View Full Version : How do you make an ICONIC character?
04-11-2007, 07:36 PM
How does one make an ICONIC hero that can last decades like Superman and Batman? What are the secrets? I'd like to make one but honestly, i dont know how. Help an aspiring artist come up with a simple yet effective, mass appeal character and story the will pass the test of time.
my art can be seen here: http://www.bounce.to/spelcast
04-11-2007, 07:53 PM
Sadly, I don't think you can control what others are going to love about your work. Lee Nordling used to tell me all the time that I did my best work on the projects I didn't care about. That's frustrating beyond belief.
So anyway, a character is what that character does. If you can come up with situations that resonate with readers, then that's what's going to make your work last. If you come up with a series of stories about the same character, and they all resonate to the point where folks start to think of your character as an archtype and say things like, "I want this character to be a 'Hiro-Arturian-esque' creation (http://www.comicspace.com/dannoe)," then you're on your way to icon status. It hasn't happened to me yet. And in fact, I don't think it has happened to a lot of creators who are nevertheless quite successful.
For example, look at a guy like Brian K. Vaughn. he's successful, and he has created MANY memorable characters, but I don't think he's got any icons yet. Still, that's quite the career he's got with a more than reputable body of work.
04-11-2007, 08:16 PM
Alcohol and a guy named Stan.
04-13-2007, 11:23 AM
In regards to an Iconic Character, yes, it's really not up to the artist or writer, but the people and the times. Great characters were everywhere in the early to mid-90s, in the pages of the Ultraverse and Dark Horse among others. And what happened to them? Dark Horse just sort of gave up, and Marvel bought Malibu/Ultraverse for their color process and dumped the characters into oblivion.
And more to the point, if anyone really knew how to make an ICONIC character, those characters would be everywhere and we'd all be rich, Rich, RICH!
Plus, I'm not sure who would say to you, "Hey, i just created the greatest character ever, it's yours" --- so this request is really going to be difficult.
One concept I have made me think of what you are hoping to do or get. What you may want to do is search for a PUBLIC DOMAIN character, though most are hardly ICONIC, it would be an established character and story that you could give your own artistic spin.
Just a thought. Not that any of us are Alan Moore, but it's worked for him in the pages of Tom Strong. I'd be interested what others think of the idea.
04-13-2007, 05:28 PM
ICONS: hmmm.... what are they. Well if you were to go to Europe or Japan, or anywhere in the Americas and ask them to name a superhero, the first words would probably be: Superman, Batman, Spiderman, or wonder woman. They may have never read the comic but it's the archetype they know. The things I have noticed that are common across these comic icons are that they have very simple names, they are normally one or more of the three primary colors (red, blue, yellow) and they have simple costumes. All these facts make them easy for the mothers and fathers of the world to remember their names -as well as their children. Because they have these traits, they have the ability to become apart of our cultural lexicon. "Stop playing in the road, you’re not superman!" these basic qualities, if followed give a character the chance to become an ICON. The more complex, the less likely they are to be remembered by the common man. Not many will bring up Galactus or some vampire book. These may work but they wont become ICONS. I think it's simpler than most think. After all, most of us want the same thing we are use to but with a slight twist to add in something difference. It’s how one makes the same old new that gives old ideas new legs... lol... sorry for the windbag...
04-14-2007, 06:45 PM
First let me say: this is going to be one of those great philosophical debates of comicdom that only true comic fans/geeks can have. lol. So enjoy it! :) Now... on to changing the world!
I think what you said has a lot of merit: icons have all been around for a long time and that's why there icons. But I believe my point has been over-looked. My point answers why these ICONS can survive 30 years or more. Every hero you mention has all the same traits: SIMPLE NAMES, SIMPLE CUSTOMES, PRIMARY COLORS, and they must be set in the NOW. These are the KEYS to allowing your character to become an ICON. Let me break down each of these key points. After this, you have a greater understanding of my premise. 1st SIMPLE NAMES: the simpler the name the easier it is to remember. The easier it is to roll of the tongue. Time alone will not help a character with a long, complicated and/or odd name. No one is exclaiming GORGON from the INHUMANS as a great icon. One his uniform is brown, his name is alien, and his costume is not simple enough to remember. On to Key number 2 SIMPLE COSTUMES: simple costumes allow for a character drill it's way into our culture. The more simple the costume the easier it is for children to draw him or her. Reproduction by fans is the first step into longevity. Kids have doodled their favorite characters while sitting in class for ages. Now if you're little Johnny and you want to practice drawing a superhero it might not be SPIRAL with all her 6 arms and complicated armor. Key number 3 PRIMARY COLORS: Pigments are found in cone cells within the retina. There are three types of cone cells, each of which contains a visual pigment. These pigments are called the red, blue or green visual pigment. The cone cells detect the primary colors, and the brain mixes these colors in seemingly infinitely variable proportions so that we can perceive a wide range of colors. The 3 primary colors being the basis of our vision means the POP more to our eyes. All the great character Icons share this trait. Finally 4: SET IN THE NOW if your character is set in the present it's easy for the reader to relate. Having he or she place in the present allows for longevity as well. It means the character will always be adaptable to time as it changes.
