Thursday, 28 January 2010

Ken Recommends: Daybreakers

Release: 06/05/10
Running Time: 98 mins.
Studio: Lionsgate
Genre: Horror/Sci-fi/Thriller.
Rating: 15+
Director: The Spierig Bros.
Writer: The Spierig Bros.
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill & Claudia Karvan.

Enter Daybreakers, set in 2019 were vampires rule over the world in the place of humans and humans are farmed for their blood, with less than 5% of the human race still existing it's becoming clear that both races are a threat of becoming extinct, in a last plight to ensure the survival of the dominant race Charles Bromely (Same Neill) head of the nations largest supplier of blood has employed people to create a blood substitute, within this team we have Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke) whom is working on this substitute to stop the Vampires farming Humans for their blood.

With the goverment controlling blood rations as supply begins to dwindle the emergence of a more vicious and primal species begins to appear known as "Sub-Siders". After a chance encounter with a small group of still free humans Edward's life is flipped on it's head and the adventure begins complete with everything you'd want from a vampire flick!

For the fairly new writing/directing team of the Speirig Bros. this film is well shot as they cleary took a lot of time in considering what could be done to get the best of the scenes. The concept is something that hasn't been done before which is part of what made this such a refreshing watch, it was really interesting to see both a feasible futuristic environment but also how Vampires would live if they were the dominant species, from a design stand point it's the minor things that fill up the world that make it so visually appealing, the Speirig Bros. have place a lot of effort and love into the look and design of their film. It also keeps up with the classic mythology of Vampires which makes this all the more pleasing to watch as they interact with the mundane, whilst it has all this some of the special effects look a little dated but it doesn't deter from the effect it's trying to create and in that sense it worked to it's advantage as special effects should be used within a narrative but shouldn't be a part of it although, there is a lot of blood...

Whilst the acting isn't going to win an Oscar, it was very entertaining to watch actors with great skill and cult following such as Sam Neill and Willem Dafoe give life to some of the best characters in the film, Hawke's performance as the trouble Vampire was also well done, there are points where other directors could have made sections of his dialogue over the top but it was all delivered tastefully.

I came out of the cinema beaming with delight the film had everything I was expecting with much more than I thought I could want. Neill and Dafoe do really steal the show in some parts but each character gets their time to bloom, the reveal of how the Vampires grew to such a tremendous population is only touched only but it doesn't take anything away from the experience as the film is already full of little delights.

In recent trend of Vampires becoming overly romantasised it's good (and relieving) to see a film that takes the original concept and develops it much further, whilst this film is slated as a Horror it's also an action/adventure romp that gives everything from a strong hero type cast to an amazing Car chase, as stated previously it was the fact things weren't done in an over the top fashion which acctually made this film much better. If you're looking for a good action flick this spring I strongly recommend Daybreakers, just ask if anyone is a little squimish about blood before you take them though.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Check This Out: The Kamikaze 64

I was checking Destructoid earlier today and came across this neat little device titled "The Kamikaze 64". What this device is essentially a portable Nintendo 64, now many of you who are familiar with games will most likely know of all the different kinds of modifications create from old video game consoles the most common seen being belt buckles made from old Nintendo Entertainment System controllers, but there are some really cool things made from old video game consoles! Such as an original Gameboy converted into an iPod, but the main aspect of modding is to create handheld versions of home consoles or just completely twist the design on it's head. One such design that has blown me away is The Kamikaze 64 created by American Hailraizer, with it's sleek design and clear understanding of ergonomics this modder has created something truly interesting, whilst emulation makes everything smaller and easier to carry around it's good to see people still creating these devices, especially with such a highlevel of craftman's ship, but enough of me talking check out the video below to find out more about "The Kamikaze 64".

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Visual Language: Sneak Peek 3

Heres a little sneak peek at another part of the line work for my final design, this one is an action pose and some expressions. colour coming soon, I'm running out of time to do justice for a pixel version but time will see though right? anyways check out the expression sheet below and stay tuned for colour and the final version!

(click to enlarge)

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Visual Language: Sneak Peek 2

So here we are a few days later, I've completed the turnaround complete with front, side and back views all their missing now are colour and a little annotation which I will be adding tomorrow. The Deadline is on Tuesday 9am, at this rate I think I'm going to hit it quite comfortably! check out the hard work below and stay tuned for more!

