Saturday, July 28, 2012

Breakdown: Phlick's Sketchbook

In the irregular 'Breakdown' feature, we take found art (usually historic illustrations) and translate them into something Wampusified.

Burgess Phlick was a well-known illustrator and sometime portrait-painter who died several years ago when his rowhome in River-Town was raided by a street gang (the Sweet Dandies).  His long artistic career produced numerous newspaper and penny-dreadful illustrations as well as a series of stunning landscapes; but of interest to us tonight are the drawings from his personal journal.

Some of his subjects were provided by Phlick's extensive travel across Wampus Country, in search of inspiration.  Others, however, are presumed to be a product of his heavy drug use; so well-known were his hallucinogenic proclivities that in some restaurants it is still customary to say "Phlick it up" by way of ordering extra mushrooms.  Sadly it is impossible for us to know whether Phlick, who was not magically trained, ever actually managed to send his mind to other places, such as the Midnight Sea or the Lands of Death - but some of the things he drew certainly suggest the possibility.

Left: Oorb Cracknettle.   Right: The Bat-Parson.
Oorb Cracknettle is one of the more severely mutated Lakeborn; luckily for him, one of his aquatic features is a pair of patagic wings beneath his man-arms, which appear to be a converted set of tentacles with skin stretched between them.  These winglets give Oorb the power of flight - well, more like controlled gliding, really - which has made his career as a second-storey fish (burglar) all the more remarkable.  Oorb displays no fear of heights (as one might expect of a fish), and he has perpetrated any number of daring heists over the years.  One time he leaped from the top of the clock tower on a five-dollar bet - and managed to circle the town once before alighting to collect his money.

The "Bat-Parson" was an eccentric priest named Rainville Fleurdemerde, but he preferred to be addressed as the Right Reverend Fist-of-Bats.  This oddball claimed that he had been given a vision by a divine creature resembling a bat-headed giant, and instructed to spread the word of the Bat and prepare defenses against the "surging of the serpent-men" (whatever that means).  Mostly the Bat-Parson ran up and down the street, flapping his "wings" (made from umbrellas) and ranting about the coming snakey apocalypse.  On two occasions he was caught in the courtyard of the River-Town School For the Blind, having climbed over the wall for the purpose of teaching the children to echolocate; he is no doubt responsible for the School's current policy whereby children who say "Ping!" get caned.  The Bat-Parson died alone and unloved in a gutter; but a recent expedition to the City of Mazes reports of a large stone statue there which is not unlike the beast in the Bat-Parson's vision.

Left: Hercule Gavial.     Right: The Contessa DeZebra.

Hercule Gavial is a respected sleuth who hails from Frogport, but has retired to River-Town in his dotage.  Twas he who solved the "Mystery of the Inside-Out Prostitute" as well as the mildly-famous "Case of the Six-Handed Murderer".  A few story-papers were printed detailing his exploits, likely embellished.  These days he spends most of his time drinking juleps on the porch of the Journey's End Hotel.

Equally interesting is the Contessa DeZebra, who may or may not exist.  Burgess Phlick wrote of her in his diaries, describing her as a "vibrant, dignified woman of a zebra", and the two dated for the better part of the artist's forty-third year.  According to Phlick's account, their relationship advanced in a predictable way, growing more serious until finally the Contessa confessed to him a secret which caused an argument and ended the tryst.  If the Contessa did exist, she was perhaps an exotic barbarian woman, or were-zebra or some sort of centaur; the illustration may be interpretive.  It's also entirely possible that Phlick ate a ton of mushrooms and started dating an actual zebra.

Left: Chief Zoort.   Right: Beasticus Gropp.
Chief Zoort, according to Phlick, was the lord of a tribe of savage (yet noble) elephant-men who lived under his sink.  On multiple occasions Phlick told friends that he could crawl under the sink and appear amidst a field of pink grass, where a cool breeze blew across a vast savannah under twin suns.  Zoort apparently told Phlick that everything he knew was a lie, the sky he could see was naught but a cage, and also that he should bet all his money on the double-zero at the leftmost roulette table next Friday.  The artist followed that third instruction, but lost a great deal of money, beginning a downward spiral which led to longterm depression.  Even in the days before his death, Phlick could be heard muttering something about elephants not knowing their left from their right in an [expletive] pocket dimension.  Investigations of Phlick's kitchen after his death yielded nothing.

The fierce battle-lord Beasticus Gropp, however, is definitely very real, and still alive today - in a manner of speaking.   A nasty, brutish sub-man, Beasticus led a life of brigandry, rising to command his own group of raiders-cum-mercenaries known as Gropp's Gut-cutters.  In this new role as a leader, Beasticus served several masters - whoever could pay best, and was willing to put up with the Gut-cutters' unscrupulous and murderous tactics.  On his last mission, however, Beasticus was turned to stone by a catoblepas.  Those who dare press their ear to his cold granite chest can hear a faint heartbeat - within his man-shaped mausoleum, Beasticus Gropp yet lives.  His followers have mostly scattered, but a few still hold hope that they will find a way - a sympathetic wizard, a bribe-able witch - to return their General to life.

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