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Crumble Puppy is made up of curves. His head and body are shaped roughly like beans. His arms, legs and ears are rounded (on earlier pages, I drew individual toes on his paws in some close-up panels but eventually stopped because the ragdoll look suited his character better). His tail is the only part of his body that comes to a point, and we don’t even see it on every page. He is the color of soft, melty butter, except for his darker tan ears and the spot on his eye. The spiky outline of his peculiar, hairy sweater provides some contrast to the curved lines, but even that has an overall feeling of squashy softness, and could fall apart at any moment.
I want everything about him to look floppy and malleable, because he has a malleable personality. He is gullible, suggestible, and prone to crumble under pressure.
One design thing that sets Crumble Puppy apart from the other characters is that we hardly ever see his mouth, unless he gets anxious and excited and shouty, like this:
Since his mouth doesn’t always show, I pay extra attention to his body language. Sure, I can make his eyes emote too, but it’s gesture that really sells him. You may see his ears curl down over his forehead when he’s nervous, and his paws clutch at his chest or chin like a rabbit. Sometimes his ears may stick straight up in surprise or point in different directions to reinforce excitement or confusion. His arms may be floppy, or flung outward. And of course, one of his trademarks are the crumbs that fly off his body when he gets anxious or excited.
I’ve been posting details from my comic pages on social media, and several of the recent images have featured Custard Q. Quiggley. He is fun to draw, because I approach him so differently than the other characters.
Usually when I create a character, I have an idea of what their eyes should look like first, but the real design work begins when I start by playing with head and nose shapes. Custard’s head is shaped like a wedge. Since he is an antagonist in the story, I deliberately used an unusual, angular shape to set him apart from the other characters, and make him seem a little more weird. His nose is always upturned and placed between his eyes. This makes him look a little snooty, like he is literally looking down his nose at everyone.
Many people focus mainly on the eyes of their characters, because they are one of the most expressive features. But when it comes to making a memorable and recognizable character, head and nose shape are more important. Custard’s eyes are usually flat on top, with slight bags underneath, but they may change size and shape depending on what he is thinking and feeling. Same goes for the mouth. No matter what the eyes and mouth are doing, the head shape stays consistent, and that turned-up nose stays in position between the eyes, anchoring the face and keeping it instantly recognizable.
Another way we can quickly and easily recognize characters is by their hairstyle. Custard’s hair is always parted in the middle and slicked to either side. Since his hat floats above his head, it is easy to see those ink swoops. I like the contrast between the hair being plastered flat, and the hat hovering lightly above.
Wheels are in motion on Cartozia #7! The next issue will be coming out very soon. Here are a few preview images from my story in the new issue. Our editor, Isaac, has been posting about our writers and artists on tumblr. Follow along to see updates, art and more about the series. Aaand if you’re not all caught up, you can order a subscription or get individual issues online at Cartozia.com.