Friday, 24 June 2016

Video game textmode art part 21: old (old!) ANSI art

True to form, no sooner to I get a foot-dragging not-ANSI-art post out the door then another ANSI feature tries to shoulder its way through before the thing even has a chance to close again. Has it really been six months? The sad part is that this isn't even diminishing my stockpile of video game textmode art -- these are just additions to it (barring this introductory image -- the splash screen for Elite for Emacs, no joke) I extracted from the giant textfiles.com PD ANSI art midden (and a few contemporary finds from the earliest underground ANSI artpacks.) The stockpile remains looming massive on the horizon. I look forward to discharging at least one installment per month from this point onward or I will grow old and die before getting through them all.

So. It's the late '80s / early '90s. What are people playing games on?

That's right, here in North America, they're fogging up their brain on their Nintendo Entertainment Systems (nice work, BP!), playing games such as Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link (hats off, Michael!) ...
Metroid... (Samus by Posyden of iCE -- using high ASCII characters in place of latin letters in your handle was cool for about one week in 1993)
Mike Tyson's Punch-Out (Soda Popinski by Flying Frenchman -- a kingly handle if ever there was one -- of SDA (??) and DEVO -- which was a local 604-based courier group! Fair enough -- Bone Crusher was a renowned 604 warez board SysOp, and the number listed is in the 604!)
and Final Fantasy 3 (Mog the Moogle by Hung T. Nguyen... this is, incidentally, a very strange way to be looking at TheDraw. He must have had a 50-column session open on a Windows '95 system. The characters look different -- certainly the letters do, too bad no shading blocks are used here! -- but it's undeniably ANSI, and it's confirmed legit right down to its date of creation 8)
Other home gamers might have run other games on other machines -- for instance, if they had a PC Engine (sorry, TurboGrafx-16) they might have been playing Bonk's Adventures (this likeness by Pyro of GRiM -- that must be an easter egg, I don't remember that particular altered state being part of my gameplay experience) ...
... or its retrofuturistic spin-off, Air Zonk. (TSP of iCE cranked out this almost overly-compact likeness.)
Did I mention Air Zonk? (Posyden strikes again -- this rendition is quite a bit looser, as though every one of his facial features was just floating near the others without any of them being connected.)
My memory and all existing records must fail me here, because apparently the kids simply couldn't get enough of their Air Zonk! (Darkman of ACiD delivers.)
But OK, enough with the console games. We weren't calling up BBSes from our consoles! When our big brothers wouldn't share the joysticks, we went over to the computer room and played computer games! Here's a lovely "Ultima" font by Groo of SDA, celebrating episode 7 of this wonderful game the colleagues of the artist have just helped you to steal from its creators without paying them:
And this is a new one, perhaps the first time in history that someone drew a piece of ANSI art in celebration of an Infocom text adventure. Why? Because while they could be represented in a textmode screen, what you would see there, nineteen times out of 20, was ... pure text. Beyond Zork was no exception -- sure, some platforms' releases featured a splash screen celebrating (as here) the cover artwork on the game's box. We won't come across anything else like this, probably ever!
Hey, don't you know it's rude to point? Anyone who has ever played Space Quest 4 (sorry, Space Quest XII: Vohaul's Revenge II) will remember this sorry cyborg shambling around the ruins of Xenon prepared to ruin the player's day, ANSIfied by Dr. X of Hype. (Don't worry, there are also ANSIs out there of the Energizer Bunny, everyone is treated fairly here.)
And ending on a real high note, here's a rendition of Blizzard's first taste of fantasy, The Three Vikings, by Elminster of Legacy. Next time we return to Video Game Textmode Art Theatre, most likely we'll be looking at considerably more recent works. See you then!

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Homer Simpson and the D'oh-Boys Choir, 1995.

Blogging music is hard! With a visual art topic, you can just park your eyes in front of it for a minute and write about what you see and what it makes you think of. Whatever you write, the reader can immediately confirm for themselves! If you write about a song, however, any reference to a payoff at the end demands the viewer listen to the song all the way through just to see if they agree with you. In short, it's slower. So while I've known that I wanted to blog up this old song just about since beginning this blog a year and a half ago, I've prioritized it beneath more instant appeals such as a seemingly endless litany of ANSI art. It only surfaces now since I've voluntarily adopted a policy of alternating ANSI posts with entries on other topics, and of course since Pitchfork has just published its piece on SIMPSONWAVE it will never again be timelier than it is at this moment. (If I was thinking clearly I'd have bundled this up in last week's discussion of BARTBLND.)

So on April Fool's Day, 1993, Fox aired So It's Come to This: A Simpsons Clip Show (9F17) in their 4th season. In addition to numerous other gags, it included a montage sequence compiling a wide and varied selection of Homer Simpson's "D'oh" exclamations from the second and third season -- no fewer than 32 of them. At this liminal moment on the technological frontier, some genius digitized the audio track of the sequence, and it merrily circulated in a most postmodern fashion, bereft of any context or, indeed, meaning. For kicks, I assigned it as my family's Windows 3.11 shutdown sound -- slowing down the process considerably -- and for my troubles, I found the computer bedecked with a Printshop tractor feed dot matrix printer banner proclaiming my computer access temporarily revoked due to pranksterism.

Sami "PrOtoCol" Tammilehto of ACiD spent a little longer considering what was to be done before coming up with quite a more compelling application for these annoyed grunts. It was a painfully true cliche that audio samples from movies and TV were the tail that wagged the dog of lousy tracker music, like the medieval practice of masking the flavour of rotting food with inappropriate superdoses of strong spices, but their gratuitous overuse didn't necessarily apply 100% of the time... you can consider this track the virtuous 1 percent that broke through the cliche. The striking composition travels through several movements in a well-considered fashion, and would be compelling even in the absence of its raison d'etre (though that might make its closing drum roll somewhat perplexing.) The highest praise I can extend it is that it survives a detour through a tropical steel-drum mini-arrangement of Bobby McFerrin's 1988 mega-hit Don't Worry Be Happy. Because PrOtoCol was a fellow member (represent!) of ACiD (I, uh, should assume that everyone will appreciate the significance there: first major group of the PC underground artscene, first major ANSI art group, remained to a certain extent pre-eminent over everything that followed until the scene as a whole largely dried up by the end of the century) he also figured out a way to use silent samples to provide an animated textmode signature appear in the song's introduction when played in a music tracker program. Truly every aspect of this creation is polished precisely as far as it can be without running the risk of feeling baroque or ostentatious. I dare say people will still be enjoying the D'oh Boys Choir after they have long since forgotten SIMPSONWAVE. So now, without further ado, I present... the song!

