Under the Microscope
A Short Story by John Updike
Published between 1953-1975
Illustrated by Laura Burris
Under the Microscope is an inquisitive story about plankton mingling at a fancy house party. Set in a microscopic pool, Carlyle Cyclops – a humble, yet well-known writer – has been invited by his extravagant friend, Delores Daphnia, to wine and dine with the pond’s finest. As Carlyle makes his way around he meets an emotional young water-mite, and a bothersome fan of his work. Amongst the guests is an odd juxtapose of cannibalism and sophistication as the reality of their barbaric nature may parallel our own human culture. Although Carlyle has a unique understanding of and appreciation for life, he mostly observes the surrounding chaos with muted detachment, until he too is eaten out of pity.
Character Description – Carlyle Cyclops
Carlyle is a Copepod. He is of medium build with a transparent, bluish-green shell exterior and spidery limbs. His one large eye and thin mouth effectively express his observant, thoughtful personality. As he analyzes the horrors and beauties of life, his hopefulness for the plankton race is clouded by all he sees.
Background Description & Development
What I hope to illustrate is an elaborately hip, mid-century home with scientific influence. The watery environments’s natural colors will create the ambiance of the setting while odd-shaped furniture and prints complete the decor. I want the characters to be more prominent than their surroundings, so I plan to use watercolor for the background and gouache for the plankton.
The overall look is a plankton’s attempt to cover up the murkiness of their pond with fashion & sophistication… which makes for a funky atmosphere.
Character Modifications: I have made a style change of the characters. I think it better suits the story and environment that my characters will interact with. My characters are wanderers of the wasteland outside of the city. Their outfits makes their facial features and gender ambiguous. They are outfitted to be very mobile and protected from the harsh elements outside of the city. Civilization still resides within these mega cities, but the characters will remain in the wastelands. I have directed my style choices much more towards my inspiration, the game Journey.
I have included a few pages of my Midterm Project Review into the images below.
Update: Since brainstorming about landscape concepts, my story has taken a different turn. I want to make it more intricate and large scale than what I posted previously.
Landscape/Background Description: This tale takes place in 2136. Overpopulation and pollution has changed our lives as a human race and Earth’ terrain has been reshaped. Rural areas and oceans have become wastelands that were destroyed from the ancestors’ improper disposal/treatment practices. They are toxic and barren. All people have flocked to the cities which have grown into the sky. Most consist of several levels. Three to seven layers is typical. Each level is split into districts. Depending on the level and district which you reside that represents your place in the class stratification and employment. There is free movement among districts, but between levels is more difficult. There is overwhelming stigmatization between people of different levels, which makes it almost unbearable to be in a foreign level. To reach the highest level, citizens need clearance and qualifications to reside or travel into. Each level is very distinct. The lower levels receive less sunlight; have less greenery; are dirtier and grungier; their technology decreases in sophistication; etc, etc.(more dull colors). The higher levels see more natural light; have much more greenery; are cleaner; more advanced technology; etc, etc.(more vibrant colors). Democracy is the dominant governmental style in the world, but corruption is very prominent. So, there is a sense of “free” but it’s not something people can really take advantage of. Moving up in levels and status is extremely rare, but moving down is common place. Some people become wanderers of the wasteland, but its high risk of casualties. It’s possible to travel between cities by air or underground means, but it’s very problematic and expensive to do so. Furthermore, most cities are a melting pot of races and ethnicities, which each have their own majority in each level. Also, each city is dedicated to a certain kind of production (water purifying, recycling, agriculture, factories, education, etc.) and placed at strategic areas around the world. This story is at an education city on the continent that used to be called the USA. (Side Note: The landscape/ background is still under construction and not completely conceptualized.)
Plot & Character Modifications: Sade will have lived on a lower level in the education city for all her life and travel around by bike/parkour. She is comfortable with the city with all its beauty and ugliness. She is unafraid and the exploration type. She learns the inner workings and spirit of this city, but has never wanted more than what she is given. On the other hand, Dez has moved from another city to this particular metropolis with her family and they reside on a very high level. Dez travels by a very high tech car and is very intimidated by the city, but not scared of corporate side of these cities. She seems to be born to succeed and reach higher levels of society. By the wishes of lady luck, Sade’s bike gets devastated one day as she was venturing around a higher level (her reasons for being there are unknown currently. I’m still working out the details). Dez sees her carrying her destroyed bike and decides to give a helping hand. They talk and are completely intrigued by one another and this leads to their companionship. They battle to not be ripped apart by class/status, ethnicity/race, values/beliefs, etc. Also, through this relationship more large scale issues are addressed and observed such as the wastelands, city levels, city production assignments, stigma, etc. (Side Note: Also, currently under construction.)
