Demon Princes 1 : Drawing the Myriad Worlds of Jack Vance

General / 27 June 2018
Ah Vance! I know no other author that has had a bigger influence on me. Settling down to read any of his great works is always a treat!
From his prose, to his characters and his wonderfully vivid descriptions:    
He was a large man, surprisingly ugly for this age when a pointed nose or an overloose mouth could be repaired in a matter of hours.
He had made no attempt to camouflage his ugliness; indeed, it seemed as if his rather harsh blue-green skin dye, almost the color of verdigris, accentuated the coarseness of his features, the rather gauche brusqueness of his motions.
His head was the shape of a gourd; the heavy chin rested on his breast with no perceptible intervention of neck, the hair was dyed the color of wet moss. From knee to shoulder he seemed of uniform thickness, with a torso like a log.
Isn’t that just wonderful? It reads like a story told by a brilliant but mischievous storyteller spinning yarns by the firelight!
My favorite stories of his are the books that are set in what in some series is called the Oikoumene and in others the Gaean Reach.
The backdrop for those books is one where humans had near infinite space to settle and where interstellar travel is affordable and very common. Two things happen as a result of that: one is that humans have split of in to many different unique and sometimes isolated cultures and the other is that due to ease of travel beyond the boundaries of the civilized worlds there is a lawless zone full of pirates, slavers and all sorts of nefarious goings-on.
These books don’t have great galactic empires going to war, no chosen ones on whose shoulders rests the fate of the universe. These are all stories of people and their human-sized challenges and desires.
Of these the series the one I like best (the Cadwall Chronicles being a very close second) is the Demon Princes.
I first read them when I was about twelve when my mother brought the collected Dutch translations home among a stack of second hand books. It was one of those books that hook you in on the first page. 
1068 pages later I had been on a galaxy spanning quest for revenge that took me to countless exotic worlds hunting down the Demon Princes: five crime bosses who participated on a brutal raid that wiped out our anti-hero Kirth Gersen’s village. Trained by his fanatical grandfather to be the ultimate killer he’s devoted his whole life to killing these five men. 
Suffice to say I enjoyed it immensely when I was twelve and every few years I reread the series, in its original English now, and if anything I enjoy it even more.
When the time came to do a nice big project to build up my portfolio for visual development and storyboarding the choice of subject was obvious: designing an animated version of the Demon Princes! Ive been wanting to do something with the Demon Princes for years and this seemed a great opportunity to sharpen my skills and lose myself in the world of the books at the same time.
So a few months ago I made a preliminary sketch of Kirth Gersen and sent it in an email to Spatterlight Press*. Lo and behold only a few hours later I got any email back from John Vance, Jack Vance’s son! And It was incredibly friendly and gave me the greenlight to go ahead with this project, pretty much the greatest thing that ever landed in my inbox.
After that I immediately got started on fleshing things out, starting with the main characters and the two vehicles used by Gersen in the first chapter of the first book.
I liked the way they came out, but when i showed these designs to a veteran animator things quickly got a lot more complicated…
To be continued! In this post in fact.
*Spatterlight Press are the current holders of all Jack Vance’s work and his heirs. Recently they’ve released great integral editions of the aforementioned books.