Drawn to the Bad Guy, Part 5

There can be only one.

As I mentioned at the end of my last post, this series stemmed from an illustration I did of my favorite pop-culture villain. Instead of simply posting this one image, I chose to build up to it, illustrating other favorites, turning it into a top five list.

I’m cheating a bit with this post; it’s somewhat of a two-fer, as was my Joker post. But this one has a twist. You see, since I was a child I’ve been a fan of Darth Vader as a villain. Who isn’t? But you don’t have to search too far to find quality images of Vader, both officially licensed art and fan art. Of course I could do my own version, but frankly, I didn’t feel the draw to do so (more puns). But there is another villain that holds near equal standing in my heart, and that is the Kurgan from the 1986 film Highlander, as played by Clancy Brown.

Without further ado, the final on my list of top five pop-culture villains is,

1. Darth Kurgan


I know–cheating, right? This isn’t a real villain. Not entirely, anyway. But this was a labor of love. In addition to altering his already awesome sword into a Kylo Ren-esque light saber, I tweaked his chest plate (Boba Fett style), belt buckle, cod piece, left leg, and left wrist-guard (all Vader style). And then, of course, I placed him on an alien planet. You can’t tell me this sith lord wouldn’t have all others trembling in their dark robes. Darth Maul? Darth Tyranus? Darth Sidious? Pfft. Panzies–the lot of them. None could hold a holo-candle to Darth Kurgan. You think you have what it takes to embrace the Dark Side? Darth Kurgan is the Dark Side.

Why did I choose to combine the two villains? The Force Awakens, that’s why. The saber. The hilt. The scornful posts from the hordes of upset fans across the web decrying the need for such ridiculous adornment to an already perfect weapon. I was not one of these naysayers. No, when I first saw the preview that revealed the new saber, my immediate thought was, “Kurgan.” And from there, the above image had been building in my mind, itching to be made a reality.

kylo ren kurgan

As I mentioned, I’m a long-time fan of Clancy Brown as the Kurgan. And as I finish this list of top five baddies, I realized that at least three of the five possess a very similar trait (four, if you count Vader): a killer voice. Riddick had it. The Lord of Darkness had it. Vader had it. And Kurgan definitely had it. Part of the plot of Highlander was that the immortal Kurgan had his throat slashed by Sean Connery‘s Egyptian-Spaniard character Juan Sánchez Villa-Lobos Ramírez (great job casting, Russell Mulcahy! Don’t misread that last jab–I really do love this movie. But Clancy Brown was the only actor in the film who was believable in terms of character origins). But the throat slashing forever altered Kurgan’s voice, making it a rich, deep, and gravely audible monstrosity, forever inspiring future actors to imitate his larger-than-life onscreen persona.

And speaking of his iconic voice, I should probably point out that Clancy Brown already has many legitimate ties to Star Wars via his extensive work as a voice actor. In addition to random side characters (like stormtroopers and Imperial officers), he voiced the brother of Darth Maul, Savage Opress, in Star Wars: The Clone Wars TV series, and most recently he voiced a rebel sympathizer named Ryder Azadi in Star Wars: Rebels. The animation designers clearly modeled the character of Ryder after Clancy’s visage, as shown below, right.


In addition, I decided to put together a movie promo poster, as well. So here’s that:

Rise of the Kurgan

And that completes my Top Five list of favorite pop-culture villains. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. More random posts to come, and more lists of favorites, as well. All the best.

Drawn to the Bad Guy, Part 4

From the Clown Prince to the Brat Prince…

Let me start out by saying, no offense intended to Tom Cruise. I enjoyed the movie Interview With A Vampire; it’s among my favorite vampire flicks, and Tom Cruise portrayed the character brilliantly. But in regards to my fondness for this particular character, it’s the version from the novels that I’m drawn to as opposed to the theatrical representation. And honestly, for the sake of this illustration, my main issue with Tom Cruise stems from his success; he simply has too recognizable of a face. Yes, he played the character quite well, but if I used his version of the character for my illustration, I wouldn’t be drawing the character, I’d be drawing Tom Cruise. That’s a rough problem to have, Mr. Cruise; you’re more than an actor, you’re an icon. OK, enough about that. On to number two on my list…

2. Lestat de Lioncourt

The Vampire Lestat. As with Riddick, who started this list at number five, Lestat isn’t necessarily a villain, though if you now of him only from Anne Rice‘s premier vampire novel, Interview With a Vampire, you might have been led to believe otherwise. He was somewhat detestable in that novel (as was he in the movie), truly living up to his title of the “Brat Prince.” And if you only know him from that novel, you’re missing out. The Vampire Lestat was the second book in Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, and she approached it as though he wrote the book himself. In it, he was able to give his side to the story, and we got to know Lestat in a whole new light (or lack thereof, as it were). Still among my favorite vampire novels of all time.