Title: Adventures in Arabland
Plot Summary: It’s an unusual love tale between two girls who come from completely opposing cultures. Sade is American and Dez is Arab. Their story begins after Dez and her family move to America. She attends horse riding lessons to maintain her previous acquired skills from the Middle East and experiences her first encounter with Sade. They spark a powerful connection and start a new chapter in life as a couple. Disaster finds the new lovers fast forces them to face everything they ever knew to be true and valued. They clash on the deepest of levels and get thrown into each others’ alien world. Every day is a trial of pain, misunderstanding, and loneliness. Until one day, the connection snaps and Dez cheats on Sade in desperation to escape the torment. The last bits of themselves shatter and deteriorate. Amongst the pieces, they see each other with new eyes and holds hands in the wreckage of their lives.
Sade: She is a 20 year old girl who is average height and weight. Also, she is athletic and muscular. Sade is physically powerful, but too kind and timid to ever use it against someone. She is very casual in her clothing choices and is very tomboyish in her demeanor. Sade is very intelligent, but she isn’t that great at making beneficial life decisions. She is patient and open minded, but very stubborn when dealing with change in her routine. Sade is feminine in mannerisms/ behavior, but slightly more masculine in appearance. She thinks deeply whenever she walks and is more silent than not.
Dez: She is 19 year old girl who is average height and very slender. She is weaker and more fragile physically, but her personality makes up for it. She is loud, ambitious, and a conversationalist. She is not afraid of a little conflict as long as she doesn’t feels completely vulnerable. Dez is very stylish and unique in her clothing. She is opinionated and confident. She is the opposite of Sade in the sense that she masculine in mannerisms/behavior and slightly more feminine in appearance. Also, Dez is very intelligent and motivated for greatness. She is a born leader, but sometimes on the strict side.
Author: Mary Shelley
Frankenstein, the story of a brilliant young scientist from Geneva, Victor Frankenstein, who, in the late 1700’s brings his creation to life, only to be terrified of it and the implications of its existence. He abandons his creation, which flees into the wilderness, where it finds a place to hide, and to learn.
Finding all humans as cruel to him as his creator, he seeks out the one who made him, in an effort to convince him to create a female companion, so that they may live together in peace, far from man.
Victor agrees to do so, but destroys the female on the verge of giving her life – the creature, enraged by Victors treachery, vows suffering and revenge on Victor. One by one, the creature kills off those whom Victor loves most; his brother, his friend, and finally, in an emotional climax to the story, his bride.
Driven to obsession, Victor hunts the creature down, traversing the world, and ending up in the deep frozen wastes of the far north. Here, he is rescued by a polar expedition, to whom he relays his tale. As his health is almost gone at the time of his rescue, Victor finally succumbs to death on the ship, before finishing his task of destroying the creature he brought into this world. As the creation views the corpse of his creator, within the sh
ip, he realizes his self-loathing at his own deeds, and decides to join his creator in death, in the cold, frozen seas of the far north.
Victor Frankenstein: a highly intelligent, energetic man at the outset of the tale. He tends to obsession, as he drains himself to illness in the efforts made to create life. He never fully recovers during the course of the story, and by the end of the story, he’s spent nearly all his energy and being on pursuing the creature – for much of the story, he’s thin and intense. He sets himself about with energy, and isn’t prone to moodiness or depression when he’s his “normal” self. When in the throes of his obsession, he’s dour, moody, anti-social, and, well, obsessed.
He dresses in a manner of his time and age – he’s a gentleman at the turn of the century, educated and proper. He has the financial means to dress properly according to the task at hand – be it the laboratory, or running a dogsled across miles of empty ice sheets.
The Creature: he is tall, eight feet or so in height, proportioned quite similarly to a human male. His hair is long, and black, but his skin is taught, yellowish, and thin. His eyes are a watery, pale yellow, his teeth are white, and his lips are black. He’s described as hideous, but exactly how is never mentioned directly.
