It was another one of those nights where I felt like I was breathing through a soda straw so at 2:00 AM I finally surrendered and left bed for the studio where I spent an hour or so reading a trade paperback collection of THE LEGION OF SUPERHEROES. Reprints of comics I’d read in the mid-1960s, the Legion stories are set in the 30th century and feature the wonderfully clunky art of John Forte. In my youthful estimation the Legion ran a close second to Batman because:
- The stories drew in both the superhero and science fiction genre
- The stories were about kids that I could readily identify with
- There was such a wide variety of both good and evil characters
However, in some respects that large number of characters could be a liability as well as an asset. Not only could it be difficult for an eleven-year old mind to keep up with all of the interweaving plot lines, I think that in the beginning the rush to pad out the roster gave us some fairly one-dimensional characters.
A prime example is Star Boy, born Thom Kallor to parents living on an orbital platform about the planet Xanthu. While the character was eventually fleshed out and linked to several other notable DC heroes, in the earlier Legion stories his sole super power was the ability to make things heavy, and I’m not talking mother-in-law poundage: Heavy as in up to the weight of a planet.
Hmmm. A superhero that can make things heavy, as in:
- Helping construction workers by making foundation blocks sink into the ground
- Hiding valuable objects by making them so heavy they’d sink into the ground
- Stop fleeing villains by making them so heavy they’d sink into the ground
…and at this point I run out of ideas…Other than the “sinking into the ground” bit the main benefit to Star Boy’s power would be helping Kate Moss to get across the street on a windy day. Even as a kid I couldn’t figure out how he’s managed to stay on the Legion roster with such limitations, but as I drove past a city maintenance crew the other day I finally figured it all out.
It was the stereotypical nine-guys-standing-around-one-guy-with-a-shovel scenario, but that mob was not what caught my interest. It was the older guy sitting sideways out of the passenger seat in the truck, doing absolutely nothing but drinking coffee. That’s when it hit me: The Legion of Super Heroes is a union shop! Star Boy was hired early on and has so much seniority he can’t be “downsized” no matter how limited his powers may be.
The rich variety in alien races populating Marc Miller’s Traveller science fiction role-playing game is a major factor in its popularity for the last thirty years. I was lucky enough to illustrate a series of booklets detailing each one of the major alien races – the only down-side being that it happened early in my career so the quality was inconsistent. Unfortunately it was the Vargyr cover in that series that didn’t work out very well.
On the surface that makes no sense as I am very much a “dog” person so you’d assume I’d do an A-1 job envisioning a canine race, however I was involved in some very intense training with the National Guard at the same time and something had to give.,,,but the cover was so bad that I wasn’t able to look my Samoyed, Sasha in the eye when the printed version hit the stores. Since that time I’ve made sure to come up with better-than-average renderings when Vargyr are in the manuscript.
This image will be used in the slowly percolating Traveller “Man At Arms” project.
This is actually a rejected drawing for Marc Miller’s project that I mentioned in my last post – the pose is a little too loose to be cut & copied into a large unit of soldiers. However, I liked the pose and initial sketch enough to take it into a polished pen & ink in an 11″X17″ format that could be included in a later project.
It’s always a challenge to envision the future because it’s coming at us so quickly. It’s easy to be quickly overcome by progress – if you look at episodes of the 1995 SF series “Space: Above & Beyond” you can see how close the ground combat uniforms resemble current infantry equipment. It’s also difficult to come up with something for an alien race like Traveller’s psionic Zhodani without resorting to the wildly organic motif and goo so popular in entertainment today.
…then there’s the requirement to conform to pre-existing designs which limits me to minor detail changes. Since I am a firm believer in the dictum “form follows function” I rarely end up with the excessively detailed baroque exteriors that also seem to be the style.
One more thing – some of the elements in this suit’s design I borrowed from Bryan Gibson, a friend and incredibly talented artist who passed away a couple of years ago. I miss him so I included those features as a mini-memorial.
No, that isn’t a typo – I meant to “dragoon” instead of “dragon”.
Dragoon is a dated term for a mounted infantryman – a soldier who rides to battle but dismounts to fight. During the 19th century the term was slowly changed to refer to any kind of horse-bound solider, a trend that was spurred* on by economy. Per man true cavalrymen cost the Crown more so by calling them dragoons the Horse Guards could get away with paying a lower rate to regimental commanders.
All of which comes perilously close to the wilderness of Non Sequitur…
One of my on-going projects is a group of generic troop figures Marc Miller is going to be using in an up-coming project – and by definition they are not too terribly exciting so I render them on 8 1/2″ X 11″ paper. Every now and then I luck into something that a) is a little more interesting and b) usable for a book project of my own. I produce those images in a larger (11″X17″) more detail-friendly format. That was the case with this drawing.
Drawn with Pigma Micron felt-tip pens of varying weights. I usually come back in with Prismacolor markers but it’s nice sometime to see just the line work for the same reason I like dimensional work in one color: it lets me soak in the detail.
- yes, I know. Terrible, terrible pun.
As the title says, It’s time for a change…again.
Orson Scott Card once said that he wasn’t a science fiction writer – just that a lot of what he wants to say falls into that category. I feel much the same way about the art that I come up with, especially with this painting. It’s proper title is “Middle-aged” and an outer space setting fits in nicely with what I am trying to say.
The original painting was done with acrylic on Masonite and measures 15 inches X 36 inches – and it’s part of Jeff Barnes’ rather extensive “Deitrick collection”
There’s definitely a message here and none of the detail is of the “throwaway’ variety.
This was another homage to Gerry Anderson’s work. I was constrained to an extent by pre-existing vessel design but when it came to insignia and color schemes I was left to my own devices. The art director was an expatriate Englishman living in Amarillo, Texas and every time we talked on the phone I got a Supermarionation//Century 21 vibe that couldn’t help but influence my palette. When I was done I had a scene that Supercar or Fireball XL5 would have looked ever so much at home in.
There is an interesting back story to this. The publisher had blown through their budget on another project but still needed the cover to fit their printing schedule – and as it was right after New Years I had a hole in my schedule (as usual). Fortunately we came up with a nice compromise; the schedule of payments in the contract specified a 50% payment on delivery with the remaining 50% due on April 10th so I could comfortably cover self-employment taxes on my 1040.
The drawing itself needs a little cleaning-up but I wanted to get it posted as soon as possible. The design is a “rework of a rework”; two years ago I posted a series of XL5 designs including one of the ship itself, but I’ve never been happy with the drawing because A) it was a sketch and not nearly as polished as I like my work-in-public to be and B) I wasn’t totally happy with some of the details and proportions.
As you can see by the date on the drawing this cutaway has been around for quite awhile, having been drawn during 0ne of the first couple of years after the turn of the millennium
( What are we going to call that decade? the “00’s”? the “oughts” )
…that’s because I first started working on Oubliette in 1999. I’ve had a hard time getting much done on it though. It’s a slow but sure process. I can sit down and tell you the story but when I try to write it – to put words on paper – everything gets garbled on me. I think it’s the length of the project scaring me; when I write an essay or some other blog post I can see the end of it but facing done something this long leaves me tongue-tied.
…or would that be “finger-tied” seeing that I am typing all of this.
I have a copy of Dragon (speech-to-type conversion software) that I might have to fall back on….