(Click to Enlarge)

Also stay tuned for more general articles and bloggings!

Friday, 22 January 2010

Ken Recommends: Joe The Barbarian

Another week has passed and with it new comics out of the usual assortment of Batmen and Spider-man comics sometimes little gems shine through which other different kinds of stories that are just exciting to read, these are usual published by smaller companies other than Marvel or DC but, sometimes they can be published by the big two under their imprint titles.

This week I present to you Joe The Barbarian #1, written by Grant Morrison with artwork by Sean Murhpy. In this issue the foundations for the story are laid, enter Joe your average teenage boy (it's not stated how old but it's made clear that it's early teens think 12-14 range) Joe's mother seems inattentive to him, he is picked on at schoool, essentially he's Joe Average but with a slight spin and hint of uneasiness, who wasn't uneasy in High School? As the story progresses Joe begins to slip in and out of a fantasy world populated by his toys and it seems something is very wrong with this world and it's in some kind of danger. The cover really does tell you all you need to know about the story and whilst it seems a bit brief the cover price is only $1.00 (£0.75) so it really is a bargain. The art work is phenomenal with copious amounts of detail but into the scenes, the quality of the lines and images work very well with each other creating the sense of a realistic world. The artist has also used camera angles in a cinematic way making it feel like your viewing screen shots from a film, it could be that the writer is pitching a film with this one, but we'll wait and see.

For a first issue Joe The Barbarian is warming up to be an interesting concept with gorgeous art work from Murphy and words from acclaimed writer Grant Morrison, I say go for it if you're looking to add something new to your weekly comic list, hey at £0.75 how could you complain?

For more a look at the interior artwork go to:

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Kevin Smith's Verdict on Shark Robots

As I have a Tweet Deck to stay in contact with all tweets and face book updates I noticed American Film maker Kevin Smith of Clerks, Dogma and Chasing Amy tweeting a lot so Idecided to ask his opinion on my character. A few minutes later here was His response:

Deep words...deep words from a deep man. This also shows some people do reply to your own tweets! Anyways keep eyes peeled for my sneaks of my final piece!

Visual Language: Sneak Peek

It's coming together slowly.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Check This Out: Cheap Rockband Repairs

How many people have had this problem? You've enjoyed the Peripherals in Rockband for over a year, past your warranty, enjoying, enjoying, BUT! one day something breaks! you can't return it or get it repaired for free as it's past warranty what do you do? Well I was in this situation not too recently with the Drum peripheral where the red pad stopped regestering hits made by the drum stick I was thinking about buying a replacement at the time as I could buy a full kit for £40 during the January Sales but I hesitated for too long and missed my chance. I recently came across "The Portable Rockband Drum Kit" for £10, I immediately snapped it up!

With this I planned to house the portable drum pads upon the rack of the original kit. The protable kit also comes with a kick pedal thats not as large as the original and does not fit upon the rack so the first test would be to make sure the original kick pedal fits and works with the portable's interface. Fortunately it does! From there I used velcro attaching one side to the portable pad and another to the original pad to keep them in place, the main control inter face fits comfortable in the middle only after some careful placement (see images below) but overall once again I had a fully functional kit again for the low repair cost of £11.99 (£1.99 for the velcro).

(Click to Enlarge)

The pads on the portable kit are built differently to that of the orignial in that they are just pads, no skin over the top which means that when you use the regular wodden drum sticks it can create quite a bit of noise, luckily the portable kit comes with plastic sticks the only down side to this is that they weigh more and slow your performance down a bit and the weight difference is quite noticable.When playing the game the pads don't move due to the velcro which is quite good as one of my fears would be that I would constantly have to re-attach them, another note is the designs on the portable pad are much more appealing than boring coloured circles.

If anyone else falls into this same situation I highly recommend this solution as it's cheap and more than effective the only downside is that you may have to invest in covers for the pad to soften the sounds of the sticks hitting the pads. Overall, go for it!

