In real life, sometimes making a meaningful transformation takes ages. In graphic art, you can do it, very effectively, in three panels.
Back in June, Motherboard, deviantART, and Microsoft Surface launched the Transformation Challenge, in which we asked artists to use a three-panel strip to show us a transformation of a character from who they are now into what they could be.
More than 1,500 people entered, and our judges whittled submissions down to 25 stunning semi-finalists. It only got harder from there, but we came away with a trio of winners, who go by raging-akujiki, HughEbdy, and Zeich on DeviantArt.
All of their entries were clever, intelligent, and weird in that way Motherboard loves so much: Nas Pasha's tells the story of a homeless man whose life is turned around (or at least helped out by) the discovery of a razor; Hugh Ebdy's lets us know that underneath every soldier, be they medieval or otherwise, there's a dude who really just wants to chill at the beach; and Gustavo Arteaga's absurd entry is equal parts horrifying and charming, as "the Fly-Kid" gets covered in thousands of black flies, which turns him into something of a superhero.
"After a life of bad decisions and leaving all his opportunities behind, he finds a razor on a rainy night. It's not magical. It's not special. Just an ordinary razor that motivates him to get out of the gutter and chop away his old life," Pasha, who churned his out on his daily three hour commute, said of his story.
Ebdy, meanwhile, thought what most of us probably have when we see a suit of armor: Doesn't it get hot in there?
"I've always found 'fantasy' armour to be quite amusing in how unpractical is must be to wear," he said. "What better way to cool down than with a swim?"
Arteaga's piece, meanwhile, was inspired by a moment of horror—or at least annoyance.
"Here in Spain, flies are the worst in summer. As I was thinking about what could be funny to do as an entry, this fly comes through my window and starts to annoy me," he said. "I thought of this expression 'If you can't beat them, join them,' and instantly this idea of a little boy getting himself covered in flies came to my mind, to the point of making him one of them."
Habib Zargarpour, who's done special effects and filmography for a handful of Hollywood blockbusters and agreed to help us judge called Pasha's entry a "gritty and powerful piece," Ebdy's "comical" and relatable, and loved how Arteaga's "innocent kid" manages to become a "menacing fly himself."
We agreed, and we were so stoked on their entries that we sent them off to work with the likes of professional graphic artists Dash Shaw, Jasper Wong, and Jordan Crane. Naturally, we had to bring our cameras along to capture what they came up with.
Our competition cosponsors, Microsoft, hooked the three winners up with a new Surface Pro 3. Because, while it's not that tough to imagine a transformative experience with pen and paper, it's even easier when you take your skills digital.