MalcolmLittle in "HardlyLand"

Archive for the ‘illustrations’ Category

There is a game I love to read about. I have yet to play it. It is called Dwarf Fortress. The basic premise is that you have a small group of dwarves at your disposal and you need to build them a home. You decide what skills/occupations to give them and you order them around, telling them to dig, build and produce items. The dwarves have wants and motivations and they need to be kept (reasonably) happy, (preferably) sane and alive (for as long as you can manage).

An artist named Tim Denee has illustrated two different attempts at bringing prosperity to his dwarves. Tim, an obviously skilled player, creates advanced and intricate fortresses but doom is always looming near in Dwarf Fortress. The life of a dwarf is a life of strife.

The game is hard. The complexity is mind-blowing. The interface is dense, almost esoteric. Just placing your fortress in a favorable spot on the map (randomly generated by the game, complete with thousand year history and scores of denizens) is a tough choice, seeing as you need your base to be near mountains (for ore and for shelter; the dwarves shun sunlight), large bodies of water (above- or underground) and forests (for wood). It is in every way a strategic simulation game but it shares a lot of with a RPG sub-genre called “roguelikes“. Like many roguelikes you need to study a lot before even attempting to play. It is daunting. It is why I have yet to try the game myself.

Another similarity it has with the roguelike is that it has practically no graphics; the visualization is done through ASCII characters symbolizing the different items, surroundings and creatures in the game. One reason for this is probably so the developers of the game do not have to bother with graphics. At all.

One aspect that makes Dwarf Fortress truly great is that playthroughs leave great anecdotes. Similar to the Sims, Dwarf Fortress gives players such experiences that the retelling of these tales of legendary triumphs (and legendary defeats) are genuinely interesting to people who haven’t played the game. A friend of mine told me in an off-hand manner that goblin raids often attack his fortress and sometimes manage to steal away a few of the dwarves’ children. The children often return when fully grown and attack my friend’s base with the rest of their new goblin comrades.

Tim Denee’s illustrations are quick and to-the-point. They show nicely how he envisions his game sessions, which is what makes a game with basically no graphics so magical. You get stories like this. Hilarity ensues.

1: Denee’s first illustrated fortress “Bronzemurder” [Updated link]

2: His second chronicled fortress “Oilfurnace

This might be a tad old but I recently found the November-December issue of the literary magazine The Believer (no. 67 to be exact), with cover by comic creator and master illustrator Charles Burns (as is often the case for The Believer). He does a version of Edward Hopper’s “Cape Cod Morning” depicting characters seen in the respective comics of Chris Ware and Jerry Moriarty.

Chris Ware interviews the painter and sometime comic artist Jerry Moriarty in the issue. They talk about Moriarty’s artwork and the recently reissued collection of Moriarty’s “Jack Survives” comics. Chris Ware, describing Moriarty’s work, writes that “it’s poetry—I believe the first that comics has ever seen—and poetry as fresh and affecting now as when first drawn”.

Jerry Moriarty explains his own views on “Jack Survives”:

At forty-two I was part of a community of catoonists who were the smartest people I had (and have) ever met. True artists. But the wannabe hero-painter in me resisted the cartoonist label. I spent five years dedicated to Jack Survives with side trips to refresh my painter’s “chops”. Once I left the comics world and, in time, looked back, it was clear that Jack was my first truly original art. Everything I did before Jack had the stink of PAINTING.

Comic artists Aline Kominsky-Crumb and Peter Blegvad are also interviewed in the magazine (the interview with Blegvad can be read in full at The Believer’s website).

The talented folks at the Nakatomi Inc have created quite a few prints and t-shirts of various interpretations of pop culture icons, plus original work, with artists like Clint Wilson, Paul Pope and Jacob Borshard. A personal favorite is Tim Doyle’s SMB-WTC, a part of their series of classic Nintendo inspired prints, called reNESsance.

SMB-WTC World 1-1

“World 1-1”

SMB-WTC World 1-2

“World 1-2”

SMB-WTC World 1-4

“World 1-4”

It’s almost shocking to see Mario Bros imagery in this way. There is hardly anything political or topical in Miyamoto Shigeru’s games so just seeing two massive pipes loom over scenery from the Mushroom Kingdom is striking. “Can they do that?”

Carl-Johan Johansson at the Swedish gaming site recently recommended Doyle’s take on King Hippo (from Punch-Out!! fame). I also like Clint Wilson’s take on The Girl With A Pearl Earring.

Punch-Out at the Last SupperGirl With the Triforce Earring

The work at Nakatomi Inc is a cut above the stuff found at, say,, but if you get this kind of talent to contribute work there can only be excellence, really.

The illustrator John Paul Thurlow has a great blog called Covers where he showcases his illustrated adaptations of his favorite magazine covers and photographs.

Just look at his illustration of this Steven Meisel photograph from Vogue Italia (no. 716, April 2010).

JPT's version of Steven Meisel

Steven Meisel's original

JPT’s version is even better than the original! Impressive.

  • None
  • MalcolmLittle: Sorry for the late response! You can get ahold of them, they are out there. ;-)
  • Griffiana: Where did you get the cleaned original covers? I'm thinking of printing some copies for myself.
  • Blog 'em up-Jimmy: Haha! In the year 2000 the most famous sport is Space Rainbow Tennis!