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Tag: character design

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TothPix: Character Types and Body Language

Toth was awfully good at varying his character types, making them distinct, yet universal. And the body language he employed tells us more about each character and is integral to his visual storytelling. I captured and isolated a batch of images from his Romance comic, Undecided Heart (Intimate Love 21, 1953). At the time he drew this, he was 24.

UnHeart01

For the splash panel, Toth uses unorthodox positioning and clever overlap (above) to focus attention on the heroine, and to convey her distress.

Unwelcome potential suitors (below) - a great opportunity to design and draw interesting bit players. Just look at those face shapes and features!

UnHeart02 UnHeart03

Sans glasses, and with a new hair do, Eve cleans up nicely. Toth trained early for these female profiles by tracing and copying his Mother's drawings.

UnHeart04

Snarky stud:UnHeart05

On the beach:UnHeart06

Glasses again:UnHeart07

UnHeart12

More bit players - face shapes and features!UnHeart08 UnHeart09

In a switcheroo later, this big doofus ends up being the slimeball of the piece:

UnHeart10

UnHeart11

UnHeart16

What's not to like about this bellhop kid?  I love everything about this drawing:

UnHeart13

UnHeart14

Ain't that that truth?! More bits & pieces:

UnHeart15

UnHeart17

UnHeart18

And Eve ends up in lowly Chris's arms after all...

UnHeart19

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TothPix: Model Sheets

Alex Toth spent a portion of twenty-five years of his career doing character design and storyboards for TV animation. And for about a decade after artists and animators passed along to each other huge stacks of those designs (and still do). In 1996, Toth friend and fellow animator Darrell McNeil gathered it all together is one big package, the Alex Toth: by Design book. I was fortunate to snap up a copy upon its release, and good thing I did, ’cause the book fetches around $300 nowadays, long out of print. Folks have taken to selling small stacks of portions of what’s included in the book on ebay.

Here's some faves I scanned. (Check out more I posted previously.)  

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TothPix: Young Samson

young Samson 'Nuff said.

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Microsoft Heroes Character Design Process

While planning their new sales tool, GSX, Microsoft wanted to add some energy and pizazz by utilizing the superhero genre. Initially, they intended to use the comic book format to help get the point across, create interest and enthusiasm within their sales force. So, when I began designing the four heroes, a comic book it was to be. With some superhero illustration projects I've had over the years, clients sometimes lean towards a silly, campy and retro tone, which is fine - it can be fun. Many seem to want to emulate the Batman TV show. Y'know, it comics - it's for kids! I've drawn a Pizza-Man, who wore a hairnet and glasses. Also, heroes who aren't too muscular or curvy, or even in superhero costumes. In this case, Microsoft wanted something cool and edgy. I was on the right track right off the bat with the two heroines, Affinity and Harmony. Affinity has a punk-ish look, with something of a mohawk and lots of leather. I was asked to try leggings instead of the semi-loose leather pants, change out the boots, and then add skirt with chains. Her tattoo was later dropped. Though I think she ended up with kind of a Desperately-Seeking-Susan look, she turned out well, my favorite of the four to draw.

Harmony was to be meditative and calming, so I went with a clean and straightforward super-heroine outfit, borrowing some french curves from the yin/yang symbol. She was good to go from the start.

My initial designs for the two male heroes, PI and Alt leaned towards a sci-fi look, more clean and streamlined, evoking the new Battlestar Galactica. But to their credit, the folks at Microsoft yearned for something less "Star Trek" and more "Watchmen." So it was back to the drawing board for the males. Alt wasn't too big a change, I just added a leather jacket and made his outfit mostly black, darkening his overall look. He became a bit more serious and cocky, rather than too smiley and friendly.

For PI, a complete overhaul was required. He became a more shadowy, detective-like character in a long overcoat and fedora, more like the Watchmen's Rorschach, Will Eisner's Spirit, or DC Comics' Phantom Stranger.

I also designed an Average Joe worker, then named Simon, patterned a bit after "Jim" from The Office. His role decreased as the script was developed, but I used him in the final art when depicting workers in the story.

About halfway through the character design process, the client changed gears and decided to do a semi-animated video instead. That was fine with me. More about that part of the creative process tomorrow, including some storyboards and some of my favorite shots from the video...

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Building a Robot

On this blog in April I posted about Jewish Robot Comics. For that installment, I needed to design a robot, the Sedertron 2000, who would be built by and interact with the star of the recurring strip, Joey. Sometimes I have a good idea of a design of character in my head before I begin to draw. Other times I'll work it out at the old drawing board in the studio. But on most occasions faced with that fun challenge, I like to just doodle and play on the page while watching TV or sitting outside, to let the sketching take me places, especially when I'm not sure where I'm going or have just a vague, Will-o'-the-Wisp idea of a character design. For this robot, I wanted him to be fun but formidable. My first stabs...

...were not on the right track. These looked not personable enough, or too scary. His head was looking like a toaster or insect or a Stormtrooper. Had to change gears:

Better in some ways, but too silly, clowny and simple. Then I began to hone in:

Yeah, that's more like it! Now to just complete the design for his full figure:

I also needed to come up with an old professor/teacher, who was quick and easy. He came out right away on paper exactly the way I saw him in my mind's eye.

More details of the robot were refined as I worked on the layouts and pencils. My wife and I ended up coloring him differently than I'd originally intended, which was probably mostly red and grey. I like him better this way:

To read the full story check out our Prime Projects section, which also features other Jewish comics, and other assorted projects. And you can find more Fricke robots on this blog.