Tracking the Creative Impulse

The other day, while packing stuff in my old room at home, I ran across a number of drawings I had saved. Ok, that's an understatment, there are tons of saved drawings. I save almost every sketch I have ever done, and by that I don't mean in a fancy bound sketchbook. Though I do have an artist's journal (albeit somewhat neglected) most of the sketches I have are on whatever paper or surface was available at the moment the idea came to me. So there are receipts with drawings on the back or sometimes the front, business cards, a torn strip of something or other—each and every one with a unique “scribble musing.” Because, while ideas arrive somewhat intact, time is not always right beside me when they do arrive, so I make a quick linear sketch with just enough information to remember the idea.

Anyhow, I happened across a page with nice tiny scribble musings that were the beginnings of my second round of Infidels in the League of Super Saints card series. For reference, they were done on the back of an old Gallery 1114 packet, Mission Statement III being the exact page. That fact alone is a bit ironic, but, I'll explore that some other time. Or not.

So, some of the cards ended up very close to the original sketch, others did not. Unwed Mother perhaps underwent he most drastic transformation. Originally she was garbed in a trailer park trashiness, with fishnets, Daisy Dukes and cut-offs. Blame the change on Cher, the song trio of “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” “Carousel Man” and “Dark Lady” conspired to turn her into a gypsy, with the “drama” of those songs providing just the tie I needed to make her work as Unwed Mother. You remember, whatever character Cher was singing about invariably ended up with child, and the man faded into some alcoholic stupor induced distance. So I created an Infidel who vowed NOT to have kids, and to promote safe sex and contraception to avoid just such trappings. (So, maybe she should be a hero? Aye, there's the rub, just ask advocates of abstinence only programs, I suppose.)

(Characters and even “regular” art pieces often arrive through songs, and a Native American super group was born, at least only in my head so far, from “Cherokee Nation,” stay tuned for that.)

(I often generate interior monologues via the use of parenthetical statements.)

Then again, the Atheist suffered more in the mix. She was completely cut and replaced by Jeanne Dark in that series. I could never get the visual on her character, especially as it was leaning too closely in feel to the Agnostic (I realize that's not true philosophically, but that's the feeling I was getting, as I recall). Jake Reed, the Agnostic, already in the first set of Infidels, was way too colorful in comparison and made the Atheist seem boring. She might turn up at some point, since I do know at least one EXTREMELY colorful atheist who provides a little more inspiration.

However, Jeanne Dark was a nice addition to the cast because she became a catalyst for plot development, tying in with the Galactic Pope storyline beside Refugee X. I still haven't cemented the Galactic Pope's appearance. It would obviously seem to be tied to Galactus, but the obviousness makes me want to go in an opposite direction—not tiny, though!

In that same second series of sketches, Jack also changed quite a bit. Originally he owed quite a bit to the Joker, and was likely to be closer to insane than not, the joke being Victorian and masturbatory in intent. But, and blame this on Virginia Woolfe and Orlando , he instead became a decidedly aristocratic “madman” of sorts, mostly just a misplaced postmodernist way before his time and thus misunderstood. I even added a gender switch for fun; it heightened the Victorian improper-ness of his character. Given his mask, he ended up being more inspired by DC Comics' Psycho Pirate, also subject to a number of postmodern retroactivites, but ultimately Jack is quite independent from his influences and I think, fairly original.

Apparently the Reverse Catholic lost her staff and gained a more ornate uniform in the process. The Wet Dreamer lost his mask and antennae, but retained his sea monkeyishness, and he was definitely always going to be those vivid colors. Captain Capital punishment lost his axe, but even on that page there are small drawings of his capital punishment mimicking weapons. Cro-Maggie doubled up on cigarettes and lost the gin, but she'd still be at home with a martini glass. She also lost the nightgown and gained a more Cat on a Hot Tin Roofish negligee. Hey, it still covers more than most female super heroic costumes.

I found a number of other sketches in the pile I looked through, including preliminaries for the Balloteers, where Evanjellicle appears to have changed the most from inception to finish. She started out with a costume from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats, but when my little brain wrapped itself around the concept of a souvenir t-shirt being reinvented, that all changed. Count Recount almost made a completely different debut, as indicated by the inked sketch. He lost a partial cowl and chest hair, and I thinned him out a bit. Interestingly enough I must have returned to the intial sketch and preferred it, because he wound up closer to that beginning and with blond hair.

Additionally I found an inked Liberal Belle that differs from the final product. In fact, this Liberal Belle looks a little less serious, and more Golden Age in feel, which didn't work as well with my modern incarnations of those more high flying WWII remakes.

Finally Saint Agnes started with quite a different approach, as I was first going for a mask-less lamb-eyed look. I probably figured that the doe eyed approach was already there for Saint Francis, and she was too active looking for how I made her powers. Ditto for the masked sketch also inked, her hair more in tune with the Inhuman Medusa from Marvel comics. I also toned that hair down and made Agnes look less approachable (her hair is her guardian, after all).

I look at these older sketches and realize how…wrong they are. What makes them wrong, I cannot explain, after all, I make the rules. But I guess there's just a sense, that something's not right on the page, and it needs correction.

So, that's my brief journey through imagination. Hmm…sounds like a ride at Disneyland …probably is. In any event, it's a (perhaps) interesting look at how much an idea can change, and helps illustrate the mercurial nature of creativity.