And its sample messages:

---------------------------

      homah simpson
          -and-
    da doh-boyz choir

---------------------------

/c/ 8/1995 PrOtoCoL (ACiD)

samples are borrowed from
who knows.  "don't worry,
be happy" music by bobby
mcferrin.  all da rest by
PrOtoCoL.  play at risk to
your own sanity.  composed
on screamtracker v3.21 by
sami tammilehto.  by the
way, homer really says 32
consecutive "dohs" in the
end.

orders 1-12: homer's theme

orders 13-19: homer sings
  the blues
orders 20-25: homah & da
  boyz quartet
orders 26-28: homer's
  32-doh solo
___________________________
 you may not be able to see
    the intro animation
░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░
▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒
▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓
███████████████████████████
██▄ █▀▌      █▀▄    ▐▌   ;)
  █▐▌ █     ▐▌      ▐▌
██▀ █ █ ▄    █   ▄   █
█ ▄▌█▐▌▄█▀▐▀▌█ ▄▌▌▀▌ █ ▄▄
█ █ ▐█  █ ▐▄▌▐█▀ ▐▄▌ ▀█▀
                     ░░░░░░
                ░░░░░░░░░▒▒
           ░░░░░░░░▒▒▒▒▓▓██
      ░░░░▒▒▒▓▓██
░▒▒▓▓██
█

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Artscene roundup: Derek Riggs and Eddie the Head

Here it is, my friends, the coda to my recent Public Domain textmode art spelunking: Pop Music magnum opus. It's true: most of the musical acts there enshrined were tired and past their prime. But there was one vital force celebrated, first in the public domain, then into the underground artscene -- across C64 and PC platforms alike! The conspicuous absence, the elephant in the room: I speak, of course, of British heavy metal band Iron Maiden and their mascot Eddie the Head, designed and executed classically by artist Derek Riggs.
I know, this early Public Domain rendition (of Eddie sharing a dual nature with -- or transforming into? -- the devil, as though the hair, the pupil, the earring and the skin colour are the only things separating them!) doesn't look like much. But it is still iconically Eddie, at least fragmentarily. (Seemingly inspired by the similarly-themed artwork to their "Purgatory".) PD artists couldn't do much with this character (not that it kept them from trying), but the textmode underground would take the mascot and run with it! (FYI, the 916-441-1060 phone number listed here reveals the picture as an ad for (thanks, textfiles.com-hosted BBS lists!) The California Hot Line BBS run by "Judas" out of Sacramento.)
Eddie the Head is a great candidate for ANSIfication because its lack of good skin tones is no impediment to rendering him in his full offputting glory! This one is by The Necromancer of NC-17 back in 1992. (The "lit" is lyrics from the Iron Maiden song "Hallowed Be Thy Name".) I just love the way Eddie's pristine mane perches atop his dessicated head like two great drifts of cotton candy.
Here the hair is given more of a "Final Fantasy: the Movie" treatment, with every strand realized in stunning fidelity. I'm guessing that Eddie's placing a long-distance scrying call to a distant relation with a distinct familial resemblance? The lapels on his leather trenchcoat make Eddie look a bit like a flasher... which just might account for the outraged expression on his counterpart's face. Oh, and that must be a grimoire open on a table implied to be in front of him. This piece is also by The Necromancer (who by this point has updated his affiliation to iCE), also from the year 1992, and I hope that you like it... because you're going to be seeing a few variations on this theme. (Fortunately, you won't be needing to keep a straight face through any more ads for "Boner's Domain". Thanks a lot, Ramboner. Were you a 13-year-old boy? Actually, you probably were.)
The Necromancer strikes back, here of GRiM -- 1992 was a busy year for the fellow -- and a suspiciously familiar picture, the iconic head here dressed in a strait jacket. (I've been there. If you don't like drawing hands, it's the only game in town! Sadly, there is no equivalent for Rob Liefeld.) If you ask me, a Necromancer is always considered GRiM. A memory washes over me: many years back, as a much younger nerd, reading The Hobbit in the back seat of my parents' car... when, there it was, my first encounter with the word "Necromancer". (I believe Gandalf makes some reference to his location in Dol Guldur south of Mirkwood.) So I says: "Mom, Dad -- what's a necromancer?" They pause for a minute, then reply: "A really bad guy that you don't want to have any business with." Great. This told me two things: a) my parents think their suggestible son is delusional, critical thinking faculties likely softened by all those hours misspent in front of a computer and playing RPGs, and can't tell the difference between what he's reading and the real world, and b) they don't actually know.

This is not as bad as the time I put down my Philip Jose Gardner Riverworld novel in the back of the car, tooling around somewhere in rural southern Italy, and asked them what "orgasm" meant. But I digress. All I can say is that I always kept the alt.sex FAQ in my home directory after that to avoid any repeats of that awkward conversation!

One more time around the block for this tired old head. I certainly hope that The Necromancer (of GRiM, 1992) was re-using the basic head-form and just dressing it up differently from picture to picture, because otherwise the redundancy of labour involved (toward such a middling end) makes me shudder. Anyway, here Eddie has been upgraded, perhaps to supervillain in a SuperMax top security prison facility, with a Cable-like laser eye, a mouth full of square teeth and giant chains around his neck. The "funny farm" playfulness of the font that follows is hilariously incongruous.
Now for a change of pace, The Almighty Fatts of Dead (also 1992) provides us with a wild, Fauvist take on Eddie. That's some stark light/shadow contrast there! I dig the "burning embers as eyes" approach (The Necromancer's trademark "full block, halfblock" reflection off the inky black corneas was starting to wear a little thin.) What are those red lines tricking down his face -- does Eddie have a cut on his forehead? (OK, blood from a lobotomy site.) What is that yellow leafy-looking thing floating in his mouth in front of the gooey cascading strands of thick saliva? And then there are a long series of poor design decisions with the font, but that's simply what 1992 was for.
Zed Nitro of ACiD (also 1992) presents us a different take on a very similar portrait: we've got the little two-detailed fob on the forehead (oh, I see, it's a plate holding two screws which keep Eddie's lidded skull together), the mystery mouth content is revealed to be a tongue... for the first time we see teeth that look like teeth and skin that looks like skin! The hair has been lovingly styled, the eye twinkle entrenched... I'm not sure why the neck is quite so sinewy or why his shoulders are taking on a green hue (maybe a green tabard is implied), but you can't have everything. Of all the Eddies thus far, this one is far and away closest to presentation of a real human, making him not just an odd man out in this gallery but also a bit unsettling overall. Uncanny valley? Also: hard to tell, but the "A" cinches it: the ACiD logo is in the Iron Maiden typeface. Consistency!
This one is by Kingpin of ACiD (released in that Iron Maiden-loving year of 1992) -- the first of several you'll see from him. This looks like a take on the chained-in-an-asylum art from "Piece of Mind". It also challenges the conventional wisdom that perhaps the PD takes on the character were so wretched simply because what are you supposed to do with just a single screen at 80x25 resolution? Kingpin allows no such excuses. ("Body Count" as in "Cop Killer", perhaps?)
With just a hint of Union Jack in the corner to suggest it, Kingpin of ACiD here provides us a close-up on the artwork from the cover art for "The Trooper". Where the previous Eddie looked lumpy and dazed, this one is all business.
And another Kingpin Eddie the Head masterpiece from ACiD in 1992: his skin is still skin-coloured and his hair is back. With the leather jacket and the smoke hanging out of his rictus, you might think he's a real cool dude -- that or you could put his picture on cigarette packets to discourage people from smoking: this is what you will look like after only three packs. I always felt that Eddie the Head basically sounds (in my own, er, Head-canon) like AC/DC lead vocals. If that's not the sound of too much smoking, I don't know what is.
Another "Eddie as cool dude" composition, KingPin of ACiD does a couple more adaptations of Derek Riggs pieces -- the first of these is basically a close-up study for the second:
This one is in the little-used 80x50 screen mode! You sure can pack in a lot more detail (I always used it in Telemate to keep a text editor on the go while the other half of the screen displayed my online session) but things can get really busy, fast! The piece credits itself as an adaptation of Riggs' album artwork for "Stranger In A Strange Land". Kingpin remarks: " I painted Eddie at the end of last year. I was working on my masterpiece in 1993 which was the inside sleeve from 7th Son of a 7th Son, the crystal ball Eddie. I had the ball done and the rest sketched out but I lost it when my PC broke. :(" -- a scene I believe The Necromancer attempted above.

