Rifts is a pen and paper RPG by Palladium Books. I don't know much about it, but the Coalition States appears to be a large fascist anti-magic faction. Their ground soldiers are called Deadboys.
While the concept of "Storm troopers meets skeletons and a few spikes" isn't groundbreaking, I haven't really seen it used anywhere else. Sure, there has probably been a lot of gritty, dark, skull faced character designs used in games. The Deadboys however feature a quite clean design, and are organized into large armies. At any rate, I've always been a sucker for both skeletons and high contrast color schemes.
These concepts are not super faithful. I've done some redesigning.
Star Frontiers is an old sci-fi RPG from the early 80's. This is my take on the main playable races. I changed a few things, like varying the length of the legs of the bug-like Vrusk to smoothen the transition into the torso. 4+4 equal sized legs felt crowded and pointless.
The Yazarians are some kinda tall flying squirrel-monkey. I thought they looked a bit too squat in the original artwork, and I changed the anatomy of the gliding wings to better accommodate for worn gear and melee combat.
The Dralasites are perhaps the most fun of the playable races. They're amoebas, but appear to have a preference for a sort of humanoid, tripod shape.
There are actually two kinds of worms, the S'sessu and Sathar. They remind me a bit of the Ur-Quan. Perhaps there's a connection.
I don't like my Mechanon drawing. It's too greebly and unfocused. The Mechanon's faces are sort of similar to the Mechan's of Starflight. The Mechanon were introduced along with a few other races in one of the expansions I think (Zebulon's Guide to the Frontier?).
I also drew a Queequeg, because it reminded me of a Lovecraft creature. I don't like how my version of it turned out though. There's another similar looking creature that's kinda fun, the Edestekai.
I wanted the Osakar to be more alien, so I moved the upper torso down. The Ifshnit were generic Dwarves which didn't seem to fit the setting. I changed them into beard-owls. The Humma were plain kangaroos. I didn't know what to do with them, but I thought they should look less like animals trying to handle human equipment. I added some sideburns and SWAT-gear, and erected the pose. Perhaps with some Raptor claws they could be good at close combat.
In the 80's, there was a Swedish PnP RPG called Mutant. It was based off an American game called Gamma World. The Swedish version mutated into games like Mutant 2089, and Mutant Chronicles. I liked the silly setting of the older version though. I often played as a duck, so I try to force ducks into my settings whenever I can. The termite on my concept here is based on an old drawing that Erol Otus did for Gamma World, and so is the cover (Gamma World's GM screen).
Maximilian is an memorable robot character from The Black Hole (1979 movie). On my version here, the smaller auxiliary arms doubles as shoulder guards. I'm still unsure about the head placement and design. Yeah, that's segment arms again. I do them a lot.
The original design is quite modern somehow. I'm pretty sure I've seen variants of its hover legs in modern mecha anime. Maximilian is almost like a Swiss army knife with all the little appendages which can pop out. I speculate that Maximilian inspired the makers of 'Berzerk' (Old Arcade / Atari2600 game).
I'm quite comfortable with my process now. I spend almost no time doing labor, such as: like, coloring inside the lines, cleaning up, rubbing lines in, etc.
I wish Photoshop would let me do transformation (move, scale, skew, etc) changes in all layers though. Maybe it can, but right now the method I use is to switch through all layers and use the keyboard shortcut for repeating the last transformation. It's pretty fast but not as fast as I'd like. Also, the repeat thing doesn't work with Warp transformations it seems, or liquefy. There might be a work around, like a macro or saving the change...mesh thing, but it's too slow.
So, if I feel like I need to do a really big global change, and that I'm sure about the colors, then I might flatten and do the change. In some cases I can do a new layer and correct stuff on top, or start rendering.
In this particular case I didn't need to flatten though. It can be worth keeping the layers if you get a new idea for a color scheme.
My process went something like this:
Someone mentions Hardware. I remember how awesome that skull was. I re-watch movie. Ok, the robot body wasn't all that (it looks like a squatting duck), but the skull is still awesome. Gather screenshots.
The movie mentions specs for the M.A.R.K-13, and also shows lots of schematics. Most of the stuff is "sound-cool" nonsense. I decide to redesign the body since I don't like it much (hence the 14).
