Tony Alderson: The Stereo Caricaturist

by Ray Zone

More on Tony

In 1985 a very unique "self-published" comic appeared in Los Angeles. "Noble crusade or cynical scam?" asks the cover which depicts a hapless cartoonist fleeing a demonic cyclopean business man whose pockets overflow with cash. The comic was 3D Zomoid Illustories, the world's first to be published "in the miracle of FREEVISION" and the writer/artist was Tony Alderson. The story related "The Nightmare of 3-D Jonestown" and was a thinly veiled humorous expose of the rise and fall of the 3D Video Corporation which published the 3-D comic book Battle for a Three-Dimensional World which I wrote in 1982.tone2.jpg (131534 bytes)

I first met Tony Alderson when I was hired to work at 3D Video Corporation in 1982 and it was Tony who converted Jack Kirby's art to 3-D in Battle for a Three Dimensional World. For two decades, Tony and I have since worked intermittently together on different 3-D projects. And we have maintained an idiosyncratic dialogue with each other that incorporates Tony's uniquely satirical slant on the vagaries of stereoscopic business practices.

Tony is the artist responsible for the National Stereoscopic Association (NSA) 2002 Convention logo and he also created the logo in 1986, the last time the convention was held in Riverside, California. The new logo is a gorgeous computer-generated montage combining the classic Holmes stereoscope with some California oranges. The 1986 logo, with deft line art rendered into 3-D, combined a Keystone and a stereoscope which held a stereoview showing palm trees, another symbol of Southern California.

Before leaving 3D Video Corporation in 1983, Tony produced the 3-D conversions for the Jaws 3-D trading and gum cards that Topps produced. He wrote an interesting "3-D bible" for the artists at Topps and it contains some interesting observations about stereoscopic fundamentals. "In the 3-D conversion process," Tony writes, "I take the drawing you supply me as the left image. I then simulate the right image by cutting apart copies of the drawing and reassembling them with the proper displacements to create retinal disparities when viewed."

Tony always writes about stereoscopy with great clarity. Though it was acutely humorous, 3-D Jonestown included tutorials on both parallel and cross-eyed freevision. It even included a Random Dot Stereogram (RDS) as part of the tutorials which were clearly illustrated with funny Tone.jpg (107601 bytes)but highly illustrative cartoons. I had been caricatured by Tony in the pages of the Battle 3-D comic book but he most often, and quite deftly, satirizes himself.

After leaving 3D Video Corporation in 1983, Tony began working in motion pictures creating special effects for films like Metalstorm 3-D for which he did stereoscopic rotoscoping. At the same time he served as President of the Stereo Club of Southern California from 1984 to 1985 and its Program Director in 1986-87. At this time Tony produced the very first anaglyph cover for the SCSC 3D News. It featured a self-caricature and a joke about the "stereo" window.

Over the years Tony has produced 3-D conversions for such comics as Sheena 3-D, Spirit Classics in 3-D, The Rocketeer, Spacehawk 3-D and Dracula 3-D. 3-Dementia Comics, published in 1987, reprinted his 3-D Jonestown story in both freevision and anaglyph. Tony also produced great computer-generated anaglyph movie "fly-throughs" of Yosemite and Venus for a 3-D CD-ROM project as well as some great Star Wars photo 3-D conversions. He has also periodically grappled with the impossibility of making functional anaglyphs on NTSC composite TV which is used for VHS and broadcast television.

While doing all this and working on many film and TV projects, Tony has also produced numerous articles on stereography for different publications such as Stereoscopy, the March 1993 issue of which includes his essay "An Introduction to 3-D Computing." He also recently won an Emmy for his special effects on "Dune" which premiered on the Sci-Fi cable channel in December 2001.

tone3.jpg (31613 bytes)Though he has many stereographic accomplishments, I always think of Tony Alderson as a stereo caricaturist, poking devastating humor into the highly competitive world of 3-D business. Like he writes in 3-D Jonestown, "the story in this comic is mostly 'true.' Only the names, places, events and personalities have been changed to protect the AUTHOR."