[PROCESS] GODS - PART 2
Usually, when a script comes in, that's all there is to a story, so Mike del Mundo and I can just get started drawing - this story was different though. This script was really brief. In fact, I'm pretty sure it had no words at all, just a description of which beings would be highlighted on which page. To know who these characters were I needed to read the fantastic work Al Ewing did putting together the cosmic side of our universe. If you haven't read Al's work HERE and HERE I highly recommend it- it's great!
Mike and I started by splitting up these characters- we both definitely wanted to work on these designs! All we knew upfront was one god had two forms (a light and a dark), and there were a pair of opposed siblings, so we each picked one of these paired designs and randomly split up the rest.
Appropriately the first god I worked on was ZUVA. Al describes ZUVA as, "the All-Intelligence, the unknowable unknown, whose form is macro-cosmic light born from the foam of time." Now, “unknowable unknown" is kind of a rough start if you're trying to draw this thing, but "cosmic light" and "foam of time" gave me a direction.
More than a character, I felt like I was trying to capture a moment in time- or for this universe, their FIRST moment. What I ended up with was a new sun, erupting over a chaotic ocean as the first beams of light tear out into space. Lots of "Kirby crackle" here, but I can't think of a better way to describe infinite cosmic energy.
Al describes VADIS as "the Knowing One, aware of all things that grow and fly and swim and creep". VADIS "knows the great interconnected web of all things – from the food chains of beasts and fish and fowl to the shaken hand, the offered gift, the taken bribe. All are connected within the systems of VADIS."
The "web of all things" must have really captured my imagination because my first thought was, "VADIS is a spider". Described as being connected to every aspect of life, it's easy to imagine VADIS as some multi-armed, inter-dimensional “Being” working away at the center of a cosmic web.
What I liked in these first thumbnails was the idea that VADIS could hold 4 of her legs in a pose resembling humanoid arms and legs. I'm not sure if she's a god in disguise or if the humanoids in this universe are an echo of VADIS' preferred form, but there's enough going on here that I felt like it was worth pursuing.
I realized I was trying to combine two disparate concepts and it really wasn't working. On one hand, I wanted VADIS to be this giant spider-like figure, but on the other I wanted her to feel slightly maternal- she should feel like the source of all life in this universe. I thought maybe an enormous spider abdomen would read similarly to a pregnant human belly, but that turned out more scary than maternal. I tried giving VADIS a robe made of myriad life forms: fish scales, antlers, fur, eyes, etc, and although it did hide her form and communicated the "full of life" concept, it changed her silhouette so thoroughly there was really no point to her being a spider at all.
So instead I split up the concepts and drew VADIS sitting on an enormous egg.
Backtracking a bit, before we get to the egg I needed to sketch out VADIS' body and see if this "humanoid spider" would even work. The only real invention on my part was the "false head" on VADIS' body- it doesn't move or anything, it's a (bony?) part of her exoskeleton and it just happens to be shaped like a humanoid head. Also, having those front legs split into fingers looked particularly creepy, so I kept it.
I gave VADIS a simple robe- something that would change her immediate silhouette but could be seen through pretty easily. I covered the robe with leaves along with some details of berries or flowers. The flora hopefully reinforces her connection to life, plus if we see VADIS in different eras the plants can be a storytelling device- at times wild and overgrown and others, dried and barely alive. The inside of her cloak is filled with stars, and depending on the situation could be depicted as open space... maybe the 3W3M universe exists inside that cloak, and VADIS and her egg exist in some higher multi-space.
Now, back to the egg. With the concepts split and VADIS free to be a spider, I wanted this egg to feel like some space Garden of Eden. I'd just started sketching when this happened:
If you've read Mike del Mundo's post yesterday you've already seen his amazing design for VATRA. This Faberge egg of an owl blew me away, and Mike continued that bejeweled look in his designs for HAVO. I loved this approach and thought I should find an opportunity to echo it. It's a weird dance working with another designer- the whole point of working together is that hopefully, our different design approaches will make a richer, more diverse universe, but there’s a danger the approaches are SO different it feels like we're making two separate universes. To address that Mike and I will often find details in each other's work that we can add to our own to help knit everything together.
So I ran with the jeweled look and made my space Eden nearly a literal Faberge egg in space with the top half being decorated by plant and animal forms.
The final result for VADIS was a disguised spider god who attends to a jeweled, life egg that floats somewhere in hyperspace. It was weird. Really weird! But it felt unique and like it belonged in this universe so I went with it.
In addition to babysitting an inter-dimensional space egg, VADIS had a couple of kids: ARDAR AND XAOC.
ARDAR is described as a "DAEMON OF ORDER". Also that she slew XAOC "with a shaft of pure crystal". XAOC himself is described as a chaotic force at war with ARDAR so I knew I was designing a warrior. My first sketches just meandered around the "female warrior" idea. I wasn't satisfied with the clothing design as a solution for this character and I began thinking, "Maybe she's just a light source or something". Maybe an illuminated glass woman?
Eventually, I stripped the costuming away entirely and made ARDAR's light itself physical and graphic- and we end up with a spiky crystal woman.
One idea that came entirely after putting this design together: the "shaft of pure crystal" ARDAR uses to kill XAOC is a part of her own body. The idea is that this fight between ARDAR and XAOC is the origin of conflict in this universe, so it's also the origin of weapons. Nothing like a weapon existed prior to this conflict so the gods used their own body parts for combat.
Sometimes visual ideas show up fully formed, but I rarely if ever have a complete VERBAL idea for something. Reading about XAOC my first impression was, "he looks like tar poured over a stack of tree stumps." No idea why or where that came from, but it sounded interesting so I ran with it.
The first step to making XAOC feel chaotic was to make him asymmetrical. He also needed to contrast with ARDAR as much as possible, so where she has clean geometric lines, XAOC is a mess of overlapping organic shapes. He should feel diseased and enraged- Khor spilling out from his mouth and skin. XAOC follows ARDAR's example, breaking off a part of his head stump to act as a club.
And that's it for the god designs! These are some of my favorite 3W3M designs so far, from both Mike del Mundo and myself. I couldn't have imagined though what Nimit would do with these characters- his pages are crazy and beautiful! Let me know below if you have any comments or questions.
The genius of ARDAR’s design is that it creates the archetype for every crystal thingy MikeH decides to throw at us from now on. It’s all justified!
"tar poured over a stack of tree stumps" is fantastic