Visual Language: Final concept

After looking over my previous designs for my shark robot character, I started to put together the ideas that I liked onto my template and arranging them accordingly. Check out the final concept to the right. I really liked my first concept but I felt it was lacking in areas, I modified the feet slightly and added the large claw from one of the other designs, I also added a swat vest just to bulky out the character as I felt a robotic chest didn't quite fit. I chose these colours as a base to work with as they're bright and vibrant making them very noticeable on the screen but they also work well with the shark's blue pallet. From here I'm going to develop a turn around for the character, a final presentation piece and a pixel version to see how it would look in it's final form. Overall I'm happy with this design and can't wait to see it perfected.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Game Art And Design: Down The Rabbit Hole

Today I started a new brief in Game Art And Design, before being shown the brief I was introduced to the virtual world known as Second Life, where in denizens have virtual versions of themselves and live a virtual life. That's not why I'm here though, the world of Second Life is bendable to creation and manipulation which makes it a great way to introduce people to Game Design as everything from design mapping to object creation is possible within the virtual realm. Today I created my avatar (you can see it to the right) and modified it slightly to make more appealing. Later in the day I was given the brief which required me and two other people to work together to create a Video Game Level of a Virtual Environment Prototype; A Game Bible and a Development Portfolio (Concept art/schematics/character designs/colour palettes/textures/graphics).

First off I decided to work within my blog group as I knew Mark and Ben are both hard working and I'll get a consistent level of quality from both, once that was decided we looked at the four options we could base our project off, the choices were; "Cloud Village": A fantasy/steam punk MMORPG, "Sunken Temple": A Lovecraft inspired Adventure Game for mature players, "Mad Scientist's Lab": An educational enviroment to teach under 12s about electricity and finally "A Future International Space Station": Which is a virtual conceptualisation of what space stations may look in the year 2050. We all agreed that the Space Station option seemed the most interesting and will be the one we tackle.

The rest of the day was used as getting to know the basics of Second Life and exploration of the worlds. Through this I stumbled across a Japanese island, some of the modeling and customisation was amazing and really make me envious as my avatar was very basic, I also made some new friends shortly after I realised that my Japanese needs some serious work. So far thats all thats happened with Game Art And Design, stay tuned for more!

(My Avatar on Neet Tv Island)

Ken Recommends: Sky Doll

So here we are again, this week we have another Graphic Novel (I promise they all won't be, honest) by the title of "Sky Doll" created by Italian writer and artists Barbara Canepa and Alessandro Barbucci. This first book in the series was published by Marvel Comics as a part of their Soleil line of comics, branching out from the trend of super hero comics and publishing European comics of an exceptional quality. The very world in which Sky Doll is set is full of wonder and unique designs ranging from the buildings and props to the characters themselves, the style in which it is drawn is very expersionate and no one look is exactly the same, this most likely comes from the creators using their experience of working under The Walt Disney Company and it really shows especially when characters interact with each other, there's so much expression going on it's a joy just to look at let alone read. The art style also has a great amount of sexuality to it but it's done very tastefully and as you read more it becomes more intergrated with the world you're experiencing. Colouring is also very appealing due to it's soft tones and subtle shades make for a nice change to other comics. With that out the way lets get on with reviewing the story!

There are three main characters, Noa the Skydoll, a robotic humanoid who's purpose is to serve her master's wishes, but she's not like other Skydolls as I'm sure you'd find out as you read the story. Next is Roy, your average joe archetype who with his friend Jahu, a brash and strong headed fellow, are on a diplomatic mission to a "heretic" world to try convert them to their home planet's religious beliefs. Each character is unique in that they are very much themselves and are written in such a way that they're very believeable. The world they come from is very much steeped in religious belief with Ludovica the current head constantly trying to erase all memory of her former sister hom people used to and still do follow, it is a world where church and state are one in the same. Through a series complications Noa winds up joining Roy and Jahu on their mission eager to find a a new place to live whilst questioning her ultimate purpose, is she just a toy for people to play with or something more? As the story develops everything boils over into a climatic end fitting for this stories arc and definetly more than satisfying, it's truly an exciting read!

Whilst the story is a sci-fi based one it's not purely for fans of the genre and can be enjoyed by those who appreciate good narrative and interesting characters. There is a lot to be discovered within the world you're introduced to such as it's lifestlye, aesthetics and religious goverment, this adds to the whole experience of the book.

