I created my comic series, RUM, five years ago. It saw nearly 60 pages created which carried the story along with each addition, over the three or so years that I continued it. Three years is a long time, especially for an artist like myself who, those few years ago, was still trying to find their art-style and direction. And so, RUM is a complete artistic mess and visual disaster, because it quite simply displays the stages of my ability and style as an illustrator. It was my plan from the very beginning to eventually use the pages I created to formulate, at the very least, a digital publication; a graphic novel of some kind. It was ambitious, but I thought a page a week would eventually see its conception, what I didn’t realize what that over the years I would be creating it, I would be itching (as all artists should be) to develop, redesign, and reinvigorate the series visually. Those who followed the series will remember when I drastically changed the art-style of the comic for maybe three or four pages before entirely switching back, because I wanted to experiment.
It taught me a lot, but going back to the original plan, I would be embarrassed to ‘release’ a graphic novel in that kind of a state, where the quality of each page frequently changes. What RUM, in its current state, is, is a piece of history that shows me growing as an illustrator. I’m not saying this is the end of RUM, after the many years I’ve spent slaving on creating each addition to the story, I’ve still got more than enough love in my heart to call it quits; I would love to continue the series in some form or another. And my style has changed tremendously since I first put pen to tablet to draw Captain Wobbleboots for the first time. So, I thought, why not bring old Wobbleboots back to life, and blow away the dust from the currently lifeless and forgotten character. This was my attempt to recreate Wobbleboots in my current style, no attempts to experiment, just how I would sit down to create any other character.
It was a lot of fun to make, and I’d love to see Wobbleboots return in this way, if he is destined to. I think the character is a lot of fun too, and he always has been, when drawing his facial expressions or writing what he does next. I think just how different this design is, or how different I am as an illustrator, can only really be seen when directly compared with my older work. I sorted through a collection of the old comics and pulled from them all the different variations of Wobbleboots over the years, and the change is surprising.
I originally wanted to put the years of when each one was drawn, but honestly I couldn’t tell you. Obviously, doing away with black outlines is the most obvious visual difference between the new and the old Wobbleboots, and that’s simply because I find it much easier to work without outlines, as well as it being my preference. The addition of the nose is another notable change. Strangely only the main characters in RUM where the ones without noses, but as I added characters, the new ones all sported a nose. Nowadays I like adding the nose to give a little bit more depth and colour to the face, as well as making the character more expressive – as different shaped noses suggest different character. But I think the most interesting difference is colour. I originally started using bright colours, especially in his face and skin, and the reds of his coat. I became more and more wary of bright colours as time went on, to the point where the third version of Wobbleboots has almost grey skin. I still think the duller colours in the third version are an improvement over the first and the second, because the standard, bright colours look tacky and ill-thought-through. But as I’ve changed up my palette to more pastel-like colours, a lot of colour has returned in my art-style, and I think it brings a whole lot of life back into the character, away from a design that was looking dangerously dull. Rich colours makes everything much easier to rest your eyes on, and I think my latest design uses colours to really bring some fun to the character.
I just noticed, Wobbleboots isn’t smiling anymore, I’ll need to fix that.