Tuesday, 20 July 2021

1981-82 BCIT Computer Systems yearbook

Covid-19 restrictions are rolling back (possibly temporarily) for the summer, and a vast wave of yard sales that have been held back from their traditional seasonal opening in May is being unleashed upon the world.  My wife is always cruising for surprise luxury secondhand goods with good resale value, but as she is well aware of my interests and proclivities, will sometimes snag me materials pertaining to old technology if and when she stumbles across them.  
So here we have the "Computer Systems 81-82" book.  (I love the cover art, which dates to the era of "art made ABOUT computers, not made with the assistance of computers."  If you wanted to make art for a computer book in 1982, you needed a straight edge to draw lots of perspective lines, and some ziptone to apply for shaded texture.  Don't forget your binary digits for flavour!)  Apparently people were studying computers locally back at that early date, and just what we might learn about them and their field at that time depends a lot on just what kind of book this is.  Is it a syllabus?  It is not.  Instead... it is a yearbook!  Lots of photos of people with unfashionable haircuts being young!  I would be very interested in the nuts and bolts of the curriculum, but if, as it seems, I'll be learning about this class as a social history, that's OK also!

(I can't imagine trying to sell a yearbook -- a printed volume only of any interest or value to those in it, who already have a copy of it -- at a yard sale and expecting anyone to pay even one dollar for it, but I guess I'm the exception that proves the rule.)
There it is, the office of the BCIT Computer Systems Department Head.  You can't tell from the angle, but I rather suspect that he (I would say "they", but in 1982, as computing wages had risen and pushed out the rooms full of math whiz ladies formerly known as computers, I think we could quite safely assume that this department head was a "he" ... despite which, you can see the pendulum temporarily swinging the other way, with lots of women appearing in the student body documented here!) doesn't even have anything we would recognize as a computer in his office!
Please excuse the image quality -- not only are my scans weak, it's not like my source images are the original negatives... these were developed into photo prints, then adapted for paper print.  (Then, as with this photo, laid out directly adjacent to the book's gutter, the black hole in the middle of the book where the pages are bound together.  The only way to get a good scan there would be to undo the binding, and even if I could overcome the shock at book destruction sacrilege (because let's face it, this is a book that no one, even myself, is ever going to want to read again) ... it's a bit too much like work, isn't it?  (Anyhow, this is a solved problem.  Clearly I should just send this book to the Internet Archive to be processed there.)
I admittedly don't have a great deal to offer with this post.  I don't know anything about the people in the pictures and I don't know anything about the machines seen populating the background here.  I don't know if they are word processors, terminals, or stand-alone microcomputers, but despite radiating nostalgia, they sure as heck don't look at all familiar.  Nonetheless I've included every photo from the yearbook -- conspicuously few, all things considered -- including any of the computer technology these students were working on 40 years ago, and if anyone is able to identify any pieces of it, so much the better!  Sometimes all I have to offer is the raw data, and we need to crowdsource the expertise.
That awkward photo splice isn't of hardware, but I suspect it is a locker stuffed with crumpled up wads of either paper punch cards or tractor-feed dot matrix printer paper.  Either way, a righteous sign of the times -- and a hilarious alternative to shredding or a more secure filing system.
No people or hardware in this photo, but those have got to be some variation on paper punch cards, right?  At least, strongly reminiscent of the Scantron forms of my school days.  Also, I appreciate the caffeine pills for period flavour.  It seems that "crunch time" has been with this industry since its early days!
I had a chilling "middle-aged" moment receiving this book, because Jen reported that when she bought this book the sale had a distinct "estate sale" ambiance to it.  This book dates back to when I was newly born, and my entire lifespan thus far has turned out to be the remainder of someone else's natural lifespan.  Were I to enrol in today's equivalent of this course, and it to yield a similar yearbook, by the time my analogue got around to stumbling across and documenting the volume, I would almost most likely be deceased.  (This is a problem, because I can't die, as I have far too many more blog posts to write that no one else is going to get around to.  Also, it would be a source of great sadness to my family.)

