One of Luke's early attempts  at Erick

One of Luke’s early attempts at Erick

Now that we finally have a website that supports blogging, I thought we’d start sharing some behind-the-scenes stories to show what paths were traveled to result in the finished pages we’ve been posting.  What better way to kick this off than the character design behind our cast’s most recent addition, Erick?

Let’s rewind to 2009:

I had just finished the bulk of the Atroxity script (pending a few minor rewrites) and Luke was starting to sort out the designs for our various characters.  The  design of our main protagonist Saul was still precarious unresolved–a topic for a later blog post–but we decided to try to focus on some of the minor characters which could, in theory, be knocked out without a whole lot of fuss.

Luke decided to tackle the design behind Erick, a character who also was of some importance due to the fact that he was the first non-Saul character to get much screen time.  He doesn’t play the largest role in the overall story, but we still needed to get him right.

The script described Erick as follows:

“A massive man with a thick, black, matted beard.”

Another early development sketch of Erick, who apparently was able to find someone to help him braid his beard.

Another early development sketch of Erick, who apparently was able to find someone to help him braid his beard

Simple, right?  So why then didn’t Erick wind up with the thick, black, matted beard that is pretty much his sole identifying characteristic as defined by the script?

Luke started drawing various men with thick, black, matted beards, most likely with some sort of hand-sharpened number 2 pencil (remember, this was way back in 2009).  He sent them to me, along with the following qualifier: “not sold on Erick yet, but it’s coming along.”

The faces were fine, of course–burly dudes with burly beards, very Brian Blessed.  As good as the sketches where, though, there was something missing; the designs looked a little too much like a mead-swilling dwarven character from someone’s Dungeons and Dragons campaign (which isn’t as weird as it may sound, due to the fact that Atroxity initially had much stronger fantasy roots in its design–also another topic for a later blog post).

But then one day Luke was doodling, while probably listening to serialized crime dramas on the radio–don’t forget, this was 2009–and the sketch just happened to coalesce into this disreputable looking guy:

Luke's fateful and definitive Erick doodle

Luke’s fateful and definitive Erick sketch

“It just turned into Erick,” Luke told me.

The guy didn’t look at all like I had initially envisioned Erick–where the hell was the beard?–but there was definitely something about the sketch that rang true to the character.  He was big, he was boozey, and he looked just about ready to slide off a barstool.

“I think we’ve found our Erick,” I told him, via carrier pigeon.

Hard to believe, but even we writers get the details wrong sometimes, and it takes an artist to show us how things really are supposed to be.

Of course, once several decades had passed and Erick was finally ready to make his debut on actual finished pages, Luke had to take his sketch design and transform it into the style of our graphic novel, which had started to become established by this point.  And, of course, Mike did his usual brilliant work of breathing life and color into him.

The end result?  This:

Erick in full glory

Erick in full glory

Who wouldn’t share a pitcher and a smoke with this guy?

The entire process behind Erick’s creation illustrates how sometimes the true nature of a character–or setting, or story, or book–isn’t immediately easily recognizable and it can take a certain amount of work before this true nature reveals itself.  Sometimes the best thing a creator can do is step back and give something the space it needs to come into its own.