To be fair... I was planning on showing a bit more progress on this creature design tonight, but my AirPods just died as I worked and are in need of charging, so this was a good time to take a break and post! Since I don't have a ton of art here, this will mainly be a look at my design thought process, so I hope you find it interesting!
In my last "Blaaagh" post, I showed a glimpse at the page of "I Thought It Would Be Zombies..." I was working on in which Julie is wading headlong into a mass of enemies. But as I was finishing up Julie and ready to turn to the enemies themselves, I had to take a pause!
In the first iteration of "I Thought It Would Be Zombies..." I was rushing along and pretty much made up these creatures on the fly. It didn't work out so great! The basic concept was a random mixture of creatures, a horde of various demons, goblins, elementals and mutations. The designs were haphazard, uninspired, and overall unsatisfying!
I've always pitched "I Thought It Would Be Zombies..." as a mix between Lord of the Rings and Shaun of the Dead. The mob our heroes face in the first issue were always intended to be the goblins of this particular story... and this time around I wanted to keep a little closer to the traditional goblins of fantasy and mythology... of course with my own spin!
Here's what I've come up with so far...
Much of it is your pretty standard fantasy fare, but hopefully with a bit of a twist and elements that I'll be able to handle well and make very entertaining in the story to come.
I've started by researching goblins themselves with Tolkien being the recognized "father" of the goblins we know best in modern fantasy. Tolkien however was heavily inspired by George MacDonald's "Princess and the Goblin" published in 1871.
Your typical goblin is a subterranean humanoid race, known for a smaller stature, malice and cruelty! In MacDonald's work, the goblin's malice derives from an ancestral grudge at the people who drove them from their homes and forced them to dwell underground. I particularly like that angle, and it fits nicely with my story's themes of magic and its creatures re-emerging into our world. These goblins have been away for a long time and have a grudge now that they're back... but it also makes them a somewhat sympathetic character if they were essentially the first peoples of the land. They can be positioned as former fairies and benevolent creatures of magic twisted by their environment and their rage in the intervening years. I always think about the saying, "Every villain is the hero of their own story," and like to use that logic to build more compelling adversaries for the protagonists.
In much of mythology, goblin was a fairly generic term that was used interchangeably with other variants such as Imps and Gremlins. As you may have noticed... I like Imps! I'll be playing up some of these impish aspects as well, and this first design certainly has a Gremlins feel which I'm totally okay with! I want "I Thought It Would Be Zombies..." to run the gamut of horror to comedy, and the way these goblins are handled can be the perfect example of that. Prepare for some serious Gremlins/Critters 80's monster movie vibes in my goblin scenes!
The main visual twist I added came when I simply started researching subterranean creatures... and came across one I'd never seen before, the nightmarishly endearing Star-nosed Mole.
Tell me that's not a face that only a mother could love... As you can see I decided to incorporate that "star nose" into my goblin design. It's an evolutionary adaptation that's allowed them to survive in the harsh conditions of their exile. And once again things just seem to click as a "star nose" fits well into the sun thematics I'm weaving throughout the world and plot.
The Star-nosed Mole is pretty fascinating as those tendrils, or as they're actually called, rays, allow them to identify edible food in 8 milliseconds before devouring it in less than two tenths of a second! (image source and research you can read!)
Bam! With that bit of research my inspiration and creature concept is pretty fleshed out.
I'm building a Tolkienesque Goblin race, spilling out from the depths of the earth to reclaim what might very well be their rightful land from us humans. They're voracious and are known to consume their enemies very quickly. They're also avid scavengers and readily cobble together weapons and armor from their surroundings.
As you can tell, I don't have everything figured out... but it's more than enough to move forward and leave myself some room to play in the future. There's a huge danger to paralyzing yourself with "worldbuilding" when you're crafting a story. Some people will spend years figuring out every bit of a fantasy world's geography, history, politics, socio-economic conditions, and languages before ever getting on with the story itself! You can really get stuck that way. I'm working to find the right balance of preparation and execution myself.
As I move into the body sketches I'll be playing around with proportions. I visualize a very exaggerated forearm and hand size to continue the mole inspiration and keep my particular goblin version a bit unique. I'll also be playing around with just how the goblins in the first scene have armed and attired themselves. It takes place at a hospital which leaves plenty of room for hospital gowns, bedpan shoulder armor, blood pressure cuff bracers, and more! I'm getting excited as I brainstorm. It's a lot of work and will be lots of little details to put on the pages, but I think if handled properly it'll make it very fun as well.
I'll hopefully get around to more concept sketches tonight and tomorrow and follow up with a part two of "Goblins, Gremlins, Imps and Moles" this weekend!
But as my AirPods finish charging for the next batch of work ahead, I'll hit up some dinner first... and I have the urge to watch some old Critters movies for some reason... 🤔
-Bryan "the Imp" Imhoff
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