Cartoons That Have Influenced Me: The Ren & Stimpy Show

Yes, I know, you could really see this once from space, if you weren’t too distracted by a mad chihuahua screaming about his ice cream bar from the bathtub.

Ah, Ren and Stimpy. The timing on this coming out was especially convenient, I believe I was 11 or 12, and my solidification of loving cartoon art was just starting to congeal. I was already well obsessed with things like Looney Tunes – particulary older Looney Tunes – and then one Sunday morning this show hit my TV. Here was something brand new; yet looked so much like these cartoon I loved. I was immediately drawn to the throwbacks to 40s Warner Bros animation, which were immediately apparent even to me at that age.

I think what really drew me in were a few solid things, though:

1. The artwork, yes. Especially during season 2, the artwork was fantastic. The animation was superb. But the still closeups, which quickly became a trope in other cartoons, were amazingly detailed. And at my age, it certainly helped these were things like balls of lint and Magic Nose Goblins.

2. The totally bizarre imagery. Did I mention I love surreal things? I’m pretty sure I have, repeatedly. And this show had plenty of it — and I’m not just talking about the randomness of things like “Black Hole”. The abstract, ever changing backgrounds that suited the mood of the show, the intentionally ignoring models, and living farts. All of it was strangely appealing – the illustrations, the animation, it was great to watch. During season 2, the art in particular hit a zenith – Sven Hoek and Son of Stimpy had some amazing imagery in them.

3. The drama. Bear with me, here, but let’s face it: At it’s core, The Ren and Stimpy Show was a psycho drama in its first two seasons (and honestly, these are the episodes that count). While yes, not every episode fills this bill, many did – Stimpy’s Invention, sure; but Sven Hoek, The Lost Episode Man’s Best Friend, In The Army, and even A Visit To Anthony certainly all qualify. (And let’s not forget about Season One’s Space Madness – but I could sure list more). I realize this is me, but psycho dramas are particularly appealing and engaging. Maybe it’s because I toe the line with sanity so closely myself?
Nah…

I won’t really get into the whole Adult Party Cartoon or even the Games Animation episodes, and it’s too bad John K. was fired at the height of his run. I think seeing more episodes he could have come up with under the original paradigm would have been a gift. And what was done has clearly and indelibly influenced my style. During middle and high school I drew dozens upon dozens of Ren and Stimpy comics – they’re all long gone by now, but, if I recall correctly, they involved things like Stimpy joining a cult, Ren fleeing to the moon, the two battling Martians (this comic did directly influence the martians in Damn It, Monkey!), and probably has stained countless other things I’ve done.

Paige Character Design

Illustration of Paige, Satris's childhood friend.Sometimes I obsess over things needlessly. Tiny, minute details that really shouldn’t matter too much and if enough of them pile up, I call the whole thing a scrap and start over, even if the overall image is up to my standards otherwise. Granted, I often post things done in a haphazard way, but Paige wasn’t one of those times.

A good deal of thought went into something that turned out so simple; but simple is key for the designs, as I’m going to be drawing these characters over, and over, and over again eventually. I started out thinking what Paige is — not just Sartris’s childhood friend, but a confident kid who’s used to being outdoors, incredibly curious and generally someone positive, free willed, and brings out the positive in Sartris one way or another. Starting with this base, I wanted a warm outfit, and lined it with fur to make it at least somewhat interesting. I toyed a little with an even more slavic design than this turned out originally, with a more Polish peasant clothing, but as a child I figured this was far more appropriate. Besides, I’ve probably overplayed the Slavic thing with Meridian Knights anyways.

That being said, getting the glasses, hair and especially braids was a huge challenge to get the way I wanted. And this is why I obsessed a lot on this, to get those looking right. Once I drew the braids, too, I knew some slavic influence would undoubtedly come in and you’ll see more of that as I draw her older versions.

As a side note to this, I split the Sartris images off into their own gallery in the menu.

Cartoons That Have Influenced Me: Animaniacs

So, basically immediately after I posted my last blog about what’s influenced me, it was announced Animaniacs was making a return to Hulu.

I watched a metric ton of this show when I was in middle and high school. Reluctant to really get into it at first, my cousin helped get me into this early in the show’s run one Thanksgiving day. It took me a few episodes to really “click” on what was going on, but I realized this was as close to a good, modern day revival of the Looney Tunes format we were going to get.

While that may not exactly sound like glowing praise, allow me to explain — I don’t like things that purely emulate or revive something. Animaniacs stood very, very well on its own and still paid homage to classic Warner Bros animation, without focusing on too much. And it did this much better than Tiny Toons; while Tiny Toons was decent, it was still derivative. Animaniacs paved a lot of new territory, its characters were all new territory. The shows concept, while thin, held together (lost, classic cartoon characters escape confinement, hijinks ensue).

I like large ensemble casts when done well. (There are several examples of this: Looney Tunes/ Merry Melodies, Bloom County, to name a couple), but it’s important that each character stand well on its own. There can be exceptions to this; Mr. Skullhead isn’t exactly a well developed character, but the gags always work. (And yes, my favorite character is by far Wakko, so much so, I spent years honing my impression of him. I’m a blast at parties.)

Razzle is one character who undoubtedly was influenced by this cartoon. Her design is very much akin to the Warner Bros – far more than I intended, to be quite frank. The original notion of the set up with Razzle was to be more akin to 20s/30s animation; but let’s face it; so were Yakko, Wakko and Dot.

