Comic Books and The Incredibles : Movement that has Inspired an Imagined World

Comic books have a distinctive art style, and have since the earliest stories. In the sixties a lot of series were set in an undistinguishable era, where predictions of future technology were mixed with fashions of the time. I will discuss in this essay how comic book art, particularly The Fantastic Four, has remained timeless and inspired The Incredibles.

‘Googie’ is a term used to describe the “Space Age Futurism”, which is a common theme in comic books. As the characters have fictional powers, writers would design worlds where technology and science existed to make their ideas plausible. That’s why many stories are an alternative reality of the time period. Furniture, vehicles, and decorating styles in The Incredibles follow this path. They used a Googie theme- “Future from the perspective of the 1960s”.

The volcano island Nomanisan in the movie was based on another form of Googie, as it is filled with Tiki architecture.

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As futurism is common in comic books, it’s no surprise it’s used in hero movies today. The Incredibles references- and draws inspiration from- many comic book tropes and ideas. The most obvious similarity being the Fantastic Four comic books.

The Fantastic Four began in 1961 but was set in a world where the characters had gotten their powers through science that did not yet exist in reality, as they were ahead of their time (Googie). Though it wasn’t the intent to copy the characters’ designs there are similarities with the look and plot of the film and comic books. The heroes all wear Lycra suits (popular in older comic books) to match Fantastic Four’s, both with logos on the chest. Every suit is tailored to the character’s powers, in both cases, where the powers are almost mirrored. Since the characters’ powers were the same, the ideas for the costumes in Incredibles would come from Fantastic Four, as everyone would recognise the thought process. The early issues of Fantastic Four were the bigger artistic influence over later ones, as Pixar’s Elastigirl’s hair has the same style as the original Invisible Girl; proving the fashion of Incredibles was of the 60’s.

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Incredibles and Fantastic Four have been compared a lot, even Marvel saw similarities and altered the 2005 Fantastic Four movie.

More Marvel comic books influenced Brad Bird (Incredibles director), as he claimed he was heavily influenced by Jim Sterento’s comic book Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. The comic book was from 1973, and ‘Fury’ is all about futuristic tech. Marvel (creators of Fantastic Four in this same period) definitely swayed the look of the film. Other costumes from the movie were inspired by Marvel, proven when the fashion designer character Edna designed costumes for supers which looked like Captain America’s, Cyclops, and Crystal of the Inhumans’.

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DC also inspired the movie. During the wedding scene, Helen says to Bob, “You are my greatest adventure”. This quote references the DC comic series My Greatest Adventure, where the Superhero story is focussed on the familiar family dynamic. They have a character named Elasti-Girl also- which is why in Pixar promotions they had to call Helen Mrs. Incredible! This proves there were more comic influences.

The city the movie is set in is called Metroville, a combination of Superman’s Metropolis and Smallville. But the Superman influences on artists goes deeper.

Bird directed Iron Giant for Warner Bros in 1999, before moving to Pixar for Incredibles. Bird brought the whole design team with him to Pixar. This meant the design ideas for The Incredibles came from those same people, with the same artistic motivations. At the end of Iron Giant he calls himself “Superman”, which is an obvious DC shout out. The Giant itself then appeared in the comic book Superman: Lois and Clark– and speaks to Superman. His design was unchanged, and fit perfectly into the comic book, proving the artistic muse from the comic books in the first place had come full-circle.

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Joe Johnston who designed the Iron Giant character had beforehand directed Rocketeer and went on to produce Captain America: The First Avenger– he definitely has vision for how movies based on comic books should look. His comic style art will have influenced the team’s work.

Bird first designed the Incredibles in 1993, only to postpone the project to make Iron Giant, and was told once he moved to Pixar he could make whatever he wanted. He already had an outlook for The Incredibles, so it would make sense to assume he would have stuck to that same art style in both movies, saving the big ideas for The Incredibles. When things changed from 2D to 3D the team claimed they were “Merging the worlds of hand drawn and 3D”. They kept their ideal style, but used the 3D to their advantage. Rather than creating hyper-realistic characters, they went for a cartoon-like edge and used movement and exaggerations to make believable people.

Behind the scenes clips reveal storyboarded cut-scenes for the movie, where you could see how the movie would have looked in comic strips, because they showed super powers in stills. They brought these strips to life throughout the film. John Lassater said “I will never let something go into production unless it’s working fantastic in that version with still drawings”.

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The movie could be inspired by many 60s/70s comics. They all share bold outlines, bright colours, well-lit scenes to convey light hearted atmospheres, and dramatically lit scenes to show drama or darkness. There’s never much blending in comics so the costumes were block-coloured, and their furniture was simplistic. In The Incredibles they kept the pattern-less furniture, and straight forward suits and designs.

