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Quackcast 652 - Physical traits that set characters apart

Ozoneocean at 12:00AM, Sept. 12, 2023

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Our topic this week is making your characters individual, distinct and setting them apart through physical traits. In many mainstream superhero comics or manga the only difference between most characters is their outfit, hair, and skin tone. There are a few reasons for that but a big one is that it saves time if the artist doesn't have to change to much when they're drawing different characters. Professional arts work hard and have to work fast so things that make work faster and easier are needed.

But webcomic artists are a different breed! We don't need to draw all our women with exactly the same body shape and face or our men with one of only 4 different body shapes like pro artists have to. We can mix it up and add interesting differences to really highlight individual character traits and features. We can do far more interesting and cool looking work than most pros have the freedom to. Give your characters a bigger nose, make them shorter, rounder, taller, darker, fatter, thinner, whatever!
In our Patreon video we mainly talked about giving them different shaped boobs…

A really great example of this sort of thinking is Steven Universe where characters are very physically distinct and certainly don't all follow the same old usual patterns.

Do you mix it up with your characters? Or do you prefer to do it like the pros do in Superhero comics or manga where most characters are much the same?

This week Gunwallace has given us the theme to Oblique - A serious, desolate, mysterious, claustrophobic sound that elevates to a more confident, rocky, open, expansive feel… suggesting open vistas and distance.

Topics and shownotes


Featured comic:
Out By The Lab -

Featured music:
Oblique - - Written by Genejoke, Illustrated by David Abiola Olukoga. Rated T.

Special thanks to:
Gunwallace -
Ozoneocean -
Kawaiidaigakusei -
Tantz Aerine -

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Ozoneocean at 7:28PM, Sept. 13, 2023

@PaulEberhardt @Ironscarf yes! People are so different. As an artist it's fun to show that. @paul with "beuty" too often I find that people focus on a north western European ideal face and give us people who look sort of like that from every ethnicity - be they Chinese, Angolan, Maori, Pakistani, Sudanese etc... I find that so disturbing- as if we can't have beautiful Pakistanis with features that don't look north west European. :(

Ozoneocean at 7:20PM, Sept. 13, 2023

@marcorossi I get what you're saying but hair and clothes are actually used the as tools for conformity with real humans mostly- we are physically different and yet we wear clothes and change our hair to fit in with others, or at least our chosen subgroup. Only some really use clothes and hair and even tattoos to express true individuality and personality, most use them to identify with a subgroup and fit in. Though you could say that a person representing themselves as a member of a chosen subgroup at least says something about them. :)

Genejoke at 10:20AM, Sept. 13, 2023

Love the Oblique theme, thanks gunwallace.

Ironscarf at 8:28AM, Sept. 12, 2023

I can't live with the generic face and body approach, so I try to simplify and stylise while keeping distinct traits in mind. I'll search out photo references of people who have some similarity or other to what I have in mind to get me on the right track and it's really easy to go off track, but gradually the characters become more familiar. As their personalities grow it gets easier to draw them. Reginald Parr from Awfully Decent Fellows was difficult to get right for ages, but now I can catch him with a few quick strokes!

PaulEberhardt at 7:26AM, Sept. 12, 2023

Differentiating characters is a bit easier with men, because society gives us an official permission to be ugly. ;) But I consciously work on having a palette of different noses, chins and body frames (and much more) for all genders, which I always think of as too small. This sameness in manga and pro superhero comics is exactly the one thing that almost always puts me off of them. I know that especially in manga this is actually a sign of the artist's skill, but I prefer my characters to have character. It's the little imperfections that makes them look alive. Keeping in mind that they all move in slightly different ways helps too.

marcorossi at 5:32AM, Sept. 12, 2023

Hairdo is also a common way to differentiate characters. But I think that there is also a good-ish reason to differentiate characters mostly through dresses and hairdo: a character appearence should show a character's personality; with dresses and hairdo this is possible because they choose them, with physical appearence, apart from being very buff or fat (that arguably depend on one's life choices) if one character has a long nose and another a small mouth, what does it tell about them? So in a certain sense physical traits are neutral in narrative terms.

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