Saturday, 27 October 2012

Character Design: Figuring Out the Sidekick

Figuring Out the Sidekick
Initially, the Sidekick was going to be a sort of Professor character, working alongside the Sheriff in order to defeat the Merchant, but during a conversation with Justin surrounding one of my Villain concepts, he mentioned that the idea of this small snake practically conquering the world was less impressive and more ludicrous, when you really look at it.
When I first conceived the idea, the scale of the Mongoose and the Snake was going to stay the same, just enlarged, I.e. they would be the same size in relation to one another, but expanded in order to interact with a human world, so a five inch tall Mongoose would roughly translate to being six foot in reality.
Justin suggested that, if I still wanted to retain the Snake as the Villain, maybe I should change the Sidekick into a Henchman for him. Whilst this would kind of throw a spanner in works on the story side of things, I've compromised in favour of the better character because, well, thats sort of the point of the project! The story will change, but only slightly. The role of the Professor character will be somewhat assimilated into the Sheriff, consequently giving him a bigger role and ultimately making him a more interesting and dynamic character.
The Henchman would function as something of a 'surrogate' or 'host', kind of like Krang from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, with the Snake perched atop his shoulder, wrapped around his neck or tucked within a pocket, providing his Henchman with orders. The Snake would constantly be the one in charge, regardless of his minute stature.
I keenly took to this idea, starting by developing a mind map of basic traits I wanted the character to inherit, as well as notes on his appearance, attitude and relationship with the Snake.

After coming up with some options of what I wanted from the character, I still struggled to decide what species of animal the sidekick would be, a factor which can potentially make or break the design of the character.
Eventually, I landed on the idea of using an Alligator as the Snake's henchman.
Although this wasn't without a fair amount of thought. There were several reasons for this possible option, including:
  • They bear a similar overall appearance to Snakes
  • Varieties inhabit desert-like areas, so it's appearance in a desert wouldn't be totally absurd
  • They are visually intimidating and threatening, without a ton of effort on their part
  • There is a lot of potential charm that can come from the relationship between a clumsy, oafish Alligator and a Snake with a Napoleon Complex (think, Pinky and the Brain)
I went on to further develop what I wanted from the character, once again, compiling my ideas using a mind map.

After establishing the basic characteristics of the Alligator, I quickly took the first image I could find of a bipedal Alligator and roughly annotated it with ideas of what I perceived would suit a more rough and threatening character (using probably the least threatening image of an Alligator ever to grace Google Images).

With a basic idea of what I wanted initially, I began to actually draw (finally!)

This was a quick scribble to get the basic idea of a broad built, bipedal Alligator on paper. I quickly scrapped this approach and instead, decided to focus on the anatomy underneath the clothing first off. It was beginning to look less like an anthropomorphised Alligator and more like a portly Dick Tracy who'd traded his trilby for an Alligator mask. Not really what I had in mind.

This was moving in the right direction, but it felt too superhero, although I'm not completely against that approach, I think his appearance needs to be tame enough to compliment the Snake character, not steal the show.

I tried to revert the shape back to the bipedal Alligator style, as opposed the distinctly humanoid appearance of the image above. Although they problem I was having by this point was that it appeared to friendly. Whilst the character is somewhat dim witted, and this could be perceived as friendly and charming, he still needs a degree of threat in his appearance. Structurally, though, it felt as if it was heading in a good direction.

In this image, I toughened him up a bit more, whilst still attempting to retain the basic structure as before. I'm pretty happy with the direction this image is heading, although there is still something missing. I think the missing element will hopefully crop up when I further delve into the character and his relationship with the Snake, and a lot of his design will come from what the Snake requires him to do. With this in mind, I drafted up a couple of sketches showing the basic character in motion, as the Alligator would be required to be fairly agile (although this does go against the general perception of Alligators being fairly motionless until they have to strike).

I really enjoy the motion in these sketches, and it made me realise that the Alligator's devious nature could presented as effectively through the flamboyance of his actions and movements as much as his general, physical appearance. The flexibility in the character is definitely something I want to retain and I feel it also correlates nicely with the flexibility of the Snake that the Alligator is playing surrogate to. A nice connection between master and servant.
As always, any critique, feedback and advice is greatly appreciated!

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