Dead End Art, Volume 5

Here’s another round of projects that went nowhere, at least in terms of them panning out into real gigs. They were certainly not dead ends in terms of creativity. As long as you’re exercising your skills and trying something new, there’s no end in sight.

Crab-mobile, date unknown

I don’t remember whether or not this had any purpose, but I found it in a folder full of mecha design experiments. It’s a steam-driven vehicle shaped like a crab. Maybe I was thinking of putting it in a story, but then again maybe I wasn’t. It got drawn, that’s all that matters.

Super Guy, 1998

This was drawn for a friend named Scott Rosema, a fellow comic book artist from my home state of Michigan. We met in the late 80s and taught classes together in the early 90s before I set out for California. In ’98, Scott was developing his own Superman-style character and asked me to draw a pinup for use in some future publication. It’s mostly empty because I was planning to add color and speed effects in Photoshop later. But later never came. I don’t think it was ever published.

Mystery cartoon, date unknown

I don’t know when this one came my way, but someone was looking for a cartoon that could be used as an identifying image for a new video-based website in which TV had “evolved” into an online experience. This “evolution” was symbolized by a chimp and a cave man.

The client liked the idea of the chimp in front of a computer screen, so I created the art in layers to be combined and colored in Photoshop.

Here’s a composite I made just for this article. What a wild idea, huh? Watching TV shows on your computer? I’m pretty certain this was done before Youtube existed. I have to wonder if this concept eventually “evolved” into Youtube, and maybe I had a tiny little glimpse at it along the way. Regardless, I don’t remember ever seeing this cartoon in use anywhere. So I’m classifying it as a dead-ender.

The Lil Irocc Project, 2003

I know what you’re thinking. You look at my art and say, “This guy would be a NATURAL on a TV cartoon about a real-life teenage gospel rapper!” Yeah, I had a chance to grab that lottery ticket for sure. A producer named Lorest Briggs somehow found me in the fall of 2003 (probably a referral, since I had a few TV animation credits by then) and asked for a presentation image to pitch a series with.

The series was to be based around a then-13-year-old rapper named Lil Irocc, who specialized in gospel rap. (Irocc is an anagram for I Really on Christ Completely.) The show was supposed to land somewhere between Fat Albert and The Proud Family, but as far as I know it never got made. But Irocc did begin a recording and acting career in 2004, dropping the “Lil” from his name at some point, so good for him. I don’t see any evidence that Lorest Briggs went on to produce anything, but hopefully he’s doing okay.

Comic book sample layout, 2006

In November 2006, a writer in an online comics creator group put out a general request to the membership (which still includes me) for rough page layouts based on a short scenario he wrote. The scenario was something like, “woman’s car has broken down, she’s walking away trying to call for help on her phone and is startled by an off-screen stalker. She flees, firing her pistol.”

The goal was to collect as many different versions as possible for a presentation on how comic artists interpret scripts. This was my version. I didn’t get to see any of the others, nor did I hear any followup on what was done with it. Sometimes you just put these things out into the world and they wander off to do their own thing.

Used FO’s development, 2006

A family of aliens runs the largest “Used UFO” dealership in the universe. We follow the exploits and adventures of their youngest son (who has just gotten his driver’s license) as he helps protect the family business from a rival dealer.

That’s the log line for this concept, developed by a friend and his writing partner to pitch as an animated series. I learned early on in my career that just about everyone who works in TV animation has an idea for their own show. A small subset of them spends time and energy transforming that idea into something others can respond to. A still smaller subset takes the step of assembling a presentation with words and pictures for pitch meetings. This was one of those.

I volunteered my time and drawing skills to come up with character designs and a single color image for the pitch. What happened with that pitch afterward is unknown. But you haven’t seen it on TV, so its fate is pretty obvious. Anyway, I still like what we came up with, so here it all is.

Sonic the Hedgehog sample, 2007

In 2003, I started working for a Supervising Producer at WB named Eric Radomski. The show was called Xiaolin Showdown, and it was the first of many projects I did for him. (He was also my boss at Marvel from 2012-2020, for example.) In 2007, Eric was involved in an effort to revive Sonic the Hedgehog as an animated series, and he asked me to contribute.

Part 1 of the job was to come up with new character designs. That led to the drawings above and below.

Part 2 of the job was to rough out a storyboard covering a short bit in which Sonic was trying to outrace a sentient boulder. It was one section of a sequence in which the action escalated to a global scale. I’m pretty sure the intention was to make it into an animated short that could be used in a pitch to Sega.

Sonic certainly had a future, but I think this particular version died on the vine. Here’s what I did for it.

Buckaroo Banzai character samples, 2011

This was one of the coolest dead-enders ever, a moment in which I got to devise prospective character designs for a Buckaroo Banzai animated series. The assignment came through a producer friend who brokers deals between anime studios in Japan and entertainment companies in other countries. This friend was acquainted with Buckaroo creator Earl Mac Rauch, and the project was the latest attempt to bring these characters back to life.

I did the three illustrations seen here, using the 1984 feature film as a starting point (fortunately, I’d held onto a few collectibles from the old days), and I was encouraged to get as stylized as I wanted. When I turned in the finished art, the response was very positive and things seemed promising. I was certain to be involved if it went forward.

Of course, it didn’t. I don’t remember the details, but the gist was that Mac Rauch did his regular Mac Rauch thing and derailed yet another Buckaroo relaunch. (It happened again in 2016, apparently.) But it was fun to dream for a few days.

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