Where Words and Pictures Party

Building a Better Ninja

Added on by Jonathan O'Briant.

I'm working through the PE book, and still churning away at skeletons. Today I want to talk about the brick wall I've hit as I started pencilling the next book in MAPS. Character design is crucially important for having your characters recognizable and establishing the tone and nature of your world. As I got to page 2 I realized I did not have a good idea for how the people in the next universe dressed. I knew they'd be ninja esque, but I wasn't going to use the stereotypical black mask and catsuit that I'd shorthanded the characters with in my layouts.

I've been watching some old 50's and 60's kung fu movies to think about my storytelling but for the character designs I began by image searching some outfits from feudal Japan. Robes, swords, layers, pulled back hair, sweet flip flops...I sketched out several guys and picked and chose the more iconic parts of their wardrobe to get some idea for how to set the tone of the universe.

I talked over these sketches with Timothy and we both agreed they needed to be altered significantly to help make our new universe feel unique and alien. These guys need to be light on their feet, they need to be able to soar through the air.  We began to talk about base jumpers and the wind suits those guys use. I started thinking about the masks/visors from the Shinobi games or Gatchaman. This is a little more unique, though not actualized yet. I'd say these designs are about halfway to where I want to be.

I've leaned up the character a little bit which strikes me as a lot more 'ninja'. Added a few little design flourishes to start jazzing them up. Trimmed down the billowing of the cape/drag suit. I want to expand off of this sort of direction. Work on the helmet/visor on a structural level. Then it'll be another round of action shots with the new design and I can finally get back to those pages on MAPS.