Animal Alphabet Part 2: In With The New?

As mentioned in part one of my Animal Alphabet roundup, folks seem to be interested in a new alphabet project. There was a bit of discussion about possible themes a few weeks back on Twitter and Google+, but I thought I’d post some thoughts here as a centralized area for getting input and suggestions–and hopefully finalizing something so we can officially launch the new alphabet project as soon as possible.

Beasts and Creatures

As things stood at the end of preliminary discussions a few weeks back, the most agreed-upon theme was “Beasts and Creatures.” I’ve been doing a bit of thinking on this, though, and it’s seeming to me that there’re probably some specific guidelines that should be sorted out beforehand. Animals is a fairly straightforward theme and with the exception of one or two mythical animals (that I culled from the tumblr and will repost if we do Beasts and Creatures as our theme) there wasn’t a whole lot of explanation needed. “Beasts and Creatures” though has a lot more wiggle room. I’m just throwing things out there, but here are some thoughts:

1) No creatures that actually exist or have actually existed in the past. So, no dinosaurs or giant sloths.

2) Generic creature names are legit, but so are proper names. “D is for Dragon” works. So does “S is for Smaug” (the dragon from The Hobbit).

3) Fictional does not equal “creature.” Hedwig the owl from Harry Potter is not legit.

4) OK, here’s one that’s maybe contentious: The creature must be from something–a book, movie, myth, legend whatever–but you can’t just make up an original creature yourself.

5) Another contentious one: It seems to me like we want myth/fantasy-type creatures, not SF-type creatures. Is there “neat” way to exclude, say, rancors and Tribbles, etc.

Edit: 6) Should humanoid fantasy creatures like dwarves and elves count for beasts & creatures?

As I said, I’m just throwing these out there. Please comment and let me know what you think.

Robots and Aliens

Thinking through that last point, it occurred to me that another potentially fun theme–and one that wouldn’t have nearly as much wiggle room–would be “Robots and Aliens.”  The guidelines here would be pretty straightforward:

Any non-human from any science fiction book, movie, TV show, etc.


So, anyway… existing Animal Alphabet participants, possible contributors to this next project, let me know your thoughts!

(Also: this go round, I’d like to pawn off  tumblr updating duties to someone else. It’s not a hugely time-consuming, but I’ll soon be losing a work morning to some weekly volunteer work at my daughter’s school, so I’m trying to economize time-wise at the moment. Andrew Neal volunteered to help on that front, but if someone else wants to be in charge of updating, or wants to help Andrew out, please mention that as well.)


  1. Eraklis Petmezas says:

    Hey brother,
    I would be up for joining in, especially if you do beasts and creatures. I think it would be really fun. Loved what you guys did the last time for sure.

  2. Ben says:

    @Herc – That’d be great! I’m betting that beasts and creatures will be what we do based on the feedback I’ve gotten so far. I’ll make an official announcement probably this week.

  3. Eraklis Petmezas says:

    Sweet. I was talking to Henry yesterday about it. I’d try to keep it all Greek beast and creatures, but not sure I can find one for every letter. will try though. ;-p

  4. Isaac says:

    I’m not sure I like rule #5, if only because I think it’s kind of difficult to sort out the border between “fantasy” and “scifi.” I mean, where would you put, say, mogwai? Or creatures from Dark Crystal? Plus, come on: don’t we want to be able to draw the rancor beast?

    I do, however, have a rule of thumb to answer #6: I think it’s not a “beast” or a “creature” if you would feel bad about putting it in a zoo. (Assume an ideally humane zoo.) So: Dwarf and Elf are out (at least in my alphabet), but Winged Monkeys are okay.

    I’d object to rule #2. We didn’t have people drawing specific animals for the first alphabet. (If I’d had a goldfish named Xerxes, I should have drawn him for G and not X.) I know that there are difficult cases—some fantasy animals are one of a kind. But if you can put “the” before the word (“the Grinch” or “the Lorax” but not “the Horton” or “the Maysie”) then it’s probably a name for a type and not for an individual.

