November 30, 2009
I can’t express how delighted I am with the response I’ve received for the call for submissions for next April’s Order of Odd-Fish art show. Especially this new one: a gleeful comic-book style character sheet for the Belgian Prankster! This one’s by Kathleen Simmons, known as LittleDarlingEve on DeviantArt.
Kathleen deftly conveys the mix of goofy whimsy and insane terror that is the Belgian Prankster by showing him in four different modes. In the full-body drawing he looks guileless, almost innocent. Then Kathleen shows his monstrously eager, feral side when his stinger is out; gives us a taste of his contemptuous irony with the third picture; and then neatly acknowledges that Hoagland Shanks is the Belgian Prankster in disguise with the fourth picture, in which he blissfully clutches a pie! I love the red bags under his eyes, his exploding gray hair, his overall creepiness. Bravo!
At the tender age of 19, Kathleen’s already getting in at the ground floor at Disney: she snagged one of the coveted positions working as a Disney Cast Member for five months at Disney World next year. Go Kathleen! With her skills, she’s going far. Seriously, do yourself a favor and check out the tons of great art she’s already done on DeviantArt. I’m quite pleased with myself for having one of my characters in her awesome, ever-expanding portfolio!
The indefatigable—both in quantity and quality—Max Pitchkites continues his astonishing streak of paper-cut illustrations for every chapter of Odd-Fish. The one above, for chapter 11, might be my favorite so far: Jo and Ian riding an elephant through Eldritch City. Max captures beautifully the lush, alien feeling I wanted to give the streets of this tropical metropolis. The mushroom-roofed houses put me in the mind of Super Mario Bros., and as usual Max adds his own distinctive element to the scene: a whale-submarine innocently swimming along at Jo and Ian’s side. This picture has a buoyant, joyous energy that really appeals to me.
Here’s one for chapter 12, when Jo gets her fingernail bitten off by a seahorse-like creature called a nangnang. This mysterious design looks like the cover of some 1960s-1970s acid rock album, or the cryptic emblem of a chic secret society. The way Jo’s finger is bleeding—flowing upwards in perfect weightless bubbles—is more gripping, memorable, and appealing than a straightforward “realistic” picture of bleeding. Great idea to shift from the lush jumble of the last scene to the cool abstraction here. Remember how when Harry Potter came out, some adults were embarrassed to be reading about a boy wizard, so the book was also published with more subtle covers? This would be my choice for the cover of Odd-Fish if there was ever such a version. Elegant and intriguing!
In chapter 10 the Belgian Prankster tells Ken Kiang the gruesome story of Jo’s birth. Max nimbly depicts the effect this supernatural birth has on her house, which the book describes “as if some invisible hand were squeezing the house, stretching and twisting it as if it were taffy. The bricks were melting, dripping down the sides in streams . . . The house strained at the seams, swelling, heaving, gurgling.” Max’s arrangement of windows makes it seem as though the house itself is moaning and screaming! Lovecraftian and creepy.
In chapter 13 Jo runs across two accounts of the myth of her monstrous birth. One is part of the miles-long tapestry that is the repository of all Eldritch City myths. The other is a cheaply-made, seedy, but wildly popular show called Teenage Ichthala, episodes of which are bought on the black market or passed among friends like pop-culture samizdat.
Here Max cleverly splices the tapestry and Teenage Ichthala together! For some reason Max’s style keeps reminding me of video games: the various denizens trawling across alternating bands of horizontal color remind me of early Atari 2600 efforts like Air-Sea Battle. Max throws the whole chaotic richness of the tapestry at us: jellyfish, space invader, tsunami, dinosaur, conflagration, vortex, witch-doctor skull . . . and also gives us black-and-white cels from an episode of Teenage Ichthala. Those cels precisely catch the feel I intended Teenage Ichthala to have—like that of a grainy, scratched, old-timey 1930s film.
I’m going to be a bit sad when Max finishes this series (he only has 7 more to go!) Every week I find myself looking forward to what new unpredictable madness he’s going to pull out of his hat.
Fortunately I also have brilliant art from newcomers like Kathleen to pick up the slack when that happens. And Max has hinted that he might also do some Odd-Fish illustrations when he’s done with the cut-paper art—a prospect which I heartily endorse!
Remember: everyone’s invited to make Odd-Fish art for the show, and the deadline is March 1. This is already shaping up to be a fascinating ride.