Saturday, 16 December 2017

STAAAARRR WAAAAARRRSS, nothing but STAAAARRR WAAAAARRRSS, please don't let these STAAAARRR WAAAAARRRSS go awwwwaaaaaaayyyyyy....

Hi, Everybody!

Are you ready for Star Wars:The Last Jedi? I'M ready for Star Wars: The Last Jedi! I bet EVERYBODY is ready for Star Wars:The Last Jedi. Because EVERYBODY loves Star Wars!

Well...ALMOST everybody:
WILDCARDa: What's your take on the Star Wars saga?

DAVE: I went to see Episode Three a week or so ago, not having seen any of the films since the second one. I sort of wondered to myself about that. Why didn't I go and see any of the other ones? As soon as Yoda came on the screen I remembered. A Muppet with Fozzie Bear's voice. It just blew the whole thing out of the water for me. I had forgotten the skewed syntax to his sentences as an alien motif but I'm sure I found it as sincerely irritating twenty-five years ago as I did this time. It's Fozzie Bear. How do you expect me to take a muppet who sounds like Fozzie Bear seriously as a Grand Master Poobah type. It was silly. Ger lasted one more movie and then had the same reaction, he informs me, to teddy-bears saving the universe.
That's Dave from the Cerebus Yahoo group's Cerebus Re-Read Q&A (specifically the one from "Reads".)

The Vark Wars print (blatantly stolen from Jeff Tundis' site. I'd sue, really, I would. It'!)
And, from Dave's Blog & Mail #155 (February, 13th, 2007) (Which I can't find over on ...):
It's certainly interesting doing these commissioned pieces. I mean, on the one hand it makes me feel like a much older artist than the fifty year-old that I am. Commissions are sort of an Legendary Veteran kind of thing, but then being the Pariah King of Comics puts you in various contexts that you might otherwise not be in. Producer of Commissioned Work being one of them (although I've yet to tie it in with my discussions with Chester about prostitution). The interesting part is that I end up drawing things that I would never in a million years choose to draw on my own. It's no big secret that I am definitely not in the Star Wars fan category. I had gone to see the first film when it came out and loved it (more vicariously through Gene Day who L*O*V*E*D IT) and then went to see the second film when it came out and, well, that was it for me. I went to see the last instalment when that came out a couple of summers ago, part of me wondering, "How did I get so easily put off by these things? Wasn't there enough Gene Day Juice in the first one to keep me coming out to see every one of the films the day it was released?" The answer came at some point in that final instalment when Yoda showed up on the screen. Oh, right. Fozzy Bear. Frank Oz doing his Fozzy Bear voice with that strange syntax. That was what had done it all right. My willing suspension of disbelief went from willing to unwilling the moment I was being asked to accept a Muppet with Fozzy Bear's voice as a Jedi Master. Mm. Sorry. No can do.
No offence to all the Star Wars fans who are legion in the ranks of the Cerebus Yahoos, but that was it.
So it was interesting going to get reference at the library for the piece. There was a picture book that was just tailor-made for my purposes, Star Wars The Visual Dictionary (D.K. Publishing Inc.). Big display publicity shot of Harrison Ford from the first movie looking as if George Lucas is somewhere off-camera explaining to him exactly how to pose as Flash Gordon as drawn by Al Williamson. This was one of those "luck of the draw" things for John H. that he was asking for a Star Wars commission and that Al Williamson had drawn the original Star Wars newspaper strip. I would get a chance to do my best Al Williamson impression on the page and John was pretty much guaranteed to get a much nicer drawing as a result as I tried to impress my inner Al Williamson.
I had already warned John over the phone that Cerebus as Han Solo was going to pose some difficulties since Han Solo is a distinctly vertical figure. The more vertical a character is, visually, the more difficult it is to compress him to Cerebus size. The leg holster was a good example. It was either going to be too large if I drew the blaster accurately, taking up most if not all of Cerebus' leg, or it would look like a toy if I drew it to Cerebus scale. The Flash Gordon jackboots are a big part of the look and there was no way to do them on the shape of Cerebus' leg. The best I could manage was shiny leggings. John expressed confidence in whatever solutions I came up with. "At least he has the same vest," he said hopefully. Han Solo had a Cerebus vest? Sure enough when I got the book out—cut differently but definitely a black vest.
Anyway, this serendipitous publicity shot of Harrison Ford looking exactly like an Al Williamson Flash Gordon pushed me in an entirely different direction. I just HAD to use the whole thing and traced it off in short order manufacturing my rationalization as I went. What if Cerebus is using the legs as stilts? That way I could draw the legs and boots as much like Al Williamson as I wanted and it would look kind of funny to have Cerebus' own legs bulging up Harrison Ford's svelte waistline. I even decided to include Harrison Ford's hair as if someone had taken extraordinary pains to make this aardvark character look as much like the actor as possible. I tightened up the figure in pencil on tracing paper and got out a sheet of 11 x 17 S-172 artboard to figure out how much space he was going to take up.
That was when I noticed that the book had a nice Star Wars logo in gold against a white backdrop, which meant that I could trace it off without even shooting a photocopy. It only took a few minutes to change Star Wars to Vark Wars. Then it was time for Jaka as Princess Leia. I tried the traditional all-white robe and the hairstyle that looked like two cheese Danish stuck on either side of her head from the first movie. It just didn't work for me somehow. It was hard to tell why. The basic answer is that the outfit is pretty much featureless—a nun's habit is more distinctive!—and it was pretty much tailored to Carrie Fisher's body type which is very different from Jaka's body type. I could trace off the publicity photo in the book, but pretty much everything would have to be redrawn anyway including the posture of the figure. What a strange outfit. Did they cast Carrie Fisher before they designed the costume? These are the sorts of questions you find yourself asking yourself when you're hip-deep in a strange commission and mentally analyzing the physical components. Under what other circumstances would Dave Sim find himself asking himself if Carrie Fisher or her costume came first in the first Star Wars movie?
On the facing page was a smaller shot of Carrie Fisher dressed as Jabba the Hutt's slave girl. It certainly seemed more suited to Jaka with her dancer costumes (and I suspect if your average Star Wars fan was to choose a favourite Princess Leia outfit the slave girl outfit would be the one) (I wonder how many slave girl publicity stills Carrie Fisher sells versus the other publicity stills at show signings these days?). This raised even more layers of speculation that I had no idea I had inside of me. How did George Lucas talk Carrie Fisher into the slave girl thing? I mean, that was pretty far along in the series and presumably Carrie Fisher was still thinking and hoping that this Star Wars gig might be a stepping stone to other roles in "major motion pictures". "Barely there" costumes are not exactly something with which actresses with hard-won screen cred are known to willingly associate. Did he just blindside her with the script? Throw it onto her front steps in the middle of the night? PRINCESS LEIA DRESSED AS SLAVE GIRL ENTERS FROM RIGHT OF SCENE. When did she first get a good look at the costume? Did she call George Lucas up screaming? Can you even do that to George Lucas or did everyone have a "Whatever George wants George gets" clause in their contract? That might explain my favourite Harrison Ford quote where he said that George Lucas should be tied to a chair and forced to read his own dialogue out loud.
 Where was I dredging all this stuff up from?
Were there negotiations about how much skin would be showing? Or was the outfit just presented as a fait accompli? I mean, it's a very good costume, based solidly in the Alex Raymond/Dale Arden mode (I assume it was one of the things on George Lucas' mental checklist) but with all of the high-end Hollywood costume artistry brought to bear. "Here's Alex Raymond/Dale Arden and here's Carrie Fisher's body type. Now, how do we do work them both in?" Pretty flawlessly, I would say. In the publicity shot she certainly doesn't look very happy (which I suppose could be just "in character" for a slave girl). Looks like she had to work out pretty hard to get that toned. How old was she at that time? Early thirties? No love handles, no pot belly. She did a great job.
As I say, it's bizarre what goes through your mind when you actually work on something like this. In the same vein, it was an unexpectedly happy nostalgia jolt to have John Williams' Star Wars soundtrack running through my head for days on end. Took me right back to 1978-79 when that was what you listened to most mornings at Gene Day's studio in Gananoque. "What'll it be? John Williams' Star Wars soundtrack or John Williams' Superman soundtrack?" It certainly made writing and drawing comic books seem incredibly heroic at the time. 
I really have to give George Lucas credit as a thorough-going storyteller, assuming that all of the detailed information included in this book came from him personally. I mean, I'm probably just outside the loop, but I had no idea that that broken red racing stripe on the side of Han Solo's pants is a "Corellian blood stripe" or that his belt is equipped with a Droid caller and blaster power cell. Or that the blaster consists of a scope, enhanced blast delivery circuits, power pack release lever, low power pulse warning, power pack, cooling unit, final stage collimator (with "puree" setting?) and flash suppressor. Or that it's officially a DL-44 pistol. I think I managed to get them all on there, although I'll frankly admit that the proportions are probably off by quite a bit. 
Anyway, I did a quick Jaka as Jabba the Hutt slave girl drawing on tracing paper and then reduced it a bit on the photocopier so she didn't look TOO much larger than Han Solo (although I did want her to look larger—this is, after all, Cerebus and Jaka), turned over the photocopy on the light table to trace off onto another piece of tracing paper… 
…and the next day promptly fell ill for nearly a month.

