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Characters

| August 13, 2014

Daily Dose-peach

 

I’m not talking about characteristics (not really), and I’m not talking about the inner character that is seen through actions and dialogue. I’m talking about how a character looks.

We’ve lost a lot, as creators. Once the new crop of artists came through, we’ve lost things that made characters special and instantly recognizable both in and out of uniform. Now, we have shortcuts such dialogue (where characters are named outright) and a goatee to tell readers who characters are. It wasn’t like that 20 years ago.

I don’t know about DC, but Marvel used to have style sheets, where characters were drawn and then passed around for the artists to reference and follow. Captain America was taller and more built than Spider-Man, the Invisible Woman was of a height with Medusa, and it wasn’t just a matter of just a costume change and different hair to differentiate the two. Peter Parker had to have a certain look to him, and that look was more or less consistent from book to book, artist to artist.

Now, “character” is literally written on a character’s face. This one has a patch, that one has a scar over the eye or the cheek, that one has long hair, this one has to be in a porn star pose. That’s not fun. The character is only as deep as their appearance.

And that appearance? Generally, they are attractive white men and women.

Before you think I’m making it racial, I’m really not. I’m talking about characters, the failure of standards, and the failure of the imagination to really make a difference.

By failure of standards, I’m talking about a standard model for what a particular character should look like. An artist can operate within a style, but there are certain characteristics that the artist should imbue the characters with. Some should be more stocky (not muscular) than others. Some should be thinner. Some should be older, and some younger. Everyone cannot look like they’re 35 forever.

And it should be more than just “white hair, suit and tie, scar on one cheek, devastatingly handsome” for a character description. A lot of new artists don’t go much deeper than that, though.

Remember that comics is a visual medium, and in the real wold, there are lots of things that can make a character more distinguishable.

A big one is color.

The colorist can make a profound impact on a character, simply by doing things a little differently. Very few are going to care about eye color (unless you’re talking about the Flash), but salt-and-pepper hair can be tried. Or in the goatee/beard.

Anyway, artists should take more time making each character their own entity, instead of homogenizing them.

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Category: Columns, The Daily Dose

About the Author ()

Steven is an editor/writer with such credits as Fallen Justice, the award nominated The Standard, and Bullet Time under his belt, as well as work published by DC Comics. Between he and his wife, there are 10 kids (!), so there is a lot of creativity all around him. Steven is also the editor in chief and co-creator of ComixTribe, whose mission statement is Creators Helping Creators Make Better Comics. If you're looking for editing, contact him at stevedforbes@gmail.com for rate inquiries.

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