Do you like pop culture, dark humor, the occasional pun, and having your childhood ruined? You’re about to find out—once you see these illustrations by Chicago illustrator Alex Solis, you won’t be able to unsee them.
In his series “Unpopular Culture,” Solis digs a little too deep into what’s under popular character designs. “This new series I created more so as a fun project to view the unpopular side of pop culture,” he says. “I wanted a ‘reveal’ type of series, so the user also feels like they’re a part of the series, with some interaction to the reveals.”
Solis’ website Oddworx also features books, figurines and merch from his previous projects, like “Unmasked,” comparing characters who can be traced back to similar fiction tropes.
All illustrators and designers will tell you that one of the most important principles of designing a memorable character is making sure they have a distinctive silhouette. This is why beginning artists are always told to place their characters’ shadows in a lineup and ask themselves both whether their characters are distinguishable from one another, and whether the silhouettes say something about the characters.
When we think about the most iconic characters in animation, billowing clothing, hats and hairstyles with a life of their own contribute to our understanding of their personalities, so we can excuse those features not being subject to physics (although some cosplayers do an admirable job of making it so.) Solis, on the other hand, has a much more grotesque explanation.
The series also pokes fun at the aspects of fiction that were cute or flew under the radar in cartoons, but raise some questions when you think about how they would have worked in real life. Cartoon logic has a tendency to get kind of dark when we deconstruct it, as we so often do as adults looking back on the media we enjoyed as children… unless you were the kind of child who asked why Barney didn’t simply eat his triceratops friend, in which case you already know the drill.