The Joy Of… Genre-Specific Creativity

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Although this is an article about art, comics and fiction, I’m going to have to start by talking about music. This is mostly because, a day or two before I wrote this article, I heard a rather interesting song called “Metal Inquisition” by Piledriver that made me think about audiences and genres.

“Metal Inquisition” is a song which heavy metal fans will find absolutely hilarious and non-metal fans will probably find mildly disturbing. It’s a knowingly silly song about a Spanish Inquisition-style group who try to ensure that everyone listens to heavy metal… or else!

And, it’s also the perfect example of a genre-specific thing. It’s a comedic song that is written specifically for heavy metal fans. If you aren’t a metalhead, then you probably won’t get the joke (eg: it’s about heavy metal’s [lack of] mainstream popularity etc..).

There’s certainly something to be said for things that are squarely aimed at fans of a particular genre. For starters, the trouble with making everything suitable for everyone is that, unless it’s done extremely well, it often ends up appealing to no-one.

Unless you are the mythical “normal person” that mainstream cinema, pop music, advertising, gaming etc… exists to serve, then there will be a certain emotional distance between you and the creative work in question. And, well, no-one is that idealised “normal person”. We’re all geeks or nerds in some way or another. We all have preferences and fascinations. We’re all fans of one thing or another. After all, we’re all unique human beings.

Creative works that are squarely aimed at fans of a particular genre acknowledge that uniqueness. They say “some people like this, and that’s cool. Some people don’t, and they should probably find something else“. As such, if you find something that you are a fan of, then it’ll feel more meaningful to you. It’ll feel like something made specifically for you.

This is also useful for creating a sense of community too. After all, if you’re a fan of a slightly obscure genre, then genre-specific things can be a thing which reminds you that “other people like this stuff too!“.

For example, going back to “Metal Inquisition”, the song is such an amazing song for the simple reason that it is a gleeful celebration of heavy metal music (a bit like Saxon’s “Denim And Leather”, Judas Preist’s “Deal With The Devil”, Helloween’s “Heavy Metal (is the law)”, Sabaton’s “Metal Machine” etc… ).

It’s a song that amusingly imagines what the world would be like if heavy metal was the most mainstream genre instead of the least mainstream genre. It’s a song that recreates the feeling of going to your first metal concert and seeing literally hundreds of other people who also like the same music you do. That awestruck sense of actually belonging somewhere.

But, in addition to this, genre-specific things are also awesome for the simple reason that they’re an expression of creative freedom. They show that the person who made them is such a fan of that particular genre that they felt compelled to actually make things for other fans. They show how great stories, films, games, albums etc… can inspire people to create things themselves. After all, you don’t make a genre-specific thing unless you’re a massive fan of things from that genre.

Genre-specific things aren’t “manufactured pop band # 345,237” who were designed by committee in order to maximise sales to the 16-24 demographic. They aren’t “Generic military action videogame #17” churned out annually in order to sell more games consoles. They aren’t “CGI-filled Hollywood Movie # 500,000” with 20% less dialogue to reduce translation costs for international distribution. They aren’t “hip fashion trend #7653” that will empty the wallets of trendy people in London, New York etc… 50% faster than usual.

No, genre-specific things are things made by people for people. They’re the sorts of things that people would make even if they didn’t get paid. They’re things that are made out of love, rather than out of greed. They are things that aren’t “mass-produced”. They’re things that are brave enough to say “if you like this, then that’s great. If you don’t, then find something else!

Genre-specific things are a testament to the power of creativity for the sake of creativity, and to the value of individuality.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Four Ghoulish Tips For Making 1980s-Inspired Horror Artwork

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Although the 1990s were probably cooler, if there’s one thing to be said for the 1980s, it’s that the horror genre looked way cooler back then!

Not only were splatterpunk horror novels and video nasties at the peak of their popularity, but the art associated with these things was much cooler. Seriously, this was a decade where heavy metal albums were more likely to feature hyper-detailed paintings on the cover than mere photographs or anything like that.