  5. Ben says:

    @Isaac – Good points. I really like the “the rule” and the “zoo rule.” I’m still a bit wary about including SF creatures. You’re right about it being difficult to draw a line; it’s definitely in the “you know it when you see it” category for me (mogwai: no, Dark Crystal: yes, rancor: no). Let’s see what other folks have to say…

  6. Isaac says:

    (Of course, my own version of rule #6 excludes the Grinch and the Lorax, but you take my point, I hope.)

  7. Isaac says:

    Eraklis, I predict you will have trouble doing an “all-Greek” English alphabet around the time you get to the letter F, since all the Greek words that start with that sound get transliterated with a PH.

  8. Isaac says:

    One more thing, which I really should have said before I otherwise opened my mouth at all:

    Despite my own niggling above, I don’t actually think we really need to enter the project with a bunch of rules. “Beasts and Creatures” ought to be clear enough. The more rules you create, the more effort you’ll have to spend enforcing them.

    The best approach, I think, would just be to make sure all of the serious contributors are “on the same page” before we get rolling. As long as people understand that (1) it’s meant to be a critter and not a person, (2) it’s supposed to be imaginary or fictional, but not made up by the person doing the drawing. If we do a couple of weeks like that, precedent will be stronger than policy ever could be.

  9. Ben says:

    @Isaac – Yeah, I agree. I do, though, want to have an actual page on the tumblr with a few simple things. Last go round there were some entries that didn’t fit that probably could have been avoided with just a few sentences on a “basic rules” page.

  10. Anii says:

    This sounds awesome!! (But personally I’d like to see Hedwig and a Rancor hanging out…)

  11. Ben says:

    @anii – It sounds like the “rancor rule” will probably get dropped. As far as Hedwig goes, I think an owl’s out of scope for this particular theme, but one thing that got discussed early on–and that may appear as a future theme–was doing an A-Z of characters from books…. and that’d certainly be a place for things like a drawing of Hedwig.

  12. Isaac says:

    I suppose that after we do the beast & creatures we could always do a “portrait night” alphabet. I don’t have the caricature skillz for it, not hardly, but I guess I could try to figure out what historical personage (for each letter of the alphabet) was most iconic to draw, and do it without getting the face right.

    Or a sort of variation on “portrait night,” more like the “other half” of “Hey, Oscar Wilde!”—portraits of fictional, instead of actual, people. That one might appeal to a different crew of cartoonists, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

  13. mmarxen says:

    The beasts and creatures would be hard for me. (Heck, I had a hard enough time with the “X” of real animals.) So I may be just on the sidelines for that one. Which is totally okay. Leave it to the pros on this one. Just at first glance, it’s a little too complicated for my simpleton tastes. What? I have to research stuff? I’m out.

    I like the idea from Isaac for “portrait-o-the-week”, but I know you do that already in some form.

  14. Ben says:

    @Mandy, @Isaac – I’d thought of a portrait thing at one point, but drawing likeness is so, so hard… I didn’t think there’d be many takers. That’s where the drawing characters from books thing came from, though–which I still think would be fun to do at some point.

    And c’mon, you gotta play, Mandy! Here’re nine just from Buffy!


  15. Brendan says:

    Totally down for Beasts and Creatures this go around. Next theme should be “People who have hosted Jeopardy” :D

  16. mmarxen says:

    D’oh! Mr. Towle, you know my Achilles’ heel. Lead on!

  17. Lupi says:

    Yay! Like I said before, I was planning on doing a beasts/creatures series anyway, so I might as well do a whole alphabet of them. I’d also be up for doing portraits/caricatures (I love a challenge) or book characters some time in the future.

    For beasts & creatures, I like the “the” rule, but I’m not so sure about the zoo rule. Would that mean anything part human (mermaids, centaurs, werewolves) are verboten? And what about things that are definitely creatures, but too sentient to be locked up (Smaug, Fafnir, the Horta)?

    Anyway, I don’t think the rules need to be too specific, as long as most people understand the spirit of the project.

  18. Sam says:

    The following is a fairly comprehensive resource for many creatures from ancient mythology across many different human cultures. It’s a good way to get lost, so make sure you aren’t planning to do anything important before you delve into it.

    List of legendary creatures

    Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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