Anyhow, by cross-referencing the friendly dedications written inside the front covers of this book, I was able to positively identify it as belonging to Mark Hujanen, pictured above.  With that information, I was able to confirm our grim hypothesis -- he didn't leave a huge online footprint (eg. a Twitter account with no posts, likes or follows), but he did leave in his wake the following tribute from his longtime employers at the BC Supreme Court:
The Court would also like to acknowledge the passing of Mark Hujanen,
service delivery manager for the Superior Courts Judiciary’s IT department,
in December 2020. Mr. Hujanen provided his expertise to the Court for more
than 20 years, developing and supporting the creation of many systems that
have become crucial to the Court’s day-to-day operations.

As a millennial who struggled for decades in finding even the most meagre employment (pro tip: if you stop looking, it won't find you), I briefly boggled at the perceived generational injustice of this guy taking one computer class in 1981 and getting set on the gravy train until he died, working in his field the entire time.  Of course, I have no real reason to believe things went so smoothly for him -- his life is a timeline to me that only reveals an early point and an end point, leaving me to extrapolate everything that elapsed in between.  I see that he only worked for the BC Supreme Court for >20 years, leaving nearly another couple of decades during which he could have been lost in the wilderness as I was, or at least taking other computer classes and picking up unrelated side gigs.  That boggling isn't informed by realtiy at all, but my own career PTSD.  Anyway, Mark, this post is dedicated to you!  I hope you're refactoring your legacy code in that great mainframe up in the sky! 
Do you mind?  I'm trying to keypunch this payroll algorithm here, but I can't focus with this camera in my face!
You'll never need to wait in line with a box full of your program -- this state of the art school ensures prompt student access to punch card machines by having rooms full of them.
What's he working on there?  Who knows, but check out the obscured swag behind him in the Control Data Corporation box in the corner!  "[O]ne of the nine major United States computer companies through most of the 1960s", where Seymour Cray cut his teeth before, for a time, making the world's fastest supercomputers.
It's a room full of big iron, but -- correct me if I'm wrong -- isn't he just typing on an electric typewriter there?  Or is that some sort ot TTY terminal with keyboard input and printer output?


Finally, Big Blue shows itself!  Ironically, I understand that this is the yearbook commitee meeting, and I believe that the 3800 model they are celebrating the arrival of there is just a laser printer component, possibly used in the printing of this very yearbook!  

