Sunday, July 24, 2011
Thursday, July 14, 2011
I also studied several old japanese watercolors and ink drawings of samurai. I wanted to capture the unique appearance of the warrior's robes in motion as well as the intense look their eyes held. This worked with Van Cleef's appearance. But, I didn't want to take it too seriously and lose the entertainment element of the original Turtles property . . .
Like I said, I didn't want Splinter looking like man's best friend, as he is so often portrayed. A "take no shit" attitude is what I wanted, the kind of character who would look at you once and you'd crap yourself. Recently, I re-watched the Sabata film trilogy and I knew exactly how my Splinter should look. Lee Van Cleef was an american actor who had a fair amount of success playing small but important film roles. Prior to the mid-'60s, he was best known for playing the villain in High Noon and his brief role as the sharpshooter in The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. However, a car accident nearly ended his career. Not in a literal way, but while Van Cleef took time off to recuperate, Hollywood forgot him and acting jobs dried up. His time as an actor seemed almost over when he received an offer to appear in the Clint Eastwood classic, A Few Dollars More. Van Cleef's interpretation of Colonial Mortimer led to what is regarded as his best known role, that of Angel Eyes in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. These two films revived and relaunched Van Cleef's career. He went on to start in numerous films over the next 25 years; his Spaghetti Westerns are some of the best. The Sabata films, of which he started in two (Yul Brynner took over for the second one) are a weird mix of action-laden, violence-driven western and a large dose of the outrageous. Think 1960s Adam West Batman, though the Sabata films are not played for laughs. When Van Cleef "kills" someone, they stay dead. He was known for his "snake eyes" appearance and his sharp, knife-like nose fit perfectly with the look of a rat . . .
Self-published in 1984 by the struggling comics team of Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the greatest success story in the history of independent comics. The first issue (a parody of '80s X-men and Frank Miller's groundbreaking Ronin and Daredevil) went into multiple reprints practically overnight. An almost immediate rags-to-riches story, the New England creative duo of Eastman and Laird went from obscurity to overseeing a merchandising and media juggernaut.
I focused on Splinter as the subject of this piece. A mutated rat, created by the same "ooze" that evolved the Turtles, Splinter was well versed in the art of ninjitsu. I looked at many artistic interpretations of the character before I started on this drawing. Most of them, I found, made the ninja master look too dog-like in the design of his face. Often resembling a terrier, I wanted to avoid this. Rats are tenacious and when provoked, extremely viscious. So, while the character is noble and wise, I also wanted to show his "don't fuck with me" nature that is often exsemplified by rats . . .
Folks, don't be embarrassed if you fuck up in public . . .