The 1980s was probably the last truly pre-CGI / pre-digital art decade and this meant that, if people wanted interesting illustrations for their horror novel covers, low-budget VHS covers, heavy metal album covers etc… they often had to use actual illustrations.

So, how can you make art in this style? Here are a few tips:

1) Use your own style: This might sound a bit counter-intuitive but, if you’ve already developed your own art style, then use it! Yes, it probably won’t look exactly like “authentic” 1980s horror artwork (especially if your style is very cartoonish, like mine) but it will make your art look distinctive and unique.

Not only that, using your own art style adds a certain knowing tone to the artwork. It shows that your painting or drawing is something made by a fan of 1980s-inspired horror artwork for fans of 1980s-inspired horror artwork. It allows you to tip your hat to the things that have inspired you, whilst also acknowledging that your artwork was made in the present day.

For example, this reduced-size preview of one of my upcoming paintings is extremely cartoonish. It features adorable stylised monsters, exaggerated 1980s fashions and only a tiny amount of blood. And yet, hopefully, it still makes you think of the horror genre in the 1980s:

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 17th September.

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 17th September.

Plus, as cynical as it sounds, using your own style also allows you to get on with making 1980s-style horror artwork art straight away. One of the distinctive things about horror-themed artwork from the 1980s was that it was incredibly realistic. It sometimes had a similar level of realism and technical quality to many famous historical paintings. In other words, it’s the sort of thing that takes years of formal training and/or decades of practice to make.

So, even just for simple practical reasons, use your own art style.

2) Do your research: If you’re reading this, then you’ve probably got the internet. So, as long as you’re reading this at home (and not at work, at school etc..) and aren’t easily disturbed by grotesque imagery, open up a search engine and do an image search for “1980s horror novel covers” or “1980s horror VHS covers”.

Now look at the hundreds of images and see what they have in common with each other. Once you’ve worked this out, then try to find a way to incorporate these general themes into your own 1980s-style horror artwork.

If you can’t do the research, then common themes include: visual contrast, visual storytelling, gruesome monsters, clever use of lighting, a slight degree of minimalism, understated gory imagery (since, with blood and guts, less is often more) etc….

In fact, now that you have this list, you already know all of the important stuff. But, I’ll spend the rest of the article going into detail about the first two things on the list, because they’re especially important.

3) Visual storytelling: Whether it was a novel cover, a VHS cover or an album cover, horror-themed artwork from the 1980s was attention-grabbing. This was mostly done through the use of visual storytelling.

In other words, things were happening in these pictures. Monsters lurched towards screaming bystanders, creatures lurked ominously, skeletons glared at the reader with hollow eyes, axes were brandished menacingly etc…..

Horror artwork from the 1980s had an immediacy and an impact that modern horror artwork sometimes doesn’t, for the simple reason that it was closer in style to a panel from a comic book or a frame from a horror movie. In other words, it often looked like a single moment from a much larger story. And, if you can add some action to your artwork, then it will instantly look more like something from the 80s.

For example, here’s another reduced-size art preview (that regular readers might recognise). Even though this digitally-edited painting uses my cartoonish style and is clearly set in the present day, it still evokes the horror art of the 1980s through the fact that it includes some visual storytelling – namely, a razorblade-wielding zombie lunging towards a terrified traveller:

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 16th September.

The full-size painting will be posted here on the 16th September.

4) Visual contrast: Another great thing about old 1980s horror artwork is that it made expert use of visual contrast. In other words, the important parts of the picture “stood out” a lot more because they were contrasted with a dark background.

In fact, many horror novel covers from the 1980s just use a solid black background, in order to make the rest of the artwork look brighter and more vivid by comparison.

If you look closely at the two preview pictures that I included earlier in the article, you’ll see that each painting consists of at least 30-50% black paint. As well as being a good general rule to follow for making cool-looking art, this also makes everything else in the picture stand out a lot more, whilst also giving the paintings a rather gloomy and ominous atmosphere.