After a buch of other group photos, here's a fun filler photo occupying leftover space at the bottom of the page, tagged with a computing joke I had a hard time scanning: "the 'Empty' set".
Nice work, Computer Operations!  Finally, a machine clearly recognizable to me as a computer!  There's... buttons!  There's a display!  There's... well, presumably other components tucked away or outsourced elsewhere.  IBM rides again!
So many of the photos of women in this yearbook have an implied atmosphere of "... do you mind?  I'm trying to get work done, here!" to them.  Something something male gaze.
I have no idea what this wall full of machinery is, but it's everything I could have ever hoped to find in this book: right this way to das blinkenlights.  (One reader from the Chilliwack Retro-Computing Club weighs in: "The pic with 3 hp2100 in racks 2 7970 tape drives 2 7906 harddrive and 2 2748 papertape readers, nice".  Another one notes, "I was there from 1992-1994. My Cobol class might have used some of this same hardware as it was ancient even back then 
😛 Some kind of terminals running off a mainframe. I'm actually curious what we were using, if I knew then, I don't remember now 🙂")
Again, still another a portrait of a young lady at her terminal with a "Gotcha!" quality to it.  Makes me wonder if each one of these photos wasn't immediately preceded with a blast from an air horn.
Gentlemen.  You know how expensive it is when you knock ofer a can of soda and it spills a puddle around your smartphone? This must have been much, much, worse -- we can't stick these minicomputers in a giant sack of rice to dry them out!  Eat in the cafeteria.  Don't slurp your soup and sprinkle your crumbs into these electronic marvels.  If I was the instructor, that would have been the first rule of my lab!
If you look carefully at the floor between the rows of machines, you can spot either a technician making some adjustments to the equipment or a student having a nap.  (Or, possibly, both.)
Haven't we all visited this place in our programming preparation at some point?  You know what, burn it all down and start over.  It's a sentiment that, it turns out, is timeless.
You don't hear too much about it anymore, and I bet LCD screens have a lot to do with it, but I have vivid memories a bit before the turn of the century, at about the midpoint between the publication of this book and the present day, of people having significant concerns about the hazards of prolonged exposure to video display terminals.  I remember a family friend had their desktop computer setup featuring a seat at one end of the room and the largest CRT money could buy at the other end, with a bowling lane of a desk between them, so as to maximise the view while minimising exposure to the harmful rays. The memory is kind of apropos of nothing, but c'mon, I bet that display is just about big enough for a grown man to crawl down in a music video or horror movie.
Are they wearing a party hat?  And well why should they not be, anytime the numbers crunch as intended is a great moment in history, it should be roundly celebrated.  Those barrels off to the left... are they for spoiled (folded, spindled or mutilated) punch cards
OK, so I have more photos of old computers from this yearbook than I do insightful observations to make about their contents.  I don't know which ones are significant and which ones aren't so I'm just aiming to share all the ones including vintage hardware and hopefully my audience finds them interesting enough on their own that I don't need to ice every cupcake with my sparkling commentary.
Another all-nighter?
Giving a bit of "deer in the headlights" expression, as though he'd been caught in the act computing during someone else's booked time... or just having been discovered staying after hours to play Colossal Cave Adventure.
I'm satisfied, the machines-to-student ratio at this school, as documented in these photos, seems to have achieved pretty good parity.
The satisfaction of a routine well invoked.  (Almost a little too satisfied, if you ask me.  Just what kind of nefarious purpose is this program for, anyhow?  Did he just discover "salami slicing" before Superman III mainstreamed it?)  (One more comment from the Chilliwack Retro-Computing Club: "I'm really curious about the terminal here. It looks like the "Lanpar" terminals I used at UBC around the same time. I think they were Canadian made(?) but I can't find any information about them.")
Crunch time!  Too busy to mug for the camera, busy tyring to figure out why 30 isn't GOTOing 10!
No time off for good behavior!  I don't care if it is a holiday, you're coming in and crunching numbers!  I'm guessing that this photo was taken sometime around Hallowe'en, but wouldn't it be more interesting if  it was just another regular day in computer class?
Due to my literary background, I couldn't resist the inclusion of this computer-school-themed poem found at the back of the yearbook.  It's no "The Policeman's Beard is Half Constructed", but it'll have to do.  Here, I transcribed it for you:
BCIT BLUES, by Rob Brown.

Ten happy little programmers,
Coding in a line;
One missed a due date,
Then there were nine.

Nine tired little programmers,
Hacking away till late;
One failed Org Bev,
Then there were eight.

Eight scared little programmers,
Working past eleven;
One crashed the system,
Then there were seven.

Seven worried little programmers,
Coding cobol pics;
One dropped a cad deck,
Then there were six.

Six frantic little programmers,
Feeling barely alive;
One fell asleep in systems,
Then there were five.

Five frazzled little programmers,
Sleeping on the floor;
One listened to a hacker,
Then there were four.

Four spaced-out little programmers,
Wishing they were free;
One took an evening off,
Then there were three.

Three crazy little programmers,
Who didn't have a clue;
One tried an edit program,
Then there were two.

Two burned-out little programmers,
The year was nearly done;
One logged on the HP,
Then there was one.

One lonely little programmer,
Sitting all alone...
Not apropos of anything technological, but this page stood out so much I had to include it.  (Also omitted: a comedic "blackface" photo.  Times have changed, but that was already a bad look in 1982.)  Some of these costumes look familiar -- it seems that what I took above for Hallowe'en may simply have been BCIT's regional interpretation of the short-lived seasonal holiday "Punk Day".  (Itself a replacement for the briefly-celebrated "Disco Day"?)
There weren't a ton of photos like this, but my suspicion is always that most of the programming going on up in 1981 was done like this -- with pencil and paper -- plotting out and debugging your program manually long before it ever got anywhere near an electronic device, because access to the equipment was traditionally rare and expensive, and you couldn't afford any surprises when your turn came up to feed your punch cards into the hopper or you'd lose your money and go back to the end of the line.

This concludes our stroll through the BCIT Computer Systems 1981-1982 yearbook!  We expect great things of the class of 1982!  Excelsior!

Thursday, 10 June 2021

"Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego" comic book series, DC, 1996-1997.

