Archive for Cryptozoology

N is for Ningen

Posted in Center for Cartoon Studies, Cryptozoology, Monster Alphabet, Monsters, Thesis with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 27, 2011 by Paul Swartz

My apologies to Nisse, Nisses, and their fans. From the beginning I’d been intending to do “N is for Nisse,” but it just didn’t work out. The overlap with Elf was considerable, and there really wasn’t much else I could have done with E. Also, I discovered the Ningen.

The Ningen is a badass monster. Sort of. It’s awesome in that it’s a mysterious mishmash of whale and man, sighted breaching in ice-choked Antarctic waters by Japanese whalers. It’s less awesome in that it’s pretty much just an internet legend. The disappointing thing about this beast is that there aren’t so much reports of it as there are reports of reports. This is the cryptid that all other cryptids must resent, as he’s generated a lot of buzz without doing any real work. There’s no Surgeon’s photo or Patterson-Gimlin film of this guy, just a bunch of artists’ renderings. And none of those are more than a few years old. It seems like this Ningen thing is strictly a 21st century phenomenon. Not that it really matters. Monsters, of whatever vintage, are pretty much all made up. But with monsters, as with religions, the older ones just seem to have more credibility, more cachet. There’s a momentum and a cultural significance that accrues to a legend as it ages. The Ningen doesn’t have that yet.

So, why did I add my artist’s rendering to the growing Ningen pile? Because this is such a cool monster conceptually. How could you not draw a whale man? also, the myth is so psychologically compelling. I want there to be something to this thing, even if I have to make it up.  Whale man is a great foil for regular man. In some ways whales are so like us (they have names…maybe), but, cosmetically, they’re about as different as you get without having to deal with bugs. Whale man is relatable, but remote. Also, man and whale man could have any number of interesting dynamics between them. The Ningen could so easily be our victim, a symbol of, and a silent witness to, our wanton cruelty to the natural world. On the other hand, he could be our monstrous tormentor, a “White Whale” of gargantuan size and strength, punishing man for his sins against the sea. Also, the myth is impossible to disprove. For all we know, there could be giant whale people in Antarctica, if only in the way that there could be a million dollars under your floorboards. Anyway, this Ningen’s got everything a good beast needs to succeed: A cool look, an ability to generate pathos and fear, and a giant, unexplored territory in which to purportedly hang its hat. This myth’s gonna be big, and I’m excited to get in on the ground floor.

In other news, I’m inching ever closer to the completion of my monster book. All the art is now done (minus a few revisions) and so is about half the writing. Here’s hoping I can get through the rest in a week!


(It’s Almost Time to) Meet the Monsters!

Posted in Cryptozoology, Monster Alphabet, Monsters, Thesis with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 22, 2011 by Paul Swartz

So I’ve still got one letter left to illustrate, but I thought I’d go ahead and unveil the cover for “Meet the Monsters.” This design came together pretty quickly and, by and large, I’m pretty pleased with it. the only thing I’m not sold on are the errant hairs on the explorer’s cheeks, chin, and neck. I’m not sure they read clearly. They might just as easily come across as weird burs or darts he got stuck with in the jungle.

Anyway, I’m almost finished with this book and can’t wait to get it out there (and up here) for people to read and buy! For better or worse, it has to be done in two weeks, so you’ll all be seeing it soon!

B is for Bigfoot

Posted in Center for Cartoon Studies, Cryptozoology, Monster Alphabet, Monsters, Thesis with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 18, 2011 by Paul Swartz

This is not my best Theodore Roosevelt. The colors on the face should contrast a little more and he’s probably a bit too thin. I’ve always loved the presidents and have been doodling the iconic ones — Washington, Lincoln, TR, and Nixon   — since I was a kid. I also do a decent W. Drawing Teddy here really makes me want to rework my old comic “The Jaws of Defeat,” which was all about giant, reanimated presidents wreaking havoc on a fractured future USA. Also, the presidents are naked. It was a story I did for an anthology last year and started posting here but never finished. It’s tiny, black and white, and poorly lettered, though, so I’d rather redo it than just put it up as is. Maybe this summer I’ll get around to it.

