I, Robot Color Plates From The Harlan Ellison Illustrated Screenplay Are Simply Gorgeous

By David Wharton | Published

This article is more than 2 years old

I actually liked a lot about Alex Proyas’ 2004 I, Robot. It may not be a perfect adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s beloved “Robot” stories, but I enjoyed it as a riff on those ideas and as its own thing, even though it’s far from a perfect movie and it does contain 100% more jigginess than I feel Isaac Asimov intended. But the version of I, Robot I’d really love to see is the one presented in the excellent I, Robot: The Illustrated Screenplay. That book charts Asimov and Harlan Ellison’s attempts to bring a the story to the big screen. As with many Ellison-related tales, it’s equal parts fascinating, tragic, and hilarious, and it’s a fascinating look at a slice of “what if” science fiction history. It’s also accompanied by gorgeous hand-painted illustrations by artist Mark Zug. Just check out the cover art:


It’s absolutely worth grabbing a copy of the book from Amazon or scouring the shelves of your local used bookstore. But Zug himself has brought even more I, Robot-related greatness into the world over on his personal website. It seems that, after completing the paintings for the Illustrated Screenplay, Zug’s next project was working on a fully-painted comic-book version of I, Robot. Sadly, that project fell apart and never made it to shelves, but Zug has been kind enough to gift the world with over a dozen of the images he created for the illustrated screenplay, and they are bloody gorgeous. Check them out below. along with quotes from Ellison’s script.

“There in the midst of the Amazon Jungle, Simon Haskell has cobbled up for himself a replica of an Art Deco salon.” – Harlan Ellison
“The robot monarch butterfly drops down and hovers above Susan Calvin. She stands in a long corridor of silvery metal. We cannot see the end of the tunnel. The robot butterfly hovers and she looks up at it.” – Harlan Ellison
“The CAMERA PICKS UP HERBIE and then the two of them are in the maelstrom, their voices colliding. She shoves against him, but he doesn’t budge.” – Harlan Ellison
“INTERIOR PYRAMID — FULL SHOT from Bratenahl and Bernice in foreground showing the interior of the Calvin residence. High, enormously complex, and robots everywhere which, while not in profusion, obviously run this living situation.” – Harlan Ellison
“Enormous caverns of shimmering plastic and steel. They stretch up into the distance. We see two figures walking down the two-lane-highway-wide corridor.” – Harlan Ellison
“Time was … before the booths … you’d see a place like this deep with ships … the big ships … close together, hundreds of ’em like a stand of spears. Time was.” – Harlan Ellison
“LONG SHOT — past Bratenahl as Susan and her two guards reach a low pyramidal structure sitting alone on the empty plain, nothing near it.” – Harlan Ellison
“The fissures open down and down and down like the sides of the Grand Canyon, and as the lava wave surges past him, Byerley is standing on a spit of land with two enormous gorges, one on either side.” – Harlan Ellison
“CAMERA BACK to show Lenny, six feet tall, six-fingered, seated on the floor with legs straight out like a baby, entranced by his toy.” – Harlan Ellison
“Novo Brasilia, in all its splendor. Spread out, with the jungle in the near distance. The Xingu River, mightier than the Hudson and twice as long, snakes among the impenetrable stands of virgin timber.” – Harlan Ellison
“Camera DOWN AND IN on a teleport booth pyramid. We also see, not too far distant from the booth, a battered spaceship.” – Harlan Ellison
“The robot swings her to his shoulders and, holding her very securely, begins loping up the slope toward the Calvin home as the CAMERA GOES WITH.” – Harlan Ellison
“She drops the vase. Bratenahl’s eyes follow it down … it lies there between them, almost symbolically. He looks up and there is fear in her eyes.” – Harlan Ellison
“BEGIN ZOOM OUT… back and back and back to show the lost city of Xingu Xavante. And the city almost lost in the midst of the overflowing jungle.” – Harlan Ellison

If you love these, you should definitely go peruse the rest of Zug’s website, which includes stunning art that he did for the Dune collectible card game.