The Clarke

Back in the final days of June, an email was posted to the PortLUG mailing list about a spaceship commission. I’ve been interested in doing some paid commission work for a while, so I fired off a reply.

The editor-in-chief at Oni Press had a comic that was ending its run. The title, Letter 44, revolved around the Clarke, a spaceship that had been built for a secret mission. He wanted to give each of the comic’s creators a LEGO® model of the ship. I put together a quote and once I had the thumbs-up, I got to work.

I decided to start with a prototype. Oni provided me with PDFs of the comic to use as reference. I read through them and took screenshots of the ship at various angles.

The first thing that struck me was that Alberto Jiménez Alburquerque has a dramatic style where proportions shift from scene to scene. To make things more difficult for me, there was only one technical-style image of the ship, and that was a cover and partially obscured by logo and text.

Since attempting to create an ‘accurate’ model seemed foolish, I focused on the ship first in broad strokes of form. Once I was able to envision the hull as a variety of circular bricks and plates, I picked out the details that would be most important. I fussed with elements, building and re-building sections until I had something I liked.

I’d had to make a few concessions. There was no way to make the ring at the back a torus, the elements just didn’t exist. The forward section was supposed to have short fins that stuck out from between the curves, but again, I couldn’t think of a way to capture them without making the model much too fragile.

Beyond all of that, the colors were wrong. This prototype was build using elements that I had in my studio and when I ran out of the color I wanted, I just used whatever else I had a hand.

After a few small tweaks, I wrote down a list of the elements that I would need. Once I’d double checked the list, I used it to create a BrickLink wish list. They have a handy feature where you can buy an entire wish list with the click of a button. Voila, I had six orders ready to place.

Luckily, I didn’t have any bad orders and everything arrived pretty quickly. It was exciting to see all the elements arrayed on my work table.

Then I had a long evening assembling. Of course, there were problems. I had miscounted or omitted a few elements. Luckily enough I was able to draw from my studio supplies for all the shortfalls. In the end, I had five lovely copies of the Clarke.

A few days later I loaded them in a box and hopped on the MAX (our local light rail) to deliver them to the Oni Press headquarters. It was super quiet that day, as just about all of the staff was taking a few days off to recover from San Diego Comic Con. I got to chat with James Lucas Jones for a bit and geek out about the models.

It has been a couple of months and New York Comic Con is in full swing and the cat is finally out of the bag.

So without further ado, here is my rendition of the Clarke.

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I really like how the final model came out. I think that I succeeded in capturing the essential elements of the design and the character of the ship. At one point in the process, I shared a picture of the prototype with a private group of AFOLs and one of them immediately identified it as the Clarke (he was a fan of the comic). That is what really told me that I’d pulled it off.

I hope that the Letter 44 creators love their ships. I know that I really enjoyed designing them.

Keep building and enjoy!

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