I also research the comic the movie is based on, SHOK! Walter's Robo-Tale. I don't like it and the skull design looks uninteresting. I begin to wonder if, since we're in the Judge Dredd universe here, I should pay homage to ABC warriors, or re-read the robot wars / Call me Kenneth comics for visual guidelines. I read some Wikipedia page about Mega-City One instead.
I also encounter the script for the sequel, but only get a few lines in. There are mentions of microwave weapons and dismemberment tools. I decide that the robot needs those. Well, I was gonna put that stuff on him anyways, but still, it's a confirmation. I start thinking about how my own sequel would look, and write brief synopsis.
Oh, yes, the drawings. Thumbnails with mechanical 0.5 pencil and 160 grams copy machine paper. At first I forget about the whole multiple arms thing. The shapes came out alright. I put the extra arms/tools on the back, and it starts looking like a ninja. Much too humanoid though - as such, it lacks that... unique memorable thing, the pop. It also needs to be able to... stand bent over people, and a long neck jutting forward would look wrong on a regular humanoid body. It needs to flow into the rest of the body.
I try something with multiple arms but it's an immediate failure.
I get some ideas for the rough shape with the next thumbnail, but decide to start a new clean one to explore it further.
I play around with the round shoulder pads / shields which I have already used on some other concepts (Battle Droid from 2002). I finally think that I have something which comes close to the mental image that I had early on, but it's late and I decide to let it rest for the night. I circle it and make a note (arrow) to move the legs a bit to the left.
(Layers have been offset here, to illustrate my process.)
The next steps didn't take too long, compared to the research.
I scan and scale up. Adjusting placement of things, and watching out of skewness (my figures are always skew in some way, something with my eyes). Fade to light gray (sometimes light blue).
I start throwing lines onto it. I feel that details are not as important as the masses / silhouette of the thumbnail. Still, I don't like seeing details which doesn't work well together, lacking a theme in form. I end up going for... somewhat clean shapes with a roundness to them, without being organic. Bulky rounded shapes crudely mimicking organics, perhaps.
Anyways, I have a lot of liberty here to play around arbitrarily, but there were some considerations which I felt I had to make. I put armor plating at the front, covering the biceps for example. Exposed wires are so tempting to add, but this is a military unit and I decide that it needs to feel durable and solid.
I turn the rearmost arms into some kind of mantis / pterodactyl arms. Now it has swords, a drill and a buzz saw, and two main cannons.
I gave it two mandibles which offer some protection for the poisonous goatee syringes. I didn't draw a close up of the syringe device, but it could be like a little revolver with different poison canisters. It can also swing back in under the skull when the unit is not in a close combat situation.
I decide to add some markings here and there, with the loin cloth having decorations similar to Dredd's badge thing. The flag was of course sprayed on by the girl in the movie, and not part of the original design, but I decide that it's what makes the design appealing to me, so I keep it.
With line art done in black over the light gray, I can use levels to remove the light gray and make the black dark gray.
Coloring didn't take too long. I use the magical wand with a tolerance about 50-100, select the figures (which is possible because my lines are ararely broken). I then create a new layer, paint bucket in white, lock transparency. I make two layers like this, shadow and color. I block in colors / shades with a Pencil brush, because I don't need aliasing. Being able to paint bucket and manipulate the colors without getting residues of aliased edges is quite useful. I don't like spending time cleaning up.
I go for a warm gray base color because warm is the feel of the Cursed Earth. I decide that I need a second material color, and pick a lighter complimentary silver (cold).
I leave the girl gray because she's just for scale.
I end up having to go back and adjust markings, the chest design and color placements. I decide that it's finished because I have other things to do.
I later notice that the skull is too big compared to the girl, but don't feel like fixing it. Also thinking that the chest/belly area needs a rework, a... pop feature, not just some plating. Still, it might need to be simple (quiet, not gritty) though, because the head and arms will overlap it often. I had an idea of the Sternum being able to open up, revealing a console / interface.
As for the self repair functions, it would make sense to put them in the head, since that's where the brain and eyes are. I'm thinking that some kind of stiff cables could spring out from the neck area, like spider legs / arms.
