I’ve spent a number of years using my pal Craig’s face in weekly show art for a podcast that we do. It’s fun.

Someone asked him recently what the back story was for these images, and why I use that same face of his in every image. This happens on occasion, so I figured I’d share it in an authoritative accounting.

This isn’t just a vague recollection, either. This is a precise oral history. Hopefully, if Craig is reading this blog, he’ll offer in the comments his perspective on the surprise of encountering his face on a random piece of art he wasn’t expecting. Perhaps that’s getting ahead of the story, though, and we need to take this in steps of natural progression.

Our first step is to go back to a time when Craig and I worked together.

Beware the Patient Man

Craig and I worked together a number of years ago, and for that job we had to take photographs for our mugs to be placed on the company website. I remember at the time that the person taking the pictures commented how I always gave the same smile/face and encouraged me to spice things up.

I replied that I was perfectly comfortable with my standard smile which, honestly, works just fine for me. Besides, I have as strict a policy as I can about pictures in the social media age; the era of the harmless funny moment isn’t the one in which we’re livin’. There’s no understanding of humor out of context, and everyone’s got the soulless filter of a cranky robot online, so why risk it anymore?

Zingers
The official food served in kesselvania, and its primary export.

Anyway, flash forward to a big day: All the photos for every employee who was a part of the picture sessions was made available on a shared company folder. We were told to peruse and select which one we wanted to represent us on the website.

Being the curious lad I am, I took a peek in other people’s folders. I’m sure they did the same. I hope they did the same, and looked at my pictures to ask, “Does this dope have only one expression for pictures?”

I was scrolling through, feeling a little weird because I was looking at other people’s pictures, but I really was curious as to what everyone else’s pictures looked like. I’m actually fairly self-critical, and wanted to see if anyone had figured out a way to dazzle the camera beyond my generic smile.

I saw it, then. Shining like a big, bright star. I saw something that made me laugh, and triggered a reflex in me with which, by that point, Craig was all too familiar.

I saw a picture of Craig making the funny face you’ll see featured in the images featured in this blog. The face was paired with the “double gun” that every salesman who wishes he worked for Mitch & Murray uses.

I wanted to say something and start mocking him immediately. When you’re friends with the Founder and CEO of The Zinger Factory,  you should know what to expect. It’s also an important part of our friendship, by the way: Brutality.

A tiny part of my brain figured out, though, that I could have even more fun if I waited. If he didn’t know I’d seen it, I could keep it in my back pocket and use it to make an even bigger joke at his expense, possibly publicly!

I downloaded the original image, did a quick isolated version of that face…and waited.

…and waited…

The Unveiling

Sooner than I expected, the day came. I had an opportunity to surprise him with the image, and get a great laugh to boot. I mean, I had it at my disposal, I found something that fit my skill set for the time, and I gave it my best shot.

Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens’ first trailer was unleashed while I was out for a run, while visiting my in-laws. It had a shot of Finn popping up in a desert, out of sorts. The trailer immediately captivated anxious fans across the globe.

I watched that trailer numerous times. I showed it to people. I listened to the voice of Snoke. I was curious about the new three-bladed lightsaber. I spotted the inimitable JJ Abrams style in the way the Millennium Falcon maneuvered over the desert wastes of what was later revealed not to be Tatooine.

I kept watching. I started thinking.

I thought how funny it would be if, instead of a frazzled man in stormtrooper armor, it was someone popping into frame like a scamp and making a silly face.

CraigTrooper

I admit that, as I look back on it, there are things I wish I could have done better. I made no effort on the shading, and I didn’t color balance properly, and I didn’t light-source it at all. I’m not thrilled with the neckline with the black undersuit.

Still, it ain’t half-bad, and the reception to it was warm enough that I thought, “Maybe I could find other pictures with which to use this face.”

While there’s a smattering of imagery I tinkered with afterward, dropping the face into shots like an image at Spock’s station in Star Trek, the next great opportunity I had to use the photo was when he shared his mixtape which was a key to good lovin’, leading to the joke, “50 Shades of Craig.”

The inevitable happened.

50ShadesofCraig
Horrifying on so many levels.

The head’s not quite at the proportion I’d like, and it doesn’t account for neck-to-open-jaw dimensions. The lettering is a bit off, and could be better. Still, it’s a good laugh and a joke that had a lot of steam for awhile.

Continual Improvement

Along the way, I’ve gotten better. I’ve managed to make a lot of the art more…subtle.

I’ve placed him in many places and made him many people. I’ve expanded and given him different hair on his head, facial hair when he had none, made him a robot with a removable face, placed him at important historical events, and made him many superheroes.

Never, ever has he been Batman, though. We all know why that is.

But he’ll always be Craigula.

Craigula-Definitive
Little-known fact: There are TWO versions of Craigula, and they rotate appearances, like a nightmarish Mall Santa.

The Irony & The Curse

It’s been a great training tool for getting better with Photoshop, and the Adobe suite of products in general. I’ve gotten to the point where I can see an image and figure out how

It’s also a curse. I cannot watch a single movie, television show, or other filmed entertainment without having at least one flicker of a moment where I wonder how I’d insert that face into what I’m watching.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a horror film, a comedy, or a deeply-affecting drama, if there’s a minute to let my mind wander…there’s that face. Heaven help me during an action movie. If the action isn’t extremely compelling, I’ll be inserting that face over the actors constantly.

A Parting Gift

So here’s a smattering of images that I’ve created over the years that speak to just how far I’m willing to go down this rabbit hole. Sometimes they’re good, sometimes they’re great. But thanks to that face, they’re always funny.

Keep in mind that what I share here is a literal fraction of what I’ve done. This is the most fun you can have while trolling your pal.

 

The best part is, I’ll keep trolling him simply by sharing these images. He’s even adopted a version of the Stockholm Syndrome, and looks forward to them. I think after awhile, it was just easier to accept it was going to happen. and they have gotten better.

It’s a joke that’s evolved like L3-37, and has its own will. It will continue to exert its will.

The pictures are out there for all time. In fact, Google image searches for “kesseljunkie” turn up…Craig’s face in these pictures. I mean, I tag them so they do, but it’s a fun sort of anonymity. Hopefully the worst I saddle him with is a stalker, and not an assassin.

I’m not ready to make the image to place next to his casket yet. But one day, when they call for it…

…I will be.

WWN-AchToBaby
Currently he’s hiding on Ah-choo, a planet with plentiful water for brewing beer.
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