Thursday, March 26, 2009

Old Castro Got it Wrong...

My ongoing attempts to sculpt a reasonable likeness of Great Lord on. Here now, I present to you the "final version," which is not, in fact, the final version. This is merely one of two things: 1) The latest version I'm reasonably happy with; or 2) The base by which a true final draft will spring from. After the elephantine horror that came before, I borrowed a few Wayne Douglas Barlowe books from Scott, and became...what's the word? Oh yes, inspired. Barlowe's Expedition may be the best, if not the only illustrative tome to build a convincing alien world up from the ground up. These are not Earthen animals wedged into an awkward alien mold. The critters on Darwin IV would not evolve on Earth, and you have no idea have much I appreciate that. The only other alien monsters I've felt that about are the titular xenomorphs from Aliens, and even they were portrayed by guys in suits (most of the time).

Anyway, I took much from Barlowe's work, but Scott's wager demanded that my starspawn conform to the description put forth by Lovecraft through Old Castro in The Call of Cthulhu. Thus, a vaguely anthropoid outline, a head filled with writhing tentacles, and horrible demon wings were the order of the day. What's an artist to do?

After reading the story a few more times, I realized that Old Castro is, in fact, recalling heresay. He did witness the master of R'lyeh himself, but heard the story from the survivors of that terrible meeting. Additionally, these were terrified men telling the story, their psyches flumoxed by what they were seeing. In my humble opinion, the only concrete physical details of Cthulhu offered by the story are contained in the description of the soapstone relief. Those details are fairly good, but there's another problem to consider: Humanizing our gods. People tend to give their dieties human features, probably so we feel close to them. Geisha, for instance, may have an elephant's head, but it's got a human body...albeit one with too many arms. Finally, Cthulhu's followers were commanded to its will through psychic transmissions given off by the great traveler. Cthulhu may have implanted a false image of itself to calm his chosen. A more humanoid vistage would help to prevent insanity. Or perhaps Cthulhu's followers really did see the beast above but rationalized their god's horrible shape to fit more traditional Earthen imagery.

The underlying reason here is that I'm not doing this shit. Cthulhu is alien, not terran, dammit. I am also operating under the condition that Cthulhu is a real animal, and so must adhere to basic principles of life: it has to eat, sense its surroundings, and generally make a living without relying on magical powers. Cthulhu evolved somewhere.

So here's what Cthulhu is going to have:

1) A large central "trunk" tentacle for manipulating objects;
2) A pair of tentacles with olfactory sensors on their tips (the bulbous ones);
3) A pair of tentacles which are constantly moving, ending in a mass of feathery organs. These feathery organs sense vibration, temperature, and electromagnetic signals. Very handy for a blind creature.
4) A pair of modified feelers just behind the "head" which constantly stretch and retract, moving in all directions at all times, feeling the ground in front of, below, and around Cthulhu;
5) Two large, elephantine legs (the ankle spines will probably go away);
6) A massively fat tail that, from above, looks rather like a devil's tail. The tail is flat (and bright red) across its dorsal surface. Cthulhu stores fat in its tail, which is mobile at its base;
7) Two impressive "wings" which slide open and closed as a Poker player would flare his cards. The wingtips are basically gills, constantly fluttering as oxygen (or whatever Cthulhu breathes) is passed over the fine filaments extending from hundreds of slits on each tip's surface. Cthulhu isn't trying to take flight--he's just breathing;
8) A massive, bulbous "octopus head," which houses a large brain. The large brains size is not exclusively for the production of psychic phenomena testified to by his followers, but rather the mass of sensory information gathered by his armada of feelers and tentacles.

Expect a nicely Photoshopped final version later on, complete with...gasp...a background!


Traumador said...

oh dear...

so having read the story a few times, you probably now would think all of us from dunedin, new zealand are evil... as the villians originate from here, and the hero departs christchurch.

is there anyway i could convince you since the unleash of the great dark one, that these cities have flip flopped. christchurch being the lamer compared to dunedin now a days :P

look at the news to confirm. dunedin has the occasional problem due to student riots (and small brained t-rexes, but this latter factor doesn't make the press for some reason, minus a single blog :P). christchurch has on going problems with asian gang wannabes to the point the mayor has to go into hiding.

i know this is besides the point based on your awesome "castro" recreation. just if you've read the story a few times, i know how dunners comes off looking bad :(

Sean Craven said...

Just to mess with your head, have you given any thought to the whole non-Euclidean geometry thing?

I'd suggest that it might be good to show C'thulhu as having body parts that seem disconnected in our conventional space but are contiguous in the fourth physical dimension, in the manner of Flatland or Spaceland?

Here's what I'm talking about --

Like I said, just to mess with your head...

Sean Craven said...

Oh, I forgot to say that I dig this a lot. I particularly like the feathery tentacles. Are they intended to be sensory organs?

Sean Craven said...

Oops, went back and reread the post... Question answered.

ScottE said...

Non-Euclidean geometry doesn't necessarily have to be 4+ dimensional.

The term generally refers to curved, as opposed to planar, surfaces.

(After the Ides of April I'll have my Cthulhu done.)

Metalraptor said...

I would also like to add Nemo Ramjet's Snaiad to the list. I actually find his work better than Barlowe's in my opinion, as Barlowe seems to try too hard to try and make his aliens unearthly (though maybe this is a good thing). For example, why do creatures who are blind and sense their world through sonar still have bioluminscent patches? Another problem is that none of the animals on the planet seem to be related to one another. True, there are some species like the Arrowtongue and the Rayback that one can easily tell are related, but the main body plan of Darwin IV organisms seems to be glossed over, and taxonomy is all but ignored.

Snaiad at first glance looks earth-ish, but then one realizes that the creatures there only appear like tetrapods due to our sense of anthropomorphism and a hint of convergent evolution. For example, the skeleton of Snaidi animals are not made of calcium or a derivative therof, but of a wood-like hydrocarbon. In addition, Nemo provides convincing reasons for why the anatomy of Snaiad creatures function the way they do. In another example, the reason why the eyes of Snaiadi creatures are right next to the reproductive organs is that the ancestors of Snaiadi "vertebrates" were like those sand-burrowing clams (the name escapes me), and evolved a way to mate without ever leaving the safety of their sand burrows.

The Cthulu drawing, however, is truly excellent. I like how you took the anatomy of an Eldrich horror and explaining it in biological terms. While some might say this takes away from Cthulu's majesty, I disagree, it makes him seem all the more real.