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Monthly Archives: November 2016

jericho-3Welcome to Jaywalks is Jericho! It’s none other than ‘Y2J’ Chris Jericho up next in our tussle with WWF superstars, no doubt to save the series from the boring wannabes who have come before him.

That would be just as he arrived to save the WWF in late 1999, after several years presumably propping up WCW, and before that ECW. Jericho’s debut was much hyped, teased with a series of clocks gradually counting down to the ‘millennium’. When the timer appeared and finally hit zero, our new hero and party host arrived! Not only that, he had the gumption to interrupt The Rock, and next week, The Undertaker and Paul Bearer were on the receiving end of Jericho’s sass. ‘Y2J’ may have been cocky, but he was at least seen to have guts in cutting off two of the WWF’s biggest and most intimidating figures.

The reaction to his debut was so vocal, and his microphone work so fantastically entertaining, that it really wasn’t long before fans were cheering him. In fact, they had to put him in a feud with Chyna to try and stop fans from cheering him so soon. When it didn’t work, they put the two together and kick-started his run as a good guy. Over the next couple of years, Chris would elevate to the point where, really, there was only The Rock above him in terms of popularity. On one occasion, he even beat Triple H for the World Championship, but sadly ‘The Game’ used his backstage sway to have the decision immediately reversed, much to the crowd’s dismay. The two would go onto have a cracker of a feud, culminating in a brutal Last Man Standing match where, even in loss, Chris Jericho was with great success shown to be far, far more than a comedy character or runt.

Having notched up a glut of title reigns by December 2001, Jericho was credibly entered into a tournament to unify the now-defunct WCW Championship with the WWF Championship. Y2J had lost the love of a lot of fans by this point, clashing with The Rock over the former belt for a few months prior. But at Vengeance, Jericho was able to worm his way past both Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin, pinning both on the same night to become the first ever Undisputed Champion. Sadly, Jericho’s run here was less than brilliant, for, as soon as HHH returned, we all knew what was going to happen, and their rivalry paled in comparison to their 2000 battle.

After losing the title to Helmsley at WrestleMania 18, Jericho seemed to flounder somewhat. It seemed that he was a victim of a very bloated roster. But he’d go one to have a great feud with Shawn Michaels, his own boyhood hero, culminating in a fondly-remembered tussle at WrestleMania 19. He would drift in and out of the title picture for the next couple of years, ultimately notching up a record nine Intercontinental championships before leaving WWE in 2005. He’d return in 2008, though, and I’m pleased to read that he had another stellar feud with Michaels and has bagged a handful of World Title reigns. He still competes to this day, juggling wrestling with acting, music with his band Fozzy, and television presenting.

We’re surely not supposed to believe that Jericho arrived to save the WWF, but in a way, he did. Looking back, there’s a definite sense of shift when Chris arrives on Raw – the product becomes inherently better for him being a part of it, and furthermore, his debut beckons the imminent coming of several young performers utterly wasted in WCW – Eddie Guerrero, Chris Benoit, Perry Saturn, among others. Throw olympian Kurt Angle into the mix, together with a fantastic tag team division, and you had a batch of excellent wrestlers who were stealing the show in the mid-card. It made each event so much more exciting, for it was not just the main event that you cared about, but every match. WCW simply could not compete, just as few can compete with Jericho when it comes to performing – how heartening indeed to observe his success in the WWF, ‘breaking down the walls’ to become the star he knew he could be.

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babyfreddie-0This beaming little boy had no idea that he would one day connect with so many. No idea of the rock-and-roll lifestyle that lie ahead – and with all that it entailed  – en route to recognition as the supreme showman.

No idea that he’d become Freddie Mercury.

As we reach twenty-five years without Freddie, it seems to me that the best way to counter any sadness is to just watch him perform. What a legacy this little boy would leave.

astroboy-5In a change to the usual – never a bad thing – I was asked by un ami to create a drawing based on the titular character of the Astro Boy manga series, specifically the 2003 incarnation. The series has been around since 1951, with the first TV adaptations coming just over a decade later. Their visual direction embodied the anime aesthetic, and indeed Astro Boy is considered the first of that style to enjoy global success.