So, if you want to give your horror artwork more of an ’80s look, then add some darkness!

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Does Dystopian Science Fiction Actually Change Anything?

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Ever since I discovered the genre when I was a teenager, I’ve been a fan of dystopian science fiction. Hell, I even read “Nineteen Eighty-Four” twice when I was about thirteen or fourteen. If I remember rightly, I was absolutely fascinated by the ominously mysterious, yet creepily fascinating, world that the novel is set in. It was a little bit like the vintage 1970s-90s horror novels I enjoyed reading at the time, but it also contained sci-fi too.

Not only that, the cyberpunk genre has been one of those “dystopian” types of science fiction that I’ve been fascinated with for a long time. In fact, I read my first cyberpunk novel when I was about twelve ( one of the “Tom Clancy’s Net Force Explorers” books, I can’t remember which one) without even realising that it was cyberpunk.

Since then, I’ve had something of an on and off fascination with the genre. Most recently, I’ve become fascinated with the genre again because it has proven to be an amazing source of artistic inspiration (like in this recent sci-fi comedy comic of mine).

The cyberpunk genre is often labelled as dystopian science fiction and, whilst there are certainly dystopian stories, films, books, games etc.. in the cyberpunk genre, it never really feels “dystopian”. Not only does the cyberpunk genre often feature breathtakingly beautiful neon-lit cities, but it often includes enough intriguing background details and dark humour to offset any depressingly “dystopian” elements of the genre.

The most recent example of this that I’ve seen is in a computer game called “Technobablyon” that I mentioned yesterday. I’d played some more of it and found myself playing a part of the game (that involves solving a grisly murder) that should have been disturbingly horrific. However, thanks to the dialogue from the characters and the sheer weirdness of the solution to the mystery, this part of the game was more of a hilariously farcical dark comedy than a disturbing glimpse at where a technology-filled future could lead:

Talking of dark comedy, a while before I played this part of the game, I was curious about another work of dystopian science fiction – Charlie Brooker’s “Black Mirror” TV series. I’d been vaguely thinking about getting it on DVD since it was something that should have appealed to me – given my cynical sense of humour. Yet, when I read a few plot summaries on Wikipedia, I realised that it was actually serious dystopian science fiction…. and not in a fun way.

The story outlines I’d read seemed depressingly bleak and genuinely frightening. Even a mere description of some of the technology-based storylines in the series filled me with a real sense of paranoid dread. It was probably where technology might lead to in the future, and it terrified me. This is, of course, what dystopian science fiction is supposed to do.

It’s supposed to show the audience where the future could lead, in the hope that the audience will somehow prevent such a terrible future from coming true.

But, it doesn’t work. When I read those descriptions, I realised that there was literally nothing I could do to prevent any kind of dystopian future. I mean, it’s a long-standing joke that governments don’t see “Nineteen-Eighty Four” as a warning, but as a manual. Extending surveillance (and censorship too) seems to be part of the psyche of many major political parties, so it happens regardless of which one wins an election. The left and the right are just as bad as each other in this regard.

Dystopian science fiction is supposed to be like a vaccine – giving people a small dose of something terrible in the hope that it will prevent something even worse from happening in the future. But, this comes with the assumption that people can actually prevent worse things from happening.

In a more optimistic age, when real news mattered more than fake news, when people cared more about things like free speech and privacy, when people debated ideas instead of being lost in filter bubbles and the many left-wing/right-wing echo chambers on the internet etc… this might have been true.

But, in this modern world, dystopian science fiction is just another genre of entertainment. It can be a really cool one, or it can be an extremely depressing one. But, I think that the argument that it can actually change the world for the better has long since been proven wrong.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

The Joy Of…. Unfinished Stories, TV Series etc…

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The afternoon before I wrote this article, I’d just finished watching a DVD boxset of a TV show that was cancelled after it’s first season. No, it wasn’t “Firefly”, “Tokko” or “Harsh Realm”.

