building character

At the risk of destroying the story for some of you, I want to provide some insight into how the main character of A Walk in the Park came into being. The story of Charlie the Assistant Office Manager began as many great ideas do — with a late night beer-fueled discussion. It was just a normal night, watching the miracle of modern filmmaking that is The Tribe with some friends.

Zach and I were talking about how things like this gain so much steam, and then started talking about internet memes. We then developed a conspiracy theory about a businessman who lives in the woods and makes his money by creating memes. He lives in a cabin in the woods, but still wears a suit every day.

This somehow mutated in my brain  and then on paper (the memes disappeared) to form a story about an ordinary guy who meets someone different, and that ordinary guy became Charlie. After a couple of terrible sketches, I got a basic notion about him — a short, chunky, meek guy with big glasses, an awesome mustache, and not a lot of hair left.

I didn’t fully know how he should be drawn though, so I started looking for reference.

I couldn’t help but think of Stephen Root as Milton in OfficeSpace, but I didn’t want Charlie to become that character. I wanted him to be less awkward and pathetic, a little more fun and relatable. Also, there was another movie character in the back of my head who seemed closer to his character, but I couldn’t quite pin it down.

Finally, I realized that I was thinking of Bud Cort’s bond stooge character in The Life Aquatic. He had character, despite being framed as a boring clerk type.

I started drawing from reference at this point, and slowly Charlie took form. His development wasn’t done, however — he continued to change as I drew and redrew the page sketches.

The level of realness/cartooniness was something I had a bunch of different ideas about, but in the end I wound up using more iconic cartoon features to describe him. Big bespectacled bug eyes like Dr. Shima from Paprika made it easy to show Charlie’s various states of shock and awe.

And the blocky nose and swirly mustache just seemed to add to his character. I’m a huge Saul Steinberg fan so the doodley line quality, especially in the mustache has been fun. Having the mustache go over his mouth, of course, makes him seem more passive, more like a victim, and also more lovable, I think.

I wasn’t really thinking of Pelinore from Sword in the Stone here, but I’d be lying if I said that movie wasn’t often in the back of my head.

head too thin/tall…

not quite right, but the feeling is there. His features and proportions still shift a bit from page to page because… well, because I don’t mind it. But after these sketches he became the guy you see in the pages I’ve posted. More to come.



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