5’6…Not once ounce of excess fat…The left ear much bigger than the right, and malformed, but her hair always covers her ears…Lips formed a tight straight line…Small narrow nose, somewhat protruding cheekbones, broad forehead, and long, straight eyebrows…[Face is a] Pleasing oval shape…Extreme paucity of expression. (Suggested by goya-galileo-vangogh )
An enormous man dressed in an oilcloth slicker had entered the tent and removed his hat…He was bald as a stone and he had no trace of beard and he had no brows to his eyes nor lashes to them…He was close on to seven feet in height… His face was serene and strangely childlike…His hands were small. (Multiple suggestions.)
Updated image: Based on the consensus from The Onion AV Club discussion, Judge Holden has been updated to be bulkier.
Sherlock Holmes, A Study in Scarlet, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
His very person and appearance were such as to strike the attention of the most casual observer. In height he was rather over six feet, and so excessively lean that he seemed to be considerably taller. His eyes were sharp and piercing, save during those intervals of torpor to which I have alluded; and his thin, hawk-like nose gave his whole expression an air of alertness and decision. His chin, too, had the prominence and squareness which mark the man of determination.
Emily Schultz is an important part of The Composites team and you may have heard of her own Tumblr about the financial benefits of mistaken literary identity, Spending the Stephen King Money. King himself said of the site,”Emily Schultz is my new hero” and there’s been a lot of great attention for Emily’s upcoming novel from St. Martin’s Press, The Blondes, which is now available for pre-order.
We’re happy today to host the first chapter of Emily’s novel about a rabies-like epidemic that only affects blonde women, which has been called “feminist Don DeLillo.”
Women have stupid dreams. We laud each other only to tear each other down. We are not like men; men shake hands with hate between them all the time and have public arguments that are an obvious jostling for power and position. They compete for dominance—if not over money, then over mating. They know this, each and every one. But women are civilized animals. We have something to prove too, but we’ll swirl our anger with straws in the bottom of our drinks and suck it up, leaving behind a lipstick stain. We’ll comment on your hair or your dress only to land a backhanded compliment, make you feel pathetic and poor, too fat or too thin, too young or too old, unsophisticated, unqualified, unwanted. For women, power comes by subtle degrees. I could write a thesis on such women—and I nearly did.
Don’t get me wrong. I am one of them too. I’ve had stupid dreams, and you yourself are the result.
Good news for fans of American Gods. According to The Mary Sue, Starz has picked up the series adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s novel after HBO dropped development earlier this year. Here’s the composite for Mr. Wednesday from 2012.
Shadow looked at the man in the seat next to him…He grinned a huge grin with no warmth in it at all…His hair was a reddish gray; his beard, little more than stubble, was grayish red. A craggy, square face with pale gray eyes…The man’s craggy smile did not change…There was something strange about his eyes, Shadow thought. One of them was a darker gray than the other…humorless grin…Wednesday’s glass eye… He was almost Shadow’s height, and Shadow was a big man. (Suggested by jrodgersartand apeculiarcontradictorything)
Updated image: Author Neil Gaiman graciously suggested several changes to the composite: 20 years older; craggier; a squarer face and permanent smile. I updated everything but the last item—expression being rather muted in the program.
I sat down on the edge of a deep soft chair and looked at Mrs. Regan. The calves were beautiful, the ankles long and slim and with enough melodic line for a tone poem. She was tall and rangy and strong-looking…Her hair was black and wiry and parted in the middle and she had the hot black eyes of the portrait in the hall. She had a good mouth and a good chin. There was a sulky droop to her lips and the lower lip was full…Her nostrils looked pinched…Her cheekbones stood out white in her face.
The jodhpurs, like her hair, were coal black. She wore a white silk shirt with a scarlet scarf loose around her throat. It was not as vivid as her mouth. Her black hair was parted in the middle and a line of scalp as white as snow went over the top of her head and dropped out of sight behind. Two thick braids of her shining black hair lay one on each side of her slim brown neck. But it was a long time since she was a little girl…There she was, the All-American Gardenia. She hit me right between the eyes. Her own were deep and dark and unsmiling…Her mouth as red as a new fire engine…Depthless black eyes that had no laughter in them now.
I went over and opened the single drawer of the reed desk and took out the photo that lay all alone in the bottom of the drawer, face up, looking at me with cool dark eyes. I sat down again with the photo and looked it over. Dark hair parted loosely in the middle and drawn back loosely over a solid piece of forehead. A wide cool go-to-hell mouth with very kissable lips. Nice nose, not too small, not too large. Good bone all over the face. The expression of the face lacked something. Once the something might have been called breeding, but these days I didn’t know what to call it. The face looked too wise and too guarded for its age. Too many passes had been made at it and it had grown a little too smart in dodging them. And behind this expression of wiseness there was the look of simplicity of the little girl who still believes in Santa Claus….She looked like her photo and not like it. She had the wide cool mouth, the short nose, the wide cool eyes, the dark hair parted in the middle and the broad white line between the parting.
My essay “The Endangered Literary Recluse” was recently included in American Prayer, a Richard Prince monograph drawing connections between his art and his extensive book collection. For my generation, Prince is the Buddha of the appropriative arts and this is by far my favorite credit ever.