Compared to other Pixar colour scripts, Incredibles’ is more colourful and complex. Ralph Eggleston was in charge of colour scripting for this picture. It is probable the comic book style of the sets and characters just brought out the colourful designs he did. They also did lighting concepts to demonstrate emotion and drama. Designers also made sculptures of characters to see them from every angle before modelling them digitally. It was important for them to create “Human emotion through the shape and colour of the sets.”

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On the second disk of the DVD set for The Incredibles is a 60s superhero cartoon spoof called Mr. Incredible and Pals which is made to look authentic to the era (60’s/70’s). The 2D characters are barely animate because the technology is supposed to be limited, and the story imitates a Batman parody- that is speculation, but another DC inspiration for Incredibles was Batman. The spoof’s colour scheme still resembles the Fantastic Four’s 70’s TV show, which again proves those comic books in particular were Pixar’s leading inspiration; especially when Bob is wearing his blue costume, not red. This extra feature shows exactly how the characters of the show would have looked if they’d existed in the 60s and had their own books and shows, returning to comic book roots. The characters were authentic to the movie, and looked like the perfect fitting 60s heroes- bold outlines and exaggerated super-bodies, costumes to match the era, and a colour scheme to bring out how light hearted it is. This just proves that the characters in the movie most definitely look how their 2D counterparts would look with a third dimension added and with better technology.

After looking into the background of The Incredibles artists and discovering the many ways they were inspired by comic book art I can see why Fantastic Four was such an inspiration. The series has not only encouraged their own movies and cartoons, but also The Incredibles, the powers are so similar, it was only right to take notes from an existing popular art form based on a similar plot.

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Youth Arts Exhibition

On Wednesday was the Youth Arts Exhibition opening at Arts Centre Washington. I’ve entered 3 years in a row and this year entered a large print of my cowboy digital piece. I have never won and thought I would rather enter something eye catching this year, than something that was time consuming to make.

My cowboy drawing has caught the attention of a few people lately and it was definitely different to other pieces there that night.

I will continue to enter the competition until I am too old (21) and don’t know if I will win at all, but I love entering and going along. Your piece gets displayed for quite a while in the exhibition and it is cool to have your artwork in a gallery no matter what.

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A couple of years ago I entered an Acrylic painting of my friend Naz imagining New York City. I spent every night for 2 months painting it and it was the first painting I ever got in a gallery. I was so proud and even though I didn’t win, I used it for my GCSE so it could help me at least achieve a good grade.

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Imagined from Music

Tony set us an assignment to design an imagined world based on the song Carouselambra by Led Zeppelin. We could choose the art form to do this in, I decided to draw the scene the song made me picture in my head.

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There were crazier parts of the song that made me picture fights, but I was drawing alien attacks already for the group project I am doing, so I went with my first impression of the song in its milder parts, a busy 80’s street.

I did the drawing in layers. I drew the road and buildings’ basic shapes first, then what was behind the windows (before making those layers more translucent). I built forward from there, with the accessories on the buildings, then the people outside. Then the bin and lamppost, car, girl’s head and finally the small details.

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I spent weeks working on this in Tony’s lessons because I wanted to add a good amount of detail to it, and those computers are better than a tablet for that. I did do bits and pieces outside of lesson, it was just slower to do it that way.

I tried to make it look as 80’s as possible without overdoing it. I pictured an arcade at first, but assumed it was probably because I’d just finished Stranger Things, so I put one on the street, but not as the main focus. I tried to dress the main characters in era-suitable fashion- and the car is an 80’s model (the hardest part to draw, for me).

I added the girl with the earphones at the end and I can imagine her listening to the song and looking at the scene herself. In reality she was just waiting to cross the road in my mind, but the headphones do link the sound element of the project into my picture.

I wanted to make this as good as I could because I will be showing it in my portfolio. I think I am getting better at digital art as I was advised to try a lot more of it this year. Once a picture is done I love to see how it was put together so that is a cool thing to be able to do with my own work now.

 

Company Logo

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Our group needed a different logo after the MVP assessment with the lecturers. I don’t know if we’re changing the name from Anonymous Penguin yet, but I have made the logo brighter and drew it from scratch.

We needed something happier and something more similar to our company’s general vibe (action, danger) show in the trailer. The penguin is still anonymous, but he is a ninja, so he has a throwing star.

I drew some on paper sketches, then drew this up on Photoshop with a clear and a grey background so it can be inserted into the project however the group likes.

I am happy enough with the outcome, and especially like he neck colours. Hopefully the group like it too, so far they’ve given positive feedback about it.

