There was an initial Mars design that I’ll get into one day, but after dozens of emails and a few hours on Skype chatting about this comic, here’s where Andrew and I began work on our titular hero.
Working with all my crazy notes about how this mash-up idea was influenced by Conan, Star Wars, Ancient Rome, the Mediterranean in Ancient Greece, what I wish Aquaman comics were, and my love of the classics, here’s the email from Andrew (he’s the italics) that accompanied the pencils with my responses to it intermixed and bolded. [Certain details redacted due to SPOILERS]
ANDREW MACLEAN: Hey Jim, probably not what you had in mind but here’s an idea for Mars. Some thoughts:
•The “crown” around his eye is a birthmark that the entire [redacted] family has. They are born with it.
JIM GIBBONS: I LOVE the inclination here, but I’m worried this will make him look a bit too much like the main character from the God of War games, who has a tattoo over his left eye. Maybe you can come up with something similar but different…? (Thought of something below…)
• He’d fight with his shirt off. Stomach area is wrapped in cloth.
I dig it. I dig his nautical-looking sailor shirt here, as well.
• I want to draw a parallel between sea and space. I think this will give the whole thing a tone no one has seen before. Subtle, but an influence.
Agreed. I think this would be ideal. That’s essentially what the world of the comic is, so… seeing that visually would be great.
• His haircut is inspired by the “barbarians” he trained and lived with. Black mohawk ponytail tied back with squid tentacle inspired “ropes.”
Hmm… I kinda love this and I’m kinda not sure about it… Possible to see a side view of it? Is his hair all long, or close-cropped on top and then a long pony in the back? If the hair is all long, I dig it more. Then he could kinda have full on barbarian hair if the moment is needed. Also, I want us to lock down a pretty solid look for Mars that isn’t dependent on head or facial hair as, odds are, I’ll call for him to be bearded at some point, or have short hair, etc etc.
• His spacesuit will be a nifty little piece of tech, probably a ball he turns on, throws, it opens midair, he jumps towards it and it wraps him up, sealing itself into a sightly clunky looking space suit.
So, the one thing I think is absolutely essential or me visually, is that when he is out in space, he just wears a classic ’50s or ’60s-inspired bubble helmet. It can still be a nifty bit of tech and maybe has some shoulder pads or something, but I want to retain the gig of a bare-chested barbarian in space with just a helmet on. I don’t want to limit you or get in the way of a good idea, but I just don’t see a full on space suit for this, I mean… It’s sci-fi, but it’s fantasy in many ways too, so… we can fudge the science.
• I think those bands on his forearms are tattoos that the barbarians all have.
Dig it! Though, thinking about that birthmark… What if he has like a shoulder birthmark. Almost something like The Rock’s giant shoulder tattoo, but that is the [redacted] birthmark? Or maybe a neck birthmark? But yeah, some tattoos that tie him to the [redacted] would be cool. Plus, an easy way for people to know he’s a barbarian, thus leading to lots of people calling him one!
• Curvy sword mimics water, but the handle looks [redacted].
I dig it, but would love to work some weird futuristic elements into it. Not quite a light saber, but I think it should be more than steel. But yeah, love this design so much!
Anyway, I’m gonna ink it and throw on a little color. Let me know what you think, but give it a minute to set in because I am sure it hits you a little awkwardly versus the old design. I’d love to take a route closer to this because it’s not so on the nose, and it’s familiar enough to feel “barbarian” yet foreign enough to feel “alien.”
Overall, I agree and I like this take on Mars a lot. Very much along the lines I was thinking as I realized how much space being a metaphor to the Mediterranean was key to the world (something I came up with after those initial designs). Keep the nautical elements coming, absolutely. Just want to make sure some of the space stuff looks a little goofy. Don’t know if you saw this… I think I sent a link to the covert Mars tumblr… but this Frazetta drawing is a great place to draw some inspiration from. Looks like a dude wandering the outback, but also a spaceman. I think the bubble helmet is kinda the main “He’s a barbarian, but also… SPACE!” nod. Ya know?
Andrew then inked and colored this version and we were a little closer to nailing down the look of our main protagonist. Crazily enough, the next take ended up—with a few tweaks—being the final look of Mars. I’ll get into that in the next post. Till then!
This look is really growing on me! You know what… I think this will work really well for the first stories, where he’s just out into the civilized world after his time with the barbarians… I dig the idea of a different hairstyle being one of the ways we can show him in flashback stories, this building towards the impactful moment where he goes back to that hairstyle in the future.
Double Bonus: Not sure who did this (comment below if you’re the culprit), but someone colored these inks when Andrew posted them on tumblr. TGIF!