There was a time I maintained a blog devoted to advertisements for video game materials, run in comic books. Its circumstances are somewhat murky, but it emerged basically from an impetus of "we have a baby on the way, clear these old comics out of the basement to make room for baby stuff" " -- but wait, there's valuable information about how video games were marketed in those comics! Just let me scan all the ads first, then I can transcribe and analyse them at my leisure!" (I foolishly figured that the basic text of each ad would suffice for scholarship, so failed to document on which pages in which issues of which comic, published in which year, the ads ran, so my massive scanning campaign was of ...limited scholarly value. But it did provide raw grist for plenty of ad blurb documentation and many Tumblr posts by third parties that popped quite a bit more than my posts ever did!)

This blog, which never quite achieved the same oomph behind it, was somewhat broader in scope so as to allow me to discuss and investigate related materials and themes without requiring them to have originated in comic books (or for me to apologise over and over again for sourcing them externally to comics.) It's not at all clear today, now that that (comics-loving!) baby just turned nine years old, why I bothered, since the retired blog has since come back to life in a sporadic and bent sort of way, continuing to document ads for CRPGs and AD&D licensed games, sourced from anywhere, and more recently -- ads for "play-by-mail" RPGs! I'll leave it to its thing and continue my original mandate at a meandering pace over here, at my blog that has otherwise been long since taken over by ANSI art. (That sideline itself slowed down since the main ANSI at gallery at 16colo.rs incorporated tagging metadata, so if you wanted to look at Bloom County ANSI art, you no longer had to hope that I'd put in the hours mining it out for you.)

"But why?" I hear you ask, "you got rid of all your comics a long time ago!" Pretty much, yes. But admire the off-brand little free library we have just installed in front of our new home (Figure 1, the first sunny weekend ahead we should put on a little launch party for this circulation branch, to say nothing of the housewarming we've been pandemic-postponing since October): not only a vital outlet through which we can purge disposable young reader fiction, but as it turns out a two-way street, through which reading material new to us can also arrive to our attention! Recently, it included about a dozen issues of "Impulse" (DC's futuristic teenaged speedster, occasionally described as "Kid Flash"), circa 1996-97. The comic was, ehh, nothing special, but in its pages there was to be found... a great deal of video game content -- not merely in the advertisements, but also in the panels of the comic, as the hero's adolescence is recurringly characterised in episodes spent grinding at a video game console or in arcades. So maybe I'll share a little of it with you here! (I mean, duh, obviously, that's what I'm doing here. But maybe after this one, I might share more of it.)

CRIMENET GAZETTE

GRAND CANYON, EIFFEL TOWER MISSING!
Carmen Sandiego prime suspect!
V.I.L.E. Henchmen strike again!

Acme detectives stumped! 12-year-old becomes latest Acme agent!

Bimonthly comic to debut in April [1996]!
Inspired by the smash-hit computer game!
Story by Barry Liebmann
Pictures by S.M. Taggart

Where in the World is CARMEN SANDIEGO?

This ad was caught in Impulse #14 from June of 1996. It's easy to forget how big Carmen Sandiego got before the edutainment bubble popped (well, was subject to corporate financial malfeasance by Shark Tank and Dragon's Den... what's the opposite of a "luminary"? (yeah, that'll do) ... Kevin O'Leary) but not only did she have a wildly successful video game series (that never, despite all the multimedia bells and whistles a decade and a half could yield, never substantially progressed from its initial "consult the almanac" design) and a game show on TV (itself boasting one of the most earwormiest theme songs of all time, thanks a lot Rockapella) (who themselves must have a lot to answer for vis a vis the brief moments in the wider cultural zeitgeist enjoyed by a capella vocal ensembles, on par with Moxy Fruvous as elder statesmen of that weird niche) (but I digress) but also apparently also was the subject of a licensed four-issue comic book series! ('90s comic book speculators: I can see "mint condition" copies of the first three issues, priced at $1.75 1996 dollars ($3.00 in 2021 dollars) selling for about four dollars a quarter-century down the line, so while there is a modest return, I hope you're not expecting your big payout quite yet. Will that dollar cover the costs of 25 years of warehousing?)

