Friday, 10 April 2015

Worshipping The Wicked + The Divine #9

Or a look at the practicalities of character design in WicDiv #9
by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Matt Wilson, and Clayton Cowles

The Wicked + The Divine is a very good comic. It routinely delivers an exciting story filled with vivid characters, unexpected plot twists, and meta-commentary all rendered in expressive and dynamic artwork. It's also a comic that regularly has flourishes of astounding acts of comics. From a pure craft perspective, WicDiv is a fantastic experience.

The thing is, I think it's also a really interesting comic logistically. WicDiv packs in all of this detail and experimentation on a monthly comic schedule with a regular art team. This is clearly a testament to the creators professionalism and dedication. It's also, at least in part, a result of making smart decisions on a design level that keep art tasks at a manageable level without sacrificing story quality.

Specifically, I'm interested in the character design and depictions of Ananke throughout The Wicked + The Divine.

There will be *SPOILERS* for up to WicDiv #9

Ananke is a really interesting character from a design perpestive because her "costume" is essentially "ornate". She is elderly, dresses in ornate, regal robes, and wears an elaborate veil/mask. It's a look that provides her a royal, commanding look and a fixed, timeless appearance. When compared to the youthful gods with their very contemporary fashions, it functions to set her apart from the other short-lived gods. She is at once powerful and alone and ancient. And, she looks like a character that is pretty painful to draw sequentially.

Which is why I was actually pretty surprised to see an entire issue basically starring Ananke.

But then I noticed her clothing and veil/mask look simpler than usual. And then I remembered that a while ago Kieron Gillen or Jamie McKelvie mentioned that jazz-age Ananke was hyper-ornate because she would only appear on panel a few times. Which made me wonder about how Ananke's character detail correlates with the number of her appearances.

And so I made a graph.

Graphing details: I counted an appearance as a panel where you can see Ananke's face and mask/veil in fairly high detail. This means that any far away shots, or panels that show the back of her head are excluded. Also, I excluded the god-transformation pages, which show many, many Ananke faces veil-included. I did this to prevent over-sampling and because the two page sequences are kind of a special case in that I'm pretty sure are mirror duplicates of the same page (which given the extreme detail of these pages is still a pretty remarkable achievement and also another example of comics efficiency). Although if you are curious the faces in the transformation pages are the GREEN and ORANGE veil-designs.

From this casual analysis I think there is clearly a correlation between simplicity of design and number of representations. The super ornate jazz-age Ananke (RED) makes relatively few appearances as does the long, complicated funeral veil (PURPLE). The lacy bat/moth lace mask, which is somewhat complex, appears a moderate number of times with either a plain ruffle collar (GREEN) or an ornate cobweb-like collar (BLUE). The most recent Ananke design (ORANGE) is the simplest, with a plain gauzy mask and simple ruffle collar, and is also the version with by far the most appearances. This Ananke costume is also significant in that it has the clearest facial acting which is important in WicDiv #9. Which is probably just as important a consideration as the reduced detail.

This is pretty smart comics: every version of Ananke shares a common design motif and sense of ornate, antique authority but the level of detail in the designs is throttled to the demands of the story. Which is yet another reason The Wicked + The Divine is noteworthy comics.

Post by Michael Bround

WicDiv #1 and popart head-splosions
WicDiv #2 and the use of black-space
WicDiv #3 and character design

WicDiv #4 and body language 

WicDiv#5 and facial acting

WicDiv #6 and possessions as character

WicDiv #7 and the power of lettering

WicDiv #8 and the disorienting layout

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