It begins with a house.

February 12, 2010 at 9:01 am 26 comments

Posted by: John Martz
Book: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
(purchase on Amazon)

…the Thursday morning sun was bright and clear as it shone on Arthur Dent’s house for what was to be the last time.

Once I had decided to interpret The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I knew that this scene would be my first illustration. Whenever I even think about the story, it’s these first small chapters that enter my thoughts. It’s the opening scene in the text adventure game version, as well, which I never had the patience to conquer, and always found myself, in the role of Arthur Dent, dead before ever leaving the house.

I’ve always loved the parallels between the large, yellow bulldozers intent to demolish Arthur’s house and the large, yellow Vogon ships, which would do the same to the entire planet. The layout for this illustration drew itself.

I can remember being twelve years old, and reading this paragraph for the first time:

The great ships hung motionless in the sky, over every nation on Earth. Motionless they hung, huge, heavy, steady in the sky, a blasphemy against nature. Many people went straight into shock as their minds tried to encompass what they were looking at. The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.

I must have re-read that last sentence at least ten times. What an odd, but wonderful analogy, I thought. It was one of those moments that seems exclusive to childhood — that feeling of having discovered something special that could become my very own. I  felt a connection between myself and the words, and something in that sentence ignited in me an appreciation for looking at things with a slightly skewed perspective. I was soon to learn that Douglas Adams was a master at this in the way he blurred the lines between nonsense and clarity.

Click the image for a larger view.

Entry filed under: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Tags: .

Mrs. Frisby and Jeremy Kala and Tarzan

26 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Mike K.  |  February 12, 2010 at 9:40 am

    Awesome start to a project I’m super excited to watch. The book seems like it had the same impact on you as a kid that it did on me. I always loved the exchange Ford has with the bartender at the pub a few pages later. “Keep the change.” “What, from a fiver?”

    And now the obvious question, will any of these be offered as prints? I suspect I’ll be asking that about most of the books being illustrated here.

  • 2. Travis B  |  February 12, 2010 at 11:38 am

    I also read the original H2G2 when I was young (about middle school age) and it was simply magical for me. I know exactly what you mean about the first few chapters have a special extra magic. It was like they were a cut above the others, even the ones with digital watches.

    “No, no,” said Ford, “it’s just that the world’s about to end.”

    “Oh yes sir, so you said,” said the barman… “Lucky escape for Arsenal if it did.”

    “No, not really,” [said Ford].

    At this rate we’ll have the entire book in the comments before lunch!

  • 3. dave  |  February 12, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    Put me on the list of people who will pay for a print of this. It’s beautiful, and I always imagined this scene the same way, with the Vogon ships looking like bulldozers from space. I also hung on the bricks line, let it soak in, like I did for so many other lines in the book.

    It’s unpleasantly like being drunk.
    ‘What’s so unpleasant about being drunk?’
    ‘You ask a glass of water.’

  • 4. Dave Stolte  |  February 12, 2010 at 11:58 pm


  • 5. Michelle Kondrich  |  February 13, 2010 at 8:20 am

    This is absolutely gorgeous – the colors, the lines, the composition – all of it!

  • 6. Niv  |  February 13, 2010 at 10:45 am

    This is really great – it’s such a nice stylistic approach to this story, that is definitely fresh but still feels very much appropriate to the source material.

    I really loved this book when I was young too and it’s nice to see an illustrator delivering some major justice to it.

  • 7. patrick  |  February 14, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Please make the prints the same size as the book. So we can glue them in and have our “Super Special John Martz Edition of the Hitchhiker`s Guide”!
    That would be fantastic! And a perfect reason to read it again! (and again)

  • 8. Lee Sargent  |  February 14, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    OMG that is wonderful, you’ve completely captured the feel of that opening chapter!

    I also really like the concept overall of what you are doing.

    Very neat, you are a frood who really knows where his towel is.

  • 9. Nancy Muller  |  February 14, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    Oh, I love this. You’re off to such an excellent start, you’ve definitely gotten the absurdity of the situation down!

  • 10. Alan Gratz  |  February 15, 2010 at 8:16 am

    Prints! Prints! We want to buy prints!

  • 11. robotjohnny  |  February 15, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    Thanks everyone! I will arrange to have prints available soon.

    • 12. Sandy  |  March 19, 2010 at 11:48 am

      When are the prints coming!?! I need them! These illustrations are great!

  • 13. Shannon  |  February 16, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    I love the colors and the style of this. It perfectly matches the book and yet is unexpected. I’m going to enjoy watching this project.

  • […] Picture Book Report, in which artists illustrate their favorite books. I was really charmed by the first illustration for Hitchhiker’s, which is at the same time perfect for the book and completely […]

  • 15. Junior Society » Blog Archive » Story Time  |  February 23, 2010 at 10:23 am

    […] Below: from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, illustration by John Martz […]

  • 16. Wendy  |  February 25, 2010 at 10:23 am

    That line about the bricks gets me every time I read it. I remember the first time I did, and where I was sitting as I pondered its genius.

    Love your work!

  • 17. jenn  |  February 25, 2010 at 11:31 am

    The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.

    that’s always been one of my favorite lines too!

  • 18. Ally  |  February 25, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    Love it, my fave book ever! Cant wait to see more!!
    – 42

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    […] Picture Book Report) Vincent Wilkie hat diesen tollen Beitrag verfasst. In seiner Freizeit ist er Musiker, Webdesigner […]

  • 20. Giavasan » It begins with a house  |  February 27, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    […] Link: It begins with a house. […]

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    […] This Robot Geek Love bag by CraftieRobot on Etsy  8. A print of every illustration John Martz makes available in his illustrated Hitchhikers Guide series.  In the words of Paul […]

  • 22. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Dalek « Errantry  |  August 2, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    […] Book Report did some beautiful Hitchhiker’s Guide illustrations. My favourite is here: It begins with a house.   LikeBe the first to like this […]

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