Thatís it... if your character has these 4 traits; it's more like they will become an ICON. Test this theory and it should prove true for most characters today.
04-14-2007, 07:12 PM
I think I may have misunderstood your question originally, but I get and appreciate your angle to your own question.
I can agree with the four elements/aspects of those ICONS, but part of me thinks that comes after the fact; after those characters became Icons (finding similarities).
Two characters came to mind reading your last post:
Steel (c. 1978, Hank Heywood) - Simple name, base colors, fairly simplistic costume (as simplistic as Wonder Woman).
Tarzan - Simple yet "alien/foreign" name, earth colors, virtually no costume, set in the past.
Certainly, between the two, Tarzan would be the hands-down ICON winner. And I would argue Tarzan is a true ICON (more literature than comic, but heroic icon none the less).
Just some thoughts.
04-14-2007, 08:48 PM
i really got some good feed back. all very well thought out and mature. I really wanted to stimulate the idea before i moved forward. I got really solid answers from Worthington and CaptainJack. You guys communicate your view so well.
I still would like to create an character and produce a book. I just wanted to see how others thought here at Pencil Jack. I can clearly say we have very well rounded writes here. thanks for all your input
04-21-2007, 07:46 PM
This is the character i came up with based of my ICON equation. any comments?
M.C. Lost Cause
04-21-2007, 09:12 PM
This is the character i came up with based of my ICON equation. any comments?
You have alot of pretty things happening in this pic, what about logo-ing or putting a circle around that panther fist on his chest?
Nothing says icon like logos and trade marks eh?
As far as what else makes a character iconic?
His trials. What he/she has overcome and in what spectacular fashion.
I just read the complete library hardcover of Invincible today so I've got "icon" and hero stuff on the brain.
Hoped that helps.
Do you have any sequentials of this guy? Seeing him in action and his reactions to adversity might give us a better window into his possible "Iconic" potential?
04-22-2007, 08:40 AM
they are correct, the trial of the charachter are the biggest key o longevity.
You can create everything required artistically for a character to become an icon, but if you or who ever else is putting the words into him mouth cant give him the "personality" to go with it, it is all for naught.
Another big part that goes into it is a memorable orgin or beginning for the character, i mean everyone knows Superman was sent to earth from Krypton as a child, and Peter Parker got bit by a radio active spider, and Batman is driven by wathcing his partents death and the fantastic four were bombbarder by cosmic ray and so fourth...
If its something that for whatever reason sticks in the readers head for years to come, then you are well on your way to becoming "iconic".
If it doesnt then sadly no matter how extrodinary the writing is people will generally lose focus on why they care about the character if they cant remember where he came from...
04-25-2007, 11:41 AM
You asked if I had any pages done of this character. Not yet. I'm making him up as i get feed back. I've got a basic story concept and it's building. as soon as i get it together, I will start laying out pages. tell me what you think about it. here it goes:
The Universe is altered by an accidental explosion of a Matter Conversion Machine. It lessens the density of all matter on a cosmic scale. He, however, was throw into a experimental stasis chamber that once sealed renders it's occupant outside of time and space. I.E. he was not affected by the matter conversion. he still has the same density as he had before. In this new world, he's denser and stronger than everyone else. He was use to a universe that was matter-dense and had a stronger graqvitywell. He's normal but to everyone else, he's a super-man :) oh yeah: he's sixteen and played football. that symbol on his chest is his high school jersey. their team was called the TITANS.
M.C. Lost Cause
04-25-2007, 06:33 PM
Heh, I kind of like it. You found a new angle on an old super hero arche-type.
04-26-2007, 09:26 AM
Talent not only do I like it, but I think it could work!
04-26-2007, 10:15 AM
It is resonance.
The characters that really work are the ones that strike a deep chord with us. The deeper the chord, the wider the influence.
Superman and Hawkman are both super powered, flying, crime fighters from other planets.
Superman is known in every corner of the planet and Hawkman is almost unheard of outside the comics world.
They both have simple names, costumes, and powers. So, why does Superman work so much better?
Look at the core of him.....
Superman is essentially an imigrant trying to 'make good' in America. This is the dream of every immigrant, to live with strong ties to his native land, but also be fully embraced by his new home.
Superman's powers and costume are Kryptonian, they are his heritage, and yet he stands for "the American way". He does both. He fully accepts his roots, and is fully accepted by his new peers.
This just makes sense to anyone who has ever enetered a new situation. "I want to make friends, but i want to be myself." Superman lives out the universal fantasy of being yourself and being loved for it.
We all long to understand that.
Hawkman, on the other hand, is an alien cop fighting aliens on Earth. He's pretty cool, but he just does not have any real resonance.
You can go through list after list of iconic characters and you will find that they all embody some deep truth about the human experience.
ps...If you guys enjoy this type of discussion, please check out my super hero discussion forum: The Cape Symposium. (http://www.thecapesymposium.com)
04-26-2007, 04:35 PM
Well actually... hawkman could work but he doesnt fall into all of the four ICON categories:
He's not PRIMARY COLORED. He's brown and some other stuff.
His costumer is very complicated. i couldnt draw his hemlet from memory
These short comings are small but i believe they truly make the difference.
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