And now, as a special bonus -- some C64 graphics!

I took the liberty of visiting The Pixeling Cow to dig up some offerings from the Commodore 64 scene. This one is by Mike Salvia! I know it looks a bit weird and fleshy but it's an adaptation of the cover art for the 1986 recording "Somewhere in Time", so you can't blame Mike for anything beyond the choice of source material!
There we see Edd[y] as a floating cyborg head (no wait, Cyborg is the artist's name!), circa 2004.
And here, one final iconic rendition of The Trooper's art by Alias Medron in 2001.

So, what have we learned here? Well, one: METAL RULZ DOOD. And two: you don't need to have a mass movement in order to make something appear ubiquitous -- the lion's share of the art in this post (though this is just what was easy to find with queries; I'm certain there's quite a bit more of it burbling out there in the shadows) was created by just two artists over an intense, condensed period of time (turns out that perhaps 1992 was "peak Maiden.") Maybe Eddie the Head didn't have the staying power of a Spawn, but there's no way he was going to wind up just overlooked in the mix. BONUS! Antti kindly pointed out that there existed some body of further Iron Maiden fanart in the demoscene. And how! I don't have browser-viewable multimedia presentations of most of them for your accessible enjoyment, but here's one piece presented for your enjoyment in its fullness -- 1992's Amberstar by The Dream Team, also celebrating The Trooper:

And here for your further enjoyment is a selection of screenshots (thanks to Pouet.net!) from ... quite a few more Eddie-themed intros and demos from the C64, Amiga, and Atari ST, circa the late '80s-early '90s. Until I get caught up, full attribution of the files is indicated in their filenames.:

We open with one more take on "The Trooper" for Commodore 64 by Commando Frontier.
Then we have two adaptations of the "Piece of Mind" chained-in-asylum album art we already visited above, the first (a close-up) for Atari ST in 1989 by Powerlords and the second for Amiga in 1988 by the 42 Crew -- with another appearance of the traditional Iron Maiden typeface.
Next we have three takes on Powerslave's Eddie-as-mummified-Pharaoh album artwork. The first is by Commando Frontier for the C64:
Then 1990 brought this C64 production from Browbeat (with that Maiden font again!):
One more C64 version of the Powerslave art, this one is by Denix:
Commando Frontier seem to be perpetuating some scene beef in this 1987 scene production, perhaps showing off a trophy from some other group's mascot?
These two show off adaptations of the cover art to 1981's "Killers" album, the first on C64 by the Bruehe Cracking Crew...
and the second from an Amiga slideshow by Accession. (If you just can't get enough of the Killers art, you can also find it on the cover of a ZX Spectrum shoot-'em-up, Bedlam!) (That was my own original research! I'm really enriching the corpus with all this, uhh, data.)
The Bruehe Cracking Crew strike again with another c64 production featuring not just the Iron Maiden font, but also what appears to be some early digitization of Eddie.
Commando Frontier show Eddie in a patriotic mood here (yadda yadda uber alles) on the C64...
... and here Argus presents the cyborged Eddie seen earlier with a bit more anatomical context.
Another C64 production by Electronic Counter Measure shows a similar Ed Head with reflected features and, er, floating in place like a sinister Death Star. (I know, you thought the Death Star was already sinister to begin with. Well, you ain't seen nothin'!) Also, further use of that distinctive and appropriate font.
We continue with a closing run of disembodied heads, which doesn't even faze Eddie, who is, after all, a head. This version was done for Amiga in 1989 by IT.
This one is by OKS Import Division, also for Amiga, the year before, and shows that Eddie had a somewhat rougher time with the head extraction this time around. (But at least he's prepared to lend a hand. I'll be here all night, folks!)
This one looks fun -- an Amiga production in 1992 by Laser Dance. (I thought that perhaps the Eddie Heads were doing a laser dance, perhaps in some grim discotheque.) Nice work on the Iron Maiden font!
And finally, one I have to end on because no one is going to top it: Commando Frontier's 1990 "The Clairvoyant" from 1990, again, with the font just about solved:
Thanks for sticking around for the second act! If you find you genuinely can't get enough of Eddie the Head, you can always try playing one of his two official licensed game appearances (from cracktros in the '80s to the main attraction today!) -- 1999's Ed Hunter or Iron Maiden: Speed of Light from last year!

Congratulations, folks, in appreciation of your devotion and persistence to this niche subject, the long tail has delivered us an ANSI art coup de grace by Soul Assassin:

(and a nice little infofile header from the 22nd Fuel pack in July of 2017!)

Monday, 13 June 2016

BARTBLND.ZIP: from architectural blueprints to "The Simpsons"

As part of my efforts from keeping this blog from devolving into the non-stop ANSI art love hour, I'm doing my best to stagger the textmode art blog posts with related but distinct materials. Today's subject is just one such piece of multimedia esoterica from my hazy youth.

I'm guessing that I encountered the file shortly after being given a Sound Blaster Pro by my uncle -- perusing the previously waste-of-time "multimedia" file bases on local BBSes, there it was:

BART SIMPSON'S TONGUE IN A BLENDER by SLICK FLICK PRODUCTIONS.-This is an interesting demo. (FILE NAME: BARTBLND.ZIP/ND16).
Yeah, it's the mid-'90s, heyday of Spike 'n Mike's Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation: sure, I'll spend an hour downloading that:

OK, truth in advertising! Delivers exactly what it promises. Dating to late November / early December 1990, one L. Tipton, presumably of Sick Flick Productions (which I can find no further trace of), made this animated loop of Bart Simpson with his tongue caught in an electric mixer, reproducing an event from some eight-ish months prior aired in The Simpsons episode "Life on the Fast Lane", season 1 episode 9, on March 18, 1990:

The animation is made using a tool from Autodesk, makers of the long-dominant architectural and 3D design software AutoCAD. FLC and FLI animations are products of their "Autodesk Animator" application, occupying an amateur computer animation niche chronologically somewhere intermediary between ANSImation and Flash animation, and this particular one has been beefed up with an additional program that allows a Creative Labs VOC digital audio file for Sound Blaster sound cards to play in the background while the animation unspools. Repeat the feat with a batch file for the credits roll, and you have a proud work of mid-'90s homebrew multimedia.

