d349 120319 Legacy Comic Redux 2012


I didn’t actually intend to write a post between the last one and the next one, but I drew stuff when I should have been studying so here it is. It’s written kind of funny in that all my rambling comes before the pics, so I’m putting the break here.

When I finally finished Dream – that’s been my internal name for the one-shot as it was partially inspired by one; I haven’t thought of anything better, so that’s that – on Friday, I had the spontaneous urge to re-read what I am now referring to as “legacy comics”. These are comics pages one through 192, although after having re-read, I think a more appropriate nominal end may be earlier.

A long time ago, legacy content made up the bulk of my drawing experience both in “percentage of life spent” and physical drawing done. I’m pretty sure I failed to update my internal schema of things a long time after this stopped being the case, hence my comment in d348 about “new style” and “old style”. For almost as long, I think I viewed legacy stuff – particularly comics – in a fairly negative, “what a waste of time”, sort of way and largely put it out of view and thought.

As such, this is the first time in recent memory I’ve spent time actually reading some of the legacy comics, and as these things go, I noticed some trends that I had not noticed (or noted) before.

I’m not sure if J or I actually would have started drawing comics back in July of 98 had it not been a summer school exercise. I remember being very fond of comics, but concerned about how difficult it was to consistently draw not just something, but someone repeatedly over the course of many panels. Subsequently, I remember being impressed that we pulled it off passably on the first try – I mean, in Episode 1, you can actually tell Bradly and Keno apart in every panel.

So maybe J remembers differently, but from what I remember, we just kind of found ourselves doing comics. Thus, at least for me, the comics were for a long time not really about telling a story or anything of the sort, but more of a log of my elementary-school steam-of-conscious, sequences of random events fairly heavily influenced by whatever I was interested in at the time (there’s a lot of Roller Coaster Tycoon stuff, and some Starcraft stuff). Hence, these comics are more or less just like the regular drawings I was doing at the time.

Nonetheless, just like the random interaction of countless hydrogen atoms floating around eventually made up stuff like stars, and planets, and us, the random interactions of the various legacy characters over the course of several years do ultimately come up with something of a temporally dependent sequence of events. That is to say, while the direction of the legacy story is random, events do build on each other (and there is actually a lot of this event-building-on-event going on at some points), and I think the characters do develop slightly in their own subtle ways.

In the back half of the legacy era there are also increasingly often occasions where two or three comic page form a mini story arc. There is even a six page “story” later on. My 193 division between the legacy and contemporary periods is strictly based on art, but comics 185 to 192 actually start the continuous “story” that kicks off new style comics. So conceivably the end of the legacy era actually ends at 184, the last White Fang Show. I’m not sure if it’s surprising or not that both the shift in story and in art happened so close to each other.

Also during the legacy era, I think I discovered “character bloat”; the number of characters actually balloons toward the middle of this period and drops back down toward the end. Also – this was retrospectively surprising to me because I don’t think it was intentional, though it was both known and obvious that it was happening – the characters form cliques(!); certain groups of characters always appear at the same time, though some groups much more frequently than others.

Ultimately I think there is some worldview embedded in the legacy era, which is actually what I don’t like about it. In the last panel of the second line of 217, there is “Old Style Nick”. I have his comic “series”, and while it is only about 20 pages, and while it consists entirely of stick figures and blobs, it has a lively humor, an almost directional plot, and works much better as a comic on the whole. I don’t have Albert’s entire works, but I do have some samples, and his style was much cleaner and much easier to follow. Despite the nearby presence of what I now consider two superior works, I either didn’t notice or didn’t care enough to move my own work in any direction and just kept doing my own little thing.

That’s what I think really bothers me about the legacy era almost a decade after it has ended. Now it’s time to show some pictures:

Enter one clique of two characters that have really stood the test of time. We last saw Prof. Marril and White Fang in d250, for the fifth anniversary of NW. I think they really embody the stochastic process that drove the legacy era; suggesting, from scratch, that you want a comic bout a blue mouse and a half-wolf sounds utterly absurd, yet here they are, and like some random meme, they left enough of an impression on me such that they “got out” of the legacy era more so than any other legacy characters. It’s crazy when I (over)think about it.