What brought my interest to this book was the art work so I also recommend it for animators and comic artists a like as it's a great representation of what can be done in either medium, for further reading Marvel has published a two issue series "Sky Doll: Doll's Factory" which is a making of Sky Doll, think of it as the extras disc to the main feature. It's full of interviews, design sketches, the first full issue in pencils (preview to the left) and fan art created by other european artists. If after you read Sky Doll and loved it I highly recommend hunting these two issues down. Overall this is a book that should be read by those looking for something a little different when it comes to comics as it truly is an effort to create an amazing narrative.

Sky Doll vol. 1 is avalible now in both Hardback and Paperback starting from £14.99
Sky Doll: Space Ship, the new series starts this year!
(Date to be comfirmed)

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Visual Language Research: Pixel Art Test

Before I even start to make a pixel version of I decided I would make a small graphic to test my capabilities. You can see the result to the right. To make this I used Derek Yu's excellent tutorial on creating sprites and pixel art. I found the shading step to be quite difficult due to the complex shape of a skull so I may do a few more practises with simpler objects before tackling the final piece. Whilst it is not integral to pixel art I tried my hand a "dithering" which is essential making the transitions between colours look more natural. That step was also quite difficult and I think I definetly need more practise with that technique. It's also quite time consuming to create a piece of pixel art but in the end it's rewarding. Whilst this is not the best piece of work I've ever created it was interesting to try and I look forward to improving my skills in this area over the next week for this project and over the next few years as I can see it being a medium I would use again!

Visual Language: More Concepts

Hello again! Just here to share some concepts with you all that I've been working on, two colour ones and two rough sketches. These are just little sketches I'm using to help me develop the shark robot character so just remember none of these will be of a finalised quality. Check them out below!

(Click to enlarge)

As mentioned in my last post I wanted to give the character a weapon to make it at least look challeneging to the player to defeat so the above have them. I like the idea of a shark using a harpoon but I don't like the look of the two handed approach, I also like the idea of a head set on the the top left one purely because I find it funny that a shark would communicate with normal speech. little touches like the skull on the big fist are also quite nice but both these designs need to be worked on as I don't favour them too much. But I feel the shark will be a blue colour!

(Click to Enlarge)

I like the idea that the shark will have something on it's shoulders as I feel it help makes it look bulkier and more robotic. and with the one on the left I like the idea it walks with roller blades. The design on the right looks a bit too much like a knight but I do like the huge development of the "power fist" from the one above as it looks much better with claws, I feel this is an aspect that could make it through to the final design. Whilst using the template is good for getting numerous ideas out quickly I feel I'm slowly getting to the limit of things I could do so I'm going to start doing note book sketches along with these to help development, hopefully settling on a final design by wednesday or friday of this week.

I also feel I'm reaching a limit with robotic visuals so I'm going to look at some of my art books and artwork on the internet to build up some inspiration for robotic designs much like the one below. It was actually when I saw this that I thought I needed to work much more on the robotic aspect, especially some type of chest piece.

(a cool robotic design by Mhannecke)

Keep an eye out for more developments and my first attempt at creating pixel art, so until next time!

Friday, 15 January 2010

Visual Language: A peek at a design so far

I told you I'd be busy this weekend! This is just a quick post to show you a rough concept I've developed for my shark character, check it out below and I'll run you through it!

(Click to enlarge)

So I used the base that I presented to you last time to build up a rough idea for one way I could develop my character. The main influence of the limbs comes from Sadamoto's designs for the robots in Evangelion and I just built up from there, I also added a jet engine like device to the character's back to try flesh out the design, same for the utility belt. The colours were only added to get an idea of what main colours go where, they are by no means the final colours. I should also try develop a weapon for it to use in gameplay as it is an antagonist towards the player and should provide some threat. This is the first of what will be many different designs and developments until I get closer to that golden, final one! Keep watching!

Visual Language Research: Pixel Art

As I've mentioned in previous posts I want to try create a pixel version of my character as I'm developing it to appear in a a side-scrolling "Run and Gun" style Video Game. The character will be one of the basic enemies to appear in the game purely because I like the concept of having to shoot countless numbers of shark/robot hybrids. I also decided to choose pixels over 3-D Graphics are there is more that you can do to make pixels look much better than polygons also because of the high amount of detail and nature of the graphic style I'm can literally translate a drawing into a piece of Pixel work.