The animation itself is vestigial at best, boasting maybe a kingly sum of three frames, but between the hypnotic strobing of Bart's throbbing pupils and the increasingly desperate quality to his gargled shrieks of pain, the presentation sustains itself over its long runtime. (Imagining the recording session of the soundtrack always puts a smile on my face.) I'm guessing that the functionality of the programs are such that the visual loop would simply repeat until the audio cues were exhausted.

The file types used here are interesting (well, maybe to some): .VOC lost out to .WAV in the long run, and the .FLI animation format -- dominant enough that I formally learned to use it in my final year of high school (sadly, my "Fire in the Sky"-inspired term project is forever lost to the ages: in a nutshell, a sleeping schlub in bed (represented as a blanket with two ugly feet poking out the end) experiences, in a first person perspective, the approach of a UFO, his house's being bathed in a tractor beam, nearby trees (and then the planet Earth, and then the local star cluster) receding, a long, long drill being deployed for probing, then everything apparently returned to normal. Except that... his four-toed feet have been altered by the abductors and now boast a horrifying, inhuman total of five toes per foot. FIVE TOES!) -- was technically supported by the SAUCE computer art metadata injector application (which admittedly breaks many formats that it is claimed to support)... but I never encountered a single .FLI or .FLC in the wild in all my artpack explorations. A mega query on the Dark Domains DVD could perhaps put to rest once and for all the question of whether any artgroups ever released any animations in that format, but my guess is that the answer is "no".

This bit of memory fluff was stirred up sometime over the past few years by my being reminded of it after reading something on a demoparty results announcement -- suggesting, in my mind, that it was in some way a product of the demoscene -- which would easily make it fair game for this blog! (Given its kludgey and inefficient nature, I know that's hard to believe, but having once won a wild compo myself at Crash '97 by hitting people with foam covered PVP piping, I know that anything is possible.) But now that I have this myth of peculiar provenance in my head, I can't dig up a primary document to support it. Well, this tfile comes close, which lists it, but seems upon closer review to simply be a BBS' file section listing:

THE EUROPEAN DEMO LIST
FROM
SPY, XSE, AND EURODEMO FREAKS

It is 1994. European Demos are getting popular. Techno, House, Rave music is getting popular. EMF & KLF are popular. European Demos, you ask? What are they? Let's put it this way....Computer graphic music videos. How bout dat. Well, what this is, is a listing of pretty cool European demos from the best from Europe and a few from our mainland (the few; although we'd like to see more from the U.S.A.)

Without locating L. Tipton, we may never know the full truth behind this curious piece of MS-DOS multimedia (including the single most pressing matter: figuring out why the animation's tongue bends at precisely the opposite angle as Bart's tongue in the original cartoon. Why?!) But on the bright side: there's very little hanging in the balance.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Public Domain textmode art spelunking: Pop Music

I was concerned at one point that this blog was running the risk of suffering the fate of my previous blog on related matters: being taken over by my seemingly endless series of "Video Game Textmode Art" posts, which I long since stockpiled enough material for dozens of posts on. My recent burst of activity has ducked that bullet however -- in fact, we're nearly halfway through the year, and I've only made one addition to that series so far! Maybe I should be more afraid of never getting through it. Maybe next time! First, I have a wholly compelling tangent to take you all on:

Back in November I stumbled upon a page on the vast and endlessly-fascinating textfiles.com complex (which we have visited here before) that was just a big contextless glomming of piles and piles of PD (Public Domain) ANSI art -- converted to .PNG for easy browser viewing, largely dating back to before the format's adoption by underground elites circa 1992. (What Jason Scott's intention was for this page I cannot presume to speculate; however I have found it to be an endless font of inspiration!) It was jarring to see such a well-known and much-loved idiom used so extensively and to such (ahem) varying effect years before it popped... it was a feeling not entirely dissimilar to the creepy tingle an author experienced encountering proto-textmode art poring over microfiche transfers of 19th century newspapers.

This heap was in desperate need of some curation, so I have shaken it down in a few different ways and look forward to presenting you with a few groomed posts exploring different themes of ANSI artwork back in the TheDraw, 1200 baud, pre-artscene era. Otherwise put: What On Earth Did People Draw In ANSI Before Image Comics Were Invented? (In a nutshell: in 1992 seven artists on Marvel Comics' top-selling titles -- notably Todd McFarlane (Spider-Man), Jim Lee (X-Men), Rob Liefeld (X-Force), Marc Silvestri (Wolverine), Erik Larsen (The Amazing Spider-Man), and Jim Valentino (Guardians of the Galaxy) -- felt (likely very correctly) that they'd gotten a raw deal and could do better in an independent comic book house, one which enshrined Creator's Rights and had better royalty rates. In turn, they gave us Youngblood, The Savage Dragon, Spawn, WildC.A.T.s, Cyberforce, Shadowhawk, and Wetworks, and shortly thereafter titles such as The Maxx and Pitt. And anyone who has ever looked into an artpack has seen art from these particular comic books hundreds of times. From the very month they began publishing, Image's eye-candy characters immediately wiped the slate clean of virtually every other subject (barring Calvin and Hobbes) an ANSI-drawing kid might try to commit to pixels. Solely judging from the contents of artpacks, you might be forgiven for thinking that Marvel and DC had gone out of business at that point. Moving along!)

There are some formal innovations that simply hadn't occurred yet in these pieces: until the release of ACIDDraw in April of 1995 (which denizens of the Public Domain would never even have known about), TheDraw limited artists to a single screen of 80 columns by 25 rows (technically 50 were available in a rarely-used mode, but in practical terms this was never used.) They were big on block colours, weak on shading, weak on use of half-block characters, and rarely outlined. By and large, the aspiration seems to have been: "Can you tell what this is supposed to be?" rather than "Does it look good?" But then, small-scale ANSI art production was always difficult -- a different set of minimalist constraints than those the artscene ended up selecting to work around.

This art isn't simply different because of aesthetic sensibilities and the crudeness of available tools, however: it points to a radically different psychological profile of an ANSI-drawing computer user in 1990 from the disaffected "Lone Gunmen" skeptical cyberpunks we think of populating the mid-'90s digital underground: they loved their local sports teams and cheered for their country during the Olympics, read the funny pages in their daily newspapers, celebrated holidays gushingly, and were big boosters of the military (and strong detractors, in turn, of Saddam Hussein.) They're only recognizable as members of our geek tribe at all due to their fondness of Star Trek! The closest thing to an edge any of their tastes might hint at is an affinity for the (contemporary) works of Patrick Nagel. They were sentimental and disgustingly earnest, and felt excited to share primitive digital farts they'd made which a later artscene dood would have sooner died than have their name associated with. You'll see all these sides of them in time, but today we're examining their musical taste.