Crime and art have met many times before the Composites, and one project that I definitely thought about when starting this site was Los Angeles artist Amy Sarkisian's Toy Skull Reconstruction series from the early aughts. Now known for her bedazzled skulls, Sarkisian’s work has always combined folkway craftiness with memento mori narratives. For Toy Skull Reconstruction, Sarkisian took plastic novelty skulls and applied forensic reconstruction techniques to build up the faces of people who were never meant to exist. Here’s Dennis Cooper writing about the sculptures for ArtForum in 2002:
The nauseatingly lifelike, psychologically challenged busts were given heavy metal/goth wigs and collars and placed on looming pedestals draped in Draculean black robes. Lined up firing squad style along one of the gallery’s walls, they gazed with malevolent stupidity at passersby and at the gigantic, album cover–like portrait of themselves (White Queen, 2000) that hung on the opposite wall. The effect—a mixture of embarrassment, pity, disgust, laugh-out-loud amusement, and, finally, head-shaking respect—was so outrageous and unfamiliar that it turned even the world-weariest galleryhoppers into pre-apple Adams and Eves.
Sarkisian’s homely, emotionally bizarre work is the most nagging art I’ve seen of late.
All images: Amy Sarkisian, Toy Skull Reconstructions. 2000-2001
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson
To this rule, Dr. Jekyll was no exception; and as he now sat on the opposite side of the fire—a large, well-made, smooth-faced man of fifty, with something of a slyish cast perhaps, but every mark of capacity and kindness…The large handsome face of Dr. Jekyll grew pale to the very lips, and there came a blackness about his eyes.
Mr. Hyde was pale and dwarfish, he gave an impression of deformity without any nameable malformation, he had a displeasing smile…thickly shaded with a swart growth of hair…corded and hairy…God bless me, the man seems hardly human! Something troglodytic…Edward Hyde was so much smaller, slighter, and younger than Henry Jekyll. Even as good shone upon the countenance of the one, evil was written broadly and plainly on the face of the other…The few who could describe him differed widely, as common observers will. Only on one point, were they agreed; and that was the haunting sense of unexpressed deformity with which the fugitive impressed his beholders.
If I had to pick the real character of the gang, it would be Dallas Winston—Dally. I used to like to draw his picture when he was in a dangerous mood, for then I could get his personality down in a few lines. He had an elfish face, with high cheekbones and a pointed chin, small, sharp animal teeth, and ears like a lynx. His hair was almost white it was so blond, and he didn’t like haircuts, or hair oil either, so it fell over his forehead in wisps and kicked out in the back in tufts and curled behind his ears and along the nape of his neck. His eyes were blue, blazing ice, cold with a hatred of the whole world. Dally had spent three years on the wild side of New York and had been arrested at the age of ten. He was tougher than the rest of us—tougher, colder, meaner. The shade of difference that separates a greaser from a hood wasn’t present in Dally. (Suggested by queenie-katherine )
Patricia Highsmith was born on January 19th, 1921. Above is a repost of the composite for Tom Ripley, from her novel The Talented Mr. Ripley.
[Ripley] combed his light-brown hair neatly in front of the mirror, and set off for Radio City. He had always thought he had the world’s dullest face, a thoroughly forgettable face with a look of docility that he could not understand, and a look also of vague fright that he had never been able to erase. A real conformist’s face, he thought…Really it was only his darker hair that was very different from Dickie.
Otherwise, his nose—or at least its general form—his narrow jaw, his eyebrows if he held them right. He wasn’t really worried. Tom had at first amused himself with an eyebrow pencil—Dickie’s eyebrows were longer and turned up a little at the outer edges—and with a touch of putty at the end of his nose to make it longer and more pointed, but he abandoned these as too likely to be noticed. The main thing about impersonation, Tom thought, was to maintain the mood and temperament of the person one was impersonating, and to assume the facial expressions that went with them. The rest fell into place…He might play up Tom a little more, he thought.
He could stoop a little more, he could be shyer than ever, he could even wear horn-rimmed glasses and hold his mouth in an even sadder, droopier manner to contrast with Dickie’s tenseness.
A friend gave me an assignment: create a composite from the description of a character in a novel based on a historical figure, but whose image I’ve never seen; then compare. The above image on the left is David Ferrie, alleged JFK assassination conspirator, as described in Don DeLillo’s novel, Libra.
He winced all the time in front of mirrors when he pasted on his homemade eyebrows and mohair toupee…She glanced at Ferrie’s faded red toupee, an object that resembled some windblown piece of street debris. She looked at the sloped forehead, the somewhat Roman profile, eagle-beaked, oddly impressive despite the man’s overgrown ears, the clownish aspects of his appearance. In fact she’d seen the profile before she ever met Ferrie. There was a mug shot in Banister’s files. It commemorated two arrests in 1961, in Jefferson Parish, for what were officially described as crimes against nature…His eyebrows and toupee were gone. He was sad and pasty, decolored, moving out of the background glow into the stutter light of TV.
The picture on the right is the historical David Ferrie’s mugshot, which I had not seen until after creating the composite image.
His exhausted face, with its scarred mouth…As his pock-marked jaws champed on a piece of gum I had the sudden feeling that he was hawking obscene pictures around the wards…But what marked him out was the scar tissue around his forehead and mouth, residues of some terrifying act of violence…Heavy black hair…Broken and re-set nose bridge…His features looked as if they had been displaced laterally, reassembled after the crash from a collection of faded publicity photographs. The scars on his mouth and forehead, the self-cut hair and two missing upper canine gave him a neglected and hostile appearance…His hard mouth, with its scarred lips, was parted in a droll smile.