(An example of Pixel Artwork)

Another benefit of Pixel art is that I can also develop a short animation such as a walk cycle to add a bit of technicality to an otherwise still image. I can also work at a much higher level of detail due to there being no limitations but this also allows me to work at either "8-Bit" or "16-Bit" level graphics or beyond. The tools I'm going use to create are going to be Photoshop, pencils, pens and paper, I'll also be using a tutorial by Derek Yu that outlines exactly what to do to create Pixel Art. I've also been liking at "Spriting" and "Pixel Art" in general on Wikipedia, both entries contain very useful information on techniques such as different methods of shading and colouring.

(an example of pixels used in a game)

Whilst I still have to develop a more finalised design for my character I'm getting more ideas from playing old 16-bit games such as Metal Slug and even old Mario games to research movement needed. I've also researched other peoples working in creating their own pixel art and games such as the indy hit "Cave Story" and the up coming "Owl Boy" to see how modern day developers have worked with pixels. Whilst both use pixels there's a huge difference between the styles these games a represented in but both have their charms, check out the comparison below.

(Cave Story on the left, Owl Boy on the right)

Cave Story has a more cartoony element and is designed to look like a classic 2-D side scroller and is more of a homage to 16-bit gaming where as Owl Boy has a more depth to it's designs clearly taking advantage of the higher processing power and graphic capabilities. There was also a period of time on the art collective website Deviant Art where users created IDs featuring pixel versions of their characters, it's interesting to see how the pixel is a phenomenal but this also shows that anyone when they try can create good pixel art like.

(A Pixel ID by Kurot)

I feel that creating a Pixel version of mycharacter once it's been finalised will be and interesting challenge but fun at the same time, especially because of my preferance for 16-bit videogames so creating this will be a bit of a guilty pleasure. Keep an eye out for my progress with my development with my character!

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Visual Language: outlines

So here we are again, today is just short and sweet. I just want to post the outlines of what I'm calling the Base for my design work, I'll be using these to draw various designs and colour schemes over the top of these two variations. I also worked on a few colour variations of the head shot that would be used in dialogue boxes, you can see all these below.

(The templates for me to start working on)

(Too warhol?)

As you can see from the designs I took the angular properties of the "good" version and applied them to the bad version. I quite liked the effect and feel it gave it a different look to the torpedo like original. Over the weekend I'm going to research into pixel art and how to make so keep an eye out for that post, especially you retro lovers. So far I feel I'm making good progress and at a good pace too, I can't wait to get closer to finishing as well as starting to create pixel art!

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Doodles: Holiday Edition

So I had a long break and I'll be honest I didn't really draw that much in contrast to how much I could have drawn given the amount of time I had, but anyways I thought I would share these with you! To the right are some images done of Iron Man, Thor and Spider-Man all drawn whilst I was still experimenting with the heavy use of blacks from Mignola's Work but trying to give a more realistic look, especially the Spider-Man one. I also gave Galactus the treatment as well, check it out below.

I've also been thinking about doing a Sci-Fi comic with a friend of mine so I've also been starting to design those characters but I can't really say much else about it as nothing else has been planned besides the characters and the Sci-Fi setting but none the less check out the preliminary designs for two of the four main characters below.

(Click To Enlarge.)

I quite like the the aesthetics I'm building whilst drawing these characters with the smooth yet strong lines. Keep an eye out as I may post more of this as it begins to develop and if it starts to get any better I'll post a whole new blog section about outside of "blogging" and "doodles"! As always thanks for dropping by!

Visual Language: Approaching Final Design

As mentioned yesterday I have been working on refining my character design for the "shark robot" for a video game similar to the Metal Slug series. Before I present my I should mention I had a brief crit where the class and I reviewed each others work, two interesting points came up when I mentioned that I was planning to develop the character for a video game such as presenting it with Cel-Shaded graphics to replicate the look of the drawings and I should try developing a hero version. Also mentioned last time was that I should try developing a new look to my character and so I decided to try a cartoonish style, check out the results below:

(Click to Enlarge)

Using these rough doodles I slowly started to develop a look for the cartoon shark that I began to grow on as it was much quicker to draw and more fun to do so as well. I then started to develop the design from there and have come up with two variations of a "base" design that I will use photoshop to create finer versions with colour variations and design modifications so look out for those over the next two days. I will also try to create a pixel version of the designs to emulate the look of the old 16-bit games. You can check out the designs below.

