Below is the third of four installments on my favorite print-based visual storytelling work, where I provide choice images and cleaned-up notes on why I love these works so much. Read the first installment along with the story of how I did this, or read the second installment. I encourage you to consider where you come from creatively by revisiting and reflecting on your favorite and most foundational influences.
Note: The rights of these works belong to the creators and their publishers; blemishes in the image quality of the shots below are meant to acknowledge and respect that. If you want a better look at any of these works, go out and buy them! ;-)
1980’s-Era Legend of Zelda
Various (Uncredited?) Artists
I tried searching for the names of the artists responsible for this work, but it appears to have been for-hire and simply became property of Nintendo. :-(
While this work doesn’t come from a comics per se, it is visual storytelling that has had a lasting impact on me.
The overall aesthetic is of an otherworldly land with bizarre structures to explore. It follows an older style that’s not flashy, almost mundane, and yet rich in wonder – like a clear mind wandering.
In classic manga style, detailed environments complement simplified characters formed through a minimalist style of tightly drawn basics hapes. It’s almost “chibi”, using stocky bodies, big faces, and expressive eyes. Speaking of which, I love the eyes in this artwork: large but not comically so, shaped heavily by the eyebrows, and always in harmony with the whole face.
Also essential to the aesthetic are the creepy monsters, including cycloptic beasts, floating heads, and powerful but bashful wizards. Overall they make for an antagonist troupe that’s cute but deadly.
Unlike the other works in this Influences series, the Zelda games are minimal in story; what narrative exists in the series is loose and more impressionistic than that of most comics. But there are clear story elements apparent throughout the Zelda series that work in tandem with the videogame format. There’s a significant focus on growth over time and a strengthening of character through many difficult trials. Yet again, it’s the combination of these elements with engaging visual styles that brings about a unique kind of dramatic magic that neither visuals nor text alone could accomplish.
Stay tuned for the next post in my Influences series – the final comics-based entry.
All images referenced in this post are from Hyrule Historia (2013) from Dark Horse Books.