The big question is whether the comics are any good (granted, they don't have to have much of a story to beat the games), but unfortunately that can't be gleaned merely by scrutinizing an advertisement. (Even though the ad plainly states Just the Facts, Ma'am, the writer is apparently known for their work on MAD Magazine, always a good sign, and the issue plot blurbs seem at least as promising as the issue of Impulse in which the ad appears!)

But I must conclude that for Carmen Sandiego bang for your buck, probably you should just stick with the action-packed 2019 Netflix cartoon, which makes up for lost time. (Who is teaching kids about the currencies and landmarks of different countries today? I have no idea, presumably there's an app for that. In my school days we delighted in exploring PCGlobe in the elementary school library, until the librarians decreed that every time someone triggered its blasting an obscure national anthem in all its bleepy PC Speaker glory, everyone in the library had to stand up and salute until it was done playing. I would say "But I digress" again, but there's no thread to return to, I'm just stalling for time here. See you later!)

Friday, 15 January 2021

Christmas 2020: some games

Another year, more video game swag as Christmas presents for the video game fiend in every family.  Typically my retired MIL, who under ordinary circumstances habitually haunts such venues of secondhand commerce as thrift shops, garage sales and flea markets, yields a massive haul of genuinely vintage and dubiously curated (heh, remember back in 2016 when I received seven Donkey Kong cartridges?) game goodies.  This year the sweep was markedly subtler, as this entire field of inquiry was dramatically scaled back by nearly an entire year of lockdown and Coronavirus precaution.  But she still managed to find some games for me in the first couple of months before the hammer fell, surely for a deal because... I sure hope she didn't pay the going rate for those old GameCube titles, they're really on the collectability upswing again!


Other lots there include a 3-D printed StarMan from a family friend (that my youngest daughter immediately claimed as her own), a charmingly irritating noisemaking 1-UP light, a mini 100-in-one arcade cabinet that manages to be a miracle of technology while eschewing licensing any old games anyone might actually want to play (despite which, my kids find it engrossing enough.  It might warrant a post of its own, appears to be an NES-on-a-chip full of bespoke simple NES programs that just don't happen to be any fun... tragically, no apparent way to backdoor it and introduce worthwhile historic game ROMs), and a real curio: Pac-man ghost band-aids!  I don't think a band-aid will help you at that point!  Or maybe it just signifies feeling wary of the source of the injury.  (Of course, Pac-Man ghosts being what they are, in a few moments you should be able to change direction and resume being the threat rather than the threatened.  But in any case, I assume you "get it", let's move on.)


A cautionary tale: never forget to confirm that the contents of the box match the outside of the box!  But I'm sure that this is just as fun as Mario Party 8, right?


Here was a thoughtful present from my wife, who I gave roughly her weight in chocolate and tea.  But wtf is Silver Tree doing making new "retro" ornaments in the vague shapes of nostalgic '80s microcomputers? Don't Ready Player One me, I don't like the feeling of being a valuable targeted market segment!  These things are far more charming when they're authentic period pieces, minting tchotchkes to appease me is creepy!


When I was a kid, after school we'd hit the corner store and have to make a decision whether we'd spend our quarters on penny candy or arcade machines.  No longer do you have to choose, apparently, as video game brands and the iconic nostalgic design of their hardware peripherals are now a suitable vessel for the conveyance of sugar!  See above and below.
And that's where the trail ran cold, a dozen games, a couple decorations and some candy.  But hold on to your hats, kids, people start cleaning up and clearing things out to make room for unwrapped Christmas presents and one man's trash...Sweet hatchi matchi, that's a box of pure gold there!  The onetime game purveyor of the FuzzNet OldWarez CD is no stranger to distributing video games, but that was a long time ago!  Sir, I salute you.  (He also threw in a pile of great DVDs for my kids to enjoy down the road.  It's like I got two Christmases!  Except...)