It was a TV adaptation of “Dracula” from 2013. It was clear that the makers of this show had anticipated a second season since, whilst not ending on a cliffhanger, the ending of the first season seems to be gearing up for a much more epic second season. A second season that never happened.

But, do I regret watching this unfinished TV series? No, not in the least.

One of the cool things about unfinished stories is that they’re often more about the journey than the destination. We may never know for certain what happens to the characters in an unfinished story, but we get to enjoy their adventures without any thought of the outcome. In other words, reading a story or watching a TV series with the knowledge that the story isn’t finished means that you get to see it more as an experience than as a traditional story.

Likewise, unfinished stories show us part of something greater and then leave it up to us to imagine what happens during the parts of the story that we don’t read or watch. Unfinished stories are kind of like a springboard for our own imaginations. They give us the building blocks of a longer story and then ask us to try to work out what the rest of the story looks like. And, well, your imagination is probably going to create a more enjoyable story for you than anyone else’s imagination will.

Another cool thing about unfinished stories is that they’re a little bit like daydreams. After all, whenever you have a daydream, it usually isn’t a complete “story”. It’s part of a larger story, almost like a single scene from a movie. And, well, unfinished stories (whether prose fiction, comics, games, TV shows etc…) are vaguely reminiscent of this.

Yet another reason why unfinished stories can be so fascinating is because they show that people have tried to produce something great. Generally speaking, nobody sets out to write an unfinished story or film an unfinished TV series. With fiction, real life can get in the way. Likewise, with prematurely cancelled TV shows, uncreative money-obsessed studio executives are usually responsible.

But the fact that some fragments of the story, comic, game, TV series etc… that could have been still exist is a testament to the power of creativity and determination. It shows that someone cared enough about one of their ideas to actually try to make it, even though there was a risk that it would be doomed to failure.

Finally, another interesting thing about unfinished stories is that they are realistic. After all, all of our lives are unfinished stories. No-one can know for certain what will happen in the future or anything like that. So, unfinished stories can be realistic in this way.

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Sorry for the short, rushed article (I was making a webcomic at the time), but I hope it was interesting 🙂

Four Current Long-Running Fandoms That Either Cost Nothing Or Very Little To Join

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This article is a little different from my usual articles, since it isn’t really about creating things – but about being part of the audience. Still, given the mild writer’s block that I’d experienced recently, this ultra-long article idea seemed too interesting to miss out on. So, please bear with me.

A few hours before writing this article, I was watching computer game/videogame-themed Youtube videos when I realised that modern mainstream gaming was a subculture that I was even further away from than I thought.

These days, it’s as much due to a preference for older games and modern retro-style indie games as anything, but it’s also to do with the cost of gaming. New mainstream games are expensive, and that’s not even including the cost of the PC upgrades and/or consoles you need to play them.

One of the strange things about a lot of modern games-related media is that it assumes that literally everyone can easily keep up to date with the latest games. But, mainstream gaming is an expensive fandom to belong to. This, of course, made me wonder about fandoms that don’t cost an arm and a leg to belong to.

In fact, some of the best current (eg: lots of fans still exist for these things) fandoms can either be joined for free and/or for very little. Best of all, since these fandoms have been going strong for a long time, there’s also lots more fan-related stuff on the internet, more discussions about them etc… than you’ll probably find for more expensive trendy new fandoms. Here are four of them:

1) Sherlock Holmes: Sherlock Holmes is one of the most timeless fictional characters ever created. He is also one of the most influential characters in the detective genre.

If you don’t mind the slightly old-fashioned (but not as old-fashioned as you might think) narrative style, then Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original “Sherlock Holmes” stories can still thrill, chill, puzzle and/or surprise you when you read them for the first time. They also have one of the largest and longest-running fandoms in existence.