Completed Movie Poster

I finished my movie poster late last week for my Mysterious Worlds movie trailer. The movie is Planet A, and is about an Alien invasion. We do not have the actual Aliens in our trailer, only their UFOs, so I could make them look however I liked. Because the Aliens’ looks aren’t a focus in our work I didn’t do anything very original for their design, but they resemble the Alien you think of whenever you hear the word; a popular design in Sci-Fi.

We came up with the slogan “It’s their planet now” which I included along with the title. I added UFOs flying and crashing, and completed the buildings. The poster isn’t too saturated with action, so I hope it conveys what the trailer does.

It is a cartoon style because it is promotional, but the movie doesn’t look light hearted. I tried to not make it look like a comedy film. There is only so much a poster can do for a movie and it isn’t very ambiguous so I am happy with it.

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Project ‘Planet A’ Update

For the group project I was the Concept Artist. I have done all of the pieces on our list and they used to help continue the process as the others can use my plans.

Lewis is working on the city-scapes (before and after). They are looking good and natural. The effects are fitting nicely with the scenes. Kyle is working on the parks, the after is smokey and derelict, and the before is starting to look heavenly. I think so far it resembles a scene in a movie where someone is looking back at the past through ‘rose tinted glasses’. Owen is working on the parks, he recently showed us the nice park and its packed with subtle effects all building up quite an artistic scene. He added in squirrels and butterflies and they fit in great.

Jack has been doing the animation of the UFO for the scene outside of the VPA which Nathan is doing and it is coming along nicely. We are coming close to the end of the project now so hopefully soon it will come together completely. I am excited to see the finalised scenes and intend to help out with putting it all together still and continuing to work on promotional artwork for the ‘movie’.

We are under time pressure for this deadline but hopefully we can show something good for the work we have put in.

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Promotional and Experimental

Today I tried to do some ‘promotional’ artwork for our Mysterious Worlds. It was an experiment with drawing on Photoshop using my tablet; I chose 1 pen size and opacity and used varying pressure with my pen to layer the colour over itself to create lines and shadows. I attempted to avoid erasing anything and just went with the flow. Sticking to the rules of the brush size and opacity the picture came out looking stylised.

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I firstly drew the girl with a bewildered expression, appearing to be looking at something causing her concern. She is in regular clothing (just an average woman during the alien invasion) and is not yet running from anything. The grey-scale gives it a serious look.

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Afterwards I drew a dark backdrop with a UFO. This is not a concept for a scene, but is intended as an ominous teaser about the movie. As the movie isn’t real, pieces like this can be imagined as posters and promotions, as they might tie into the plot of the movie in its entirety if it were to be completed.

I liked the way this drawing turned out, and it was a fun experiment. I hope to do more stylised pictures in the future.

Movie Poster Progress & Group Analysis

These past few nights (and in Rachael’s lesson) I have been working on a promotional image for Planet A. I am using Photoshop to create a cartoon image of an alien attack in a UFO similar to the one in our project.

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I think it looks alright so far, it isn’t my typical work, but hopefully when I am finished it will look good. I want to add in detail to the buildings and more UFOs in the background.

My group and I did a scrum today. I was the scrum master so had to listen to what everyone had done, and will be doing in the 3 weeks we have to complete this project. I think we can do it if we get our heads down, and we are on track, we just didn’t notice how close we were to the deadline.

Most of the VFX scenes are well into progress and all of the necessary preproduction is done. I am going to do more bits and pieces of art for the project (as I am doing now) and help with general VFX things to help us tie this task up within a few weeks.

I can see it being shaped now, and I think it will look good when it is done.

More Park Concepts

I decided to do another park concept for my Imagined Worlds on photoshop. This is neither before or after, it just bares more resemblance to the park we will ctually use, Barnes.

The tire swing will play a key role in the scene and will be swinging in harsh winds. The swing is on a play park ground, surrounded by walkways.

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I like the look of this park and the dingy autumn sky. I worked on adding shadows confidently (which I believe makes the scene more realistic) and using different brushes for effect.

I used the touchscreen monitors to create this in Tony’s lesson, along with the mouse. I think it looks a lot like the setting of the park scene in our VFX project, and it is nice to have more concepts of the same scenes to expand on ideas, and come up with better ones.

Imagined Worlds Group

So far my team have been doing quite well with our Imagined Worlds project. We have done a lot of work for it so far and I believe we are on track.

Having said that, when the lecturers took a look at our Trello organisation they had some concerns about the clarity of our plans. The preproduction is all done, but we have not yet sorted it out. We need a play through of the unedited clips and all of the concept art could be put together in a clever way.

We all get along even though at times there are absences. Because of this the group will take on tasks that aren’t assigned to them to help get it all finished.

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I look forward to the rest of this half term, finishing what we started, and I am excited to see the end results because we have a clear vision of what we want from our teaser trailer, Planet A.