As far as this picture goes, I think it came out OK. I’d been putting it off because Bigfoot kind of bores me. There’s such a consensus on what he looks like that I just didn’t feel free to take too many liberties in designing him. Copying other peoples’ designs is boring. Also, to me at least, drawing apes/ape-like creatures is kind of boring. I don’t know how to vary them. Having already drawn the Humanzee and the Yeti, I felt like I was pretty much out of ape ideas. It wasn’t until I thought of the TR concept that the piece got interesting. Once it did, it came together in a night. Teddy’s definitely the most interesting simian in the picture.

Y is for Yeti

Posted in Center for Cartoon Studies, Cryptozoology, Monster Alphabet, Monsters, Thesis with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 20, 2011 by Paul Swartz

This page might be my favorite so far. I like the color scheme and think that it, taken with the mountain scenery, suggest an old Art Deco travel poster. I’ve always loved those.

I’m also pretty proud of my mountaineer. If you scrutinize the climber, though, you’ll see that his pose is a little weird. To dress him, I looked at photos of Sir Edmund Hillary and tried to copy his clothes and gear. Surprisingly, he wasn’t wearing a hat. That seems pretty crazy to me, but it was easier to not draw a hat than draw one, so he stays bareheaded. The wind-blown hair is more dramatic anyway.

W is for Werewolf

Posted in Center for Cartoon Studies, Cryptozoology, Monster Alphabet, Monsters, Thesis with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 18, 2011 by Paul Swartz

I’m not sure how I feel about the “Barbie’s Dream House” color scheme I went with here. I’m also a little disappointed by the way parts of this page get hard to read when they intersect with the horizon line. On the other hand, I think my city-from-above is pretty cool. That design was a nice convergance of elegance and ease. I’m also proud to add a poodle skirt to the list of things that I’ve drawn. Mostly, though, I’m glad to be nearing the end of this project. Not that it hasn’t been a lot of fun to do. It has. It’ll just be a huge relief to know that I’ll have something finished for the thesis committee (and, fingers crossed, for MoCCA). Anyway, 20 down, six to go!

R is for Rat King

Posted in Center for Cartoon Studies, Cryptozoology, Monster Alphabet, Monsters, Thesis with tags , , , , , , , , on February 1, 2011 by Paul Swartz

I’m not sure how happy I am with this one. I like the diversity of kings I was able to represent, but I’m just not thrilled with the piece’s overall design. These rats just aren’t tied tightly enough together. It seems like they’re going to get a lot of mingling done before they realize their tales are intertwined.

A “real” rat king, by the way, is a term for a cluster of rats who live in such close quarters that their tails get tangled up together. I think a quorum of seven is needed for a proper rat king. Anything else is a mere rat prince or regent or something. No one is sure if rat kings ever actually develop in the “wild.” There are museums around the world displaying big rings of desiccated rats, but the exhibitors (or the people who brought the rats to the museum) might have tied those tails together themselves. In any case, this all makes “the Nutcracker” a lot creepier.

J is for Jersey Devil

Posted in Center for Cartoon Studies, Cryptozoology, Monster Alphabet, Monsters, Thesis with tags , , , , , , , , on December 26, 2010 by Paul Swartz

Lucky number 13!

This is the halfway point, people. “Meet the Monsters: The Quirks of Creatures A-Z” is 50% finished. My other books are a little behind schedule, but I’m so glad to have one that’s moving along briskly.

Once these monster drawings are all done, I’ll have to re-post them along with their corresponding text. In the final version of the book, each monster will come with a little, all-too-human biography that explores their neuroses, obsessions, fears, etc. It’s funny stuff, if I do say so myself, so stand by for that.

Over all, I really like this page. There are some things about it that bother me — the angle of the falling hat, the asymmetry of the text, my inability to get a couple more trees in there along the horizon — but mostly, I think it’s pretty sharp. It’s a good piece on which to end the first half of the book — a high note! It’s left me feeling rejuvenated, excited to get on with the other half!