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone on liking Animaniacs — if I was, it certainly wouldn’t be rebooted. I could probably talk ad nauseum about the show (I didn’t even touch the music on the show, which is amazing to say the least), but it wouldn’t be anything that wasn’t already covered anyway by so many other people. Warner Bros. (and the Warner Sister) animation is fairly influential on what I’ve done, and let’s face it – this is a golden, modern example of that, and I’m glad it’s coming back.

Sartris: Old Version

Sartris’s comic spans the majority of his lifetime. So there’s several designs that go into a single character, particularly Sartris, as it spans the decades. Here’s an older version of him.

Not to give too much away, the white streak is from lightning, though no reason it couldn’t be from aging, too. But serious, it’s from a lightning strike.

Cartoons That Have Influenced Me: Porky In Wackyland

* AUTHOR’S NOTE: Starting this year, I’ll be starting a series of blogs about cartoons, comics, and other visual media that has influenced me – think of this as a small peak into the madness inside my own head.

Porky in Wackyland… Oh, what to say and where do I start with this cartoon?
I can’t think of any cartoon that exemplifies more just what draws me to cartoons in general than Porky in Wackyland. I’m likely parroting a large number of people when I call it Bob Clampett’s finest work. And frankly, this cartoon scared the hell out of me as a kid, but the more I watched it the more it grew on me and warped my fragile little mind.

There’s so much going on, particularly in the first four minutes, that I dont really a recap of the picture is particularly appropriate; plot is minimal and the entire thing is built of a manic pace of surreal images. The film builds its entire premise on building something up, then doing the unexpected, or just plain bizarre to begin with. There’s a small undercurrent of satire, but each example is confined to its specific gag and doesn’t detract from anything else in the film.

In short? Its a masterpiece.

Wackyland plays a huge part of the style in Jason in a Strange Land, and for some imagery and stylistic issues in how I planned on handling Razzle cartoons. While it’s hard to duplicate something like Clampett’s manic pacing in a comic, the throwaway satire was planned for Razzle, and the backgrounds for both cartoons would have been (or are, in Jason’s case) extremely surreal. As I plan the next chapter in Jason In a Strange Land, I am consistently looking back on this cartoon, and this was in fact, the inspiration for writing this series.

On Coloring Characters

I realize that, in practice, I have never actually applied color to two of my characters, Razzle and Jason, despite have a vivid idea of what the colors actually are in my head. Thank the fact that I’ve never had any practical reason to actually do so. Razzle was never fully applied anyway, and Jason has so far gone in black and white. Honestly… I’ve considered doing upcoming installments of Jason in a Strange Land in color, especially as the surrealism of the whole crazy things extends. Considering the way I shade it I don’t think it would be too much of a hassle, as well.

Anyway, without further adieu, Razzle and Jason in glorious color:

One thing that came to clear to me as I was doing this, too – was just how often I make a main character a redhead. Examples throughout the last, oh, 20 or so years:

At least I have enough of a habit of varying the color of red, from Moxie’s coral color to Jason’s wine red. I’ve pondered this, and maybe it’s a penchant for redheads, maybe it’s because there’s a fair amount of red in my hair (depending on the light, har har) itself. It’s possible, there’s certainly a fair amount of me in all my characters — especially the leading ones. Jason’s melancholy, Moxie’s spirit and eagerness, and Sartris especially, as the intent is he’s a very direct reflection of me in many ways, albeit exaggerated in many respects. (more on this in another post).

Despite all this, the red hair has almost always been intentional. Stacy and Jeane are older characters and it’s a bit more difficult to recall correctly, especially since both these characters are more or less retired, anyway, so I don’t feel terribly obligated to dig that deep into my memory as it were. Moxie’s represents eagerness, Sartris’s represents fire. Razzle was meant to contrast the brown on her fur (saturation wise) and Jason’s… well, with Jason, I couldn’t see any other color in my head but that and grey. I think the muted wine color versus a more vibrant red reflects his melancholy as well.

I suppose my next wild project may have a redhead too. Signature of my characters maybe?

Liquid Television is Available For Free Now

If it’s not absurdly apparent, I’m a huge fan of animation – yes, cartoons mainly, but puppets, stop motion animation, and more… it all comes as a package deal to me.
At a pivotal point in my life when animation was becoming meaningful for me, Liquid Television kept me occupied on many a night… and now you can see it all for free (again.)
The random nature of the show and bizarreness of some of the pieces really captured my teenage brain well. Coincidentally, when revisiting my old artwork earlier this year, the show quickly popped into my head (especially as I was working on Jason In A StrangeLand). It’s a shame it’s not been seen in so many years, so this is exciting for anyone not only wanting to see some experimental animation, but those of us wanting to revisit out of nostalgia.

If you want to see the episodes, check archive.org.

New Gallery — Meridian Knights Enemies

I’ve added a new gallery in the menu, the enemies you’ll face in Meridian Knights. And by enemies, I mean the pawns and peons you’ll fight, the creatures you’ll see over and over again in stages. Several of the characters in the Meridian Knights Character Gallery are certainly villainous is some regard.

A thought occurred to me in that I think it would add a lot to the game’s overall feel if the non-boss creatures were all objects in some regard — in the cases below, paper, balls and springs, a toy, and slime. Upcoming ones: A marionette, a sock, and top hat.

Also since we’re all lazy here, here’s the gallery so you dont have to do one more clicky.