Wednesday 2 December 2009

Cloud 109 - The Ninth Instalment

Well it's Wednesday and the one day of the week when my Blog subject is pre-ordained as it's time to catch up with the doings of Gina, Cary and Rabby, who have been subject to a series of weird and dangerous happenings within the portals of the cyber world of Cloud 109 where they spend so much of their time. Cary has informed the rest of the trio, that the source of the grief is a virus that has affected the whole of the Cloud 109 site.

So here's page 8 as an aide memoire and hard upon it's heels is page 9 where they re-enter the Cloud 109 cyber lounge and listen to site controller Madge Crumb's reassurances, is this woman on the level? The earlier pages are at weekly intervals throughout this blog - hope you enjoy today's page.

I was working over the weekend on one of three pages currently in production and as is my wont as this page is particularly dark, I was hoovering up various bits of reference for creepy lighting efx and bizarre references to add into the background. In particular if you note the grinning head down at the bottom of my work page, I recalled the thrill of horror I experienced when as a callow youth leafing through a copy of Forrest J. Ackerman's "Famous Monsters of Filmland", I stumbled over a photograph of Conrad Veidt in the title role of "The Man Who Laughs".

The film concerns the story of a man who as a child is subject to a weird mutilation whereby a hideous grin is carved onto his face. The story is one of those masterpieces of silent cinema and Veidt who was a truly brilliant actor, conveys much of the passion and angst of his role through his eyes hiding the lower part of his face with a cloak. The moments when he does reveal his disfigurement are truly chilling, much in the way that Lon Chaney's unmasking in "The Phantom of the Opera" does.

So thinking about both Veidt and Chaney, I reflected on the lengths to which these guys would go to not only psych themselves up for the roles they undertook but also inflict pain and discomfort on themselves to add that little bit extra to their performance. In the case of Veidt's portrayal of Gwynplaine in "The Man Who Laughs', he wore a set of false teeth that were so constructed that they forced his cheeks back into a truly hideous rictus grin.

The results were so unsettling that cinema audiences experienced that delicious mix of repulsion yet fascination and it evidently seems to have been a source of inspiration for the young comic creators Bob Kane and Bill Finger some ten years later.


  1. Peter, that's another fascinating post. So *that* was where the idea for the Joker came from! I too used to feed my childhood imagination on the heady brew of FMOF (Forry Ackerman RIP).

    Talking of the lengths Chaney Sr would go to, in one film (The Penalty) he strapped his legs back at the knee to play a crippled war veteran using an army of beggars to take over the criminal underworld. Chaney would apparently stay strapped up like that throughout filming, moving around the set by swinging on ropes and bannisters to get into character as this insane evil genius. Makes my knees creak just to think of it :)

  2. I remember one issue of FMOF where there was a page of photos of Chaney senior in all his different guises - totally amazing. He used to use tape to stretch and distort his face, egg whites to make his eyes opaque and in "London After Midnight"he devised a pair of wire monocles that literally stretched his eyes open creating a truly ghastly apparition.

    Sadly "London After Midnight"is one of those lost treasures of the silent cinema the last known surviving copy disappearing in a studio fire in 1965. Although there have been recent rumours of it's discovery under the alias of "The Hypnotist", whether this is yet another wind up and whether if it isn't it actually lives up to the hype is debatable.

    I remember old Forry used to put really cheesy one liners under a lot of the photos they ran in FMOF, when he ran a pictures feature from the film concerned he titled it "Some pictures showing you what Lon done after Midnight".

    Ackerman did actually appear on Jonathan Ross - The Last Resort when Ross was still working at Channel 4 and his show was really entertaining and very diverse and he could indulge some of his passions such as comic collecting and trash esoterica.

  3. whoaa...this is very awesome

  4. Thanks for the kind words Tyler, just checked out your blog and I'd definitely return the compliment - awesome verging on "the other".

    Definite feeling of David Lynch meets Francis Bacon to your latest posting.

  5. Lovely pages really nice to see your process, I lack the patience and precision for multiple layers and photo ref.

  6. I know James, there's times I wish my work process was a bit more pragmatic. There was a time some fifteen years ago when I was doing a strip for IPC which was a comic adaptation of a game called "Streets of Rage" and I used to aim to get 5 full colour pages done a week.

    I might take my courage in both hands and post some of them here - very different style wise.

  7. Five. Full. Colour. Pages??! Wow. I was reading Pat Mills in the latest Charley's War book and he figured 3 pages of b&w art were pretty good going. If you do feel like showing off some of those old pages, Peter, I for one would be very interested.

  8. Oh Lordy!

    I'll have a think about it Dave...