The series is set in the now not-so-distant universe of 2043, where robots and humans coexist. Astro himself is an android, equipped with immense powers and unmatched intelligence. Devotedly modelled by Dr. Tenma after his late son, he was initially shut down during development, after the doctor noted the ill treatment superceded robots received, drawing parallels to his initial loss. When Tenma later disappears, Astro is discovered by another professor, who revives him and attempts to gift him a normal robotic existence. Beside a no-nonsense career fighting off rogue robots and humans, Astro must also try to find out the truth about his elusive father. Compelling stuff.

Naturally, it was the aforementioned arsenal of powers that formed the basis of the drawing. Astro packs a cannon in one arm, a super-powerful beam in the other, and soars into the sky with the help of rocket booster boots. All that impressive stuff, but can he put some trousers on…?

The character drawing itself was a fairly simple vector process, completed in Illustrator and then taken into Photoshop for shading and then experimentation of backgrounds. Some were geared to a more simple end, others a more in-depth attempt at reflecting the universe. In fact, the second piece you see above makes nifty reuse of a skyline created for a redux of the legendary Blockbusters title sequence, one of my first ventures into animation. An interesting result came of it, but I think the understated variations come off far better.

This process meant that what was a single drawing mutated into several! Photoshop’s often-ominous filters came in very handy here, with cutout effects and motion blurs giving a suitable backdrop for the art direction – I particularly like the results seen below.

The impact of Astro’s artillery also prompted some fun with lighting, too, giving some pleasing variety across the developments. I don’t think my Astros can quite tangle with the beauty of his anime counterpart, but nevertheless they came out better than expected.

Having not done a vector character since Sonic’s Grounder back in April, this was a welcome revisit. As always, it was heartening to do it for someone else, and to respond to a completely new world. ‘Twas a good few days!

bigbossman-3Uh oh, looks as if we’re in for some hard times! Having dished out punishment as bodyguard Big Bubba in Jim Crockett Promotions and UWF, Ray Traylor morphed into law enforcer in 1988, appearing in the WWF as The Big Boss Man. At six-foot-six and nearly three hundred pounds, hopes weren’t high for those pitted against Boss Man – they became even less when, after the punishing offence, he’d  brandish his trusty nightstick, ball-and-chain and handcuffs. Police brutality indeed, and certainly a hard-hitting gimmick for a superstar of 1988 WWF to be given.

The Boss Man’s presence and rampant dominance meant that an encounter with Hulk Hogan was inevitable – Hulkamania was the target of all the monsters, bar none. Coupled with another huge man, Akeem, the pair became known as The Twin Towers and set their sights on the red and yellow icon. Hogan was teaming with Randy Savage at the time, and as a consequence The Boss Man was given several really entertaining matches with ‘The Macho Man’ over the World Title, besides some big cage matches with Hulk. Though The Twin Towers were materially unsuccessful, their meddling in the affairs of Hogan and Savage would lead to their disbanding and eventual face-off at WrestleMania V.

Continuing to brutalise the opposition throughout 1989, The Big Boss Man came to the attention of ‘Million Dollar Man’ Ted DiBiase, who rather liked the idea of owning a crooked cop. When Boss Man refused DiBiase’s handsome payments, he won over the crowd and became a fan favourite. Splitting from Akeem – and beating him at WrestleMania VI – he adopted a purer pursuit of justice, saving the beatings only for the WWF’s real evildoers. Like The Mountie, a crooked Canadian cop, whom he beat in the first ever (and only) Jailhouse Match at SummerSlam 1991, sending his toppled foe off to prison for the night.

Boss Man (sadly) spent much of 1992 battling Nailz, a deranged ex-convict who apparently arrived in the WWF specifically to get revenge on the law enforcer, subjecting him to beatings that were characteristic of his own villainous roots. The feud finally ended at November’s Survivor Series, with justice prevailing in a Nightstick Match.