(On the left is the evil version on the right is the good.)

As you can see the good version has characteristics to denote a positive appearance such as clean teeth, wide eyes and good posture. The bad version has slouching posture and defiant eyes, this creates a nice contrast between the two and I feel makes it a little more interesting to see what effects can be given to the same basic concept. I also thought of other ways the character could appear in the game, referencing role playing styled games I decided to start working on various emotions to correspond with the dialogue in the speech boxes, you can see these below.

(The main influence came from old RPGs)

Over the Next four days I'll be working on all these "base" designs and devevloping a more broader volume of work so keep and eye out of posts of the photoshoped developments aswell as the pixel rendition, I personally can't wait to try my hand out, so until next time!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Check This Out: Hallucinations

Now I'm aware not many people are fond of the group Angels & Airwaves but I am, and there's nothing you can do to stop me! Anyways for those of you who don't follow the band (formed in 2006 by Blink-182 member Tom DeLonge) have just released a new single completely free for download via their Modlife site. Before I get down to talking about the actual single lets just take a look at the affair of this free distribution of digital singles, I personally feel that it's great it allows people to hear new music without having to feel a sting and in a way it gives the impression the musicians do care about their fan base, I feel that this form of promotion is going to be seen a lot more in the emerging digital age, and of course we all have Radiohead to thank for the basis of this concept.

Enough about that though lets get back to the important part, the actual single! Those familiar with the work of Angels & Airwaves will recognise the opening as something that is usually used for their opening tracks to their previous albums that's a sort of slow build up but as with each one of these each has their different personality whilst clearly being made by the same people a sort of trademark if you will. The main riff kicks in and it's reminiscent of "Valkyrie Missile" until the vocals kick in and it's clear that it's a new song in it's entirety. DeLonge's vocals are back up to standard of previous years, whilst their previous album "I-Empire" was good the vocals sounded slightly deeper in places, very different from DeLonge's usual method. When you first hear the chorus it seems forced but it soon becomes a catchy tune and theres many chords that a familiar to the ear that those might have heard in the last Blink-182 album even to the point where I was sure I heard the exact same notes in the outro of Hallucinations as part of the chorus of "Always". Regardless if you're a fan of general stadium rock or Angels & Airwaves single won't disappoint to get it now download it for free from the band's offical site >>

And in other news keep an eye out for Blink-182's return to Europe this year, I know I will.

Visual Language: Hidden Roughs

As I'm currently at the step of refining some designs that I'll be sharing with you either tomorrow or the day after I thought I post some design work that hasn't appeared on the blog yet that may have been missed out and talk about them a little as each design step that doesn't go any where is just as important as ones that do lead some where. So with out further hesitation
lets take a look at lost doodles!

To the above is an image featuring the classic "fish in a suit" concept that came to me only this time it's the octopus, but whats note worthy about this page is that below it are some interesting variation on my ideas on combining "Robot" and "Fish", such as a literal robotic fish kind of hybrid and a smaller fish that is attached to various amounts of machinery. The idea behind that one is that the fish would pilot a gigantic robot all through the power of it's mind, the robot fish was just an amalgamation of the two words in a literal sense.

(Click To Enlarge)

Above is another rough of a "shark man type" nothing more really than just a development piece but back when I drew this is didn't quite know the character I was developing as well as I do know but the very basic ideas that I'm currently working on are present here but as you've seen through later designs I've dropped the aqualung but it seems like a very good idea that I want to try encorporate into the finalised versions. Finally below are two side profiles of the slightly more developed ideas I was working on at the time, I quite like the addition of goggles to the shark as I felt it brought a bit of charm to the character. It was around the point of drawing this that I settled on focusing on only the shark.

