Sunday, September 16, 2007

New sketches.

Just some warm up sketches the other day. I will post these periodically, nothing special, but fun to see. I really spend like 10-15 min on each if that.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Some of the previous images would not enlarge so I re-posted them for a better view! Enjoy.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Concept work and design.

One of the most difficult, and fun aspects of creating a new property has been getting to know the characters. It takes a lot of drawing and sketching to really nail down the visuals for each character in an ensemble cast such as RuneStone.

Of course there are the specifics of each costume that change as we go, and there are elements of each costume directed by what their power or ability is. i.e. Adder's crazy ninja skills require a darker outfit for stealth.

But beyond that, what do each of these characters look like? Quinn had basic descriptions, and I'm sure a visual image in his mind, but how do I tap into that and interpret these descriptions. Like I said, lots of drawing.

I did a slew of initial character designs about 3 years ago when we first talked about RuneStone. I was happy with a few (Gar came to me right away, and has always been a favorite of mine to draw) and still needed to define others (Jenny and Dain have gone through more than a few face lifts).

At first Jenny was the dorky, almost kid-like character in my mind. So I drew her that way, looking almost too young compared to the others. As I worked through the preview and finished more recent character designs, I've come to find her character isn't so young looking, but more young at heart. She's kinda dorky because of the way she acts, not the way she looks. Big difference.

So I came to draw Jenny as that girl everyone knows and can talk to because she knows who she is and isn't ashamed about it. That will always set you apart from the crowd and has given her that stamp of "outsider" in high school.

Dain, what a punk. Man, as I was reading through the first story arc again, I realized how much this guy annoys me. He's such a turd. So when I first started drawing him, he was larger than life, that cardboard cut-out Jock that every regular dude hated in high school. He wanted to feel better about himself by knocking down the other guy. Because that was my attitude I didn't have fun drawing him. And I think that showed. I realized I have to understand where this character is coming from, and where Quinn intends to take him through the coarse of RuneStone.

So my approach changed. Dain's life can really suck sometimes. He chases that attention to cover his own insecurities. And who's to say there isn't a part of this guy worth getting to know. I started drawing him more of an "everyman" as opposed to the "Super-Jock", because I thought more of how his character can develop, and that has to be a realistic transformation both visually and through story.

Here are just a few other concept and warm up sketches for the current pages and covers.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Elders of the RuneStone...the Early Years Pt. 3

And now for the third installment of the gritty, no-holds-barred behind the scenes look at how the story of Elders of the RuneStone has developed over the years.

So far we've covered four of the main characters: Dain (Gremlin), Kat (Catalyst), Zeniff (Adder), and Jenny (HardTap). Now on to the fearless leader of the team, Scott (Gar)! I always had a pretty clear idea of how I wanted him to look -- T-shirt, jeans, tennis shoes. Just your average guy who wouldn't call much attention to himself except for the fact that he's twelve feet tall, has no pupils in his eyes, and has no nose. While the extreme tightness of his wardrobe has changed (see this circa. 1994 drawing), his ability to kick butts hasn't.

I switched back and forth between giving him a white shirt and a tanktop, but after consulting with Robert later on, we wanted to avoid any comparisons with the Hulk. So I gave him his black shirt that I just think looks slick. Other elements of his costume will be tweaked as the story goes on, but I can't give out details at the moment. :)

So what makes Scott / Gar special, other than the missing nose thing? (For some reason that's how I always wanted him -- it makes him look more inhuman, which I really like.) Comics are full of big, super-muscled guys. "Hey Quinn!" you may say. "He's no different than the Hulk!" There's that "h" word again. And yes, he does get extremely strong when he's got adrenaline flowing through his veins, i.e. when angry or scared. To that legitimate claim I ask this: What defines a comic character? To me if you want any sort of lasting coolness for him or her then it's much more than what their powers are. Scott is more than a guy who's super-strong, he's a guy who is very religious, reflective, and concerned about doing the right and moral thing. His abilities make him a juggernaut of destruction, but he has to balance that with his respect for human life and the commandment "Thou shalt not kill." Unlike the Hulk when he is transformed he retains his gentle, thoughtful nature (though he is indeed influenced by his adrenalized, fight-or-flight mentality that contributes to his powers). It's a balance that he must constantly struggle with, using his strength for good without losing control or giving in to a gnawing destructive appetite. He's a natural leader, a gifted tactician who is the heart and moral compass for the rest of the team. So for me, Scott / Gar is very different than most other superhero powerhouses. Again, as stated in my previous blog "The Human Element in Comics", the big question is whether a character is one with super-powers who happens to be a person, or one who's a person who happens to have super-powers. Elders of the RuneStone is very much the latter, and I think that's what makes it cool.