He disappeared from WWF in early 1993, spending five years in WCW with a character that began as a near-identical retread of the Big Boss Man mould. One wonders how WCW managed to get away with that; was it because he was wearing a black shirt instead of blue? Hmm!

He’d be back in the Federation by late 1998, initially under a balaclava and mostly serving as a hired gun for the dominating ‘Corporation’ faction, headed by owner, Vince McMahon. His gimmick now able to get really brutal in line with the change in product, he gelled perfectly with the hardcore division, and he was a multiple-time Hardcore champion. This being said, he still mingled with the top stars, engaging in rivalries with Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock and The Big Show over the WWF title.

When the hardcore product started to fizzle out in the early 2000s, many of its associated performers did too, Boss Man being one of them. He had a last hurrah, again under the employ of McMahon against Stone Cold in 2002, but after that he retired to behind the scenes, working with up-and-coming talent. Sadly he would die of a heart attack just a couple of years later, at only forty-two.

Traylor knew how to play the crowd, particularly as a corrupt lawman, and even though some of his outings are looked back on less than fondly – being hanged by The Undertaker at WrestleMania XV… yes, really – one cannot fault Traylor’s commitment to the role and each of the wacky plots he was thrown into. I’ve no doubt that’s a big reason why he was continually rewarded with such strong billing. He certainly commands respect – and well, I suppose those that don’t give it him can expect hard times!

cottage0040Wandering around these vast expanses of broadland, there’s always the chance that you’ll come through the reeds and trees only to uncover the hidden retreat of someone despicably fortunate. Amidst the awe and reward is a spot of panic, hoping that said fortunate person isn’t in, and hasn’t spotted you foraying into their quarters before you can make yourself scarce. This has been me a couple of times – apparently, I’m blind to ‘PRIVATE’ signs. What can I say? Ever curious!

Naturally, you’ll often find these just beside the mills I’ve been focusing on. They were the shelter for the millers now long gone, and so they surely hold as much historical value as the twirling towers beside them. With that in mind, and in yearning for something a little different, I set about focusing on this. This isn’t any particular cottage or mill, more a collation of various inspirations and references, with some personal touches to make for a (hopefully!) grand design.

It looks in pretty good nick, but I don’t see a ‘PRIVATE’ sign anywhere, do you…? Why, then, let’s try the door! I wonder what it’s like inside? What can you see from the upper windows?

cottage0043I only have a pair of fully-rendered, hi-res shots for you, for this was a truly arduous render session. It’s the tree’s what done it, coupled with, probably, a great deal of inefficiency on my part. The close-up took ninety minutes, the wider one three-and-a-quarter hours, with much of the first freezing the computer completely. I was seconds away from shutting it down and abandoning the idea when it kicked back into life and showed me what it’d been doing!

Slightly wary of these extended drags, I thought better of running any more out. I’ve removed the greedy trees for a simple render below, just to give an idea of what the garden looks like (without its trees, of course!). You aren’t really missing that much:

cottage0094aWhat of the gated pathway in the foreground? That was going to wind through some trees, crossing a stream to get to the mill. I didn’t bother rendering even a simple shot of this area, as it really isn’t anything without the realistic vegetation. But I was going for a similar look to this shot from my Old Mill scene:

waterway58_0061Appropriately enough, when activating the renderer – and before its mammoth freeze – I headed to my music library to pass some time. What should the shuffle function plump for to kick off? It’s Going To Take Some Time, of course! How prescient. Naturally, it was the cover by The Carpenters, but there’s the original by Carole King if you’d prefer. Both are marvellous. But I digress! For all its torment, it was great fun building my own little cottage on the Broads.

rvd-6Our next grappler comes at the request of Korey at Let’s Talk Wrestling. Here is Rob Van Dam – “The Whole F’n Show”, “Mr. Pay-Per-View”, “Mr. Monday Night”, RVD fans certainly have a wealth of nicknames to choose from!

Van Dam is a fine candidate for recognition, for he was one one of the most technically-gifted athletes I can remember from my time as a fan. His skills in karate, Tae Kwan Do, Aikido, Kendo and kick-boxing legitimise him as far more than a sports entertainer – indeed, legend has it that, on starting out in 1990, his ring-name was given to him on the basis that his talents could test the likes of Jean-Claude Van Damme. Praise indeed.