This is the evolution of Prof Marril and White Fang over the course of about eight years. The first picture is from 2001/02, “Episode” 136, the episode in which White Fang is first introduced; he is effectively the last legacy character added before I started cutting the fat. The second picture is from 2002/09, Episode 185, the last legacy comic w.r.t. story. The 3rd, 4th, and 5th snapshots are from 2004, 2006, and 2007, respectively. Marril gradually decreases in height/width aspect ratio, and Fang gradually seems to gain some volume. I actually thought I was doing okay with the Prof by 2007, but looking at official art, he should still be shorter and fatter.

You’d also notice that his name is spelled wrong. It should be “Marill”, not “Marril”. As a tangent, most 2nd-gen (gold/silver) Pokemon went by their Japanese names when they appeared in the legacy comics, as US G/S didn’t release until the end of 2000 (Wiki says it was released in AUS a month before US!?). That’s just how hardcore we were back then. I remember beating Gold version in Japanese, then English.

As the evolution of Professor Marril clearly shows, I had much difficulty drawing anything that wasn’t geometric prior to and during the legacy era. Prof. Marril and Dr. Chu look pretty bad in retrospect, but there were definitely more complex Pokemon that turned out worse. But as I mentioned, I never really tried to do anything about it; I just kind of accepted most Pokemon as being out of reach and left it at that. But now it’s 2012. Back in d344, I mentioned something that I discussed with J, that I wanted to try drawing Pokemon again.

But actually, I started with White Fang:

I looked at a lot of references, but in general, if you aren’t trying to be overtly realistic, something like a wolf doesn’t seem to hard to draw. I felt like I could approximate a lot more than on figures and still have it appear more or less “correct”. Most telling of this might be that these really aren’t based off any specific subspecies of wolf, they are really just a collection of features that suggest wolf. I think we aren’t used to seeing wolves in our daily lives, so we aren’t as attuned to what they are supposed to look like.

I think I have a fuzzy ear fetish or something.

Marill was downright trivial compared to a wolf. Once you get into the paradigm of “aqua mouse” (the official description), the proportions and stuff seem to make a lot more sense.

More complex Pokemon haven’t been too difficult either (yet?). The top is from reference, but from that single reference you can already derive most of the views. The text beneath the lower one says “kind of like a concord”. Yes, that “turned out worse” picture is supposed to be a Lugia as well.

Besides Pokemon and wolves, I also apparently had a helluvalot of trouble with scale. Back in the day, everything was basically the same size. Dr Chu. went up to Bradly’s shoulder and they could both drive the same cars. Even in the most recent appearance of Marril and Fang, they are both the same size. I’m not sure why I never considered that these characters shouldn’t have been the same size. At least on Pokemon, the information was clearly available – every Pokemon has always had a height and width associated with it, even if no one ever looked at that data.

This is a chart of how things should be:

Many items of transportation appear in legacy comics. They are always drawn to fit the characters, but I reasoned here that, even given standard gauge track, it might actually be possible to make a slightly less than speeder-sized rail vehicle that a Pikachu could conceivably pilot. The “lab” cars are also conceivably, they just have to be about a third to a half of the size of a regular vehicle. Also of note: an actual boxcar (non-hicube, ~144″) is thrice the height of a sitting White Fang (~42″), who is more than twice the height of Prof Marril (~16″), who is also about twice the height of Kirby (~8″).

Regardless of all my previous notions of the legacy era, drawing the characters and the vehicles again actually made me really happy. In many ways this is really a childhood dream come true for me. Having the Lugia drawing be easy was immensely satisfying and it really made me feel like I’d come a long way since 2000 – regardless of whether or not I actually have.

I think it’s also refreshing in some way to draw something that doesn’t attempt to be bound by logic or whatnot; I’m once again finding the juxtaposition of the wolf and the mouse and the creatures and their cars quite charming, in much the same way I like the combination of old and new technologies (a la classic BKS ships, steam-powered hover barges, etc).

It’s also helped that we’ve kind of had this moe explosion in anime over the past few years. That’s kind of rubbed off on me, which has kind of rubbed off on this redux. Drawing pretty pictures didn’t become a goal of my art until I was far past the legacy era and so I never really thought of Prof. Marril and White Fang as being particularly pleasant to look at (in fact the legacy versions are pretty ugly), but this time around I think I could get away with calling them cute.

Anways, that’s it for this update. Til next time.


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