As promised, here’s the first of a series of posts about sketching my way into my joint venture with Marcus Sedgwick – a comic book called Scarlett Hart.
As you can imagine, the most important character to get right is Scarlett herself, so even though Marcus is only just writing the text now, I’ve been filling a sketchbook with drawings of our beast-busting girl for some time. And this has proved to be largely an exercise in trying to uncover new ground in the small space remaining between Lara Croft, Buffy, and the dozens of more-or-less disposable redhead action heroines that turned up infuriatingly on Google.
Initially Scarlett had black hair, which seemed in keeping with the ‘Gothic Tintin’ strapline pinned to my wall like a totem. But red hair just turned out to be inevitable. What kind of hair, though? There was a pony tail phase…
… but that seemed wrong somehow. Though perhaps not quite as off-beam as the brief Madeleine Bassett mode she went through (well, this is the twenties, after all).
With Scarlett’s hair rapidly becoming an unexpected stumbling block, I decided – in consultation with Marcus — to just make it a shape. A bit like an apostrophe, but with an expressive tail. And while this seems vague, it’s actually just the kind of answer required, since this whole process is about finding a visual shorthand that will allow me to draw Scarlett hundreds of times, over the course of 160+ pages. And that curly tail can flame out during action scenes, or twist up or down with her mood. Scarlett’s answer to Tintin’s quiff.
Apart from being drawable again and again and again, our heroine’s appearance also needs to say ‘smart’, ‘puckish’, and ‘capable’. She should be cute, but only enough to make her appealing and sympathetic – I don’t want to undermine her credibility. There are guns, but only because there are monsters – she can floor some adversaries with verbal dynamite. It’s the twenties, but this sixteen-year-old can’t dress like a flapper to drive fast cars and rocket planes, can she? Clothes, however, haven’t been an issue, not since I found this fabulous photograph of Amelia Earhart (also pinned to my wall).
It’s still early days on this project, but I already feel I’m making progress. Next time: Dorothy – Scarlett’s sports car.