I Never Saw It Coming

I’m a product of the Seventies in that both my social sense and my creative vision were influenced a great deal by what was going on in the decade from 1970 to 1979. Economically speaking it was terrible with most of the decade stuck in ‘stagflation’ – a stagnant economy wracked by inflation,  and the country suffered a major geopolitical black-eye in Southeast Asia. At the same time it looked like racial issues were being addressed, and the multicultural bridge crew of the Starship Enterprise more than an escapist’s dream – which made my heart warm. My parents were an anomaly for their generation in that they were color-blind when it came to race, and so the idea of  everyone of all colors getting along and working well together seemed only natural.

I was excited to be studying ‘commercial art’  as well and I loved the flamboyant renderings and splashy color choices of illustrators like Bob Peake that were so popular at the time. I looked forward to working in that design world, so at times it was challenging to have my illustration career on hold for five years while I served in the Army….but when I came out of the Army things were starting to change. Individual art directors were being replaced by committees and group-think tends to shun the experimental. Race relations were starting to change as well and the future didn’t seem as positive as we thought in the previous decade.

One indication of the changes was also one of my signature bodies of work –  the group of uniform designs I created in 1986 and 1987 for FASA’s foil-covered BattleTech House books. It was a marvelous opportunity and a great learning experience: if you line the books up in order of their production you can see a gradual positive change in both my figure drawing and marker technique.

Unfortunately that project is unlikely to happen again with the same results.

Why? Jordan Weismann was the sole art director for the entire project and he pretty much let me run with my ideas  –  in the entire series he turned back exactly one drawing. Unfortunately by the last book Jordan had left and I had to contend with three different people dictating often conflicting changes which made for a drop in concept and quality. I no longer had the freedom to excel.

There were other trends that were disturbing me… Early on in the BattleTech project I was able to keep that Enterprise bridge crew model-mix of genders and races but as the series wound up with the committee in charge, it seemed like all the figures they took exception to had darker skins or only “X” chromosomes. Those committee objections took me totally by surprise (hence the title of today’s post). I’d been tooling along with my Seventies goggles but when I stopped and took a good look around in 1988 everything was very different.

I won’t even go into how I feel about the way things are now, but rest assured that I still prefer that Seventies perspective and I still put more stock in a person’s actions than the way they look.

 


 

This laser-equipped trooper from the Eridani Light Horse happened at the very beginning of the series

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Re-visualized version from earlier in this decade

Eridani Light Horse Color Rework

Unto the Third and Fourth Generation

Working with my Star Pupil doesn’t always entail slaving over the drawing board. This picture documents one of the many breaks we take in between drawing and sculpting,  though you could refer to this as yet another study session.

Art history –  because we are analyzing a classic television program…

Unto the third and fourth generation

I definitely I learned a lot from this session – as in discovering  the degree to which my hair has gone  thin and white…

Star Trek: Generation X

Re-run Saturday: The controversy surrounding Star Trek: Discovery has made this post as pertinent as ever. Even back in the fall of 1987 I had to wonder why Gene Roddenberry and company just didn’t start over with a new series/clean slate, but I’ve since learned that licensing issues are at the heart of the problem. Creators don’t want to be constrained by canon but they want to capitalize on the built-in appeal of the original series. Something-something about having your cake and eating it too.

David R. Deitrick, Designer

 

(This doesn’t have nearly the bite it did when I first wrote it almost 20 years ago. It was a little harder to get material “out there” in 1995 than it is now and while every editor that read it liked it, they were all too leery of Paramount’s legal department top publish it, notwithstanding the court’s support for fair use via parody/satire.)

 

Reporter #1

Paramount Studios announced that it has taken the unprecedented step of re-filming its most recent Star Trek feature film in a form more marketable to a particular target audience.

 

Renamed Star Trek: Generation X, the film was repackaged in response to lagging sales in licensed Star Trek properties among consumers in the 19-28 year-old age bracket. Recently, our reporters visited the set and spoke with Executive Producer Rick Vermin.

