Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas! Santa is a Hobgoblin

Whelp, the yuletide festivus is upon us. Before you trundle off to gorge yourself on food and gifts (and you know you will, nobody waits 'till Christmas day anymore) I ask you for the gift of patience while I blabber on about Germanic gremlins. See, all across Europe there are myths of little wildlings that can be coerced into doing the household chores with a little offering of milk and honey. This usually ends in stolen underwear and bitter tears of disappointment, because fae folk are tricky jerks. Some people call them Kobolds, some call them Hobgoblins. My personal favorite is Lob lies-by-the-fire, the lubber fiend. They take all shapes and sizes from red capped Will Huygen Gnomes, to tall hairy beasts but they all follow the same rulebook: leave an offering of sweets, stay out of their way, and hope for the best. Some are more likely to screw you over than others, but they never mean any (permanent) harm. They just do it for the kicks, Jack. Nothin' personal.

What does this have to do with Christmas? Oh, everything. What do you leave out for Santa? Uh-huh, and you're not supposed to see him are you? Think about the name: Santa Clause. German for Saint Clause. When the Catholic church converted pagan cultures, they would replace the local gods and spirits with Saints to make the transition easier. Yep. You've been making deals with elves your entire life, and you never even knew it. And under a sacred tree no less! You naughty little pagan. So go on, lay out the cookies and milk for Santa the Gnome, and pray he just drops the gifts off and doesn't steal your left shoe. Not like last year...

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Sasquatch Sound




Deep in the remote Ozarks, in a hovel carved out of a great old oak, there lived a sasquatch. Every morning, as the sun peaked over the pine thickets, she would pick up a well worn club and tap her name against the side of hollow home.

"Thump-a-Thump"

"Thump-a-Thump"

She would always be greeted by the echoes of her own name, then silence. She had only ever seen the face of her kind in her own reflection. Thump had been raised by the trees and wisened by the beasts of the forest. She was never without company in the lively wood. Still something inside her wanted to call out, and knew that a stick and a log was the way to do it.

One morning as she wailed on her tree, an answer came. 

"Thump-a-Thump"

"Thump-a-Thump"

"thunk-thud-throp"

Her heart skipped a beat. Blood rushed to her face, every inch of her shaggy fur stood on end. She wanted to move, but couldn't possibly decide what to actually do. 

"thud-thrup"

The confirmation that she hadn't simply imagined the noisy stranger sent her sprinting through the trees, bolting in the direction of the sounds. She left snapped limbs and cracked branches in her wake,   her great mass hurtling through the narrow gaps between trees with ease. Her large feet pounded the underbrush pushing harder and harder until she came to the edge of a clearing. Something wasn't right. She tried to stop, but the great moment of her sprint sent her sprawling. It was the smell, something had been burning. Thump had seen fire before, but never started one herself. With an insulated fur coat and a raw vegetarian diet, she had no reason to. 

"Thumpthudthumpthump"

She picked herself up and scanned the clearing anxiously. There it was, a pile of smoldering twigs in a burnt circle. There was something else as well. A grey cylinder lying on it's side by the fire. Thump cautiously lifted the sooth object in her great hands. She had never felt anything like it, it was softer and smoother than rock but not as rigid as wood. She gave it a gentle shake. 

"THUMPWUMPTHWOP"

The bucket sprang to life. "OOKE!" Thump reeled back in shock, and as it fell from her hands the lid popped free. To her surprise, a little pink nose poked it's way out of the open end, followed by a grey furry body. A opossum. Her mysterious caller had been a opossum trapped in a bucket.

She let out a great sigh, not of disappointment but relief. She realized that she had no idea what she would have done if it had been another of her kind. Would they have even been welcoming, or did sasquatch fight over territory like stags? Perhaps it was for the best. She collapsed on the grass, and stretched her arms wide. The opossum waddled it's way onto her chest, and curled into a ball of warmth. 

"Ooh" Thump grunted softly, content to nap the morning's excitement away.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

My Terrible Christmas Tree

It's almost Christmas, and all I've thought about for the last two weeks is dinosaurs. Thank god for Matt over at Dino Drac, who gave me a stupid activity to inject a little Christmas in my...Christmas.

The idea is to take a simple blank Christmas tree pattern, and slap a lot of gaudy crap on it 'till you feel like you've achieved something. And boy howdy did I achieve something.

Just... just let that soak in. Oh, it's terrible looking but I had a BLAST making it. There's nothing like throwing things at a picture, consequences be damned! Besides, looking terrible was kind of the point. It's just a genuine, unfiltered blast of everything a single person holds dear at Christmas time. If it takes longer than an hour or two, you're doing it wrong. If your Christmas spirit is a little winded like mine was, click that link above and give it a whirl. I guarantee it's the holly jolly placebo you need.

And so, in another move blatantly stolen from Matt, here's a numbered photo!