According to Anne Rice, her visual of her favorite creation was a young Rutger Hauer. In her own words, as posted on her Facebook page celebrating Rutger Hauer’s 71st birthday,
…for me, Hauer was the spitting image of ‘The Vampire Lestat.’ You want to know what Lestat looks like to me? Look at this photograph. I didn’t base Lestat’s description on Hauer. I didn’t encounter him till after I’d written ‘Interview with the Vampire’ in which Lestat sprang to life  pretty much on his own. But this is surely how I see my beloved Brat Prince hero.” By the time Interview With a Vampire made it to the big screen, Rutger Hauer was too old to play the bratty protagonist. Which is unfortunate, because his skill as not only an actor but with improvisation would have made him so perfect for the role. But, as the French-born Lestat would say, c’est la vie.

And since that is how Anne Rice visualizes her own character, I decided I’d better base my illustration on Hauer, as well. Placing him in a Victorian-style painting just seemed like a no-brainer. Can’t you picture this hanging in Louis de Pointe du Lac’s plantation home?

Mi Lestat

Once again, I had a great deal of fun putting this one together. Despite both Tom Cruise and Stuart Townsend putting a face to the name (Townsend portrayed Lestat in the 2002 film version of Queen of the Damned), for the most, part it’s left to the reader to create their own mental image. And while Rice did provide a template by naming Hauer as a model, it was still on me to bring him to life. I actually had the most trouble with his complexion; I almost made his flesh white, but that seemed too unnatural, and not in a good way. Ultimately I feel like the subtle ruddy tint I added was just enough to make him look only somewhat unnatural, or rather the right amount of preternatural, without looking like a statue.

One quick note before I go. In the course of putting together this digital illustration, I’ve learned that Anne Rice has been experiencing some medical issues, which she discusses briefly on her Facebook page. As a long-time fan, I just wanted to take a moment to wish her all the best for a speedy recovery. Get well soon, Anne!

And that was number two on my list. Number one was actually the first of the illustrations that I did in this series, but being my favorite baddie, I wanted to save him for last. So stay tuned, I’ll be posting him real soon. And now that I’m done with Lestat, I’ve been inspired to do another list. In the near future, I’ll be putting together a list of my top 10 favorite vampires, complete with illustrations like these. And you can be certain Lestat will still be on that list–with a new interpretation, of course. Until then…

Ha! I bet you thought I wasn’t going to mention my own upcoming vampire project. Well, I did. Just now. But there’ll be more fanfare when the time draws near. See what I did there? “Draws” near. A pun. Laters.

Drawn to the Bad Guy, Part 3

Here we are, number three on my countdown of five favorite pop-culture baddies. This is a dual post, actually. Am I cheating with that? I don’t care; my blog, my rules.

When Tim Burton brought Batman to the big screen in 1989, he brought with him one of Batman’s most quintessential foes. I really don’t know the story behind Jack Nicholson being cast as the Joker, but I do know that Nicholson was no stranger to playing the psychological duality card; only nine years earlier he’d expertly captured the sociopathic meltdown of Jack Torrance in Stanley Kubrick‘s The Shining. His mastery of the performing arts along with his iconic eyebrows and devilish grin made him the perfect actor for the role. (Hold on–did I just say that The Shining came out only nine years before Batman? It’s been twenty-seven years now since Batman came out. That just doesn’t seem right…)

When Christopher Nolan rebooted the Batman franchise sixteen years later with Batman Begins, he started the game with a villain who was virtually unknown to the viewing public; sure, the plethora of comic book fans were well-acquainted with Ra’s al Ghul, but the mass public knew only of the standards from the recent films and the 1960s TV show, like the Joker, Penguin, Riddler, Mr. Freeze, and Catwoman. This was a bold move on Nolan’s part, and it paid off. At the very least, it whet our appetite, leaving us wanting for more.