That's right, three Christmases!  I've been waiting A Long Time to try some of these titles -- the big problem with Nintendo games, especially the first-party ones, is waiting for the secondhand price to dip to reasonable levels.  In many cases, they never enter that zone!  Typically you only see lots like this -- juicy stacks of desirable games that haven't been pieced out to ebay or Craigslist collectors -- come available when youth leave the nest and go off to college, and their parents remodel the old rec room.  In this case I imagine that my other Very Generous Friend upgraded to a Switch sometime this year (I'll be getting on that train no doubt in about a decade).  Don't tell her, but somehow poetically, I actually bought my WiiU console used from her ex-husband, so there's something cosmic going on here that I'm not going to explore further.  Ironically, her son is now getting interested in collecting the classic games of his youth -- hotly hyped PlayStation 2 era (!) discs.  (I think I still have their PS2 and several of their PS2 games that I inherited about three generations ago.  Curiously, none of the games that they actually had are titles on his hitlist.  The nostalgia grass is always greener on the side of someone else's collection!)

So all in all, thanks to two friends trying to keep their living spaces from becoming the vintage computing museums mine is destined to wind up as, my somewhat relatively meagre stocking stuff (due to pandemic circumstances, I'm very understanding besides which, with over a thousand games on media... no shortage of games to play!) ended up a massive and gnarly Christmas-season haul, tempered only by a growing awareness that as we approach the streaming gaming horizon and the end of games on physical media, the hobby overall is in its dusk.  My friend's son's son will almost certainly not collect PlayStation 7 discs in the year 2040.  But then what primary documents will he have to vlog about, game trailers and press releases?  Hm, maybe not a bad idea...

Anyway, until next year, game on!

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Public Domain ANSI Art Spelunking: Superheroes and comic books!

Because this month's MIST0720 artpack collection looks at comics, I recently made a post looking at Public Domain ANSI art illustrations of characters from "Sunday Funnies" newspaper comic strips.  Now I continue in my folly by turning the same lens on the subject of superhero comic books!  These characters require quite a bit less explanation because they're generally speaking instantly recognizable and still going concerns.  A third of the low-hanging fruit we stumbled across are on the same subject, so we open with a little gallery of Batman fan-art.


I'm not sure what's going on with the light sources in that picture, whether Gotham City really is burning and Batman is at the centre of the explosion, but those questions aside it's not a bad composition, with tasteful use of ASCII box-drawing characters for fine detail in deep shadow.  The "Michael" tag suggests to me that this may be an incompletely-captured creation of prolific PD ANSI artist Michael Arnett of "Smile" fame.


Despite space-consuming use of black outlines in the (ultimately triumphant) underground ANSI art style, Tom Bradford somehow manages to cram in an incredible amount of detail in his Batman's physique, with different muscle groups isolated, utility belt and grapple hook gun clearly shown, the contours of a flowing cape indicated with appropriate use of shadow, etc.  It's a pity he exhausted his allotment of detail, because the rest of the scene is drawn in pretty broad strokes, but it definitely tells the viewer where to focus their gaze!



The DoLittle gets points for ASCII art bats and reinterpreting the Batman logo with a Yen symbol at its heart, and for leaving the rest of the actual detail to the viewer's imagination.


Some stark lighting here shows us where you really run up against the limits of single-screen ANSI art portraiture of multiple subjects.  Of course, the limiting factor here is height rather than width, so it's not clear whether focusing on an individual face would have granted any additional opportunity for detail... unless they were in a reclining "landscape" position, recumbent on the Bat-bed.  Robin's isn't much of a disguise here and his nose, I'm sorry to say, makes me think of a dangling gonad.  My apologies, ANSI-Mation!  I say what I think.  


Here's Tom Bradford again and I have to say I think he's just the more talented of the two artists, because he manages to cram two faces in to a single screen, with smaller footprints, and at once do a better job at showing both of them.  It's a very thoughtful Batman and Joker tableau (well, Batman looks pensive, I don't know if the tableau is) with our first (and last) real Batman logo of the bunch!


By every metric, this demented ANSI portrait of the Joker fails, and yet in its very offbeat aesthetic choices (not just StUdLyCaPs but each laugh is drawn in a different, yet equally broken, way.  And his eyes!  And... the apostrophe use for comics there is really mind-breaking!) it helps to convey the fractured psychology of its subject.  I give it a pass.  And that takes us to the end of the Batman gallery!  But what of Bats' chief colleague in the World's Finest?


Well, yes... in 1992 Batman's colleague Superman was briefly dead at the hands of Doomsday.  The bleeding Supes logo was used on the bag Superman #75 was shipped in during Dec 1992.  But it's OK, there are other DC heroes still in the eaves, ready to keep the world safe!