1. I guess I should mention the giant gorilla in the room, or giant Sasquatch lady as it were. It's funny because they're both APES. I probably shouldn't be typing this right after eating a three year old cereal straw. This is Thump-a-thump, another of those characters I've been doodling forever. But having her decorate a tree is about more than cryptozoological eye-candy. It's my own little homage to my favorite Christmas scene of all time: The Bumble putting the star on top of Santa's tree. The rest of Rudolph is nice, but give me that one scene and I'm happy for a lifetime. He's just so happy, and the elves love him...and...*SNIFF*

 Also, I can draw. I really can! I was just messing around in paint, I swear!

2. It's Clawdeen! I was really tempted to draw her too, but Thump took way too long and I was pushing the quality-to-effort ratio hardcore already.

3. Shine Sprite star! I actually had one of these made of cardboard on a tree in my room once. That sentence should have ended sooner. Oops. I've loved the idea ever since, even though they haven't been relevant since Mario Sunshine. Keep your overrated Starman, I'm standing by his tropical cousin.

4. Mammoth ornament! How are mammoths not a Christmas icon? They're big adorable animals that lived in snow! Owls don't even like snow. How did they land the whole winter gig? I guess there's only room for one holiday beast of burden, and Rudolph has name value.

5. It's Kleavage, our orc-y mascot as a plushie. Plushies are a must for me in the Christmas season. Doesn't have to be thematic, I got a giant stuffed rhino last year with no warning, and I was practically puking seasonal joy. Something about soft fur just says "winter" to me.

6. The tree I had in my room was white, and I've had a soft spot for them ever since. Yes, they're gaudy and awful. But I love them. Why? Because I LOVE THEM. Next question.

7. Tapir ornament! Tapirs are my favorite animal, and I'm a slave to my passions. No other reason, really.

8. The Batman Forever soundtrack. I like Batman Forever. There, I said it. It's purely nostalgia, but it probably means more to me than any other Batman movie. Nolan and Burton can't compete with childhood bliss and Val Kilmer. The soundtrack was a Christmas gift that somehow intertwined itself into my idea of Christmas, and I've been singing "Kiss From a Rose" all month. Like I do every year. Seal is my personal Sam the Snowman.

9.Tendril! Do I even need to justify this? It's Inhumanoids. Everyone loves these giant monster toys, and Tendril was always my favorite. Unfortunately ours was missing his head. I played with him anyway. THAT is how freakin' cool Tendril was.

10.Primal Rage figures. I covered how much Blizzard means to me here. I was going to put Blizzard in the picture, but I went with Armaddon instead since I don't actually own him. As long as we're pretending, might as well dream big. Someday Talon, Armaddon, Vertigo, and Sauron will join their demigod friends. I swear it.

11. The JP T. Rex, or as collectors call it the Red Rex. This has been the unattainable object of my childhood desires for time immemorial. I just got the Papo Rexy, which is honestly a better representation of the JP dino and I absolutely love it. But I'll always carry a flame for the Red Rex of my dreams. My own White Whale. They're actually only like 150 bucks on ebay at the most, but that might as well be a million at this point.

12. Batman Returns Catwoman! I'm not going to lie: I probably want this more than any of the other goofy things on this fantasy list. I used to have one. Then she disappeared. Then we got another. And she disappeared. Thus the Catwoman curse began. Literally every Catwoman I ever had as a child just disappeared one day without a trace, and the mystery just drove me to obsession. Now the only one I own is the Lego mini figure, and I'm constantly paranoid she'll be gone. This figure is also just really neat, and the packaging is lovely beyond words.

13. Wampa rug! This is one of those things you dream about but would never buy. I would adore one if I had it, but that white fuzz would stay clean for all of ten minutes before being damned to an eternity of dingy off-white. You just know it attracts dirt like nobody's business. So I commit my shaggy Wampa rug fantasies to the land of dreams, only able to imagine the furry wonders it holds.

Hopefully this is legible and in some way entertaining. Perhaps a hastily written, poorly made article is fitting for a hastily made, poorly conceived Christmas tree. I'm gonna' sleep off that cereal stick now.


Friday, December 5, 2014

Stegosaurus

--------

"So what do you make of this, Tim?"

"Well... it looks like a Stegosaurus walked over there- on its hind-legs- and laid down there. Somehow, it formed the perfect shape of a fertility idol. Breasts and all."

"A hoax then?" 

"Definitely a hoax. A stegosaurus woman? That's just ridiculous."

"But who would waste so much time making this...and why?"

----------

I've spent  the better part of my life obsessed with dinosaurs. So, given my *ahem* track record, it's not that surprising that I would draw a giant buxom stegosaurus woman. But the thing is, that isn't what a stegosaurus looks like. The head is wrong, the feet are too big, it's just off in general. I know what a stegosaurus looks like, so why did I purposely do it wrong? Now that is an interesting train of thought. Well, interesting to me. It could be horribly tedious and overly self-indulgent for you. Yeah, this is gonna' get "artsy" in a hurry so if that's not your thing then hey look up there. Dino-cleavage. How's that for a "covered lizard"? That...that was a binomial nomenclature joke. We're off to a good start.