So onward to one more character: The powerful villain Monolith. I can't say much about him since who he is is wrapped up tightly in the mystery that drives the story, but I can give a few interesting tidbits. He actually started out as a villain for a completely different comic book character I had created in 6th grade, a martial artist lizardman named Slythe. I'll talk more about Slythe at another time, but his main nemesis was a dark sorcerer named the Reaper, who always kept his face hidden under a creepy hood. After I found out Marvel already had a villain by that name, I changed it to the Dark Hood. Part of the Slythe story had him being kicked by Slythe into a vat of acidic chemicals, which mutated him into a huge buff monstrosity. The part about his big size remained, but again his name continued to change, even after I decided to let go of Slythe, focus on RuneStone, and make the now-titled Dark Spectre the arch-nemesis for them. Eventually I settled on his current name, since "monolith" accurately describes him as larger than life, not only in size and strength, but also in intelligence, political power, and evil. I pretty much always pictured him as big and green with sharp teeth, but again that was too boring, not enough to really make him stand out in someone's mind. It wasn't until I was serving a volunteer mission for my church from 1998-2000 that I got the idea to give him long, jet black hair and my favorite part, the white skin pigment that runs down his face and body whenever his passion for killing is being indulged. (See the attached doodle -- "concept art" is just a fancy term for the same thing) Just imagine walking down a dark alley and seeing a huge hulking silhouette waiting for you, with only glowing red eyes, pale yellow teeth, and white dripping pigment visible through the shadow. Scary stuff!

So there you have it. There's much more to the story of the development of the book, but you'll have to wait until the comic has been going to get in on more of the secrets! Speaking of which, keep an eye out for the first installment of Issue 1, which will finally be available for FREE download within a couple weeks! We're very excited, and hope you'll join us as we start on the adventure for real!


Saturday, September 1, 2007

Elders of the RuneStone...the Early Years Pt. 2

Back for more, eh? Well don't say I didn't warn you! Wait...okay, I'm warning you NOW.

Continuing on with the history of the characters, Adder was always one of my personal favorites. He was based loosely on a grade school friend of mine who studied ninjutsu, had bright blonde hair, and was somewhat of an outcast. I knew I wanted a really cool, dark and mysterious ninja-like character. An initial idea I had for his origin was that his abusive father kept him locked in his room as a child and the only outlet he had for his emotions was comic books, and this warped him into an obsessive vigilante. Yes, it was a horrible idea.

Later on one of my older brothers, Jim, was taking classes at a local martial arts studio run by a guy named Tom. Tom's style, called Tang Wei (sp?), was basically a refined amalgamation of every known martial arts style and technique. Handed down and streamlined by hundreds of generations of an Asian family who acted for centuries as the Chinese emperor's bodyguards, the style was finally passed on to Tom, the first Westerner to learn the style, since he was adopted into the family. This became the basis for Adder's fighting style, known as Nakashi Do.

I always wanted Adder to wear a black mask, but wanted to keep in the "urban ninja" feel. So my initial designs had him simply wearing a T-shirt and jeans, and originally I had him use taped up wooden fighting sticks as his primary weapon (a nod to one of my favorite comic characters, Casey Jones from TMNT). Eventually I added the black overcoat, and a few tweaks to get his look of today. I think it was Robert who suggested the chest strap for his throwing knives. Posted here you can see a conceptual drawing that hints at a future look (from 1997, first year of college).

One last note: Ever since I can remember, I've always had very cool dreams (being James Bond, being a werewolf, and yes, being my own characters). And very involving, very scary nightmares. Perhaps this was the inspiration for the nightmares that plague Adder, but what exactly his mean...well, you'll all just have to wait and see! ;)

So onto Jenny, aka HardTap. She went through several changes. My initial thoughts were to make her plain and fairly unattractive, but I like the way she looks now: cute in a nerdy sort of way, kind of like the ugly duckling story--lots of people may not seem attractive until we see them for who they really are. And that's how some people fall in love. I'm told. :)

I originally pictured her as a quiet, shy, mopey kind of character, the "nobody" girl that slips through the cracks and is never noticed. While this was much like many girls I knew in school who never really got their due, it made her kind of an uninteresting character and not very fun to write. Enter the pigtails. She was tweaked to be much more outgoing, to the point of being "wacky", with her own goofy, crazy way of doing things, and that is what makes her an outcast from the otherwise preppy cliques of her high school. How many people do we know who are shunned because people are too proud or lazy to try walking in their shoes? For a while I had her wearing bright red suspenders with a neon yellow and white-striped shirt, but it turned out to be just too much. As I "got to know" her character more, she turned out the way she is today--a "grungy" tomboy who is cynical about the world, but counteracts that with her great but often unappreciated sense of humor.

Her powers were also tweaked. Whereas originally she had a forcefield to protect her from danger, I rehauled her with sweet-looking translucent energy armor that for some mysterious reason looks somewhat alien. Hmmm...

Thus ends Part 2. Stay tuned for Part 3, coming soon!

ALSO keep on the lookout for some awesome additions to the site coming very soon: FREE downloadable wallpapers and a downloadable version of the Preview Book we debuted in Wizard World Chicago a few weeks ago!

And be sure to register on the new Darkhan City Forum, accessible on the home page.