“Sherlock Holmes” was a modern-style TV series from before television was even invented. The original (mostly self-contained) short stories were first released in monthly magazines and then collected together in book-length collections. Like modern TV shows, there was even a “to be continued…” two-part story (“The Final Problem” and “The Empty House”, if you’re curious). Likewise, there are also four full-length novels too. These can all be read in any order that you want to too.

But, best of all, this is a fandom that you can join for free (or for very little, depending on your preference). In most parts of the world, the copyright on the original Sherlock Holmes stories has expired.

What this means is that you can either legally download and/or read all or most of the original stories and novels for free on sites like Project Gutenberg or Wikisource, or you can find extremely cheap “classics” reprints of them in many bookshops.

A good place to start would probably be “The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes” – or, if you can’t find that, then “The Hound Of The Baskervilles”. The best short story collection, but the least common in print form, is probably “His Last Bow”.

However, whilst all of the original stories/novels are out of copyright in the UK, mainland Europe etc… one short story collection (“The Casebook Of Sherlock Holmes”) is still copyrighted in the US. But, if you’re American, then don’t worry. It’s probably the worst of the original books. Seriously, all of the other books are twice as good, and aren’t copyrighted in the US.

2) Classic “Doom”/ freeware “Doom Engine” games: If you are a fan of first-person shooter games and you’ve somehow never heard of a trio of games from the 1990s called “Ultimate Doom”, “Doom II: Hell On Earth” and “Final Doom”, then you are in for a treat!

Whilst these games didn’t invent the FPS genre, they popularised it and – like Sherlock Holmes – they’re timeless too. They are as thrillingly fun today as they were in the 1990s, and they still have a huge fanbase and modding community too. These games, and free legal alternatives to them, also don’t require an expensive modern computer to play either.

Although the classic commercial “Doom” games are best, there are also some really good free legal alternatives too if there isn’t room in your budget for these (fairly inexpensive) games.

This is because the underlying computer code that allows the games to function is open-source (eg: the programmers have given permission for it to be freely modified and freely distributed by anyone). As such, this underlying code has been used as the basis for new free “Doom”-like games.

If you have the internet, but no gaming budget whatsoever, then start by downloading a free program called a “source port” (I’d recommend one called “ZDoom) that will allow “Doom”-based games to run on your computer (and to use things like modern-style controls too).

Once you’ve done this, you can legally download any of the following free game files to use with your source port – “Freedoom”/ “Freedoom: Phase II“, “Hacx 1.2“, “Harmony” and, of course, the official “Doom” demo (get the “v1.9” version at the bottom of the page).

If you get “Harmony”, then (if I remember rightly) the download also comes with a source port already included – so, it’s probably the best one if you don’t want to be bothered with setting up a source port. However, the “Freedoom” games are the closest in style to the original ‘Doom’ games. “Hacx 1.2” is more of a cyberpunk FPS game.

With the sole exception of the official “Doom” demo, these free games will be different from the official “Doom” games. For legal reasons, they feature totally different levels, graphics, sounds, monsters, weapons etc… but, in terms of the actual gameplay, they will be very similar to the official “Doom” games because they use the same computer code. And they’re a lot of fun!

If you’ve got a little bit of money, then buy either “Doom II” and/or “Final Doom” from a reputable direct download site. They shouldn’t cost more than a few pounds, euros or dollars, and you can easily use the game’s files with the source port of your choice (rather than the one they come packaged with). The reason to buy “Doom II” or “Final Doom” instead of the first game, is because they are also backwards-compatible with fan-made levels for the original “Doom”.

Yes, the reason why the old “Doom” games will give you more than any other FPS game is because there are over 20 years worth of free fan-made levels (called “WADs”) freely available for them on the internet. New ones are still being made too. In fact, some of these levels (eg: ones that don’t add new textures etc..) are also compatible with the free “Freedoom” game files that I mentioned earlier.

3) “Star Trek”: Yes, there isn’t a completely free equivalent to ‘Star Trek’, but it’s still a fairly cheap (and large!) fandom to join if you’re a sci-fi fan.