But the required entertainment was there in bucket-loads, too. As well as being so well-equipped on the fighting side of things, RVD oozed charisma to the extent that, once established, it was virtually impossible for him to be placed in a villainous role; the crowd were so devotedly behind him, they’d cheer him and boo the good guy. It seemed his cool, laid-back demeanour was impossible to dislike. Evidenced in 1997, when, two years into his tenure at ECW, the ambitious Van Dam ‘invaded’ the WWF’s Monday Night Raw programme, hence earning the titular moniker. The fans loved him, but sadly the curious ‘invasion’ was short-lived, and he went back to Philadelphia.

But he’d be back. When the WWF were bringing in new blood under the guise of a WCW/ECW invasion in 2001 – the WWF had in fact bought out the two rival promotions earlier in the year – Federation fans were cheering Van Dam as he took it to their men with his bewitching blend of technical and smash-mouth hardcore wrestling. It was quite extraordinary to me at the time. While the Invasion angle was largely a misfire in the extreme, Van Dam came out of it looking very strong indeed.

Once in the WWF limelight, his popularity would soar to its highest heights and he would go on to challenge for the World Heavyweight Championship in 2002. Van Dam at this point has been named ‘No.1 Wrestler in the World’ by a Pro Wrestling Illustrated poll. This seems, therefore, like this should have been RVD’s time, but, for whatever reason, Triple H kept his mitts on the strap, kicking off a period not-so-fondly remembered as ‘The Reign of Terror’.

It could be argued, though, that Van Dam never really needed a big championship. He was still huge, and his popularity never really seemed to wane – certainly not in the time that I was following the product – meaning he was always at the top of the bill even when not gunning for gold. He did eventually win the now-WWE Championship in 2006 – this strikes me as a little late, but nevertheless it’s sweet that he finally got to the top. Though he left in 2007, he returned to WWE briefly in 2013, showing no sign of slowing down and taking down Cesaro at SummerSlam.

These days, Van Dam is semi-retired, but that in itself means that any day now he could be back and bolting around the ring, quick as a hiccup, or flying off the top rope with his Frog Splash. Regardless, the legacy is already there; perhaps the most iconic ECW up-and-comer of all, a star in WWE – of all the nicknames acquired over his twenty-five year career, I’d think The Whole F’n Show not in the slightest unjust.

horningferry3As the night winds howl and rain lashes mercilessly against the window, it seemed that a return to the perma-sunny 3D mill-scape was called for. And what a radiant specimen we have on this particular trip!

Horning Ferry Mill is a smock mill, built in the mid nineteenth century. Perched beside the River Bure, it was a fairly standard model, working for around fifty years before retirement. It was saved from dereliction in the 1930s and restored for residential use – it still operates today as holiday accommodation, I’m sure a hot pick in one of the most popular locations on the Broads. A large octagonal floor was built around the structure, with the smock weatherboarding rather cutely ‘flared’ out to meld with its new surroundings. Bathed in white and replete with simple, toy-like charm, Horning Ferry certainly has an aesthetic edge over its neighbours.

They even based Anneka Rice outside the mill for the Norfolk episode of Treasure Hunt!

horningferry2That appeal has long been in mind, as has this project. I think it purely was the curvature of the tower that had put me off doing this long ago. Happily, it turned out to be relatively straightforward; the Loft tools allowed a sequence of smoothly shrinking octagons to describe as needed. It’s gradient may be slightly off, but the process worked, and that’s enough for me!

There are still some battles going on with the Physical Sky configurations, however – I’m still not quite sure why the mill itself is so bright, but the trees so dark. Hmm! Still, never mind – lots of fun had. I don’t think I’ve ever actually visited this mill – come to think of it, I’m not sure I’ve even been to Horning. Shameful indeed – I must rectify this, but perhaps I’ll wait a little while until the weather’s a touch friendlier!

horningferry1