Sunday, October 30, 2011

Alphabeasts: C is for Clacking Spider

This week's "Alphabeasts" drawing comes from the world of Lewis Trondheim & Joann Sfar's Dungeon, one of my favorite comics.

I find the fun, on-the-fly feeling of Dungeon really inspiring, and I wish I had the time and the talent to come up with a similarly rich fantasy world on my own. We've made a few different tributes to Lewis Trondheim on the blog here over the years—here's one, here's another, and here's a third, from the oubapian pages of Elm City Jams #3—and I'm sure this won't be our last.

If it weren't for the complicated rules I set for myself in this project, I might have done a bermaw for last week's letter instead of a babel fish. Instead, I found myself scouring the various volumes of Dungeon for a different creature that was definitely not sentient. (Most of the creatures in Dungeon seem to be persons, or else they aren't named.)

But Marvin the Dragon gets menaced by clacking spiders partway through the second (U.S.) volume of Dungeon: Zenith. If you've never read any of these fun books, though, the place to start is with Duck Heart, Zenith's first volume.

(The chronology of the books is complicated.)

It's right after this moment that Marvin delivers the first "TONG DEUM" fiery-acid dragon-breath spew of the series. Dang, I love Dungeon.

Now, will you help me decide what to draw next week? I know which universe to use, but I have two options, equally fun to draw, within that universe. What do you think? (Voting will be open until next Friday.)

What beast should I draw for the letter D?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Alphabeasts: B is for Babel Fish

This week's entry in "Alphabeasts" is a phenomenally useful creature, to the point that it's a veritable icon for the improbable, implausible, and effective removal of certain sorts of barriers. Nothing solves the problem of interspecies linguistic communication quite like the babel fish.

That said, I don't think there's any canonical visual representation of the little critter. The recent Hitchhiker's movie has a lot going for it (Messrs. Rockwell, Fry, and Def, at the very least), but if you watch this clip, I think you'll agree with me that the babel fish in the movie would never fit in a human ear canal. The old TV show Hitchhiker's has a diagram that says the creature is leechlike but just looks like a kissing gourami.

So I had a little license to come up with one of my own.

In the process, I learned that one may not want to do an image search for leeches, and I located a couple of interesting noncanonical images of the fish. In my version, I have included little flipper-limbs in tribute to the recent movie, and a few hooks that the babel fish (which gets its nourishment from its host's thoughtwaves) could use to keep itself in place once installed.

Why would a creature that lives inside its host have great big eyes? In my version, they're just eyespot markings on the babel fish's ventral surface. I figure that it's to the babel fish's advantage to look cuter than a leech, since it needs its hosts to be willing to put a little yellow slimy thing into their ears.

Next week: since I've already done ear insertion, we'll skip the Ceti eel in favor of a visit to my favorite comics fantasy universe.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sonnets on Student Radio (for a Limited Time)

Yesterday my friend Liz and I were on the radio to talk about and read a few sonnets that she and I have been writing, mostly as a game for each other, over the past couple of years.

I think the conversation was pretty entertaining, and I think the sonnets have turned out well. If you'd like to hear the program, I'm pretty sure you can stream it until next Wednesday morning (Oct. 26), when it'll be replaced by the new week's program.

Follow this link, then follow these instructions:

Click on the "stream" button next to the "Proximate Blues / Writers@WRUV" segment of the Wednesday schedule. Once the stream starts running, our interview is about one hour and five minutes (1:05) into the program. It lasts about 45 minutes.

Let me know what you think, if you get a chance to listen to it.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Alphabeasts: A is for Anurid

It's time for the next alphabet! As promised, this 26-week project—"Alphabeasts"—will feature imaginary animals, not actual ones like the last alphabet. With that in mind, I have drawn an anurid for the letter A.

You don't need to feel bad for not having heard of the anurid. In fact, I'd never heard of them until I started doing my research and planning the complex logic problem that will be my Alphabeasts alphabet. Let me explain.

No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

1. Each Monday, a new imaginary beast for a new letter of the alphabet. "Beast" means it's a creature, not a person: so "Kryptonian Thought-Beast" is okay, but "Klingon" isn't. As a rule of thumb, if you'd feel wrong putting it in a good zoo or menagerie, then it's probably not a beast.

2. The beasts are not made up by the person drawing them. That's not the sort of project this is.

Those are the guidelines for the project as a whole, as Ben Towle and I and a few others worked out when the Animal Alphabet ended. But, because I like making things more complicated, I have given myself a couple of other rules:

3. No mythological, folkloric, or cryptid creatures: everything needs to have been made up by some traceable person and to exist in some particular fictional universe.

4. No more than one creature from any one source universe. So if I use "Bantha" I can't also use "Wampa."

So, over the next twenty-five weeks, expect me to draw on twenty-five further discrete fictional universes for an alphabet of strange and sometimes obscure totally fictional critters.

The anurid comes from the card game Magic: the Gathering. I don't know much about these creatures, as they entered the game well after I stopped playing it in 1994. They don't seem like amazing game-changing cards, but the monsters look suitably weird and intimidating. At first, I wasn't sure whether they were some sort of burly froglike humanoid race, but the cards they live on explicitly state that each sort of anurid (barkripper, brushhopper, swarmsnapper, and so forth) is a beast.

Next week: a very convenient beast to have around. (Care to guess?)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Animal Alphabet: YUZZ is for Yuzz-a-ma-Tuzz

This week's entry in the Animal Alphabet is a real rarity. I couldn't even find any footage of David Attenborough talking about it.

The Yuzz-a-ma-Tuzz is a large furred serpentine creature that dwells among mountain outcroppings and crags. I've had to type its name with a Y, but it's actually spelled with a yuzz.

I'm not sure how much farther in the alphabet I'll be able to get. I know that on October 17 I'm going to start a new alphabet with Ben and the rest of the gang, but this time the animals will be imaginary, not real. I'm not sure why Ben decided to schedule this new alphabet when there are still eighteen letters left to go.