He’s a highly intelligent being, self taught in speaking and reading. He is strong, supple, highly resistant to the elements, and able to exist on minimal nutrition for extended periods of time. As intelligent as he is, he never bothers to acquire more clothing than some of Victors clothes he took when he escaped the lab, and a large cloak he finds in his early travels, except at the end of the story, as they’re chasing one another out on the desert of ice.
The story of Frankenstein traverses the span of years, and many seasons therein. However, most of the more emotionally charged scenes, and especially those I am choosing for my project, take place during the colder, more solemn months of the year – late autumn, and the depths of winter. A small apartment in Geneva, Switzerland, in early winter is where the creature first comes to life, in a makeshift laboratory of Victor Frankenstein’s doing. The lighting is low, as befits the later hours in a winters day, and the colors are muted or missing altogether in such light. A year later, in the mountainous Alps of Switzerland, the creature and Frankenstein meet again, the ominous foreboding of the low clouds, drizzling rain, and creeping glacial ice of their location setting a dark, dismal mood for the reunion. Rock and ice, with a smattering of stunted pines set the color scheme. Years later, after an exhaustive pursuit of the creature, Victor finally dies on board an ice-bound ship of exploration, bound for the northern polar regions of the globe. The creature, having slipped aboard unseen, hovers over the body of his maker, voicing his satisfaction and regret for all his existence has been. It is below decks, in a darkened setting, lit by only small lanterns or candles – the shadows are deep, huge, and oppressive.
The world in which this story takes place is our own, but the age is that of the late 1700’s – the architecture, tools, and clothing of that time are applicable. Sailing vessels are of wood and canvas, and land transportation is of a simple nature: horses, carriages, and in the case of traversing the ice fields of the north, dog sleds.
The tools of animation with which Victor brings his creation to life are never mentioned, as he vehemently defends his desire to never have another creature rise to life from his methods. So, in this instance I’ll take some artistic license in possibilities of what might be present in his laboratory. Galvanic tools, as well as chemical and mechanical apparatus will be present in properly mysterious forms.
Soar Like an Eagle; Run Like a Chicken
An autobiographical story by Steve Rice
Dragbike.com August 1997
Illustrated by Steve Rice
Soar Like an Eagle; Run Like a Chicken is an autobiographic story of three friends who were serving in the United States Army, a story of thrills, adventure and terror. This story takes place during the summer of 1974 set in the West Texas city of El Paso in the farming and orchard areas near the Rio Grande River. Beginning with how boredom and poverty leaves soldiers lonely and bored, on payday weekends the friends would head out for adventures and motorcycle rides. Picking up girls, driving fast and taking chances, having run ins with local residents and police usually accompanies Steve, Dave and Ken on the weekend adventures, this particular weekend the adventure was more than Steve had bargained for.
Soldier, 19 years old, military hair cut parted in the middle, when not on duty usually wears civilian clothes with the highly polished boots that were issued to him when he first joined the service. Blue jeans were not new and showed signs of wear. While in uniform he tries to be a good soldier but when he is off duty his ego, belief in his immortality and good looking demeanor could get him out of any trouble that he might get in.
14 year old girl, long blonde hair, short pants, her father is a staff sergeant in the Army so she is referred to as an “Army Brat”, her parents don’t really keep track of her comings and goings they only want to know that she is OK. Mary is just coming into her own and discovering that she has female parts and that they can be used to garner the attention of those around her.
Almond orchards located on the south western side of El Paso, Texas where mountains are rugged and the desert floors are very flat, there are surrounding housing developments and larger ranches.
Hot summer day, late morning to early afternoon there are no clouds in the sky with the typical West Texas wind blowing. Set on a two lane road that goes through the Almond orchards ending in recently built housing developments. Trees line both sides of the narrow street with their branches reaching to meet each other at the center of the street. Trees grow on the sides of the roads with no fencing or shoulder on the road, irrigation piping is laid across the orchards crossing the streets. Pavement is laid over the top of the irrigation forming “humps” in the road.
Housing developments are recently built (within the last ten years) in the typical “ranch” style that is popular in the area, single level homes with large yards where residents keep their cars in driveways and RV’s along the side of the houses. Since the area is close to the Rio Grande River where there are incidents of illegal aliens and Continue Reading
Advanced students in OCC’s Illustration Certificate Program are working on semester-long sequential art projects. They will be posting their progress here, and you can follow them as they develop characters, environments and scenes corresponding to their stories! Check back on each student’s post to see their progress and finished set of illustrations as the semester is completed.