “who sent work”. A few of the small press publishers in the science fiction market didn’t quite grasp what I was trying to do and returned the books, one with the damned-with-faint-praise remark that he liked the concept a lot more than he liked the art itself and it was twenty years before I tried promotions again with an equally ambitious campaign.
I guess you could say that this is the last Christmas present I’ll ever get from my mom. Her estate was finally settled and after I paid off some bills my Beautiful Saxon Princess and I decided to put a little bit of the legacy into the house itself. With the first disbursement we had our space-tub (whirlpool therapy bath) installed in our master bath but this time I wanted to fulfill a fifty-year old wish.
As I’ve written before my bonus room studio bears a strong resemblance to the attic loft I grew up in back on the ranch in Sterling. As much as I loved “living on the roof” I always wished there’d been just a little bit more window space but Dad wasn’t quite confident enough to try making a skylight or dormer window so I made do with the sunlight I DID have.
… which makes it all that cooler to finally get a similar change made in my current studio. Having it adds sunlight and a cross-breeze when so desired but the change has messed with my spatial perceptions a bit. The VELUX brand window can be opened and comes equipped with two screens: one for the sun and one for the bugs. It was purchased through Home Depot and installed by Ruggle’s Realty Services based here in Clarksville, with actual installation taking about a day.
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.
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
He gave us orcs, ents and halflings but I’ve always thought the phrase ‘the story grew in the telling” to be one of the most magnificent creations John Ronald Reuel Tolkien gave to the world. For me it neatly describes the convoluted trails the process of creation can follow…and my reimagined Lieutenant Ninety is an excellent example of that concept.
As I’ve written elsewhere FIREBALL XL5 is the Gerry Anderson program that I will always love the best. I’ve designed new vehicles and uniforms that echo the classic design and I’ve even compiled a list of suggested actors for a rebooted live-action series, but as I was reviewing that list it occurred to me that I’d come up with a group of people similar in composition to Ivory Soap (99 and 44/100 Caucasian). That prompted me to make some changes, not as a measure of political correctness but to stay close to Sir Gerry’s vision which was much more diverse than usual for the times.
…so out went Rob Schneider and in came Chris Rock.
I also wanted a dress uniform for the World Space Patrol and was favoring the long-tailed mess blues that the United States Army used up until recently, but it was a photo of Levar Burton as LT Geordie LaForge wearing that contrived piece of craptacular tailoring that passed for a Starfleet formal dress uniform that snapped the last creative Lego in place for me – add an outsized fedora and a couple of chains and –voila – you have a zoot suit.
It’s a concept that might not be all that far off as what goes around usually comes around. I swore in 1973 that I’d be wearing bell-bottom pants for the rest of my life, and I’ve seen halter-tops cycle in and out of women’s fashion a couple of times. Who’s to say that a “reet pleat” won’t be the height of military fashion in 2119?
I read once that time is something God created to keep everything from happening at once but right now that invention doesn’t seem to be working. Everything IS happening at once, at least several items of great impact on my life. Right as we’re trying to get the Midnight Son Kickstarter campaign set up my knee has gone out – and not in a minor manner. Lori thinks I have a torn meniscus but all I know is that even the most minor movement to my knee brings on excruciating pain.
…which means I haven’t been able to finish the tongue-in-cheek write-up meant to accompany this “vintage” drawing that incidentally documents two important discoveries/purchases I made in 1972:
- A hard-bound reprint collection of Batman stories from debut in 1939 to 1971
- A set of Higgins ink comprised of ten colors and opaque white
I’d just finished my first year of college and while I was intent on changing my major to art I had yet to take a college art class – or any other kind of art class for that matter. I was just having the time of my life drawing my favorite images, which in this case included 1940’s era Bat Vehicles
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.