They didn't listen to techno, because that hadn't reached the mainstream yet; of the rock styles of the '80s, you see quite a bit more representation from the metal than the punk side of things... they don't acknowledge country music at all and their awareness of black music -- R'n'B and the emerging rap phenomenon -- is vestigial at best, nodding only to the contemporary titans simply too big to ignore. Basically, Homo Publicdomainicus, a Joe Six-Pack type, listened to top-40. Love it or leave it!

And like some obsessive fan before the days of instant gratification found in interest-shared online forums, they expressed their love in a fashion not dissimilar to smoke pit kids talismanically scrawling band logos on high school trapper-keepers and jean jackets in ballpoint pen and Sharpie marker or carving them into classroom desks with compass points. These icons and logos were potent magical glyphs broadcasting out to the world that you were not a bloated Eagles fan, you were hungry for the next new thing -- Mötley Crüe. Or Billy Joel. Or what have you. The folks online at this time spent their hard-earned dollars on a curious and expensive hobby, but apparently one that in no way slowed down or interfered with this overall practice of using band iconography to trawl for kindred spirits.

(NB: for purposes of this feature, I have also dipped into the first couple years of artscene artpack releases, as until the Image Comics scroller upheaval their development of the artform was merely evolutionary, not revolutionary. They were still making largely single-screen works in which band iconography figured prominently, and both of these would change drastically as underground ANSI art grew into its own style.)

"You like rock music, no? You enjoy eating hamburgers sitting near memorabilia? Shoe thrown at Liam Gallagher? French toast bitten by Lance Bass? Here: call Hard Rock Cafe - Telegard. Chain Letter forwarded by Ted Nugent! Cindy Crawford swimsuit .GIF uploaded by Nikki Sixx! PimpWars played by Snoop Dogg!" (He renames the grill Flaming Shizzle's.)
So, if you're really into music, I mean like really into it, you probably have a favorite record label, right?
And if you had a really favorite record label, why wouldn't you make an ANSI version of their logo, right? These are almost carbon copies of each other but there are slight variances. There's no reason to believe one was adapted from the other, but rather that there are only so many ways to render the logo given the constraints imposed by the medium. JC and Michael Arnett (a name we shall be seeing a lot of here) are just cases of parallel evolution in this case. Atco Records, make up your mind: are you selling records or CDs? Mike Arnett can swing either way, just let him know.
Atlantic? Yeah, they had a few good artists also. But do you have anything really classic? (Two more by Michael Arnett -- I'm not sure if he was a music-ANSI specialist, but he sure turns up here a lot!)
Ah yes, The Victor RCA "His Master's Voice" dog-on-a-coffin-listening-to-a-phonograph. How droll. Why do you think that a painting from 1898 might be poorly suited for the artistic medium of the computer age? Nothing could be further from the truth! I'm not quite sure what's going on here with the gramophone horn colour shading the foreground lettering, but I dig it.

Noel Gamboa does an excellent job rocking the stylish I.R.S. Records logo:

