Shady characters

Character study - Ryan, Craig and Rebecca Allen
DAJB at 6:03AM, March 8, 2008
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Ryan, Craig and Rebecca



Names

The names Ryan, Craig and Rebecca (or Becky) were basically chosen because my own children were at school with children of those names and so I could be reasonably certain that they were still fairly “modern”! The surname “Allen” is one of my nods to Alan Moore. I reasoned that, if I could name two characters after Frank Miller, then Alan Moore deserved at least three! As for their alter egos:

I named Ryan “Harrier” after the jump-jet, the famous V-STOL aircraft. Since his childhood hero is Doug (a.k.a. Spitfire), it seemed logical that Ryan would name himself after a present-day iconic British aircraft. To me, the Harrier's unique nature seems to make it peculiarly British and, due to the role it played in the Falklands War, it's certainly become something of a national icon in recent years.

Craig's codename “Spyder” is obviously a reference to his “spider-rig” or chair. During drafting, his name changed from Spider to Spyder (and back again) several times. In the end, I settled for the “y” because the name then incorporated the word “spy” which seemed kind of appropriate for the science expert of the group.

Given the supposed British preoccuption with the weather, I wanted at least one of the characters to have a name with a meteorological slant. After rejecting the more appropriate “Mostly-Dry-With-Some-Chance-of-a-Slight-Drizzle-Later” (I jest, of course ;) !) I decided to give Rebecca the name of Gale Force. For a while, I played with the idea of punning it into a “real” name (i.e. Gail Force). The only remaining hint of that play on words is when Stan accidentally addresses Becky as “Gail” in Chapter 6.

Appearance

Ryan, Craig and Becky are aged around 18/19, 17/18 and 16/17 respectively. In our constant quest to avoid giving our characters generic faces, we googled lots of different teens before deciding on the right models. For Craig and Ryan this was relatively straightforward. For Rebecca … well, let's just say if you search online for “17-year old girls”, most of the results do not focus on the subjects' faces!

When we first meet the Allens, I wanted them to wear the sort of clothes that a super hero might be able to assemble if he/she didn't have access to a specialist tailor like Stan. A close-fitting cowl (like Batman's or Captain America's) or a domino-mask that magically stays in place without fastenings (like Green Arrow's or Robin's) were therefore both out of the question. A ski-mask, however, was not only perfect for hiding an identity but also readily available. Apart from that, they wear army-surplus combat fatigues. Again, readily available and ideal for the rough and tumble of a hero's lifestyle! (I shall, of course, be expecting Stan to smarten them up later!)

Role within the story

There are several themes running through Shades. Ryan, Craig and Rebecca are central to a few of those but perhaps the most important one is the fact that, whilst it is currently “politically correct” to denounce the British Empire for the atrocities undoubtedly committed in its name, we should not let that blind us to the good it also brought to the world. The “hero worship” which the Allens feel towards the older heroes (Boo, Doug and the Shaman) is just my little way of saying that - whatever revisionist historians may want us to believe - there's a lot in its past that Britain can and should be proud of, too.

Equipment

My brief to Harsho for the design of most of the gadgets and machinery in Shades usually included the specification that it should look "a little amateurish/a little bit Heath Robinson". That's certainly true of the equipment worn by Ryan, Craig and Rebecca but, in their cases, it's also meant to reflect their personalities.

Ryan's jet-pack is all brute force, mirroring his head-strong nature. The rather ungainly design is based on the jet intake and directional nozzles from an actual Harrier jump-jet. Craig's chair, on the other hand, is just meant to look complicated - difficult to control unless you're the type to pay close attention to detail but, if you are, it's perfectly capable of multi-tasking! The four jets on Becky's belt and wrists are meant to imply something in between. She is the more rounded person - quieter than Ryan but still able to deliver a solid punch; less focused than Craig but still sufficiently aware to play arbiter when necessary.

last edited on July 18, 2011 10:23AM

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