For the last year I’ve been, periodically, telling my kids bedtime stories loosely based on King Kong. I love pretty much every version of that movie, and it affords a wealth of ideas for cliffhanger moments; a whole island full of whatever crazy monster and dinosaur you can think of. My kids call them “Skull Island stories”, and at first they followed the original Kong storyline pretty well, albeit with names changed and far fewer gruesome deaths. But after months of the fearless ship and film crews searching for Kong’s lair where the actress is stuck alternately fighting and bonding with the gorilla, it started getting a little stale.
There were no children in the original King Kong story, so I though it’d be fun to introduce a little tribal girl named Kita from the walled island city. She knows about the island and how dangerous it is, but after a mishap involving her doll, she gets stuck outside the city wall and has to get back in somehow. And on Skull Island, nothing’s ever easy.
I’ve been meaning to hone my brushwork, so I finally drew a picture from our stories. Here’s Kita and her doll getting swept out to sea in the throes of a suprised python at the base of the city wall. (Just before this, she was riding a giant ant through the jungle, which I think I’ll draw next.)
In other news, I have been absolutely LOVING the novel ‘Titus Groan’, the first of the Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake. The story is about a handful of characters living their day-to-day lives within the massive, sprawling (like, city-sized) castle of Gormenghast. I had first heard about this series in a book called, appropriately enough, ‘Castles’ illustrated by one of my art heroes, Alan Lee. ‘Castles’ is a kind of visual encycopedia of famous castles from world fiction and mythology, and Gormenghast caught my attention due to its description of castle-as-world instead of a simple building within a larger story. But Castles didn’t prepare me for the oppressively sumptuous writing this book contains. Peake is a wordcrafter. He is a sentence-sculptor; a paragraph alchemist. He wields English like a sensual brush dripping with dark, brooding intensity. There are no words to describe his words.
The book begins as playful, even cartoonish, and then begins to twist and wrap itself around itself; simple caricatures of characters so idiotic in their exaggerated weirdness gradually solidifying into intensely, horribly fleshed-out individual personalities much deeper than you are prepared to be faced with. And the description! The metaphors and similes, the alliterations and onomatopoeia… It’s like drinking a book made out of dark, spooky, ancient wine made from fruit you’ve never heard of before because it’s from a black hole. It is a gothic, somber beauty, made even more impressive after seeing Peakes original sketches of his characters. For the love of all that’s literary, go look at them, man! He was a writer-artist, of a sort not seen very often at all. And certainly not in 1946! It’s like e. e. cummings and H. P. Lovecraft went to William Burroughs’ opium den together and came out with a book-baby, delivered by Dr. Seuss. And then it’s… not like that at all.
Anyway, it’s (insert hugely understated superlative here).