Tomas de Rat / Tomas the Rat

De Ijzeren Vogel / The Iron Bird page 9

This page was a breeze to scan in comparison with the others, because it is in fact a complete remake with Chinese ink on a blank sheet of quality paper. The reason for this is the same as described on the previous page: the text balloons were written directly in ink, in the most loathsome handwriting that I ever produced. You can see it for yourself. In the last two rows I even dropped pencil drawings altogether and returned to the original ‘directly-in-ink’ style. And the drawing style was as sloppy as the handwriting. Starting over from scratch was a much better option than overpainting most of the page with Tipp-Ex. The fact that there was nothing on the backside of the fresh sheet of paper also made scanning a lot easier. That's right, I always drew on both sides of each page in all comics, which is just the logical thing to do considering my former ideal of cramming as much information as possible on each page.
This time, the ‘flash-back’ of looking at the original sketches shows fifteen years of evolution of my drawing style. In fact, this re-make was the very last Tomas page I have ever drawn, because I re-did page 10 a few years earlier. If you compare the sketches with the finished page, you'll see that exactly the same scenes are depicted but with the addition of much more detail and of course perspective.

Click the image to toggle between the original Dutch text and the English translation.

De Ijzeren Vogel, page 9

Rows 1-2

It appears that the thief of the iron bird also left a present behind, being a huge dragon-like monster that likes to stomp on rats. Luckily the monster can't breathe fire, it can only growl and… laugh.

Rows 3-4

Tomas happens to know that the airbase has some kind of huge hatch with a conveyor belt under it, and the monster conveniently walks over this hatch at the right time. The construction is said to be for ‘maintenance’, but since the belt takes anything that falls down the hatch to a ravine, it's more like a trash disposal system. Just put your old plane on the hatch and dump it in the lake!

Again, instead of letting the monster die a horrible death, I just let it fall into a lake. Ask ten boys at the age of 10 what they would do in the same situation and nine of them would probably want to kill the monster in some way. It seems I was quite pacifist at that age, but this would soon be ‘corrected’ by exposure to a copious amount of violence on TV and in school.

Row 5

Fortunately for Tomas, he has every airport and -base of the country littered with his little flying contraptions. So our friends do not let their trip be spoiled by the lack of the bird, and use a kind of flying subway train locomotive instead. Like most of the other contraptions, this one also has preposterously small wings. Apparently these things are kept in the air by either an insane amount of propulsion, or some sci-fi hovering system.
By the time I drew this part of the story, I had discovered that the city of New York was full of huge skyscrapers, therefore this was the coolest city ever and it was the ideal destination for a vacation trip. If today you would let me choose between living in a skyscraper and a quiet rural house, I would choose for the latter without hesitation. Yet I cannot deny feeling some of that old childish excitement when I finally had the opportunity to visit NYC.

The difference between the original sketches and the final ink-work cannot get any huger than in these panels: boring two-dimensional cross-sections became detailed perspective drawings. If I would be able to go back in time and explain to my own ten-year old self how to draw this way, my head would probably explode of joy, creating a time paradox which would swallow the entire universe.

Rows 6-7

Apparently, in the alternate universe, pilots only need to ask permission to land while being already in the middle of their final approach. (The image may make it seem the plane has already landed, but it is still hovering actually.)
Anyway, the thief of the iron bird seems to know where Tomas stores his flying contraptions, and prepared another surprise for him. The iron bird appears to be completely smashed up. So, even though they did not almost explode this time, our friends' holiday is spoiled again. And that's not everything, because we see our blackened hamster back sooner than expected… Or not?