Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Knights in Question

For various reasons, I've been thinking about character design recently. As a New Year's experiment, I've decided to revisit one of my long-running pet projects and see what happens if I apply a more orthodox design process to the cast of characters. If you check the King of Mars tag on this site, you can see just how long I've been fooling around with various permutations of this story idea!

In a nutshell, it's a sci-fi fantasy story which takes place thousands of years in the future on the planet Mars. As part of the back story, I've posited a glorious Golden Age in which the deserts of Mars were policed by an elite cadre of four cyborg warriors, all but one of whom have since been destroyed. These legendary guardians are based on the three great knights of the Arthurian era (as per Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur), plus the also-ran Palomides who constantly tries and fails to best Sir Tristan and join the elite top-ranked tier. Each one also corresponds to a playing card suit, and its associated Tarot suit, so ultimately they're nothing but a pack of cards.

First up is Gahad, the Lancelot analogue. He represents the suit of Diamonds/Coins and the element of Earth, and so naturally he needs to be massive and solid. In these silhouette-style thumbnails, he gets progressively more bulky and tank-like, but I wanted to leave his legs fairly mobile so he can run around and fight. His signature weapon is a hammer.

Next we have Tiram, the Tristan stand-in. As the Knight of Hearts/Cups, he represents the element of Water and has a fickle, unreliable temperament (just like his Arthurian prototype). Having envisioned him as having a flowing, unpredictable fighting style, I immediately thought of the wiggly flexible swords featured in Chinese wuxia movies, and the rest of his design followed pretty naturally from there. The crescent shapes on his back are force-field generators.

Lamok gave me fits. This character is based on Lamorak, an utterly forgotten Arthurian character whom Malory nonetheless ranks as one of the top three knights. He's the Knight of Clubs/Wands, corresponding to the element of Fire. His signature weapon is a spear, and he's an aggressive fighter who rushes into the fray of battle. I actually had an earlier design for him that I really liked, but in all honesty it was better suited to a different character, so I switched them around and started Lamok over from scratch. After several pages of dead ends, I finally looked up some traditional Korean armor designs and found they were a perfect fit for what I had in mind. Saved by research!

And finally we have Palom, templated on Palomides the Saracen. As the Knight of Spades/Swords, he represents the element of Air, and like his associated Tarot suit he's an ill-fated troublemaker who sows strife wherever he goes. As the sole survivor of the Four Knights, he's a major antagonist in the story. In this case, I simply swiped Lamok's previous design and grafted it onto Palom, since its spiky shapes are a perfect fit for the character. The only element of Palom's original design I've retained is that groovy sword.

So there's the lineup. These four knights, and their characteristic shapes, will be serving as templates for a lot of other characters in the story; you could consider them to be the Platonic ideals of their respective suits. Having nailed down workable silhouettes, I'll now get started fleshing out the design details...


Thirteen said...

Will these Knights appear in your tarot deck as the "knights" of each suit?

Jelter said...

Why is Michelangelo yellow? I thought he was supposed to be orange and have num-chucks!

Mark Simmons said...

Thirteen: Good question! It seems like that would commit me to a specific time and setting, rather than the vaguely timeless feel I was going for with the earlier ones. Maybe I could "medieval-ize" them a bit. When I make more cards. :-)

Ben: You win at comments. I can't even come up with a worthy rejoinder!

Grebo Guru said...

Ahhhh, robot knights. NOW we're talkin'!!!