In retrospect, this is more interesting than I realized.
In the early summer of 2008, just about one year before I would begin the Moby-Dick illustration project, the artist Shawn Cheng invited me to be a Guest Artist on the Partyka site for a second time. Partyka is a comics and art collective, founded in Brooklyn by four good friends. I'd met Shawn and a few of the others at various small press shows and, smitten with his art and his zines, sent him several adoring emails which eventually gave way to a long distance friendship.
Since this was to be my second appearance on Partyka as a Guest Artist, (my first had been a collection of the Archons drawings that I am so fond of) Shawn asked if I had any new work I could share. At the time I didn't but I was already feeling the stirrings of artistic restlessness that eventually led directly to the Moby-Dick thing.
Casting about for ideas, I was drawn to something really ambitious. I knew I wouldn't be able to finish it all in time for my appearance as a Guest Artist, but I wanted to do something big. Funny. See how weirdly prophetic this was for what was to happen the following summer? Anyway, lacking any world-shattering ideas, I settled on my childhood love of the Mega Man videogames, especially the old 8-bit classics. One of the many things I loved about those games was the seemingly endless inventiveness of the designers who came up with hundreds of different robot designs, each unique and distinctive and delightful, for the hero Mega Man to fight. At the end of each level, Mega Man would face a boss, called a Robot Master. Each of these Robot Masters had a name that started with some descriptor or power and ended with "Man." So in the games you'd have bosses like Cut Man and Fire Man and Elec Man and Air Man and Oil Man and so on. It was great fun.
I decided I wanted to create my own Robot Masters, and since I wanted to be ambitious (and I have weird numerological superstitions) I set out to make 111 of them. Also, and this too is prophetic, I had been holding on to a big pile of TV repair diagrams that I had snagged during my days working in a used book store, and I thought that since I would be creating my own Robots, why not use this paper and paint over it? So odd how this all laid the groundwork for Moby-Dick.
I'm still quite fond of these Robot Masters. I think they're really charming. I never finished the 111, but I did create 11 of my own and 4 based on the Robot Masters from the first Mega Man game. You'll see them all. Only one at a time, instead of 15 in one day. I don't want to do that to anyone again!