[PROCESS] REGA CASKAMPO
Mike del Mundo and Mike Huddleston share the secrets, and succulents, behind the latest [MAPS] story.
Hope everyone is having a great Wednesday. We’re joined today by Mike del Mundo and Mike Huddleston for a special behind-the-scenes look at their respective approaches to designing our latest story, REGA CASKAMPO, from the upcoming [MAPS] Graphic Novel Sourcebook. If you haven’t checked it out yet, definitely give it a read right now if you don’t want anything spoiled.
Before we hear from Mike & Mike, how about a round of applause for artist Juni Ba and colorist Dave Stewart. They really showed out on this one. And if you’re interested in getting this story in print, the best way to do that is to become a paid subscriber.
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First out of the gate is Mike del Mundo with his take on the latest 3W/3M fauna to take the world by storm, some killer pro tips about finding inspiration in unlikely places, and thoughts on the hunting ground itself.
Mike del Mundo: Hello! Finally here again with a new concept post for you process junkies! First off, I wanna give my praise to Juni Ba for the beautiful visuals and storytelling. I love, love, love his take on our cat creature the Leono. Juni put so much life into it, and I just want to say thank you so so much.
Which brings me to the first concept, “The Leono.” Here’s the initial description given to me to work with:
Leono - some kind of catlike (or coyote?) desert creature that’s a mix of noble and deadly – but we should also be sure to get weird and alien with it. They need to come in different colors / features as we see two different packs of them here and they need to be differentiated clearly to prevent confusion.
I think what initially sparked my inspiration for getting my brain going for this cat creature was my recent obsession over Succulent plants. Ever since I’ve been world building on 3W/3M, I’ve obsessively dived into the world of succulents, and have been growing my own collection. They already look alien-like, and any of these plants can fit right into any sci-fi or fantasy world.
Artist tip: add a succulent to any costume design and you got a concept! Having them around provides a great amount of inspiration and visual therapy. Another artist tip: surround yourself with inspiration whether it’s cool weird plants or a mass amount of animal models (shhhh for a future project).
The whole idea of succulents or cacti storing water in their arid conditions gave me the perfect idea for the cat. Why not a cat which evolved to grow cacti from its body to keep it hydrated. It was actually the first thought and I went with it ‘cause it made sense and I get to draw some cool ass Cacti Cats which also adds to getting weird and alien with it.
The cat also needed to look noble and deadly, so adding some sort of mane came to mind. Why not a cactus mane, which also worked to explain that the cacti helps shade these cats from the burning sun.
THE REGA CASKAMPO
OK, so up next is the royal hunting grounds, The Rega Caskampo.
The description I got was this is a royal hunting ground, full of creatures that only the royals are allowed to kill. A desert preserve (more Arizona red rocks than Tunisia), but also full of alien oddities –cacti the size of skyscrapers, monster faces carved into the sides of canyons, organic/living winding thorny brush everywhere. This is the magic desert.
For this concept I really just took the descriptions and went off on them. I love the idea of these huge cacti that overwhelmed the area so I just freestyled and had fun trying to go as weird as possible. The crazy thing about cacti and succulents is that they already look so other worldly, so anything I would design I’m sure exist somewhere in our world. I actually visited a local succulent shop for inspiration, which Which gave me the idea for the loop-the-loop cactus skyscrapers. So yeah, this was an exercise in fun and just taking the descriptions and freestyling. Sometimes you just have to shut your mind off and draw and things will start form. It was cool, almost playing dress-up, on a blank desert background.
Next up is Mike Huddleston, who tackled a central element of the story, Princess Valo’s weapon, which proved to be deceptively simple, plus the accompanying elements she’d need to wield and carry it.
Mike Huddleston: For REGA CASKAMPO I designed the central prop in the story: a thorny, frisbee-like, weapon that our main character uses in a ceremonial hunt.
The script was so clear in its description of the weapon – basically a ring of thorns – that, at first, I thought there wasn't anything to design and my job was already finished. Although once I put on my "comic book maker hat," I realized that someone is going to have to figure out how to use this thing. "How can a character even grab it to throw it? How would they catch it?? How do they carry this thing around when they aren't using it?"
So most of my time was spent figuring out how a character could use this weapon without accidentally killing themselves.
First up, how would a user grab and throw this ring of thorns? It definitely couldn't be thrown or caught like a frisbee.
I'm not sure how the connection was made – maybe I glanced at some dreamcatchers while doing research, I'm not sure – but regardless, the idea arrived to have a dreamcatcher-y net woven through the center of the disc. It looked decorative and ancient, it gave the user a handle for the weapon, and it even suggested a way of throwing it. Instead of being thrown like a frisbee, it would be thrown like a discus at a track meet (or like an identity disc in TRON). It's a solution that I still love. It's incredibly simple but it solves several different problems.
The ceremonial nature of this weapon, and the idea that you are hunting with something that could be as dangerous to you as to your target, for some reason made me think of falconry and all the associated gear that people wear in that sport. The ornate falcon hoods, the tethers, the gauntlet: I think all that stuff looks really cool and it made me want to surround this ancient weapon with some similar gear.
Throwing a razor-sharp weapon like a discus immediately raised the possibility of a user doing serious damage to their arms so, like falconry, we needed a protective gauntlet. This gauntlet had some different requirements in that I imagined the hand itself needed to be nearly bare so the user had maximum contact and control with the net used to throw the weapon. I thought good examples of this are the types of gloves worn in bowling and in archery.
The arms though could come into contact with the thorns as the weapon is thrown, so from the wrist up the glove is the heaviest insulated material. The example I gave was a welding glove. Combine those two and you have a piece of protective gear that still allows users a tactile connection to the weapon.
This is my version of the falconry hood. A decorative, hard leather bag that protects the user when the weapon is being carried. I wanted the bag to look old and feel decorated, like it's a part of the entire ceremony of using this ancient weapon. The bag, the gauntlet, the thorny frisbee: it's all a kit that goes together.
As I was turning in my final designs, I let our team know that although the weapon design was final, the bag and the gauntlet were just suggestions. I hadn't seen the character designs yet from artist Juni Ba and I didn't want to hand them something that didn't work with their concepts. Happily, though, I think everything came together seamlessly.