Monday, 24 December 2007

2000 years E.C

At Halloween I posted some work involving snow and polar bears and heavenly lights, so here on Chritmas Eve, is what I probably should have posted back then - just to play with your mind.

This work is quite old and a little crude but I've displayed it elsewhere with no explanation as to its origins so I thought it was time to explain its development. Back in 2004 a friend of a friend of someone I met briefly some time ago was setting up a new horror based mag and was looking for people to submit articles and illustrations. This was the year of Mel Gibson's blood spattered easter offering 'The Passion of the Christ' and I thought I'd try my hand at an article examining Mel's nods to the Horror genre (the film references everything from 'The Exorcist', to 'It's Alive' and Last house on the Left) and questioning whether this might be the start of a new cinematic sub-genre - Biblical Horror!

The article would offer (in a fairly flippant way to be honest) suggestions of stories from the Good Book that might make for great horror situations - King Solomon (In legend commanded demons to do his bidding with the aid of a magic ring), The raising of Lazarus (Jesus as Zombie-maker), The death of Jezebel (Thrown from a window, trampled under foot and torn apart by dogs), The Witch of Endor (Summoned the prophet Samuel from beyond the grave - but luckily was not infested by Ewoks), Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon (World's first Werewolf - apparently) and James, brother of Jesus (fared no better than his more famous sibling, ended up thrown from the pinnacle of the Temple, survived only to be stoned and then beaten to death with a staff).

Moses - hero of the Old Testament seemed like a good egg when played by Chuck Heston, modern re-readings of the Old Testament however have cast him in a more merky light - A murderer on the run, he later comes to prominence as a kind of proto-terrorist - inflicting biological warfare on Egypt (the 10 plagues), rules his people with an iron fist and then takes part in acts of genocide to secure the promised land. Apart from this, the descriptions of his appearnace and trappings have something of the gothic about them. Armed with a staff that transformed into a serpent, his head sporting a set of horns according to some translations, an eerie glow according to others; his appearance so terrified his people that he spent the latter part of his life with his face veiled like so many super villains from The Phantom of the Opera, through Doctor Doom to Darth Vader. Every great masked madman needs his secret weapon, Blofeld's Diamond laser from Diamonds are forever, Vader's planet searing Death Star... Moses has his own Death Ray in the form of The Ark of the Covenant, the gilded box that zaps the unrighteous to smouldering piles of ash, dries up rivers and brings plague to his enemies.

Here I thought was the perfect representative of Biblical character as horror star. So with the writing of the article going nowhere fast I set about sketching the darkside version of the great lawgiver in suitably pulpy style, a hooded figure with his secret weapons in his moutaintop hideout.

There was no real plan for the ilustration at this time, but I just kept going with it, as it meant I didn't feel like I had to tackle the more problematic writing duty. I also strted sketching some concepts for the other potential Bible characters - Nebuchadnezzar, The Witch of Endor and Solomon.

By this point the pulp style and the horror subject had started me thinking of the EC horror comics of the 50s. They had the convention of showing a main cover image along with three smaller portraits of characters appearing within the comic. I thought this could allow me to illustrate a number of the characters I intended to mention in the text. Both the EC Horror comics and the Biblical epics such as Quo Vadis (1951) and The Ten Commandments (1956) were of the same era, it seemed fun and in some ways perversely appropriate to create a hybrid of the two. I had already established a painted pulp style look to the original Moses illustration so I continued this with the smaller character portraits rather than following slavishly the the flat colour and line style of the EC covers.

The fact that I had drawn the Moses composition before working out the EC cover concept sort of hobbled the whole main image really. It all seemed a little too unfocused and I had to end up covering my beloved background volcano with text. I was fairly confident that I could fix all this but felt I should actually get on and write the damn article.

Soon after this however it became clear that for one reason or another the magazine would not be going to press, not anytime soon at least, and so there was nothing compelling me to finish the article or go back and correct the problems with the illustration. Below however through the miracles of modern computing is what the article might have looked like if I'd bothered to finish it and had the magazine actually made it to production. As far as I know the Magazine is still eaiting to rise from it's creative grave.

Something else that never came to pass was the arrival of the Biblical-Horror genre. All we got as a follow up to Mel's blood soaked Easter parade was Catherine Hardwicke's bland The Nativity Story (we can only guess at what Mel would have made of the Massacre of the innocents!), though there did seem to be a slew of Passion inspired torture horror - Hostel, Saw, Wolf Creek,and Gibson's own Apocalypto, along with remakes of the very horror films which seemed to have informed The Passion - The Omen, The Hills Have Eyes, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - I'm sure Mr Gibson must be very proud.

So on that rambling note have a very Merry Christmas, and don't have nightmares.