And of course since pop stars were no longer merely an audio phenomenon, we can also celebrate their recorded images. Michael Arnett gave us a fair reproduction of VH1, the successor channel to MTV:
OK, let's move on to some bands now. Begin at the beginning, with the "A"s: this one is a perennial favorite...
Sure, that's a logo for AC/DC (credited to: "Greylens", which might explain the greyscale palette choice), but have you got something a little more iconic?
Now, can I get it in the full context of an album cover? Much obliged! (By George Ramos Jr. -- I wonder what kind of computer art the old man did, maybe RTTY portraits?)
Got any other AC/DC songs in there? (By Dirty of Hipe -- with a handle like that, it was basically inescapable that he'd wind up doing this logo at some point.)
All right, moving right along. Cramming all those letters in there is a feat in itself, and then you consider... where the heck was Aerosmith in 1990, anyhow? Making guest appearances on Wayne's World and the Simpsons? 1989's Pump was going somewhere, but Get a Grip was still two years ahead of them at this point. (Irrelevant aside: during that period in late '92 when they were recording GAG at Little Mountain Studios, my mother taught kindergarten to one of Joe Perry's sons... which must've been around when they recorded a cover of Oscar the Grouch's "I Love Trash" for a Sesame Street tribute album.) KEITH ARENDS didn't care: HE LOVED AEROSMITH.
OK, another band logo, please! Like record-store bins, we're going alphabetically, which leaves the "A" section a bit top-heavy. (as in the video game industry: Apple would appear before Atari in the phone book, but then Amiga would appear still earlier; ditto for Accolade, who would appear before Activision, who were then scooped by Acclaim... then Absolute Entertainment hits the scene. But we haven't yet reached the Metallica/Megadeth part of this list! The Beau Brummels (unrepresented here, unsurprisingly) pulled a similar trick on the Beatles too...) (And people thought that artscene kiddies were petty and filled with drama!)
(The underground's take on the same subject has more of what could be described as "raw energy".) Chameleon GFX lives up to its name: parts of its logo assume the colour of its background. No, it was drawn, for reasons that may ultimately be known only to Chameleon, using flashing characters, resulting in a logo that was never 100% visible unless you employed the PD-unknown and not-then-invented-yet iCEcolour innovation. (A pain in the neck to capture accurately as .GIF animation. Can it be done? Sure. Is it worth the trouble? Not hardly!) Deeper meaning? Allegorical connection to the spearhead of the British Invasion? None that we can find! The positions of the musical note characters on the staff? Random and arbitrary! Is there a better logo we can use? Coming right up!
This... is an improvement. The subject demands Sgt. Pepper excess, but the medium really would be working against that.
I couldn't place the likeness (creative hair effect, Mike!), but if this follows suit with his other works on the theme, it's probably Belinda Carlisle of the Go-Gos. Apologies for the glitch in the top row -- I painstakingly fixed a bunch of these in post-production, but a few bugs slipped my net. (These files hadn't been downloaded so much as their display captured; their source ANSI files are that of a picture display incoming in a terminal program, dumped to a file. But with no error correction, if your modem made a hiccup (or heaven forbid someone picked up the phone by accident!) and the display glitched a bit, so did the end document. And 25 years later, these glitches would be enshrined and redisplayed with striking fidelity!)
Noel Gamboa couldn't fit both the subject and its logo into the same screen, so he just layered them. I think you made the right choice, mate. This flat style of ANSI art is all outline, no texture, but it gets the job done conveying the bare bones of iconic likenesses.
Billy Joel isn't honoured with an ANSI likeness, but his iconic tune at least is commemorated for the ages -- not just its title, in what appears to be an unusually colourful stock TheDraw font, but its tune! Not in the sheet music score doubled here, but in the perplexing line at the bottom: notation for ANSI music to beep what I assume must be a hook from the song out of a PC Speaker! ANSI music was a very real part of the PD ANSI scene, but an aspect of it that, as best as I've been able to ascertain, was utterly and without exception rejected and buried by the more glamourous underground artscene that followed it!
You've got the wrong idea about me, guys -- Eclipse of Dead didn't even know this WAS a band's name, he just liked the witch rituals! Points for the creative attempt at condensing the final three letters into two. So, the SysOp was named Sabbath... what do you think the odds are that he celebrated Kwanzaa? (I rate them as ... slim.)
Michael Arnett reminds us of another British band we'd long since forgotten (just kidding, actually this is the first I've ever heard of them!) The Blessing:
Jan was a fan of '80s metal band Blue Tears, and he has the ANSI art to prove it:
Greylens strikes closest to the mark perhaps here with his version of the logo of the band Boston. I've seen the rest of his logos -- it's more than a feeling:
Michael Arnett's portrait of Cher presents an interesting case study among these artefacts: by 1991 her career trajectory had pivoted wholeheartedly from singer to actress, but here she is being committed to textmode blocks at this moment in time anyhow as though she was hugely relevant at that moment. (I was alive and awake at the time and my first contemporary awareness of her musical activity was her duet with Beavis & Butthead in 1994.) Maybe Mike is celebrating her success on the silver screen. But as on we go through the list, we observe that though these ANSIs were being made in the late-'80s and early-'90s, a lot of their subjects peaked in the '70s or even '60s (while genuine '80s phenomena such as Michael Jackson or Madonna are perplexingly... nowhere to be seen.) The underground artscene might have championed the new, but the PD artists seemed happiest enshrining established successes they had already known and loved for years.
Update: OK, maybe the public domain ANSI artists weren't so square after all: here's the cover art from Misfits spoiler Glenn Danzig's first album (and gee whiz, that's a funny origin story for the album art!)
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This artist was a bigger fan of Debbie Gibson's songs than they were of typography, driven to ... just get the tunes' names writ large somewhere, anywhere... the content was more critical than the presentation.
It's telling that of my two main hobbies, computers and accordions, accordion has by far the more impressive tribute to Deep Purple. What were these guys up to in 1990? Languishing, it seems: "Deep Purple was approaching death in 1993. Audiences were falling off, we were playing 4,000-seaters with barely 1200, 1500 people in them." But I guess it was their prior achievements that earned them a bona fide ANSI logo.
Roll call! Here's the thing: Jim Morrison died in 1971. Some time later, I was born, eventually traveled to Paris, and saw his grave in the Pere Lachaise Cemetary. And then... his band was considered to still be such a potent cultural force that someone decided they needed to be immortalized in ANSI art form. (Oliver Stone's 1991 movie about the band likely had a part to play. And, I'll concede, anything worth spending millions making a movie about probably rates a measly ANSI logo too.)
But two logos? While the earlier logo boasts a more canonical logo depiction, this one has the virtue of having been seen doing double duty listing a bulletin board's door program menu.
Bonus: a portrait, by Orenda:
OK, while not exactly famous, Dread Zeppelin -- the Led-Zeppelin-songs-performed-in-a-reggae-style-sung-by-an-Elvis-impersonator high concept project, was at least timely in the early '90s. Maybe Noel Gamboa was a friend of one of the band's members.
Who the heck was Elton John in the early '90s? The first moment I ever recall being aware of him doing something (as opposed to having done something, a long time ago) was his appearance at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert in 1992, dueting with Axl Rose on Bohemian Rhapsody (and then sharing a hug with Axl afterwards, as Axl looked like he was trying very hard to avoid spewing chunks.) His opportunistic turn at Diana's funeral and even the Lion King were still years ahead when these PD ANSIs were presumably drawn, so again it must be considered another case of getting famous and coasting on fumes. (This minimalistic PD portrait style is interesting, as you can take the basic facial type of the Billy Idol, above, and add glasses to get Elton John. Well done, ANSI-mation! PS, your name would go down in the annals of textmode history as something completely different -- animated ANSI art -- from what you demonstrate here.)
Michael Arnett, who probably had a little more practice at this kind of thing, at least gets a certain flamboyance into frame with the outfit and the glasses, but I'm sad to say that the logo is a little over the top. (I do appreciate, however, the piano key background in the top left.)
We've seen Tortelvis, and now Mike hits the nail on the head with the genuine article: RIP Elvis Presley, 1977. But in 1990 Living Colour released "Elvis Is Dead" (whose letters, if you squint a little bit, you can almost make out in the glitter), so clearly he was still burbling his way through the cultural subconscious. (Heh, you can enjoy a locally-produced tracker .MODule inspired from that song as a bonus track in our EuphoniX collection released one year ago.) Also: the different stage lights can make! Compare Elvis' pale visage to Elton John's ruddy complexion above! ANSI offered numerous passable skin tones, but no great ones.
Finally! All my comments about timeliness, and then this, Fine Young Cannibals in 1990: peak freshness! Well played, Eric Erway! Sadly, I believe this is your only appearance in this gallery, but you had your finger on the pulse, sir!

The PD artists, as we have seen, had no concern for their celebrated acts being on the right side of their "best before" date, so I'm wondering what it was that made the underground artists so much more keenly conscious of current trends. Of course, they may have just been younger -- we've all heard the hand-waving about how people stop listening to new music after the age of 30 -- and I like to think that their subculture's obsession with "freshness"... not in terms of novelty, but rather the way that warez were measured on a 0-3 days scale... may have played into things. The PD scene was a relishing of the status quo, loving the things you knew you loved, while the underground was much more an endless game of one-upmanship. They just needed to be conversant with "the new shit" simply in order to keep in the loop.

