Monday, February 21, 2011

Updated Race Designs: Tamian and Ermehn

Continuing the theme from the last production update, I thought I'd share a little bit about more the updates we're pursuing for the various races of the Four Kingdoms.

Of all the races in the comic, the Tamian have probably experienced the fewest number of changes since the original pitch went out. Instead of altering their look, we focused more on creating a cohesiveness to protagonist Quinlan's attire and trying to expand that out to other Tamian scouts. This character on the right, Miren, was meant to appear in our prequel tale as a precursor to Quinlan.

As you can see, her outfit really isn't that dissimilar to Quinlan's. The layered tunic design remains, along with the hood (which Quinlan hasn't worn up yet, but Miren does). Miren's addition to the Tamian scout uniform is the chest piece. The one here is mostly ceremonial, as a scout would not rely on it over their natural agility when it comes to defense. The chest piece would primarily be fashioned from Treewalker chitin - a symbol of that scout's first kill. Many greenhorn scouts would be shown the ropes at once, and the carapace of a giant Treewalker would be enough to fashion ceremonical chestplates for all scouts in the party.

The other race I'll show off today is the Ermehn. After losing their homeland to the Canid many years prior, the Ermehn have been relocated to the hostile Northern Wastes, forced to scavenge for food and shelter daily.

Their lifestyle and surroundings don't really allow for heavy armor or ceremonial garb, so they make do with what cloth scraps they can muster up. Instead of focusing on ornamental armor to denote their respective clans, the Ermehn rely on tattoos and paint applied to their fur, with patterns ranging from simple to complex. In most cases, the application of these marks is considered permanent. If an Ermehn is disowned by their clan, it can result in the forceful removal of these marks, which can be painful, if not deadly for the victim.

The Ermehn clothing style is similar to the one Rachel and I used in the original pitch, though the addition of heavier cloth, various wrappings, and winter cloaks all became more prominent in the recent designs. The Ermehn travel across some positively brutal terrain in the Northern Wastes, so making sure they had proper protection - even with their familiarity with cold lands - was essential this time around.

Next time I'll wrap up our tour of the comic's race updates by covering the Polcan and Canid races.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Brian Jacques - 1939-2011

It's not very often when somebody creates a world so imaginative, so influential, that generations of creators call on it as their inspiration. This past weekend, the creative world lost a giant - a man who crafted a world of woodland creatures living in an Abbey in the middle of Mossflower Wood, and created a community of fans and admirers that I sincerely hope will continue to be influenced by his incredible body of work for years to come.

In a world that changes on the whims of focus groups and sales charts, here was a man who honestly did not care about any of those things. The Redwall series transcended reviews and bestseller lists. The Redwall series simply was - and every year, almost like clockwork, another book came out that you could read, each one offering a simple guarantee that for a short amount of time, you would be whisked away to the world you'd been reading of since childhood, and it would always be the same, always safe, always familiar, no matter how dark or dreary the real world became.

Despite the fact that my one personal meeting with Mr. Jacques did not go very well (it involved a Redwall video game pitch back in 2004, and interviews have since proven that this was not an idea he was very keen on), I owe him so very much. To thank him for the Redwall series itself seems insignificant - instead, I look beyond it to see that Rachel and I would probably not know each other if there was no Redwall series, and this comic tale, this world, these characters - they simply would not exist without the Redwall series as a guiding light in our early years.

My long-standing and irreplaceable friendship with Sean Rubin began with that Redwall video game pitch - and other friendships I cherish (Kristen, Vero, Zach, everyone - too many to list) began with a common interest in the Redwall series. My work on David Petersen's Mouse Guard series would not have come to pass either, without the series' incredible impression on both his work, my work, Sean's work, and our friendship. Truth be told, most of my personal creative endeavors are due to Brian Jacques and the fantasy series he created.

I don't know what the future holds for the Redwall series now - but I know that regardless of what happens with the series proper, that it will continue to evolve and improve in the hearts and minds of the creators it inspired. Redwall was more than a book series to me - it was and always will be an idea; a creative spark that, as long as we continue to hold it with us, will never die.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Updated Race Designs: Vulpin and Felis

It's been almost two weeks, time for another update!

After spending some time updating the Lutren clothing and armor and making it look more cohesive with Lutren culture, Rachel and I set about defining new looks for the other major races of the Four Kingdoms. While some things are still being tweaked, I thought I'd share some of the in-progress designs Rachel and I are examining.

For the desert-dwelling Vulpin, Rachel's first order of business was to do away with the concept of a "woodland" fox as the basis for their design, instead drawing more inspiration from the kit fox and other desert-dwelling species. The newer design sports a wider face, with eyes, nose, and mouth being relatively close together in the center, and larger ears set high up on their heads.

The end result, I think, makes them look less like a caricature of the usual fox-type characters you see these days, and helps to establish them as their own race free of the usual stereotypes one normally associates with a "fox" character.

The clothing and armor for the Vulpin pulled inspiration from a number of sources, from your prototypical Saracen warrior to the Ottomans. A number of these elements came together to form the basis of the Vulpin "look".

The other race I'll show today is the Felis - the cat-like race that hails from the kingdom of Kishar on the eastern coasts. While the Felis are celebrated explorers, scientists and navigators (natural curiosity, you see), they also have a rather impressive army, and that required some imposing armor detailing.

One thing Rachel did here that I really like is emphasize the eyes - feline eyes are very striking, and creating a helmet design that isolates them from the rest of the face makes for a very unsettling look that would strike fear into any opponent.

The armor designs take some pages from Viking designs, and have hints of the Roman Centurians as well. These will be updated to include some more interesting visual layers on the torso/legs so it's not dominated by a single texture, but overall I'm quite pleased with the first stages of this armor update.

The original Felis scholars wore robes that would have seemed at home in the Roman Senate, but the plain white just wasn't very interesting - so Rachel took a stab at a new design - one that hinted at self-importance and vanity, as these scholars think quite highly of themselves. The new design uses the Felis color scheme as well.

For reference, these are the other color schemes for the races in "Beyond the Western Deep":

Each one has their own dominant colors, so even if you don't see anything but a little blob of colors, you'll know which kingdom that blob of colors belongs to.

These new race designs are quite important right off the bat, as the comic opens on a massive cityscape, showing many races milling about the Felis city of Gair. This requires core outfit design for the various races to be solidified so we can make sure their representations in the first few panels match their appearances later on in the comic as well.

In our next couple posts, we'll go into more of the updated character designs, including those for the Tamian, Ermehn, Polcan, and Canid races.