Creating Characters

One of the best parts of creating comics is creating characters. More often than not, my stories start with the creation of a character, and then I form a story around them. I want to look at a few of my “signature” creations.

Ethan Shade from Breakneck. I had the name Ethan Shade in a file for a long time before I found a chance to use it. The character of Shade began to develop when I needed a goofy character to act as the lone supervillain in Breakneck. I wanted a guy who kinda half-assed his supervillain career, who really didn’t have a lot of ambition, who just wanted to stay out of sight for the most part. Ethan Shade is a lot like me if I had superpowers. From the name Shade, I came up with his shadow-based powers, giving him similar powers to Green Lantern, being able to create solid objects with his shadows. James Boulton created the look for the character, the almost-forgettable black getup with the trench coat over top. His character was designed not to stand out, which was the whole point of Ethan Shade.


Abe Connelly from Long Gone. I knew I wanted an old man as the protagonist in this story. I have a soft spot for writing older characters. Abe was inspired by my own grandfather, not in his look, but in his actions, how he views himself, his family, and the world. Another soft spot of mine is characters all dressed in white, and Long Gone artist Ted Pogorzelski nailed his look perfectly, the white suit and panama hat. In the story, Abe is a retired plumber who was once a soldier during the Vietnam War. I felt like that might have been a bit of a cheat, but I needed the character to be able to handle himself, handle the weaponry, and it added to the final scene of the book. Abe is one of my favorite characters, because he has such a black and white viewpoint. Even in the horrific world he finds himself in, his sense of right and wrong is never altered. He never even utters a curse word until the final speech of the book. He’s old school.

Spencer “The Davidian” Cradle from Knowledge. The code-name The Davidian is one I used for many different ideas over the years. I never found the right place to use it until Knowledge came along. In the story, Cradle is a former Intelligence agent who agrees to undergo a procedure to make him super-smart. Things don’t go so well, and he’s forced to retire. The procedure is perfected, and they create a new super-smart agent who goes rogue, forcing Cradle out of retirement to hunt him down. I love Cradle’s attitude. He’s sarcastic and quick-witted but also sometimes very eloquent. He can ramble on with how he would create a profile, and in the next moment he’ll hit on his partner. Jerome Eyquem created the perfect visual for the character: skinny, pale, unkempt, slightly dirty, but with eyes that betray his intelligence. And just wait until you get a look inside Cradle’s head at his monstrous Franken-brain…

Deacon Sands from Ghost Lines. Deacon is kind of a tragic figure, a man kidnapped and experimented on (you know, that old comic book cliché), but he manages to turn what has happened to him against his oppressors. Deacon’s one of my favorite characters, he’s both traumatized by what’s happened to him, but also incredibly capable, aided by the Ghost Lines in righting the wrongs he sees in the world. Deacon’s shaggy, homeless look was created by Carl Yonder, who also managed to create the perfect look for Deacon when everything is turned around at the end of the story. Ghost Lines also has one of my favorite villains in Mordechai Kresge, who I’d love to explore a little bit more down the line.

Dominic “The Monster” Arch from Instinct. The Monster might be a fairly new creation, but I love him just the same. A degenerate sociopathic serial killer, I wanted to bring Arch away from the eloquent and well-spoken type of villain that you see so often. Arch is a brilliant and dangerous individual, but is also ruthless and vicious and obscene. He might dress like a classy gentleman, with his white suit and gloves (yet another white-suited lead character), but he’s a scumbag of the highest order. Arch was brought to life by Instinct artist Sami Kivelä.

True Bastard from Scum of the Earth. When I started writing this story, I had a vague idea of what I wanted to do with True. Some of the revelations that occur in the story were revealed to me at the time I was writing them. Almost none of the original character ideas I had when I started SOTE lasted to the final page. The only thing I really wanted to do was experiment with True’s speech patterns, and I really loved how it turned out. But the majority of the character’s development happened in real time as I wrote the comic, and I threw out everything that I thought I knew about him and his motivation. True’s design was based on a few ideas of mine, but mostly came from the mind of artist Rob Croonenborghs, who nailed the character perfectly.

Absolon Danard from Old Ghost. Danard is a very interesting character, the basis of the character and his attitude and style were created by Rolf Lejdegård, and expanded upon by me as I approached writing the story. Danard’s nearly immortal, lives in exile, and is one of the most skilled secret agents on the planet. The back story Rolf created for him is exquisite. His look was designed by Rolf and expanded upon by series artist Olov Redmalm.

The King from Antihero. The King has gone through many changes, design-wise, but the central character has remained the same from day one. The King’s a third generation supervillain, and was raised thinking heroes were the enemy, and that he was better than everyone else. It was a bit of an exploration of the idea of nature vs nurture. Every waking moment of his life was dominated by his father telling him that superheroes were just targets waiting to be shot. The King has no illusions that he’s the villain in the story, but in his mind, that’s not wrong. He’s still the hero in his own story. The original King design came from artist Michael Tyler, who envisioned him as an “evil Nightwing”. Leandro Panganiban designed the second variation of the King’s costume, a more military-inspired outfit, and series artist David Pentecost nailed a perfect combination of both, complete with the King’s classic crown-style domino mask.

I create characters more than anything else. For every comic I’ve written, I’ve created a dozen characters. I’m writing a story right now tentatively called “NRV” (No Redeeming Value) about a group of teenaged superheroes, and creating the characters was so much fun, the actual writing of the comic seemed almost boring. I love reading comics with new characters. Some of the best new characters I’ve read lately have been in comics like Halcyon by Marc Guggenheim and Ryan Bodenheim, or Danger Club by Landry Q. Walker and Eric Jones.

Even if I never wrote another comic book, I would still be creating characters. I love trying to find that twist on a character, that thing that sets them apart from the thousands of other characters that exist. Sometimes it’s straight up parodies (I had a hell of a lot of fun creating all the characters in Breakneck, and you can pretty much pinpoint which major comic book character I made fun of with each character I wrote.)

And jeez…it’s Monday, less than a month to go until Christmas.

Do yourself a favor and listen to “Koi No Yokan” by Deftones.


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