Doug TenNapel: Mr. Influence
His name is Doug, I speak about him frequently. From my childhood, I held a bond with him that I was greatly unaware of. I loved Earthworm Jim, in fact I rented the VHS cassettes of select episodes on a regular basis. Hey, I rented the games too, but they were admittedly beyond hard, but they should be. I think if my connection with Doug had ended with the worm, then I would have never become so attached as an adult.
What drew me in the most was The Neverhood. What a game! Truth be told, I was afraid of it as a child. The game starts with some brilliant Terry Taylor music and a frightening laugh that used to deter me, but I eventually got interested in it. My father bought it at an auction, if I recall correctly. It came with the computer we had at the time, as well as a few other games. It sat off to the side for a few years until I realized I hadn’t given it a fair chance.
One afternoon I dug out that game and sat down with a good friend of mine. We couldn’t stop and wound up playing until it was finished. Dawn was peeking through our window before we saw and end to it. It was an addictive and exhilarating experience. The Neverhood was creepy with the fact that it was empty but still so full of life. That could have been the facet that kept the game rolling, puzzle after puzzle.
I made a connection that evening that I just couldn’t sever. Throughout high school I attended many art classes. From time to time, a rendition of Klaymen had found it’s way into my work. During ceramics courses, I would make small Neverhoodian models and littered my parent’s basement with them. As a senior I even made a little stapled together comic as a sequel before I had learned about Skull Monkeys.
Through college I learned much more about the Neverhood and it’s fascinating creator, Doug. I started picking up graphic novels and before long I was feeling compelled. I started a low quality comic called Masquerade that can be found by creeping my Facebook. I’ve never finished it, but it’s something that I’ve labeled as finishing “eventually”.
A few years later Doug showed me the joys of webcomic with Ratfist. It illuminated my day every morning as I got to my Vampires Literature class early just to be one of the first people lucky enough to comment on the new page. It started to mesh with my learning. I sat in the class thinking about Ratfist and learning about Dracula, Buffy, and what tragedies Twilight caused. Clearly these moments were making the gears in my head crank forward.
Alice was not simply a byproduct of this situation, though. The main story had been something I was dreaming about and doodling for some time, and I was just looking for direction, I guess. I knew I wanted to draw a comic, especially since I had visited the medium before. Over the past few years I had scripts written and Ideas tossed around, not to mention Masquerade, but I hadn’t had something I wanted to push forward as badly as Alice.
I had dreamed up four stories, all that take place in a series. Forces of Evil is the first story, and I made a courageous leap by not writing it out entirely. This leads to some content issues, but allowed me to start creating content immediately. (The other stories will be fleshed further, I assure you) I needed to create content fast, because I was chasing an idea that I cherished and did not want to lose pace with. I even resorted to drawing it with a mouse in Illustrator in the beginning and eventually moved to the hand drawn platform.
None of this would have happened without my relationship to the work of Doug TenNapel. I might not have even dreamed of a comic of any kind without constantly being exposed to books that I love. It even branched me back out to the comics market. I found myself picking up DC comics and then eventually Buffy, you know, since I suddenly love it. Seeing one of my most influential artists make a webcomic was inspiration enough to try Alice that way. This doesn’t mean that the other things area dead though, in fact I am still toying with other scripts and other more matured ideas. It is simply that when Alice crawled into my mind she crawled onto the page the fastest.
I enjoy developing this story, as loose as it has been. It’s something that I feel is working, and is teaching me a lot. I still plan to follow through with the four stories of Alice before fully visiting other projects. There are always big things in my noodle, just waiting to creep their way out, you’ll see them someday, I’m sure.
Now before I leave you to contemplate the disturbing imagery that last sentence left you with, I want to ask you a question. Is there anyone in your life you may have inspired some of the biggest changes for you? If so, are they still as powerful?