A blissful combination of pure movie fandom and artistic idiosyncrasy, the book The Great Showdowns comes from noted comic (Ballantine’s Flight) and videogame (Brutal Legend and Psychonauts) artist Scott Campbell, who goes by “Scott C.”—as if there was another Scott in the classroom. In this collection of small watercolor paintings, he depicts some of the most memorable and iconic confrontations from movie history in whimsical illustrations, capturing moments from a wide array of titles. Paging through, I found Scott’s renderings of many cultish titles and others quite mainstream, and of course some of my favorites: The Seventh Seal, The Thing, Blue Velvet, The Iron Giant , Jaws, and Robocop , to name just a few. The new collection, available from Titan Books, contains only a small percentage of the images available on the Great Showdowns website (greatshowdowns.com), where Scott is always posting new entries, but chances are at least one or two of your favorite films are represented here too.
I had a chance to interview Scott C. over email about his book and minimalist artwork recently, and I asked him about the book and web phenomenon, which originally began as a small 10 piece show at Gallery 1988 called Crazy 4 Cult. “It was grand group exhibition of big energetic paintings and sculptures,” wrote Scott. “And those little showdowns were hanging out over there in a group very pleased with themselves. People seemed to enjoy them and I enjoyed making them, so I kept doing so. It wasn’t until we started the Great Showdowns Tumblr that they really seemed to gain some eyes.” It’s easy to understand why. There’s something instantly funny and endearing about the simplicity of this ongoing series and Scott’s free interpretations of these classic and sometimes obscure characters.
If you’ve never seen one of Scott’s Great Showdowns, opening the book you find a curious thing. Despite the title, his figures are not engaged in battle or entrenched in conflict. They’re not violent or even particularly angry. Each character stands in a casual if upright pose, most waving out at you or at each other, smiling in sort of an aww shucks way—which is hilarious, especially for villainous choices like the Alien Queen and ED 209, or inanimate objects like the glass in Die Hard. When asked about this, Scott wrote, “We all know those moments well and they range from incredibly gruesome to incredibly silly, so having them smiling at one another brings them all to the same plain. I am sure that the characters can all look back on those moments fondly now and maybe chuckle or wink. I like imagining them all mingling at a showdowns party.”
Indeed, Scott’s evident, lighthearted sense of humor comes through in his work. Sometimes it feels like the art of a wry satirist, other times I feel as though this sometime children’s book illustrator has tapped into his inner child. I prefer to believe the latter, as something about Scott’s paintings remind me of coloring time as a child. I can remember one instance from elementary school where a teacher asked what I was drawing and why. When I explained it was the creature from Alien and that I was drawing it because it looked neat, no doubt she wondered why my parents had allowed me to see such a film at that age. Nevertheless, I feel like Scott’s artwork has the same silly, childlike quality, making his use of watercolors the perfect choice of medium. “It’s got an innocence to it that works well with the intentions of my work,” he noted.
His very flexible concept notwithstanding, Scott’s pleasant approach employs effortless cinematic iconography, his images working with ease to funnel our memories back to our fondness, recognition, or fanaticism for a particular film. They’re not realistic, and in some cases not even precise, but they’re instantly recognizable as pop-culture icons and a delight to look through. Featured in this book are about 100 images, an introduction by the artist himself, and a foreword by Neil Patrick Harris, who once commissioned Scott to paint a piece based on the film Clue. While his site features hundreds of other examples, Scott confirms they’re planning another collection of Great Showdowns in the future. “My dream is for showdowns to be on every street corner and in every household! Laughing, having a blast with all the people.” Remarks like these make one realize why Scott’s approach is so blithe, carefree, and contagious. For any fan of movies or comic-style artwork, The Great Showdowns is a joy, a book that cannot be picked up without examining every image and finding something you love.
Thanks to Titan Books for sending a review copy of the book. You can order it from Titan’s website,