(Click to Enlarge)

Well I hop you enjoyed this brief look at pieces of work that haven't got shown yet and I'm pleased to say that I'm blasting through the design and development and am fast approaching a final piece of work so stay tuned for tomorrow when I post the progress about that!

Ken Recommends: Earth-X

When it comes down to the world of Graphic Novels and Sequential Art it can be incredibly difficult to siphon the mediocre from the gold, every once in a while a narrative comes along that sets the standard to either great visuals and an exciting story (the equivalent to a Hollywood Blockbuster), or a new timeless classics that are intelligent and thought provoking as well (Think films like Citizen Kane). With the comics industry try to out do each other in terms of action packed "Tie-in" story lines to make money (often than not this is where your Blockbusters come in), whilst these continue less frequently stand-alone series are create to give new spins on the characters readers are familiar with.

I present to you the 1999 Marvel Comics epic Earth-X, the story focuses on several main characters from the Marvel Universe, but through it all it uses an unlikely character to bring it all together. It is based around 20 years or so into the future (of the ever tine standing still nature of comics) and all of the Human species has been transformed into mutants due to a release of Terrigen Mist across the world. Within this time line the watcher known as Uatu has gone blind, unable to watch he recruits Aaron Stack (The Machine Man) to become his eyes so that he may carry on documenting the activities of the planet Earth, but why does Uatu watch? On Earth it seems like Steve Rogers, an exhausted Capatin America is struggling with trying up hold what he once represented as not only the country of America is changing but the rest of the world. With the changing of Earth where no-one needs saving a new "evil" is on the rise in the form of The Skull who will truly test the lengths that Earth's Heroes are willing to go to to preserve freedom and ultimately life itself when a hidden threat makes itself present.

The book features many future renditions of classic and beloved characters who have changed in radical ways through the events of the last 20 years from the Marvel Universe, such as The X-Men, The Hulk, Tony Stark, Norman Osborn, Peter Parker, Reed Richards and many other stable characters so that readers unfamilar with the mythology don't need to fret, as this is a stand alone story it's as good as any novel creating an exciting story that is extremly hard to put down once it's picked up, with many characters you can get attached to you'll not want to put this put down until you've read the entire epic. The artwork by John Paul Leon is superb and fits the tone of the story perfectly (and that tone is not a light one) with character designs and covers that look like film posters by comics super star Alex Ross. The writing by Jim Krueger fits very well into the voice of each indiviual characters and the story is an escalating rollarcoaster that is both fun to read and haunting to experience to give a narrative one won't forget!

Monday, 11 January 2010

Visual Language: Character Design Development

Since last time we chatted I talked about the works of Mike Mignola and since then I have been practising with a few concepts influenced by his work, the best ones that came out were the designs centred around the Shark. Which is good as I've decided to focus on developing only the shark design. Below you can see the results of my experimentation with heavy use of black.

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Whilst these are just roughs I found that doing the preliminary work with pencil and paper and then filling in the rest on Adobe Photoshop to be quite time saving, I really like how it's come out though it gives a lot of depth and personality to the Sharks. I'm still working on various designs until I'm 1005 Happy with the aesthetics but so far I feel I'm developing at a good pace. I've also started to experiment with colour schemes as can be seen below, as I analysed from Mignola's work is that it's perfect for creating the moodiness of the sea. I also create to varients to try out other colour schemes to see which I would prefer further down the line. you can see the results below.

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Also with focusing my development on the Shark concept I've finally figured out what media I plan this character to appear in. The main idea I have is that the character will be a part of a 2-Dimensional Side Scrolling action game where in it'll be one of the countless numbers of bad guys that the hero will have to slay, think a mix of Metroid and Metal Slug. I really Like this concept of it appearing in a game but I still have to work on a minimal backstory atleast, otherwise what would they put next to it's picture in the instruction manual?

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Since I've decided to focus on Sharks I decided it would be appropriate to do some quick studies of sharks, especially the head as that it always where the main focus is when it comes to thinking of a shark. I feel I have made quite some progress as I'm beginning to focus more on a specific design rather than several at once and I feel much more confident when designing, with the addition of colour images I feel this is going to be one of my more successful projects to date, I may also dabble in ways that I can present this character maybe giving a game or cartoonish spin to it Keep any eye out for this one as I feel it's gonna be prmoising!