 

(Cut to movie set)

 

Interviewer #1

Mr. Vermin, there has…

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Amazon Review: Star Trek/Legion of Super-heroes Cross-over Book

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Despite their common use of  visual communication comic books and television shows are not always a good mix. While it is true comic adaptations can work well enough, the product of mixed genres can quickly become as corny and contrived  as the classic 70’s SNL skit What If : “What if the pioneers crossing the plains had to fight dinosaurs but the Man from U.N.C.L.E. went back through time to help them out”?

Luckily the DC/IDW Star Trek /Legion of Super-Heroes cross-over book avoids that trap. Jeffrey and Philip Moy have succeeded admirably in blending the  intense  color and dramatic styling of a superhero book with the late 1960’s visual splash of the original Star Trek series.  More importantly Chris Roberson’s plotting and dialog fits neatly into either books’ universe and he includes just enough fan-favorite Easter Eggs  from both properties to treat  the reader without being patronizing.

…and I will die a happy man after seeing Brainiac 5 and Mr. Spock quibble.

All in all it was a very readable book. I’d planned on stretching it by reading just once chapter at a time, but I had so much fun I got through it all in one night and was left wishing there were at least four more volumes in a series after this one.

The Star Trek/LSH book makes a pretty nifty addition to any  graphic novel library and I highly recommend it. If pressed to make a complaint it would be that I didn’t get to work on the project myself (I painted the dealer-incentive covers for IDW’s Wrath of Khan adaptation) As both a Trek and Legion fan I would have settled for $67 and an old hockey trophy for a chance at working on some as cool as this book.

Vulcan Starfleet Officer

 

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I thought I had made my peace with modern technology …but just as I let my guard down…..

This is my latest drawing, a commission by Left-Coast financial guru Eric Nelson. As I have been finishing it up and prepping the original for shipment two things have come to mind:

  1. I somehow started working in a passing resemblance to Kim Cattral’s treacherous LT Valkris in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
  2. Why do technical people keep making changes we don’t want or need? I had a perfectly good camera and was able to get image to computer with little problem but since I moved to “improved” equipment….

WordPress did the same thing. Their editing software interface has changed. I was quite happy with the way things were – shoot, there were a lot of aspects of the old set-up that I had yet to learn – and now I have to start over from square one.

Song of the Whale

My son Conrad sent this link to me the other day. It’s beautiful on so many levels for me

  • It’s light jazz/fusion nudging up into New Age
  • It’s from Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home and we all know that  an even-numbered Trek film = great flick.

Mostly it conjures up memories of our family and I crossing back and forth over a BIG chunk of the United States and Canada in the late Eighties. It was before all our byzantine seat-belt laws were enacted so we were able to take the middle seat out of our 76 VW Combi giving us basically a toy room on wheels.

If you are in search of Nirvana, and I mean the state of mind rather than the musical group try this:

  • Driving in a light Alberta drizzle in May, the engine and drive train humming over miles and miles of superb pavement
  • The propane heater doing its best imitation of a fireplace
  • Sean’s of Battle Beasts defending the sink from a flank attack by Conner’s mini-Thundercats
  •  …and the soundtrack to “The Voyage Home” playing softly in the background.

IDW Comics “Wrath of Khan” Adaptation Covers

IDW WrathOfKhanTryptch

Shortly after we moved to Clarksville I was contacted by IDW Comics to do a trio of covers for their ‘Wrath of Khan” adaptation. I was elated to get the project, sure that I had finally cracked the comics market in a big way…until I found out that I was basically a nostalgia act. The decision had been made based on my covers for the Star Trek role-playing game from the 1980’s rather than on anything recent I had had published.

Then they told me that my covers would grace the “dealer incentive copies” of the print run – dealers would have to order twenty-five of the regular issues before they could order one with my art. Again, it  seemed like a good deal, my work being the Holy Grail and all until I determined that IDW Trek books were not exactly flying off comic shop shelves, which meant very few of my covers would be sold.

I fussed about it for about three minutes, then figured that if Steven Stills, Joe Walsh and  Blood, Sweat & Tears  could do the nostalgia circuit then so could I.

I designed the covers to work together in a triptych of sorts, which given the degree to which some fans venerate the Trek world is more accurate term than you’d think.  I’ve had complaints from readers that all the graphic devices and lines don’t match up precisely; all I can say is there are always trade-offs with printed work as it goes through preparation for the press.