This is kind of a case in point (by Primal Scream) for the timeliness bit, but Jerry Garcia at least had three more years on the clock remaining at this point. You would see rockers with Dead badges on their backpacks for a while yet.
No explicit Guns 'n F'n Roses ANSI art here, but this board's name is a reference to one of their albums at their peak. But, uh, paging the SysOp: you disgust me. Get your act together! You've gotta make up your mind, GNR or Mötley Crüe? This font, from a Hype artpack circa 1992, is just beginning to break out of the TheDraw ghetto of squareness: a bit of 3D layering, some dark-to-light and light-to-dark gradients... but where exactly is the light source supposed to be located relative to the logo? I just can't work it out. Studmuffin, you have much to answer for.
Greylens likes Heart, some good Pacific Northwest content. Well gee whiz, isn't that sweet: the word "Heart", a heart logo, and studded with the heart character. But the literalism is laid on a bit thick: I think a barracuda would have looked more interesting. I had these issues when I was making gig posters also, but he had no reason to draw this ANSI except he felt he had something to express about the band. He failed to express anything about anything other than the word "heart". Alas! Keep trying, Greylens!
Michael Arnett, your failure to realize a Michael Jackson ANSI is here emphasized by the fact that you had a perfect Jackson face already done up with Janet, all you would have needed to do was change the hair, add one glove and maybe lighten the skin tone one notch. (1990 is the exact time period for the first dramatic "OMG what is he metamorphosing into?" realization.)
And now for a little mystery: not bad, Manslayer of SDA!
Wait a sec -- if Manslayer did the psychedelic effects here, then who did the portrait the first time around? And was he previously just taking credit for the logo?
Purple Haze -- the low-hanging fruit of illustration. If you can't draw one, you're not really trying.
This one by Doc of Dead for Electric Ladyland I like for its circuitboard qualities, evoking the "gynoids" of Hajime Sorayama (VERY '80s) in a way that was presumably entirely unimaginable at the time of the phrase's minting.
With the limited palette and iconic shapes of their stage make-up, you'd figure that KISS would be a shoe-in for ANSI immortality. But no, all we get is their logo. (I'm glad to find that I'm not the only one to see the similarity of their closing two letters to the insignia of the Schutzstaffe.)
Ah, Greylens, so we meet again! Still dabbling in the realm of band name typography, but now on the ASCII side rather than the ANSI end of things. These ornaments and flourishes are, if non-canonical, pleasant enough I suppose. But is there anything more, I don't know, iconically Zep out there?
That's more like it! (That angel is not from the cover art of HOTH, but I'm not going to split hairs. Well, not on that particular matter!) This is from am underground art collection, by Eternal Darkness of Dead (cheery sorts, weren't they?), still in 1992 occupying a developing place between the aesthetics of PD ANSI and the underground art styles yet to come: the typography is fully early modern, mixing all kinds of blocks and not occupying a strict grid of right angles, while the character in the background looks almost the result of a GIF2ANSI process outputting only full-block characters (but then dressed in a sash to preserve his dignity.) And it's a kind-of scroller, longer than TheDraw on its default settings would allow!
As for this, well, I just couldn't resist. A fan-made level for the textmode game ZZT named after a Led Zeppelin lyric, promoted with an almost-TheDraw-calibre ASCII logo? It didn't quite belong, and yet I couldn't leave it out. Presumably by Leonard Richard of Hareware.
I wasn't sure about this one by Necromancer of Grim, which is obviously making nods to the metal end of things, but which band had a moustachio'd skeleton as their mascot? (Is that even a moustache? It's hard to know for sure when you use the same shade of grey to denote sunglasses, chain links and facial features.) It reminded me of the recently-late Lemmy of Motörhead, but the quote points us to Megadeth, whose mascot is indeed a charismatic skeleton -- though usually one with a closer shave. It's not quite clear here as I have diverted the single most popular specimen aside for another post exclusively about him, but the one area where ANSI artists, especially the kids of the underground, made sure to celebrate artists who'd been active in the last decade was metal. PD aficionados of classic rock hunkered down and entrenched themselves in their golden eras of the '60s and '70s, but the kids were touting extreme and edgy acts that were current and vital phenomena at that moment. (A handful of them, at least; conspicuously absent in this list are "Monsters of Rock" tourmates Judas Priest, Twisted Sister, Queensrÿche, and ... where the hell is Metallica? Maybe the scenesters rejected them for selling out after their breakthrough success with "Enter Sandman" in 1991.) (Edited to add: ah, here.)
Trans-X's 1983 "Living on Video" might seem too obscure to inspire a piece of ANSI art, but here it is. Is it a frame from the music video (in which a Commodore PET figures prominently!) or just a piece of inspired whimsey by the infuriatingly anonymous KT? Unclear. But it's a fair sight prettier than everything else here, so let's not complain!
And here, out of left field, our single candidate for Southern Rock -- Lynyrd Skynyrd, tragically quashed in a plane crash in 1977, and therefore an excellent (?!) candidate for PD ANSIfication circa 1990. Thanks to JC for taking on this wholly necessary work! (Heh, I'm one to talk!)
The band is a bit before my time and I gather they haven't aged particularly well, so I don't have much to say about Mötley Crüe. I do like the cursive (but why is the y looping back to join with the o?) however -- are those melty little marshmallow skull-and-crossbones in the corners? When you get to the point that you're using little black-on-grey slashes to suggest fine details, you might have gone a little too small-scale. The banding shading effects are, uh, novel.
This is the kind of thing I drew in ANSI (well, iconography of esoteric mystical cults, but it's not that different) before convincing myself that I had zero aptitude for the form. The PD ANSI artist is drawn to no such conclusion. It's not bad for what it is, though it is trying to pack in a little much into such a small space (resulting in some weirdness with eg. the snake coiling down to the blade's tip, then its head appearing up the other side, and yellow is probably overused atop the wings -- hm, I see that some of the problems here are also present in the original album artwork which, I see, also explains the skulls and ligatures discussed in the previous comment.) I don't think you're ever going to convincingly carve an M out of a 3x2 grid; any attempt will necessarily involve those nasty F9 characters and just look like one of those Es rotated.
Who the hell are Night Ranger? Guess they were a thing. Nice pseudo-3D vanishing point perspective with the ASCII slashes, JC!
"ANSI-Mation!" gives us a logo for the British '80s band The Outfield:
Thrasher is demonstrating his oldschool cred here: setting up Pearl Jam in a "Mother Love Bone" context, which would be absurd anytime after 1990.
No parade of Public Domain ANSI art is complete without an appearance by the form's master, Ebony Eyes, who represents here with classic album art (which there must be other, inferior, ANSI versions of) (case in point) from Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon then, for kicks, includes a complete track listing and a Dolby Sound logo. Curious how the outer bands of colour alternate between high and low intensity every half-row, but the desperate workaround to accommodate structural failings of the ANSI art medium, boldly presented as a creative choice instead, lends the composition some dynamism. Play a wrong note, then play it again louder like you meant it!
Now, I don't know that this is actually in reference to Pink Floyd's rock opera The Wall -- the logo is similar but different -- but even if it is just a reference to any old graffiti wall (a frequent passtime for a friend and I in childhood: filling a MacPaint screen with the "brick wall" font and using the "spray can" tool to scrawl tags and slogans all over it. But when I suggested we print our creation: what? that's basically printing an entire sheet of black ink, do you have any idea how expensive and wasteful that would be?) I couldn't resist slipping it in here. Given the odds that RaDMaN may be making a cool reference to an antiauthoritarian masterwork, I give him the benefit of the doubt.
