“THEY LIVE” is my last “mainstream” pinup in the extended series I’ve been working on from late summer of 2013 before I go back into my next comic book project. If you consider a 1988 horror sci film from John Carpenter “mainstream”, congratulations, we are on the same wavelength! To summarize- a loner (played by Roddy Piper) finds a set of black sunglasses that shows him the “rich” are ghoulish aliens that have the population sleeping through life while everything in print is a subliminal message- so a billboard says “OBEY” as an example. There are also hidden pieces of technology (saucers, broadcast dishes) that monitor the populace while also reinforcing the messages in the print ads saying things like “SLEEP”. The aliens also dress like rich people in the late 80’s and have wrist watches that they can report to their Headquarters on, and also teleport away in case of emergency. You can see alot of that cool stuff in this clip from the film here. It is a like a super powered episode of the OUTER LIMITS, and has some amazing imagery and concepts, and can be categorized as a true underground hit that has a fandom that 26 years later still holds the film in high regard- I just saw a photo goof on the Grammy Awards and Ellen DeGeneris that gave me the final nudge to do this piece and not another pinup- here is the “straw that broke Jason’s back” in my decision making process- and reminded me that “THEY LIVE” is a social statement of rebellion against authority held by the elite. I find that is a theme I will always identify with.
So here are my ref pieces as well as my layout pieces- the composition evolved a bit, but stayed fairly consistent to show as many of the iconic elements in one piece of artwork. The faces on the Aliens were what changed the most- you can see this in my sketches and tracing paper overlays below. I realized that fandom and film reference were inconsistent on the actual facial anatomy, so I really tried to stay close to the film for their appearance. I early on decided the POV from inside the sunglasses was the best and most exciting way to show the Aliens in a group, using their watches, and coming up on the viewer. Then I put 4 of the iconic messages into the background – with OBEY being the main visual piece in the background, with the street signs and newspapers as the “support” messages. So SLEEP CONFORM and REPRODUCE and enjoy this artwork- inks coming soon!