He's Got The Look
Character design isn’t something I spend a lot of time thinking about, to be honest. Typically, when I think of a new character, my fevered brain automatically conjures up an image of what that character should look like. That doesn’t always happen, though. Occasionally, I do find myself banging my head against the drawing board, hoping that maybe, by the process of osmosis, the idea will magically appear on the paper. This is usually doesn’t work.
When I do sit down and draw a character, I have to take into account that their look should say something about who they are. It has to reflect their personality. What’s their ethnicity? Are they introverted or extroverted? Where’d they grow up? Are they the type of person who cares about their appearance? Are they a hero or a villain? How old are they? Those are the questions I have to ask myself when I’m designing a new character, or redesigning an old character.
Usually, I pick a celebrity to base my character on. Bran, for example, is meant to look a bit like Scottish actor Iain De Caestecker. His hair, however, was an innovation on my part. Or perhaps it was his part. His wardrobe reflects how important tradition is to him. He wears a kilt to honor his father and his sweaters are based on actual British gansey patterns. I used my mother as a consultant on Bran’s look. She’s a professional knitter and designer, and if you’d like to commission her to make a similar garment, you can find her here.
Other characters I based on people I know. Orla’s look, for example, I based on girls that I’ve known (who shall remain nameless to protect the innocent). But her personality is very much based on Amy Pond from Doctor Who.
Lastly, there are characters just sort of pop out of the ether and really aren’t based on any particular person in appearance. Daphne’s an example. I literally made her up on the fly. I didn’t have any idea what she was going to be like until later. I decided early on that she would not be ethnically British; Britain is becoming more ethnically diverse, and I thought the story should reflect that, though making her look Asian, especially around the eyes, can be difficult. I also think it’s important to have an ethnically diverse cast because we live in an ethnically diverse world. Some people get accused of virtue-signaling when they add other ethnicities to their cast, but that isn’t always the case. In my case, it was done purely for the sake of a good story. And that’s the bottom line: character design must serve to drive the story. If the character’s design doesn’t drive the story, then it’s not worth a hill of beans.
I'm Ian Wilson; an eccentric comic artist, just telling a story.