Which brings us to…

3. The Joker

The Dark Knight was released in 2008, and not only was this the first b394bdBatman movie to not have the name Batman in the title, but it also introduced us to a new Joker. And while the internet had not embraced the news of Heath Ledger portraying the Clown Prince of Crime with open arms, early publicity photos and movie stills showed us a wonderfully creepy version of the Joker that we didn’t even know we yearned for. His untimely death prior to the release of the movie would make this among the last times we would see Ledger on film; he would never know the true impact he had on the role, forever changing how we would see the Joker.And with that…

I really don’t know which version I prefer. I suppose I’d probably lean toward Ledger’s performance; there was a lot more mystery to the character that made him more interesting. Though Jack Nicholson’s portrayal was a boatload of fun; wonderfully dark with biting humor and memorable one-liners.”Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?” “Never rub another man’s rhubarb.” “You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.” “I’ve been dead once already. It’s very liberating. You should think of it as therapy.” “Jack is dead, my friend. You can call me… Joker. And as you can see, I’m a lot happier.”

And with that…

Mi Jokers

Both Nicholson and Ledger brought something to the role worthy of their immense talents, giving us two amazing, larger-than-life versions of the same character. Jared Leto is next on the list in the upcoming Suicide Squad movie, and we’re being told that this could be the wildest version of the Joker, yet. I’m looking forward to seeing his interpretation, though I doubt I’m going to be adding his version of the character to my list of favorites. No offense to Leto, as I think he’ll do just fine with the role, but that fact that Heath Ledger helped to reinvent our perception of the Joker doesn’t mean that every new iteration needs to be reinvented. More to the point, I’d love to see a version of the Joker that mirrors the comic book version more accurately, both visually and in his mannerisms. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to play one of the Batman Arkham games, you’ll get a good idea of how the character could (and I feel should) be handled the next time around.

It does strike me that the way Leto is playing the character is pivotal to the movie itself; a classic interpretation simply wouldn’t work with this new film. Comic_Book_-_Batman_251_Cover_(1973)I’m just saying that I hope we one day get the chance to see a classic, live-action version of the Joker and possibly even a classic Batman (with his blue cowl and gray tights). That would be a fun flick to see. They could make it a period piece; take us back to the late 1940s and start over there. No high-tech gadgets or tank-like Batmobile. Just bare-bones detective work, a little skillful hand-to-hand combat, and possibly a few Batarangs for good measure.

And that’s it for number three. My top two favorite baddies are coming up, and I’m still having a riotously good time putting these together. I hope you’re enjoying them, too. If you haven’t started following my blog yet, feel free to click that fancy button now. And it wouldn’t hurt my feelings if you decided to share my posts with a friend or two. Go on; you know you want to. And I decided I won’t even mention my upcoming vampire project. You know–the one I plan to reveal this spring? Yeah, I’m not going to say a word about that. See you soon.

Drawn to the Bad Guy, Part 2

“What is light without dark? What are you without me? I am a part of you all. You can never defeat me. We are brothers eternal!”  -The Lord of Darkness

Happy Monday! So this post is arriving less than a week after my last post. I don’t know if I’ll maintain that momentum moving forward, but I’m enjoying this “Drawn to the Bad Guy” concept that I have going, so we’ll see how this goes.

Ridley Scott conceived of and directed the cult classic Legend, starring Tom Cruise as Jack, Mia Sara as Lili, and Tim Curry (entirely unrecognizable) as the Lord of Darkness. Scott wanted to tell a Brother’s Grimm style fairytale, but crafting a new story to work seamlessly with  the medium of film rather than trying to twist an ancient tale to fit haphazardly into a medium that it wasn’t designed for. The result was a modern classic of light versus dark, innocence vs corruption, pitting Jack–a simple forest dweller–against the personification of evil himself, the Lord of Darkness. As with many cult classics, this movie was not a commercial success during its initial theatrical release, though it soon became a huge underground hit. I remember seeing it numerous times as a child on cable channels such as WGN and TBS before I ever saw the full, uncut version on DVD.