This is mostly because it is one of the most widely-syndicated, well-known and frequently-repeated TV show franchises in existence. Likewise, there are literally hundreds of mostly self-contained novels – many of which can either be bought cheaply second-hand or found in libraries.

Despite a reputation for extreme nerdiness, it’s a lot easier to get into “Star Trek” than you might think – I mean, I was first introduced to “Star Trek: Voyager” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation” sometime between the ages of ten and twelve and I still really enjoyed them even back then. Seriously, they’re still compelling drama shows, even if you might not understand every precise detail of the futuristic technology that the characters use.

So, if you’re new to “Star Trek”, I’d recommend looking through the TV listings for repeats of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. If you can’t find any, then look for repeats of “Star Trek: Voyager” (it has different characters and a different premise, but is slightly similar in many ways – if very slightly gloomier in tone).

If you live in the UK then, the last time I looked (in 2016), the channel you want to look for to find various ‘Star Trek’ repeats is a freeview station called CBS Action.

Both of these shows are new enough (eg: “The Next Generation” ran from 1987-1994 and “Voyager” ran from 1995-2001) to still seem slightly modern and they also mostly consist of self-contained stand-alone episodes. So, you don’t really have to worry too much about watching them in order. After all, these shows came from a time before modern binge-watching, so they were designed to be more easily-accessible to new viewers.

The original 1960s “Star Trek” TV show is good, but looks very dated by modern standards. “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” is also good, but the later seasons have a long-running storyline that is best watched in order (on DVD etc..). “Star Trek: Enterprise” is also surprisingly good too, but it’s more like a typical mid-2000s sci-fi show in tone, style etc.. than classic ‘Star Trek’. So “The Next Generation” and/or “Voyager” are the best ones to start with.

Likewise, because of it’s age and popularity, you can pick up a lot of “Star Trek” stuff fairly cheaply second-hand. As I mentioned earlier, the hundreds of novels (many of which are self-contained) based on the TV shows can be found cheaply in second-hand bookshops, charity shops/thrift shops or online. Likewise, DVD releases of many of the TV show episodes, and the films based on the series, can often be found relatively cheaply second-hand too.

4) Iron Maiden: If you like rock music or heavy metal music then, it almost goes without saying, but take a look at a band called Iron Maiden. Even if you just watch the free music videos on their official Youtube channel, listen to them. Like Sherlock Holmes and “Doom”, they are also timeless.

Not only have they probably influenced almost every metal band that appeared after them, but they’re still going strong too. Plus, since they’re one of those rare bands who have never released a “bad” album (yes, even the two albums released during Blaze Bayley’s tenure as lead singer are surprisingly good), just choose the cheapest Maiden albums you can find if you’re on a budget.

They also have one of the largest, most widespread and most enthusiastic music fandoms that you can find. They aren’t “mainstream”, but you can find literal hordes of fans in pretty much every country in the world.

Plus, because they’ve been going for over four decades, their fandom is completely generation-neutral.

I’m in the latter half of my twenties and I discovered the band when I was a young teenager. Yet, there are also lots of thirtysomething, fortysomething, fiftysomething, sixtysomething etc.. Maiden fans too. Being an Iron Maiden fan is neither a “young” or an “old” thing. It’s also probably one of the best, if not the best, music fandoms you can ever find – with very little “trendiness”, pretentiousness, politics or elitism.

Likewise, because of their popularity, there are also a lot of Iron Maiden tribute bands out there too. So, if you want to experience their songs played live but don’t want to spend a fortune, then check out some of these bands. Yes, they aren’t quite as good as seeing Iron Maiden perform (something I’ve only done once) but, since they often play in smaller venues, the atmosphere of these tribute band concerts (at least the ones I saw in mid-late 2000s Britain) is really something!

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

History, Nostalgia, Creativity And Subtlety – A Ramble

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Although this is an article about creating historical art, historical comics, historical fiction etc…. I’m going to have to start by talking about real-life “anachronisms” and some vaguely geeky stuff. As usual, there’s a good reason for this.

