The Eyes Have It

I died a couple of weekends ago. Well, not me, but the character I was playing.

RIP, Spyra Glass, the three-armed, public radio-inspired, post-apocalyptic mutant gnome.

You might call him "well armed."
There’s something very strange about watching your real-life wife (in character) sort through your character’s belongings after you die (in character).

Beyond that though, I was pretty cheerful about my untimely demise. Character creation is my favorite part of most games, so I jumped at the chance to make a new one.

I played around with a number of ideas, but I kept coming back to gnomes. I’ve always felt a bit of  kinship with gnomes (I blame my father and Wil Huygen and Rien Poortvliet’s Gnomes) and am always drawn to crafter/tinkerer characters, so once I came upon a gnomish idea, it stuck.

Which left me with a bit of a problem.

This being a LARP (Live Action Role Playing, yes this post just got dorkier), the character was going to look an awful lot like the guy playing him (me). And, since I’m not quite dedicated enough to do something drastic like shave my beard for a character (I know, I know, what kind of nerd am I?), that meant I needed a different way to make him stand out.

I changed his clothes, the color of his beard, and dropped the third arm. That helped a bit, but it still looked like my old character wearing different clothes (much dirtier clothes, I might add).

Of course I called him Oscar

It turns out that none of that really mattered. All it took to drastically change him was the shape of his eyes. By making them oval instead of circular, the character’s whole personality changed.

The trash bags might also help a bit.
This is a lesson I should have figured out years ago.

When I first started drawing myself for my comics, I didn’t even bother with eyes. I thought that the opaque glasses look would make me more distinctive, and I enjoyed the challenge of shaping the frames to match my emotions. But everyone I talked to about it Pointed out that it just made me feel distant and robotic.

Of course it's about dinosaurs.
It took me a while to take that to heart, but once I did add pupils, my eyes became much more expressive. Humans connect to eyes, and it’s striking how much of a difference two dots can make.

Yep, more dinosaurs
My eyes stayed the same for a few years, until I got new glasses that were rounder. At first, this change was just a way to reflect the shape of my new glasses. They were circles, so my eyes became circles. But I noticed that the round eyes brought out a more innocent, friendly, even curious, look than my rectangular eyes ever did. I [would like to] think that matches my personality better than the snarky, sarcastic, attitude projected by the rectangular eyes. It’s subtle, and a bit reductive, but that’s what cartooning is all about.

Now I'm thinking about dinosaurs.
And now I take it even further, drawing myself in an even more cartoonish style, with my eyes big, round, and the focal point of the figure.

You might recognize me from Twitter, Facebook, or even this blog. Hello.
To bring this post full-circle, I started drawing myself this way after trying to capture Spyra, my character from the beginning of this post. That character was embodiment of the curious and silly parts of my personality, and those just happen to be the sides of myself I want to project when I draw myself.

It’s amazing what you can learn from a mutant gnome.

The Doctor Who Dinosaur Book, part two

See part one here.

When we last left The Doctor, traveling through the Mesozoic Era of the 1970s, he had made a shocking discovery.

See what happens when your TARDIS explodes.
The Doctor has happened upon a Protoceratops nest, and has decided not only to pick up one of the eggs, but watch with horror as it starts to hatch. It’s okay though, because the mother Protoceratops is “not very big for a dinosaur.” I think this does mark the first and only time that I’ve seen an illustration of Protoceratops eggs from the 70s that are not being stalked by a Velociraptor or stolen by an Oviraptor.

Unless The Doctor is actually an Oviraptor!
Now it’s all starting to make sense.

How could I not draw this after writing that?
Remember the water-bound Apatosaurus from the beginning of the book? For some reason, the other sauropods are presented in a more modern light.

The Doctor looks very proud of his discovery
I mean, sure this Diplodocus is a lumbering, tail-dragging, beast, but at least it’s dry. The Doctor refers to it as “one of the new slim-line Dinosaurs.” That’s all well and good, but I’m more concerned about its right leg. Judging by the way the knee is bent, it must be very short and connected to its tail. That can’t be comfortable.

Look at me! Look at me! I'm king of the tyrant lizards!
And at long last we encounter our good friend, Tyrannosaurus. We’re still in the man-in-suit era of Tyrannosaurs illustrations, but at least its tail is off the ground. Tyrannosaurus seems pretty happy to be here, strutting and smiling to the reader. The Doctor, on the other hand, is quite disgusted with this whole scene.

Stop that, it's silly!
And for some reason, he’s being played by Graham Chapman.
Which just made me consider the fact that Graham Chapman would have made a fantastic Doctor. And since he was already a doctor, he could be Dr. The Doctor.

Right then, dinosaurs.

I just feel bad for it.
I have no idea what’s going on here. The Doctor is either killing that Compsognathus or attempting to determine its sex. Judging by the look on his face, it’s the former.

This is the end. My dear old friend, the end...
Perched on a rock in the desert, a generic sauropod skeleton behind him, The Doctor contemplates the enormous loss of life at the end of the Cretaceous. Of course, as an alien with a time machine and almost god-like powers, he probably could have prevented it. The Doctor has stopped plenty of extinctions before. Maybe this extinction is a fixed point in time, but the rules about those seem awfully flexible. This books lists a few possible causes for the extinction of [non-avian] dinosaurs (though it’s old enough to not even mention an asteroid), but we all know the truth.

The Doctor let them die!

But I suppose that’s okay, because it gave us mammals a chance to flourish. The book ends with a few pages about the rise of mammals and humans.

That tree branch must weigh at least a few hundred pounds.
And, yet again, we find The Doctor feeding a tree to a prehistoric animal. This Megatherium looks happily unaware of the threat to come, “the fiercest and most dangerous killer ever to walk the Earth.”

Do you think it’s humans? Yep, it’s humans. It’s always humans.