Since my recent post of the Spock cover included the masthead I’ve left them off this image. This Kirk differs from the actual printed version; shortly after submitting the JPEG I got a call from the editor wanted a more aggressive expression which I dutifully painted and resubmitted. Somehow the original image made it to press instead of this one.

…one more to share…

2011-02-02 Spock

This was a commissioned piece that I drew a couple of years back. Sandy ‘Sam’ Rollins had me do a couple of Trek pieces for her older siblings Greg and Karen – and of course now I can’t remember who got which drawing. Not that it mattered: the Deitricks and the Hershbergers were all one conjoined circle in the big Venn diagram of life Back In The Day.

Rest in Peace Mr. Nimoy

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I had been holding this image back until a specific post which would have dealt with  my third go-around with Trek illustration work (IDW’s Wrath of Khan covers) but it seems  more appropriate to run the image now.

When I was a high school freshman and being punched around on a regular basis it was important to me to have a safe place I could go to in my head – where my friend could immobilize the punch-ers with a simple neck-pinch. Later on when I was trying to cope with medical problems removing me from flight status it was calming to see that same friend coping with his humanity while trying to contact V’yger.

In general it was heart-warming to see the fantastic body of work (both old and new) that he built over the years:

  • matching fists and wits with Illya Kuryakin
  • accomplishing the “impossible” with Jim Phelps
  • cruising the main drag with the Bangles
  • coaxing a great motion picture out of three hunks and an infant.

In the end it still was his role as Spock that had the most impact on me – and not “Spock as scientist” but “Spock as moral compass”. As the airwaves in the late 60’s began to fill up with anti-heroes whose values would depend on the situation, it helped me to see a bit of Vulcan consistency….

Star Trek: Skybox Cards

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I was lucky enough to purchase the big Bob Peake book last year. I’ve always loved his work and while I cannot begin to emulate his flamboyant macho drawing skills I’ve shamelessly horked some of his color schemes and compositions. (Don’t try to match illustration to illustration as I was never that successful enough in my emulation).  Mr. Peake even  managed to inspire one last time as I was reading his book. I can’t remember if the words were a quote – or if they came from his son who compiled the book. The thought was this: if Bob Peake were to try and get a start in today’s illustration market he’d have a very hard time with is particular out-of-the-box style.  When he was starting out illustrators usually dealt with just one person (the art director) while the norm now is art direction by committee …and any time you have to accommodate several opinions in one piece you end up with something much less dynamic that you’d otherwise produce.

That thought verbalized what I have been thinking about – and encountering – over the last couple of decades, ever since I first encountered the phenomenon while working the Skybox Star Trek MasterSeries II trading card line..It was the winter of 1993-1994 and I thought my work with Star Trek was all in the past. However, word through the illustrator’s grapevine was that Skybox was commissioning Trek work so I sent off packets to as many different Skybox addresses as I could find, which wasn’t easy in those pre-Internet days. I think I sent stuff to their printers, to their warehouse – maybe even to the guy who walked their dogs.  It was a shot in the dark but freelance was getting pretty thin and I wasn’t teaching enough to pay the bills.

The shot in the dark hit something because two months later I got a call from the agency that was putting the second series together. It was a dream project: nice rates, reasonable deadline and even an allowance for purchasing reference material ( i.e. toys).The images above were the two best pieces out of my particular assignment: a ten-card sub-set featuring various starships.

There was just one hitch: even though they’d hired me on the basis of my Trek covers, the committee that was overseeing the card line wasn’t  going to let me use the same strong graphic compositions as I had during the FASA , when I was just working with Jordan. I was able to work a little bit of graphic line work in the backgrounds but for the most part it was fairly straight representation work.

( It wasn’t the only speed bump in the job – I had one guy in Paramount licensing department turn back one of my cards because I didn’t have the correct number of lifeboat hatches on the ship in question.)

…and I was revising that painting and adding hatches I wondered if anyone had counted hatches on the Enterprise in Mr. Peake’s stunning Star Trek: The Motion Picture marquee poster back in 1978.