Les McClaine (lesmcclaine) wrote in panel600,
Les McClaine

character and cover design

So I thought I'd talk about the very beginning of my part of the work on The Middleman: The Third Volume Inescapability, the (surprise!) third volume in The Middleman series.

I got the script a while back (written by the lovely and talented chaodai ) and my first job is to come up with designs for the major new characters. Without giving away much about the script, we're introducing a worldwide crime network in this book, and there's a few major players in it that need designin'!

First, the leader of the group, described in the script as "a tall man dressed in a black Mao-Tse Tung style suit and wayfarer sunglasses." One of the great things about working with Javi on this book is that he leaves his scripts pretty open for interpretation, so then we can talk out the designs and stuff as we go.

The first design I came up with is the one at the top right, but I wasn't happy with it. The costume was pretty much set from the get-go, so I had to concentrate on the face. It looked too much like Uncle Duke from Doonesbury to me. I thought of maybe adding hair, for the center top version, but that came out looking like a cross between Marv from Sin City and Agent Graves from 100 Bullets. Then I struck on the idea of having him look like an evil version of the Middleman. I still felt kind of lost about the whole design, so I sent it to Javi and we talked about it. Javi had the idea of doing a sort of Kim-Jong Il thing but with a bowl cut, and that seemed funny, so I tried it. Then I tried a couple skinny versions, but we both liked the fat one best.

Now, the leader has a henchman, described in the script as "shorter than his leader, and has a compact, thuggy build, topped by his perpetually sneering face: a mean snicker that indicates that he knows something you don't. He always wears a gorilla suit without the mask." Javi also wanted him to look (with permission) like a specific actor, and I have not entirely succeeded at that.

First I just did a head study (with two sets of eyes, but I've only included the second one here) and a full-body sketch. I think it was my roommate robotplanet who came up with the idea of putting shoes on him.  It was a good idea so I ran with it and gave him some fancy wingtips.  After sending those to Javi, he wanted this guy to have a more apelike build, so I reworked it into more realistic gorilla proportions.  I was worried that having these proportions would make it look more like a gorilla with a man's head, but Javi came up with the idea of having the fellow wear a shirt and tie under the suit to make it obvious.  I haven't drawn it that way yet.

Those were the only two designs we needed at this point, but I had to throw together a quick rough idea for the cover of the book.  Javi had the idea of doing a very sixties mod-style James Bond-ey kind of thing with it, and I've always liked that style, so this is what I came up with, after a few changes:

I'm still not happy with the color for that logo, and the villain at the top needs to be reposed with his chin up, but we were both pretty happy with this from the getgo.  (I did already enlarge the villain and logo to better fit, at Javi's suggestion.)
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