Shady characters

Character study - Arturos
DAJB at 3:28AM, Aug. 23, 2009
posts: 1,462
joined: 2-23-2007


Arturos is clearly named for the legendary King Arthur, the “once and future king” prophesied to return to save Britain in its hour of greatest need. Originally the name was just a place-holder which I'd intended to change later. One of the script's proof-readers, however, happened to remark that he really liked the name (quite unprompted!) so I kept it! The name of Arthur's sorcerous mentor, Merlin, has also been changed slightly (to “Murlynn” ) for no other reason than to make it look a little more arcane!


Like Robin Hood, Arthur is such a well-known character in British mythology that I was initially reluctant to use him at all. If I was going to do so, I felt I needed to find an original look and, given that there are so many popular images of King Arthur already in the public consciousness, that was never going to be easy. At first I played around with the various historical images, including a Romano-British cavalry officer (as popularised by the dreadful Clive Owen movie), an Anglo-Saxon warrior, and a traditional Mediaeval knight in shining armour (possibly with a few World of Warcraft style fantasy embellishments!) I'd almost decided to go with a variation on the Anglo-Saxon design, when I decided to abandon historical accuracy all together!

Instead I thought about Arturos's role as a demon hunter. To me, that role meant he should have far more in common with a fantasy Ranger character, than with traditional knights and kings and so we gave him a calf-length coat. The addition of the over-the-shoulder belt was a deliberate attempt to give him a more swashbuckling appearance!

The designs on his coat are two-fold. The large insignia on his back is a nod to the Arthur of legend, with the four triangular shapes forming the outline of a sword (both Excalibur and the sword of Uther Pendragon being important to Arthurian myth) and the circle in the centre representing the famous round table. The one remaining feature derived from history are the runes around the hem of his coat. Those designs are genuine 5th Century Anglo-Saxon runes, since the historical Arthur (if there ever was such a person) was once believed to have been Anglo-Saxon.

Role within the story

At the narrative level, Arturos's role in the story is fairly simple. As a demon-hunter, he is the Shaman's answer to Bedlam's “super-weapon”, the demon Thrawn. He is brought in to save the nation in its darkest hour, just as the prophecy says King Arthur is destined to return. For me, though, he has an even more important role to play in balancing the tone of the comic.

In the early chapters, the introduction of characters such as Doug and the Shaman allowed me to lace the story with some dry, very understated British humour. However, as the main plot developed and the heroes began to suffer a string of defeats, the tone inevitably became more serious and the opportunities to alleviate that became increasingly scarce. When I was trying to decide on a suitable personality and “voice” for Arturos, therefore, I wanted one which would lift the tone and reintroduce some of the humourous elements (before I had to plunge all the characters into battle again!) In the early drafts of the script, I had trouble finding the right voice and Arturos tended to come across as little more than a bombastic oaf. Eventually, however, he acquired his sense of childlike enthusiasm which casts him more in the role of a loveable (if sometimes infuriating!) British eccentric.

Weapon of Choice

If he is not to suffer constant pain while in our “real” world, Arturos needs to be in possession of his sword, a talisman through which he remains linked to the spirit world. Swords are obviously an important part of Arthurian myth. Arthur initially proved his right to the throne of Britain by removing the sword of Uther Pendragon from a stone and continued to rule thanks to Excalibur, the mystical sword given to him by the Lady of the Lake. Arturos's sword in Shades can be either or neither of these. Its main purpose here (other than pain prevention!) is as the vessel in which his mentor “Murlynn” is imprisoned.

In stark contrast to Arturos's enthusiasm, Murlynn is short-tempered and curmudgeonly. When writing their exchanges, I thought of their relationship as one between a nagging wife driven to distraction by an oblivious husband! Originally, I had intended Murlynn's face to be three-dimensional, forming part of the sword's hilt. However, since the script was first written back in 2003, I've discovered Disney's Dave the Barbarian which has (what else?!) a talking sword with a face on its hilt. For a while I considered removing the sword from the script completely but, eventually, I hit upon the idea of having Murlynn's face reflected in the blade. I now think of Murlynn as being trapped in an alternate dimension. The sword's blade is like a window between that dimension and ours, allowing him to interact with Arturos.
last edited on July 18, 2011 10:23AM

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