A curious choice of framing -- pictured: mystery yellow steam door in the ground; not pictured: bondage babe crawling toward it on hands and knees. Maybe George Ramos Jr. wanted to keep his PD ANSI art PG as well... coming from an underground artscene perspective, it seems a baffling decision to deliberately omit cheesecake. (This guy would not have been allowed into Integrity!)
I had not previously heard of Sad Cafe, but when looking up the source of the logo I was blown away by how the logo (which despite being offbeat and charming enough in isolation, it turns out is quite clunkily converted Bizarro-style, with all curves railroaded into straight lines) is by far the least interesting element of Misplaced Ideal's album art, which was quite eye-opening!
Michael Arnett returns with another blast from 1990, Sinead O'Connor circa her monster "Nothing Compares 2 U" cover. The likeness is, ehh, not great but you can only achieve so much in 25 lines; the echoed silhouettes on the left are a successful creative risk I think, the radiant shading on the letters less successful perhaps.
Update: meanwhile, in the UK, on teletext -- a 1986 ad for the Smiths' The Queen Is Dead...
And for all the dads out there, Greylens returns with a stock by-the-book blocky logo for everyone's favorite jazz-rock band Steely Dan. I cannot really envision any circumstance where this logo would be called for, but these artists aren't hampered by my bougie failure of imagination.
Remember back when Sting was cool? OK, me neither. (I remember when he was Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen, which is almost close enough.) JD is probably thinking back to his work in The Police the first time around (which had been cooled off for several years by the time our imginary common time of 1990 came around) and maybe not celebrating his reinvention as an easy-listening adult contemporary rising star (then again, maybe he is). The arrangement of the piece puts me in mind of a "Think Different" portrait of Steve Jobs, but that... is not Sting. There are some issues with the portrait -- the line below the lip is one, but the near eye's implied outsized disproportionality is the biggie. (And what is that grey swoosh along the left? First I thought he was leaning his head against his hand, but apparently not so.) My main stumbling block is that my primary identifier for Sting of that era is his lionine mane, all of which is cropped out of frame here. (And, sorry JD, but the logo isn't doing him any favours.)
Greylens, you're halfway to an authetic Styx logo... but this one is just half-baked. (Is it recognizable? Done, upload it!) The angles are inconsistent, the line width irregular, the letters mere outlines... convincing yourself that this was good enough would be a ... Grand Illusion. (Sorry, sorry.)
What on earth was Tom Petty up to in 1990? The Traveling Wilburies, perhaps the act least suited ever for ANSIfication. This likeness by Michael Arnett isn't bad, but I wonder about the decision to leave the whites of his eyes as grey as the rest of his clay-like pallor. The lock of blonde hair on the left side looks a little bit like his forehead has sprung a leak and a shower of liquid gold is spraying out. Why not connect the left leg on the M, Michael? Why?? (Also: drawing a fade-to-black border on the right edge, then realizing that you still have a column left and adding a stripe of bright grey.)
Some anonymous fan liked U2 enough to make them a coloured line-art ASCII logo, but not one that was any damned good:
Hey, could I get an ANSI version of Van Halen's logo, set against the minimalist design of their 1982 album Diver Down?
OK, but the wings are missing a layer and the commitment to making the letters' bottoms as pointy as possible is a little disconcerting. Could you fix that? Doesn't matter if it's a bit chunkier. Much obliged! The public domain provides!
While we're in that frame of mind, hey, Michael Arnett -- how about the clip art devil from David Lee Roth's 1991 solo album "A L'il Ain't Enough"? (Apologies -- due to the method by which this piece was initially captured, the file begins display a couple of lines higher than is seen here -- but then scrolls up, making those lines disappear. Our record of the piece isn't of its own source file, but its display being captured in a 25-line terminal.)
It's been a while (Janet Jackson?) since we've seen a portrait of a human with the skin tone of a human. Here JCL has drawn one. It's not a bad picture! Do you recognize her? Do you know who she is? Fortunately JCL has been kind enough to throw us a bone in the filename: WHITNEY.ANS ... making her the late Whitney Houston! Here she had practically her whole career ahead of her. In ANSI art you live on eternally as forever young! (At least, until your file format becomes completely unintelligible to modern machines.)
Moving right along, a taste of something new from Greylens! This is not the canonical Whitesnake logo, though it is white and does feature a snake. Boxy letters, buddy, but creative use of ascii characters to put a scaly texture on the snake! I'm guessing that that tongue would originally have been flickering in and out (by which I mean being a red line flashing against a black background.)
The unsubtle G. Zornes (with a name like that, there's no point in shooting for nuance) hits us with a logo for the American heavy metal band Winger:
Yes' album Big Generator came out in 1987; I don't know how long it had been out before Greylens again felt he needed to commit its straightforward design to the ANSI art medium, but here it is: letters against a yellow background. Not really much room to excel or distinguish yourself with this one -- it's kind of like doing an ANSI of a stop sign.
From A to Z, here we are at the end of our grand alphabetical promenade through the pop music alphabet of 1990! The capture of this one was cut off (and in so doing, neatly datestamped: this display was captured August 27, 1990) but I feel confident in assigning its creation not just to any old Michael, but our old friend Michael Arnett. It celebrates ZZ Tops' anthem "Legs" in what appears to be a wholly original but completely appropriate fashion: lady legs flouncing in high heels (with colour-coordinated skirts) of three brightly coloured varieties, against a backdrop of sparkly flashes (camera flashbulbs?) and a classic car (Billy Gibbons' "Eliminator" 1933 Ford coupe?) The intertwining of the twin "Z"s bugs me, but it's on-and-off canonical, so I can't complain to Mister Arnett!
Now as a bonus, some musical teletext from Horsenburger -- Gene Simmons' tongue from Kiss, Morrisey of the Smiths, and David Bowie as Aladdin Insane:
Stop! Hammertime! As a special bonus for getting through all that, I was filtering out the rap to present as a special supplement here at the end! Michael Arnett delivers the goods again! I like Hammer's severe urban haircut and stern Malcolm X gaze through his glasses, as though this is a dangerous man to middle America. (The jumping dancers in the background are the icing on the cake)
All right, enough of the warm & fuzzy Hammer nostalgia: do we have anything by a serious rap artist?
Let me, uh, ask that question again. (Tank of ACiD -- for the underground was always hipper, if only slightly so in this case, than the PD world -- works hard to do much with a simple logo; the cancelled-out Ma Bell icon makes me wonder if Tone-Loc's handle had anything to do with phreaking?) And now we hit the rap revolution that ripped through the underground ANSI scene, possibly more consistently than any musical act before or since:
Tank strikes black with another ACiD joint showing that his tastes could run a little more to the hardcore. Public Enemy's provocative imagery was like a jolt from a 12-volt battery to sheltered computer kids. I don't know about the use of paired F9 characters here to provide the holes in the letters, but I was never an ACiD ANSI artist so what do I know?
Ren of Mirage was another underground Public Enemy fan. The iconography is stark, dense but simple to render: a perfect candidate for ANSIfication!
Here Shadow Demon of AAA, the precursor of ACiD, presents us with the purplest Flava Flav imaginable! It's like he's a human-shaped shiny eggplant, like some enemy out of Kid Icarus. But cut him some slack, we all know what is possible with only 25 lines to work with (ie: not much!)
And one final AAA Public Enemy nod from a young man we can expect great things from: RaDMaN! Four words, four different font styles. (That "is" almost wants to be a swastika.) When I see a slogan like that coming from a source such as this, I always wonder if there's a subtext to it criticising the frail and insecure telephone networks. And that's a (w)rap!
OK, are you ready for a joke?
Our man Michael Arnett delivers! Is the subject any good? He doesn't care: if it's popular, he will ANSIfy it. Nice job on making the letters icey, though the blurring together of the "L"s in Vanilla makes me think they're made of melting ice cream bars smooshing together. But that's just the pre-punchline: here's the real funny stuff. Hope you enjoyed this post, survivors of the '80s!