Oh, I see! moments
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Creative Inspiration from 365 Superheroes

by Meredith Mullins on March 21, 2013

Mulch, overgrown and green, serves as creative inspiration for one of 365 superheroes.

Superhero #68, Mulch, takes on the world.
© Everett Downing

Getting Inspired . . . The Superhero Way

When I was eight, I thought I could fly. Turns out I couldn’t. (One of the more brutal “Oh, I see” Moments of my life.)

I jumped joyously from the top railing of our porch steps, waiting for my arms to become wings. But soon after liftoff, I found myself in a crumpled heap at the bottom of my launch pad.

I had been so sure. So sure I could fly. After all, I had role models like Superman, Peter Pan and Wendy, Captain Marvel, the Flying Nun, and Dumbo.

The creative inspiration was there. But, regrettably, superpowers don’t come easily.

Limelight, neon green flying superhero, serves as creative inspiration for 365 superheroes

Limelight—Superhero #162

Superpowers and Superheroes

We all wish for superpowers. Flight. Invisibility. X-Ray Vision. Extraordinary Strength. Mind Control. Ability to Time Travel. Healing Prowess.

And sometimes we just wish for superheroes to come along and save the day.

Maybe the key is this:

If we need them, they will come.

Civil Liberty—female superhero in red, white, and blue—serves as creative inspiration for 365 superheroes

Civil Liberty, Superhero #79, fights for justice.
© Everett Downing

Imagining the Supers

Superpowers and superheroes give us hope, especially in the face of overwhelming odds or even just the everyday problems of living life.

For Pixar Story Artist Everett Downing, the supers were the creative inspiration he needed.

He was ready for an artistic self-kick in the pants. He felt he was in a rut and needed to shake things up a bit.

So, he made a New Year’s Resolution to draw a superhero every day—a way to set his right brain free. 365 supers. He would let creativity and imagination (and his childhood love of weird and wild heroes) take over.

His only guideline was not to overthink. The drawing could not take more than an hour.

Whipper/Snapper, lobster claws and whips, creative inspiration for 365 superheroes

Partners Whipper and Snapper, Superheroes #132 and 133
© Everett Downing

He found it easiest sometimes to be inspired by the name—one he had thought of or an offer from friends, fans, or family. A cool name like Vibe or Apex or a pun or word play like Arm and Hammer, Alpha Romeo, Giga-bite, Red Cross and Blue Shield.

Sometimes an origin story came first, like Pandorceress, and the character grew from the story he wove. (She found Pandora’s box and opened it. Then paid with her eyesight but was given dark wisdom in return.)

Think Tank, a tank with a brain, creative inspiration for 365 superheroes

Think Tank, Superhero #282—brute force and brain power.
© Everett Downing

From Impulse to LOL—Just Have Fun

Creating the whole cast of characters took him a bit longer than he expected, but he stayed with it. He just finished #365 last week, with his blog fans (365 Supers) and Facebook friends cheering him across the finish line.

“I won’t say it wasn’t tough,” he says. “I wanted to quit plenty of times. But getting encouragement from people can be extremely powerful.”  When he got stuck, his supercommunity would give him a gentle push and remind him to “just have fun.”

Everett Downing, artist who drew 365 superheroes for creative inspiration

Everett Downing keeps his resolution—
365 superheroes . . . done!
© Michael B. Johnson

From Howler to Cacophony to Emoticon to Morph Fiend—these supers can do everything from “creating crushing decibles at will” to “morphing into whatever form suits the moment.”

Sometimes they are partners (Shock and Awesome, Ball and Chain, Whipper/Snapper), sometimes dread enemies, and sometimes even adversaries and lovers (Deal Breaker and Heart Breaker).

Auntie Matter, pink and black female superhero, creative inspiration for 365 superheroes

Auntie Matter, Superhero #95
© Everett Downing

Oh, I See

These heroes (and villains) are full of power and creative inspiration. “Everyone wants to believe that we can be larger than life,” Everett says of the superhero phenomenon, “and that one person can make a big difference.”

But the real “Oh, I see” moment is that we don’t need to be a superhero to do right and might. We mortals may not be able to fly or have x-ray vision, but we can heal and help, find extraordinary strength, and champion causes with dogged determination (like Dober-Man and the Pincher) when we need to.

And we can give ourselves creative challenges (and meet them!) just to keep life interesting. That’s a superpower of the best kind.

Thank you, Everett Downing, for the creative inspiration . . . and a whole new world of superheroes.

Silent Knight, creative inspiration for 365 superheroes

Silent Knight, Superhero #284
© Everett Downing


Stay tuned for Everett’s next projects on Mr. Scribbles’ Sketchblog. We just might see a reunion of this awe-inspiring cast of characters.

VIA National Public Radio and Wired Magazine

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