Saturday, July 28, 2007

Soft, Rubbery, Wonder Woman Art

When I started doing the Mego Museum in 1996 I had just graduated from art school with a degree in illustration. I had been interested in editorial illustration, the conceptual kind of stuff you see in magazine and newspapers, as well as graphic novel comic book art, both of which are among the most competitive fields there are. I quickly discovered that if I was to have any chance at regular work I'd need to learn what I had avoided in art school: "Computer art". The Mego Museum was a place I got to practice these new, awkward skills with complete freedom and the original gallery art in the Museum is the work of a fairly competent novice. One of my favorites is the Wonder Woman painting. It's a tour of everything I loved about the program Fractal Painter---the "cloud" brush, the "image hose" that splatters leaves all around, the filters that give an easy metallic 3D look, and of course the faux marble look on the easy-to-draw classical column. Today it looks very underdone to me--more of a concept sketch really, but at the time I was impressed with my "low-rent version of Myst" as I called it. It fit the Mego Wonder Woman very well, and the golden Mego body goddess statues of Paradise Island were very clever.

I wish I was as pleased with the eventual Wonder Woman Trading card! I can't recall why I chose to do her for the 3rd card. Probably because I had a clearest idea for her background than the others. I was still experimenting with the graphic photo technique and there is this fake Grecian temple type structure down the street at Oakland's Lake Merritt. I'm pretty sure that Brian Heiler had asked for some more WGSH cards on a very short deadline and I figured I could bang out a WW pretty quickly. Indeed, I seem to have taken all of two pictures of the doll (by the end of the run I'd be taking 20-40 of each figure trying to get the perfect lighting, pose and focus). So the whole card is a bit undercooked to me.

What is most significant about this card is the back. I mentioned in my last post that we used Mego's own black and white reproduction art on the first two cards, but this wasn't sustainable because few characters had good repro art. 12 inch Wonder Woman was the best you could get here. So I pushed the posterized graphic photograph technique to make a black and white "repro drawing" of the doll. At this point I want to acknowledge the source of inspiration here. When the Museum's own Tom Bligh published his wonderful account of his trip to MegoCon and his seduction into Mego collecting in the ultra-hip literary magazine The Believer it reminded me that there were cool things to be done with Mego and it helped get me interested in coming back to work on the Museum. The article was prominently featured on the cover by a fantastic drawing of the Mego Wonder Woman head by the legendary underground illustrator Charles Burns. His ink beautiful ink portrait in his distinctive style, complete with the little holes for the hair rooting on the doll--contained in the circle, was a definite influence on how I did the portraits on the back of the trading cards. So while I'm not so happy with the Wonder Woman front, the card back was a big breakthrough. The portraits are a big part of the fun of the cards and the look was used on the Instruction Sheet map of the Mego Museum and in other ways as well.

So that's the story of card #3. I keep saying this, but I will have news about the return of Dida Displays very soon! Stay tuned.

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