This is serious!

Good chance you're familiar with this landmark work of Australian cartooning:

 "For gorsake, stop laughing! This is serious!"

"For gorsake, stop laughing! This is serious!"

Drawn by Stan Cross in 1933 and deemed "Australia's Funniest Cartoon", a sculpture version called a "Stanley" is the trophy awarded every year to the nation's best cartoonists. I was asked by Darren Kozial of DarkOz publications if I'd be interested in doing a version of it with "some 'sci-fi' elements added" for the back cover of Retro Sci-Fi Tales #3. Why not? I've played with one-point perspective in a retro-futuristic city before…

 

 From "Dan Panic Funnies #1" 1987 (self-published looong before I came to Australia)

From "Dan Panic Funnies #1" 1987 (self-published looong before I came to Australia)

The start was the obvious place to start, and I did a rough sketch right over a print-out of Mr. Cross's original work.

 2B pencil, approx 150mm x 200mm

2B pencil, approx 150mm x 200mm

Using the original as a template reminded me just how strong the drawing chops were of the average cartoonist/illustrator back in the day. Mr. Cross probably whipped out the drawing in a couple hours, but his obvious training and study of anatomy and the human form are evident.

There were things you wouldn't dare change. Stan's composition is perfect, the body language masterful, and the expressions hit exactly the right note. Thank you sir, you've already done the hard work.

A couple things seemed easy and obvious to change; adding those futuristic buildings and flying cars that Darren wanted, and making the second character female. Gender balance and greater embarrassment and humiliation for the other character - win/win!

But that building they were hanging off just didn't want to become futuristic without completely altering its style and making it unrecognizable. I wasn't satisfied, but plowed onto the pencils hoping it would either stop bugging me (never happens) or a solution would emerge (only happens when I'm very, very lucky).

I got lucky. Half-way through the pencils I decided to leave the building in it's original design, only in the process of demolition, not construction.

 HB pencil on 2ply bristol board, approx. 300mm x 420mm

HB pencil on 2ply bristol board, approx. 300mm x 420mm

My two are here to wreck the building Stan's guys put up in 1933. Funny how the same thing goes wrong centuries later.

Moving on to inks, I reached for a crow quill pen, rather than the brush which is always my first inclination. I studied the originally closely while I worked, not so much to mimic Stan's style, but see what I could take away from his assured and skillful penmanship, hoping that there would be some kind of dialogue established between the two drawings.

 In my enthusiasm, forgot to draw the falling hat. It's there on the bottom of the page, waiting to be cut and pasted in the composition.

In my enthusiasm, forgot to draw the falling hat. It's there on the bottom of the page, waiting to be cut and pasted in the composition.

The original was only ever black and white, and mercifully no clown has ever gone and coloured it, so this clown had to rely on his own nous to colour his. Started by giving them fluro garb, which led to the tested and true "cool background - warm foreground" scheme. Warming up the shadows and adding a green tint to the sky gave it a dank, polluted look over the clean "Jetsons" style buildings. Adding a glowing emboss on a copy of the line layer in Photoshop saved me the trouble of adding form shadows.

Made a publisher happy and I am not haunted by the ghost of Stan Cross, but rather felt something of a kinship with the great cartoonist during the pleasurable time spent on this. Of course I'm hardly the first cartoonist to riff off this work, and doubt I'll be the last.

(Retro Sci-Fi Tales #3 is available in comic shops throughout Adelaide, at just about every convention in the country (and this year's San Diego Con!) and direct from the publisher. )