October 30, 2012
As you may have noticed, I usually work quickly and often say things like, "Went home for lunch today and whipped out an illustration before coming back to work." Well, here's an example of the opposite. Got up this morning and finished an illustration I started in 1999:
This was a failed illustration that I kept in my studio for the past 13 years because Essdee scratcboard is quite expensive ($22 a sheet) and I thought I would salvage the board by cutting it up into pieces. This morning I took a look at it and realized it had some merit. So, I sat down and quickly finished it and brought it into the office to use in an upcoming True West Moment on the myth of shooting the gun out of an outlaw's hand.
i really hated it as a kid when Hoppy, Gene or Roy (especially Roy!) would not kill the bad guy, but instead shot the gun out his hand. I felt cheated. I loved it when the bad guy got his. This hand deal, of course, came about because little boys like me really enjoyed when bad guys got plugged and this upset our mothers to no end. They had a receptive ear in Hollywood through the Hays Code and with the rise in juvenile crime in the 1950s (Blackboard Jungle anyone?) certain rules came down: you couldn't show a gun being fired and a person reacting to the bullet in the same shot. I'm not kidding. Oh, and no blood. Couldn't show it. Too unseemly.
I believe this is where the Western cliche "You got me!" came from. They had to insert a line to make sure the audience understood a baddie had actually been hit by a bullet!
Anyway, when Sergio Leone was filming A Fistful of Dollars with Clint Eastwood, not only was Leone showing bad guys being shot in the same frame (sometimes three or four at a time!) but he amped up the carnage by using the audio of rifle fire for pistols and cannons (yes cannons!) for rifle shots. No wonder Baby Boomers like me went ape over Spaghetti Westerns. They weren't lame like American TV Westerns. Of course with the success of the Italian Westerns, the Hays Code got crushed in the stampede to emulate the success of the Italians.
But I digress.
I got a plum assignment to do six special collection Coors beer cans in 1999. The theme was Old West Legends and the Integer Group out of Denver created the copy emulating Dime Novels of the 1800s. I bailed in and executed very ambitious scratchboards for each one. In fact, they were too ambitious and the Integer Group had trouble reducing my fine line scratchboards down to fit on a beer can. I think the art director wanted to throttle me. In fact, it almost kaboshed the entire project. Anyway, here is the illustration they ended up using on the can for Buck Taylor:
The copy on the side of the can says, "Buck spun around and with brutal precision, shot through Tiger Tom's firing hand."
I actually like the version I finished today over this one but the honchos at Coors wanted a more cliche version of shooting the gun out the bad guy's hand. I tried to argue this was an invention of the 1940s and 1950s and didn't exist in the 1880s but guess who won that argument?
"I am an old woman, named after my mother, my old man is another child that's grown old. . ."
—John Prine, Angel From Montgomery