The shaggy ferns and orange barren turf should be familiar to everyone: that's vintage paleo-art's bread and butter. Everybody has seen Heinrich Harder's paintings or the Invicta toys poster at least once, probably as an impressionable pupa. I love Jurassic Park as much as the next guy (no, lies, more. Much, much more) but I also adore the classic world of tail-draggers and swamp dwellers.There's just something so alien about that landscape, and the beasts that stomp across it. I can't even imagine a world like that existing outside of those gorgeous paintings, because nothing like it does.Sadly, the world at large seems to be embarrassed of our early adventures in paleontology. In the pursuit of "accuracy" we're losing an amazing fantasy art form. Who cares if it's wrong? It's still completely valid as escapist fantasy. And it's not like we really know anything about dinosaurs anyway. OH! CONTROVERSIAL!

Those early depictions of thunder lizards bring us to the lady herself: I adore the old-time Stegosaurus. They're fat, they're slow, and they're just friggin' adorable. Unfortunately, the more we understand about them the farther they slip away from me. They don't really have turtle-y heads, or ponchy gullets. They didn't pick fights with T. Rexes. Now that's not to say I hate modern stegos, not so! I still love the big burly critters. I just wish they were fatter and cuter. Is that so much to ask?  So what convinced tiny me that armor plated cow-lizards were the bees knees? Evidence A-1: Playskool's Definitely Dinosaurs



Yep, these two adorable creatures are from my youth. Made in 1988, this line of vinyl dinos straddled the line between cute and realistic. They were my brother's, and I guarantee they were my first exposure to stegosaurus and probably dinosaurs in general. Is it any wonder that the idea of stocky belly-draggers stuck in my head? They were apparently fast-food premiums from Wendy's, too, which I never would have guessed. I mean look at 'em! Those are nice sized toys, not the tiny low-detail stuff you expect to see. And there were alot of them. Every dino had multiple colors, and there were at least six different species. The entire line covered the old world dinosaur gamut, from tail dragging Tyrannosaurus to Brontosaurus. Wendy's was out to prove they had the biggest "D" on the block in  '88. "D" is for dinosaur.

Most of the dinosaur toys of the 80's looked something like this. Even the G1 Dinobots had archaic alt-modes. It was really Jurassic Park that shoved everyone in the modern direction, but Stegosaurus managed to stick to it's guns for a few years more. Then The Lost World happened in '97, and the cold hand of progress wagged it's finger and said no more big-mouthed fat Stegos. 

So, question number two, why is she brown and orange? Oh, that's an easy one. Fantasia, the Rite of Spring segment. The showdown between the stegosaurus and tyrannosaur is one of the most iconic moments in a film chock full of iconic moments.If you haven't seen this amazing piece of animation history (and a lot of you haven't, I'd wager) it's a series of animated segments set to classical music. Rite of Spring just happened to feature terrifying blood thirsty dinosaurs. Set to orchestra music. I know, but it's great trust me. There's also an entire segment about a giant demon hosting a monster orgy set to Night on Bald Mountain. Rite of Spring scared me more. In fact, I loved Bald Mountain. Huh. I'd love to link the whole segment here, but the swift hammer of Disney legal is unmerciful. Instead, I'll link the Stegosaurus page on the Disney wiki. Don't miss the stats bar on the side. I love his goal: Don't be eaten or die. A flawed hero indeed.

I also happen to own one of the old Lindberg model kit stegos molded in dark brown. I see the thing everyday, so it's probably subliminal suggestion as well. And I really like cream colored bellies on animal characters. No idea why, I just do. It's tied to some Fruedian childhood trauma I'm sure.

But there's still one last piece of the puzzle missing: all of the stegosaurus I've shown so far have cracked scaly skin, so why is she so smooth and round? The simple answer is that I can't think of anthropomorphic dinosaurs without thinking of "We're Back!"


Their wasn't a stegosaurus in the movie, but the big, chubby, round proportions should be pretty familiar. I absolutely love the way these characters look.  They manage to be detailed, yet almost completely smooth and featureless at the same time. And surprise surprise, they look like old-school dinosaurs. You can see the influence of this movie in a lot of my artwork, not just dinosaurs.I've drawn that chubby fold around characters joints without even realizing it before. I don't know if this is something everyone does, but I feel the way a character looks in my hand as I'm drawing them. That's why I draw so many curvy round characters, that's the sensation I enjoy the most. Well, that and I just like big squishy soft things. I get the feeling We're Back! is to blame for that.



Whelp, this has been the least educational article ever written about the stegosaurus. I hope you've enjoyed listening to me babble aimlessly about disjointed dino media. And if you didn't, you've already read the whole thing so what do I care? I'm off to see if the Jurassic World website has updated. Probably not. Just five more months...