I read the book (listened to the audio book, rather) but didn't like it much (although I can appreciate its at the time ground breaking synopsis). I felt like there were too few battles and hardly any descriptions of the character and creature/monster designs. Most of the book was a big one sided argument about how military vets should run society, how the military should be run, and how children need some discipline. The various Mary Sue professors and other 'wise' characters seem to be poorly disguised Heinleins (although I'm not sure if that is actually the case). The main character is rather ignorant so the various Mary Sues can get their chance to lecture.
The old board game has some ref images, but I ended up going my own route. The movie designs were pretty good I think, but I didn't like the idea of unarmed bugs. I also wanted to see some Shirow'esque mobile suits.
Board Game Geek has some reference images.
One day when I was doing nothing in particular, a few notes from the V intro tune bubbled up from the misty depths of my mind. I watched it in the 80's when I was a kid, and I fondly remember many of the designs and characters. For some reason I started drawing space shuttles... not really getting anywhere. I wrote a little thing about spaceship design btw.
Diana from V. I always liked her better than the blonde one. I think I had a crush on her, face still on.
Yet another sort of dark treatment of Alice in Wonderland.
A scrap parts robot loosely inspired by the
Borg Consensus of Parts from the Andromeda sci-fi series. Drawn with a felt tip pen and colored digitally.
I tried to draw an Idrian from Iain Banks' Consider Phlebas, but the mental image that I had of it keeps eluding me.
Flash Gordon scribbles, based on the older B/W material. The 80's movie was fun too.
Inspired by the cover of "Slaves to the metal Horde". I like pill bots.
These are redesigns of old cartoon characters. The Goon (apparently the origin of the term) is a female monster which scared kids (parents) so much that the design had to be changed. Uran from Astroby probably inspired the Tron Bonne design. I tried to give Betty Boop a more regular head.
Characters inspired by an old Dutch comic series called Suske en Wiske (but you probably knew it as something else). Ref.
Once upon a time, Il était une fois, Det var en gång.
Star Gentle Uterus! Well, ok, that wasn't actually Saturn's attack. Her Glaive splits in two, like those gentleman canes with a hidden sword inside. I like Saturn's shoulder pads. I don't know much about her person, but visually she's totally my fav.
Wonder Woman. Did a photo paint-over, using the design from the older chibi figures.
Iconoclasts character from... iconoclasts.
It's a Megaman doodle.
Ancient robots from my favourite movie, Moontrap.
Ancient fossilised pilot from my favourite movie, Alien.
In my headcanon, this unfortunate thing was surgically operated into the control throne (like Farscape's "Pilot") and could not leave the ship. It was part of a crew of explorers. An Alien got on board on LV426 or before and everyone died. Aliens set up shop in cargo hold.
In my interpretation, the atmospheric film over the eggs was set up by the aliens after realising they might be waiting for a long time, again.
And Nostromo just stumbles upon the signal. Ash & Mother had many special, dormant directives and one of them applied.
Meaning, Alien features the first encounter. The colony in Aliens was /sort of/ accidental in my mind. Story ends there.
I ran out of paperspace drawing this thing based on an old racing car, so that dictated the design/pose a bit.
Successful launch of the MSL! Let's hope the complicated landing goes well too...
I did this for a guy on Youtube who had designed a neat walking hexapod, but he ended up using a different design.
I was never into action figures as a kid, but I recall seeing (expensive) He-Man and Star Wars figs on the toy shelves, perhaps secretly wanting one. It's kind of silly how the He-Man figs were just repaints of musclemen. I think the most fun/striking ones are Skeletor, yellow skin Evil-Lyn (not a fan of the pale skin version), and the best henchmen are Spikor, Trapjaw and Spout Snout. His main henchmen are pretty boring I think, and so are most of the good guys.
The new "classic" display figs has a nice Webstor and Cobra Kahn, and even the regular palace guards are sort of nice. Shadow Weaver is neat too.
This was my first time drawing the characters, so I just had fun and tried to dance with what I thought was the core idea of the figure. I think I prefer the smaller legs of the old figures. It brings focus on the more characteristic upper part, and it agrees with my small-leg fetish. Each character has some sort of thing about it that I eventually will have to find and exaggerate / focus on / make a shape-theme.
Art by Arne Niklas Jansson