A Sniff of Catnip - Part One
Humor is one human reaction to detecting an anomaly, discord, oddity, or accidental juxtaposition of two very different ideas, which usually have no chance of being brought together in serious discussion. Creativity is essential for humor; without it, two ideas ill-suited for each other just collide and rebound, flying off into the mental ether. The non-creative mind doesn't have the kind of perceptive “glue” that can catch and preserve that moment of collison. The creative spirit can look at these stuck-together disparate ideas and say, Hmmm, maybe these two concepts can work together. Let's see what happens when I...”
Birth of a Playpen
Artists, writers, and other imaginative and creative souls not only have a keen sense of humor, but are willing to let it out to play. However serious discussions can get derailed or sidetracked by the funny stuff that inevitably butts its way into conversations and threads on our whiteboard work-site. So any creative group enterprise, such as, for example the Ratha Graphic Novel, needs to have a suitable playpen.
Thus was born Catnip, a repository for silly riffs in otherwise serious working discussions. The need for such a playpen grows most acute during kick-back times such as holidays, so it was inevitable that Catnip appeared at the beginning of December, 2012, just in time for the craziness of Christmas, the year's largest silly season. Catnip named itself; the plant makes cats silly; the Catnip whiteboard thread catches the result of people being silly.
This intro text also included an example of proposed Catnip content.
Clare Bell (posted on Dec 4 2012):
My exposure to scientific FORTRAN programming in my early years recently produced this demented little piece of quasi-FORTRAN code. My only mistake was limiting n to 100. Loop n=1
Catnip= too much fun
When n > 100 go to End Loop
Catnip was only the latest expression of the oddball humor that surfaces in the Ratha series. It is the result of me being what I am, and cats, being what they are; namely funny. If the reason for cat-supplied humor is either involuntary or unintentional, cats can be downright hilarious, as shown by various feline internet videos.
How Not To Make Dapplebacks
An humorous example from Ratha's Creature is the now-infamous short scene, Making Dapplebacks. The discussion between two cubs, the feckless Mondir and the pert smartass Bira, about the mechanics of equine reproduction is one of my favorites, so it had to be part of the graphic novel. The resulting comic couldn't be true to the book without Mondir's classic misinterpretation.
When I sketched the scene as a set of storyboard roughs, I realized that I had created a sequential cartoon, using “cartoon” in the funny sense of the word. This intrigued Tod Wills, who does real cartooning much better than I do. He is, in fact, a gifted cartoonist, with the ability to draw unbearably cute critters in crazy situations. Dani Long also proved to have cartooning talent, though hers were very different in style and type of humor.
Tod showed his cartooning flair with this jaunty portrayal of little Mishanti, from Ratha and Thistlechaser.
My rough of the Making Dapplebacks scene was just more encouragement when Tod did the layout.
[ I wasn't going to include my storyboard rough, since it might make the update too long, but you guys asked for it, so...]
Here's the layout rough page.
Layout page by Tod Wills Copyright 2014
[And just for the heck of it, Dani Long's final pencil art, demonstrating that Mondir gets roasted in three sets of graphic novel drawings.]
Copyright 2015 by Dani Long
Poor Mondir, who had already made himself the butt of a silly joke in both text and illustration, didn't deserve to have his predicament extended. However another discussion, which started as serious, generated more inspiration for a cartoon.
It began when we started designing other prehistoric critters, some of which didn't actually appear until later in the Ratha series. Our reasoning was that these creatures could appear in the background of the Ratha's Creature graphic novel, as teasers for future graphic adaptations of the other Ratha novels. Such was the case for the creatures the Named call bristlemanes, which appear in Clan Ground when a bristlemane pack attacks the clan.
The first step in designing the bristlemanes was to decide which fossil animal the creatures were based on. Here's part of the discussion from the whiteboard worksite.
Are bristlemanes Amphicyon, or creodonts?
Posted on Dec 18, 2012 Clare Bell
I think creodonts are way too early. I was thinking of the bristlemanes as American Hunting Hyenas (Chasmaporthetes ossifrangus) , but those came were way too late. Lets go with Amphicyon.Posted on Dec 18, 2012
(Specialized carnivores first appeared among creodonts in the Eocene and Oligocene. The hunting hyenas didn't appear until the Pliocene/Pleistocene, much later than Ratha's early Miocene time.)
Below is Amphicyon ingens (skeleton and artist reconstruction), an amphicyonid that lived in North America from the early to the mid-Miocene from 18-14 mya.
Amphicyon ingens skeleton Date 22 April 2012, 16:58 SourceFile:Amphicyon ingens.jpg
Author:Clemens v. Vogelsang from Liechtenstein Source: Wikipedia
Amphicyon ingensDate: 2010 ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%A4%D…
Author: Roman Uchytel Source: Wikipedia
Dani Long contributed her knowledge of prehistoric carnivores, suggesting another candidate.
This is the skull of the borophagine canid Enhydrocyon.
Copyright: National Park Service John Day National Fossil Beds, Oregon Source: www.nps.gov/getaways/joda/
This is the similar species Borophagus, in a classic painting by Charles R. Knight.
Borophagus. Date 1902 Source:Charles R. Knight: The Artist Who Saw Through Time
(Hesperocyoninae were the “dawn dogs”, the first branch of the Canidae, arising in the Eocene and Oligocene. Early species resembled small foxes, but later ones got much larger. They were displaced later by the Borophaginae (“bone-eating” dogs) and other canids. We ended up choosing an Amphicyon species that lived in the early Miocene).
Much later I discovered that proto-hyenas, or hyena-like creatures actually did exist in the middle Miocene before true hyenas arose in the Pliocene-Pleistocene.
One Miocene family, Percrocuta, contained some very hyena-like members. Palentologists think that Percrocuta arose from a group called the Stenoplesictinae, which were a group of vivverids (civet-like animals). A creature in the transitional period between the two might have looked like a cross between a civet and a hyena, or between the large viverrid mustelid Ekorus and a hyena.
Back to the funny stuff!
The discussion and images below appeared on the worksite on Dec 18, 2012, as the silly season was fast approaching.
I knew I was intentionally egging Tod on, however I didn't realize that his very next post on this thread would be:
Copyright 2012 by Tod Wills
I wondered if you might be lurking here. Great cartoon! Poor Mondir, he's really getting it. First the dapplebacks; now this! I laughed until I just about cried. The bug-eyed pre-hysteric little yapper is just precious, and so is Mondir's expression. And I love the off-stage "warning".
I better stop this or I'll be guilty of distracting you.
And I needed a good laugh. Dani Long
Hilarious!! I almost snorted my coffee at the cloud of ARRs.
Tod: hilarious cartoon! Poor Mondir will never hear the end of it. I think the Mondir cartoons would be a great addition to one of the Kickstarter updates!
Good prediction, Sheila! This one ended up here, and will probably show up on Kickstarter.
Later on while researching the Internet, I found two members of the Amphicyonidae that could work as bristlemanes. Temnocyon, estimated at about 40-50 lb. , spanned the Oligocene and Miocene boundary. So did Mammacyon (est. 80-90 lb.) Dani was right about the early borophagines being tiny. The fossil Rhizocyon oregonensis, for instance barely tipped the scale at 3 lb.
Both also came from the John Day formation (Oregon) that yielded Dinaelurus crassus (Ratha's real-world prehistoric ancestor, so Temnocyon and Mammacyon were definitely in the right time and place.
Stay tuned for Another Sniff of Catnip