This week, Titan Books is releasing The Great Showdowns, a collection of art by Scott C. You may remember that we highlighted Scott C.’s artwork earlier in the year. Scott C. has worked in a number of different mediums, including videogames (he was the Art Director on Psychonauts and Brutal Legend), children’s books, and comics. His previous book of collected art, Amazing Everything: The Art of Scott C., was published by Insight Editions last year.
With adorable wit, The Great Showdowns is a series of watercolors that depict the most famous movie conflicts from various films. Scott’s work cleverly plays on these clashes, and it makes for some wonderful, surprising results.
Though Scott C.’s art speaks for itself, I have a few brief thoughts on The Great Showdowns after the cut. We’ll have more Scott C. work on display later in the week. For more info on Scott C., be sure to visit pyramidcar.com.
There’s a great line that Terry Gilliam had about his film Time Bandits. It’s an idea that I keep coming back to: Gilliam wanted to make a movie that was intelligent enough for children and exciting enough for adults. A playful inversion. That sort of tongue-in-cheek quality is always at work in Scott C.’s art. (He has a nice Time Bandits piece in The Great Showdowns, too.) This is the kind of work that appeals to the precocious child in adults and the hip-to-it adult in children.
One of the best things I can say about The Great Showdowns is that every piece elicits a smile as big as the smiles of its subjects. It makes us remember scenes from movies we love, and also makes us consider why these moments are memorable. In Scott C.’s whimsical introduction to the book, he says it’s all about conflict, and then breaks down the nature of conflict in terms a child would understand it. It’s movies being movies, and boys & girls at play being boys & girls at play. This is Scott C. being Scott C.: he does eccentric art in watercolor the way you’d play with action figures or frolic on a playground. More than anything, The Great Showdowns is a frolic through the films we love.
Scott C.’s art reminds me a little of the drawings that my brother and I did when we were young — little doodles of Inframan, Bruce Lee, Johnny Five from Short Circuit, toy soldiers, and, for some reason, a lot of original Doctor Who adventures plagued by Daleks and Cybermen in Crayola crayon, marker, and colored pencil. But apart from that formal resemblance, there’s the smarts behind what Scott C. is doing. The choice to add smiles is so much fun, as are the choices of things that he anthropomorphizes. It’s intelligent enough for children because he does things the way they’d do it; it’s exciting enough for adults because there’s a sophistication married to a sense of ecstatic creativity, and the latter is something many have had to box up on the way to adulthood.
None of the art in The Great Showdowns is labeled with the character names or the movies that are depicted. It might be frustrating to some people looking through the work, but I think it’s all part of an elaborate and wonderful game of memory and identification that Scott C. wants people to play. A lot of his work captures characters and moments so well that upon seeing a piece, you recognize what the film reference is. Other works may seem a bit more elusive, but if you just look at how the conflict is rendered, you’ll suddenly have a “eureka” moment. And if you can’t name that movie, there’s at least a lot of pleasure in the work itself independent of the movie reference.
If you experience these moments of recognition, you’ll think of how the image by Scott C. reframes the moment in the film. It’s a game of new contexts. There’s a showdown from Say Anything that is the iconic moment from the film, and done cutely. The chess match from The Seventh Seal makes it seem like they’re playing checkers at recess. The obelisk in 2001 is like the sudden appearance of a jungle gym for the hairy, gleeful, about-to-evolve apes. And there’s also Danny on his big wheel and the creepy twins from The Shining, and it looks like he may take them up on the offer to play.
The brilliant goofiness of Scott C.’s tone can turn even the most horrific moments or serious moments into ones of joy. But it’s never intended to mock the film or the filmmakers. Instead it’s meant to celebrate the joy that a movie can bring. Even disturbing moments can make us love movies more, and to think about those movies provokes a kind of smile. We’re reminded, through this game of identification and memory, that movies are things that are supposed to bring us pleasure. The Great Showdowns is a celebration of that emphatic joy that movies can give us simply by, as Scott C. puts it, movies doing movie things.