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Lost Jobs (an occasional series): Hooter’s Island

Sometimes things don’t go exactly to plan. You’re commissioned for a job, the artwork is delivered to the client, but then plans change, for one reason or another it never sees the light of publication. Sometimes the work is a preliminary sample for a project which is later dropped, sometimes the production budget disappears or other outside circumstances interfere, occasionally the job is cleared by the art department, only for the company boss to veto at the last minute. It’s usual for ‘hiccups’ to be sorted out at sketch stage, however very occasionally it happens after the production of finished artwork. I thought it might be interesting to show some production anvils, some “Jobs that Never Were”. Case 1. Hooter’s Island The drawings in this post are all for a book that was never published. Some years ago I was commissioned to illustrate a children’s novel with black and white drawings by an editor who had previously worked for one of the biggest character licensing companies in Japan (think of a certain cute kitten…). The story had originally been written as the plot to an animated film but shelved with the 1990’s economic crisis. By the time I was approached the editor had started his own company and planned to publish the story as a novel. What he didn’t explain was that he had written the story himself under a pen name – it was his own pet project – the printing and distribution was to be funded purely out of his own pocket. It was, in essence, a self-published book.

I completed the work and handed over around twenty finished illustrations, plus a full colour cover, but low and behold, he ran out of cash. The editor vanished, and the printer, who I believe was also never paid, held on to the artwork as collateral, fortunately after a struggle I was eventually at least able to convince him to give me the drawings back. I’d accepted the job under the presumption I was dealing with a respected editor at an established company, I would certainly have thought twice had I been aware of the circumstances.

The story was about a group of children en-route to visit a high-tech underwater adventure land, who are caught in a storm and wrecked on an abandoned island.

After dragging their pod transporter ashore squabbling ensues and they divide into rival factions.

The children split up to explore the island, and discover shipwrecks…

… shark infested waters…

… and eventually some realise the island is inhabited by mysterious ‘Hooter’ creatures.

The rivalry gets worse, the children divide into two groups.

All seems lost until an abandoned science laboratory is discovered at the centre of the island.

There, the Hooters are revealed as benign protectors of the island created by a long dead scientist. A distress signal is sent, and after a final showdown between the two main rivals the children are eventually rescued.

The story was a melding of familiar elements in a lightweight, adventure setting. Kind of Island of Doctor Moreau meets Lord of the Flies meets Pokemon, for an 8 – 10 year old readership.

It was a shame the work was never published, they’re not really drawings that can easily be adapted for other uses. But at least I can share them here.

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