Friday, May 4, 2012

Copying Evil Clowns

Everybody loves Evil Clowns. Don't they?

I sure do. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Stephen King's IT as a teenager. Evil Clowns have never been scarier. I wonder how many nightmares the fictional Pennywise has induced?

The other top infamous Evil Clown of the 20th century, is of course DC Comics' JOKER. How can you go wrong there? Who doesn't love Ceser Romero, Jack Nicholson and the late Heath Ledger as Batman's psychopathic arch-enemy?

What I didn't know is that the Joker was inspired by the character of Gwynplaine, played by Conrad Veldt, in the 1928 silent movie The Man Who Laughs, based on the novel of the same name by Victor Hugo. Gwynplaine's father, a nobleman, offends King James II, and is put to death in an iron maiden. The King orders his surgeon Hardquannone to then permanently disfigure the face of young Gwynplaine, so that the boy will "laugh forever at his fool of a father."

If you look at images of Conrad Veldt in the Gwynplaine makeup, the resemblance to the Joker is clear. This is a reminder that all good artistic ideas are merely regurgitations, slightly altered, of previous good ideas.

Which leads me to an aphorism of mine, which is merely derivative of another great artist, but my spin nonetheless:

"If you choose to consciously avoid copying the Greats, you will unconsciously end up copying the Not-so-Greats."

-David Hudnut, c. 2010

1 comment:

  1. Cool. Nice. I'll have to check out that movie. Is it on netflix?