Yes, as you can see, Aquaman was at the ready when called upon to draw an ANSI art logo for his zippy friend The Flash.  Just kidding!  These are two different logos presumably drawn by two different (and unknown) artists at two different times, but they go together very nicely.  By which I mean they're both terrible, but they're about on par with the level of terribility of the other one.



OK, OK.  Enough with the DC comics!  Marvel was tearing up the charts in the early '90s, where's all the Public Domain fanart of Marvel superheroes?  Well, there's this ... creative tribute to the 50th anniversary of Captain America, which would have taken place ... well, it was issue #383 in 1991, with cover art by later DC publisher Jim Lee.  (Its cover art was quite a bit better-executed than this screen, but this has a gutsiness all its own.)


In the late '80s and early '90s, the X-Men were on fire and their breakout rockstar was the Canadian living weapon known as Wolverine, Bub!  If you like drawing symmetrical faces without having to worry about noses (a foreshadowing of a whole wave of Image heroes to come), then his visage is definitely the one to ANSIfy!  I wonder why the breaks at the top of his mask's "ears"?  Good work, Ron Czarnik!


In the '60s and '70s, Ghost Rider was on fire.  Just kidding, he's always on fire, that's kind of his shtick!  This portrait is perhaps our most sophisticated seen so far, with a combination of shading characters used in tandem with the black outlines that eventually defined the underground ANSI art aesthetic (though drawing as early as 1991, the artist is really setting the tone for the successors to follow here.)  Tom B?  Is that Tom Bradford, as seen above?  It seems to be hewing to his high level of quality.  Bonus points for effective use of text characters in the eyes and teeth.  Hats off, Tom! (Ghost Rider never wears hats... they'd just burn up immediately!)


Ahh, Peter Parker, I can see that you slept on your tennis racket again.  Spider-Man is a character with a brilliant character costume design, but one with a fatal flaw: the damned web all over everything.  Try to reproduce it literally and you have already failed.  (Granted, given the "potato balanced on burrito" shape of this composition, it was never going to be a winner.)  Leppa, I'm sorry, you get points for trying but your example is going to have to stand as a cautionary tale of what not to do.


Now dig this!  There is plenty going on here that shouldn't work -- combining a naturalistic fluid pose with an ASCII-character cityscape (the subtle dots on the near edge of the middle building slay me!), carefully balanced on webs made of slashes, but this screen's artist neatly sidesteps the pitfall of the costume's web pattern by... ignoring it altogether.  Excellent use of two-tone shading (the ANSI palette is doing a lot of heavy lifting here), and name-dropping Parker's place of employment really ices the cake.  I don't know if it's even possible to fit any more win into a single-screen Spider-Man ANSI tableau!


OK, we're done with Marvel, but as far as niche cases go, there's still one very important avenue to explore: Mirage Studios' primary export, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  ANSI colours don't provide great matches for their identifying bandana-masks, but I'm going to call that one purple, making Stinky's terrapin above Donatello.


Ninja Turtles, especially this cheerful, Archie-Comics variety, must be Public Domain-adjacent... Doctor Who is an exceptionally PD-style nickname.  There's a minimalist elegance to this portrait, which contains everything that it needs to and nothing that it does not.  Blue mask =Leonardo


Here's an ANSI portrait with a little meat on its bones!  You hear about using thick black outlines when drawing underground ANSI art, but in this unusual case, everything that would normally be outlined in black is coloured in, and everything that would ordinarily be coloured in is left in black!  It's a curious experiment in negative space.  I wouldn't want to see an entire artpack of work in this style, but this piece flies on its own.  PS -- weilding dual sai, mask or no it was always gonna be Raphael.  Nice work from Ren of Mirage!  Don't know how your piece fell in with the PD trove, but it sure helps you to float to the top!


Finally, here's a fun oddity, an original superhero in the comics style, drawn by the Public Domain hero artist discovery of this post, Tom Bradford.  I have no reason to believe he ever went the distance and drew portraits of the other members of the Wild Herd, but it's a fun stupid idea.  Congratulations!  to Tom for drawing this picture, and to you for making it to the end of another one of these posts!  When you get a chance, do please check out our MIST0720 artpack collection for some more underground computer art-style takes on comics subjects!