The night before I wrote this article, I happened to find an absolutely fascinating historical video online. This was one of those mildly unusual things that, like colour footage of 1920s London (or colour photos of 1910s Russia) or old footage from the 1920s/30s that seems to show people using mobile phones, seemed like an anachronism. But, what was it?

It was a modern-style HD video of New York… filmed in 1993. Seriously, you can actually watch this in 1080p if you have a fast enough connection and/or enough available RAM. I watched it in 720p, but it was still pretty astonishing, given when it was filmed.

Some of the high-definition scenes in the film look wonderfully retro and some look slightly eerie (eg: modern-style footage of the Twin Towers etc..), but a few scenes look like they could have been filmed today.

For example, there’s some aerial filming which – if it wasn’t for a barely-noticeable helicopter shadow on a building– could easily be modern HD drone footage. Likewise, there’s a close-up of an old man sleeping on a bench, which literally looks like something from a modern HD documentary.

So, what does any of this have to do with creativity?

Well, one of the many interesting things about this modern-looking HD video from 1993 was the comments below it. One thing that seemed to “shock” a few people was the fact that nobody was staring at a smartphone in the footage of the busy streets. People were actually *gasp* acting like people whilst walking down the street.

I was more distracted by the retro fashions etc… to notice this (which is especially odd, given that I made an entire webcomic about smartphones, time travel and 1990s America a while ago), but the absence of smartphones seemed to be one of the things that made it stand out as something from the 1990s.

And, yet, it’s a really subtle thing.

So, this obviously made me think about works of art and fiction that are set in the past. Often, when we’re making art or comics about the relatively recent past, it can be very easy, and very fun, to go down the “nostalgia” route and exaggerate notable features from the time in question. Like with some of my own “nostalgic” 1990s-themed artwork:

"1990s Office Awesomeness" By C. A. Brown

“1990s Office Awesomeness” By C. A. Brown

"1990s Awesomeness" By C. A. Brown

“1990s Awesomeness” By C. A. Brown

But, often the most telling signs that something ‘serious’ is set in the past are a lot more subtle. For starters, many things are surprisingly timeless. Although the inclusion of these things in historical works might make them seem ‘modern’, they’re often anything but modern.

For example, the copious use of four-letter words in the fictional medieval-style setting of “Game Of Thrones” is probably closer to how people actually talked in medieval Britain (even if many written records of the time were kept by pious monks etc… who didn’t use four letter words). Even a few centuries later, the old French slang term for British people – “les godames” – comes from the fact that we used to use the word ‘goddamn’ a lot. So, it’s hardly a modern thing.

Likewise, historical change isn’t really an instant thing – so, the best way to show that something is set in the past is often to focus on these timeless things and to keep the “old” details relatively subtle.

This also reflects how nostalgia actually works. For example, in late 2016, I had a sudden and vivid moment of 1990s nostalgia that actually led to me spontaneously writing a short essay and making a cartoon.

All of these old memories were suddenly brought back to life when I happened to hear about a videogame series that I played when I was a lot younger. It was a subtle “background detail”, but it probably evoked more nostalgia than a picture of the Power Rangers playing POGs whilst watching a Tamagotchi advert that was playing on a CRT television in the middle of an episode of “The Fresh Prince” probably would.

So, yes, nostalgia and a sense of history can often work better when they’re fairly subtle.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Today’s Art (6th June 2017)

Woo hoo! I am very proud to present the sixth comic in “Damania Revelry”, a new webcomic mini series which is also a partial remake of an old story arc from 2013 (if you don’t mind my crappy old artwork, the original story arc can be read here, here and here ).

Links to many more recent comics can also be found on this page.

I’ve used a bit of artistic licence, but anyone who has ever been to a music festival will probably know how grim the bogs can be.

As usual, this comic update is released under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.

[CLICK FOR LARGER IMAGE] “Damania Revlery – Bogs” By C. A. Brown