4. Lord of Darkness

Number four on my list of favorite movie villains is the Lord of Darkness. No stranger to cult classics, Tim Curry rose to prominence portraying the character Dr. Frank-N-Furter in another cult classic, The Rocky Horror Show (incidentally, I recently read that Tim Curry will be returning to The Rocky Horror Show in the fall of 2016, playing the criminologist narrator). I remember watching a documentary about the making of Legend, and as I recall Tim Curry wore so much makeup and prosthetics for the role of Lord of Darkness, there’s not a single bit of “Tim Curry” shown in the film. As part of the costume, Mr. Curry had to walk on stilts and wear a massive set of horns atop his head; when fully attired he was an impressive 12-feet-tall from the base of his cloven hooves to the tips of his blackened horns (this info is from memory–if anyone wants to correct me in the comments, feel free). And “impressive” is the only word truly befitting the prosthetics. Even by today’s standards they’re incredible–and the movie was released in 1985.

In the movie, the Lord of Darkness was more than an imposing figure. Yes, he was evil, yes he wanted to kill the last of the unicorns and absorb their power casting the world into eternal darkness. But nobody’s perfect. The Lord of Darkness is still a flawed character, and flawed characters can be made likable through their flaws. In the course of his hunt for the unicorns, his minions kidnap the fair maiden Lily (inspiring Jack to rescue her), and while in his “care” he clearly starts to have feelings for her (although he does try to force those feelings to be returned via some magical seduction and a little black dress). Ridley Scott could have easily selected an actor who already possessed the size and musculature required of the lead villain, but Tim Curry is the one who brought charm to the character, making even the epitome of evil a likable force.

OK, enough chit-chat. You came here for my digital illustration, so here you be.

Mi Lord of Darkness Poster

I’m already working on number three on my list, so keep an eye out for that. And as I’ve mentioned previously, if you’re a fan of vampire fiction, stay tuned this spring for my big reveal!

Drawn to the Bad Guy, Part 1

The concept of being drawn to the villain is nothing new, and I’m certainly not going to get into why it happens here. You’re not coming to my blog for a crash course in psychology and I am certainly not qualified to be doling out such info. But what I can do is discuss my favorite pop-culture villains. And I figured what better way to do that than to make a top 5 list. I thought about typing a simple list and finishing with an illustration I did, but then I started thinking about the individual villains that I chose, and thought, why not do five different blog posts, highlighting an illustration with each? So, without further ado, here’s number five on my list.

5. Riddick

For the sake of this list, I’m strictly referring to Vin Diesel‘s character Riddick from the movie Pitch Black. I enjoyed his subsequent films (the animated movie The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark FuryThe Chronicles of Riddick, and Riddick), but none of the sequels came anywhere near the artistic atmosphere of the movie that introduced us to the character. And to be fair, Riddick wasn’t technically a villain so much as a just really bad dude. But for at least part of the film we’re left wondering what his motives are; for part of the film we’re forced to question whether or not he actually is a villainous character. So that’s good enough for me.

What is it about him? Don’t know. He’s a violent character, cares about no one but himself, and yet he redeems himself at the end letting us know there’s still some good left in him. Is it the redemption that I’m drawn to? Perhaps. Though not necessarily. Some of the baddies that will follow on my list certainly fail in their redemption. Perhaps it’s his devil-may-care attitude, or moreover, the “I’m badder than the devil” attitude (yes, I know, “badder” isn’t a word–when you’re as bad as Riddick you don’t care about no stinkin’ grammar). Aesthetically speaking, I definitely dug the shiner eyes they gave him (in Pitch Black he indicates that while stuck in a prison where he never saw daylight, he paid a back-alley surgeon to perform a surgical shine-job on his eyes, giving him night vision), along with the steampunk goggles he had to wear during daylight hours. He was resourceful and clearly intelligent, which definitely added to the appeal. He figured out how to deal with the aliens that were attacking the group before anyone else did, and he was the only one who could successfully bypass them and escape the bizarre planet that they’d crash landed on. Should I have said “spoiler alert?” Ah, well. Here’s the illustration.

Mi Riddick Pitch Black

Just a quick note–the landscape, as well as Riddick’s attire, are not necessarily accurate to the movie Pitch Black. I was more going for atmosphere and general feel rather than 100% accuracy.

That’s it for today. Come back next week, same bat-time, same bat-channel for the next installment of “Who are Mikey’s favorite bad guys!”