Next time: "I bent my Wookie..." 


Lee Thacker said...

I actually liked Yoda, even though I knew it was Frank Oz's 'Fozzie Bear' voice. It was Ewoks and Jar Jar Binks put me off the Star Wars franchise for good...

Michael Grabowski said...

Funny, it's the whole "little non-human that thinks it's people" thing that puts some comics readers off from appreciating Cerebus (the work) with enjoyment.

Kit said...

So Lee more-or-less liked the films for six years, then held himself, suspended, in an uncertain state for 16 years, waiting urgently to decide whether or not he still did after Ewoks, until Jar Jar delivered the final decider.

Eddie said...

I always wondered what Dave made of the battle between Yoda and Palpatine in the third one, since it reminded me of the fight between Cerebus and Cirin in the Throne Room in Reads, especially with the large disproportion of the 2 characters involved.

Travis Pelkie said...

Shaking. My. Head.

That's "Wookiee", sir! 2 'e's



Tony Dunlop said...

OK, for any whippersnappers who may miss the reference in the headline:

Nick the Lounge Singer, ladies and gentlemen!

Tony again said...

Damn it, the link wasn't clickable.

Jeff said...

Bill Murray rules.

Full stop.

Tony again said...

Who, at the time, would have guessed how much more successful Bill Murray's career, post-SNL, would be than Chevy Chase's? Not me, that's for sure.