Originally a set of characters for the “100 Days, 100 Characters” series, the Direnauts team was born of a few motivations: An artist on twitter was lamenting the way that scifi “teams” tend to be comprised of 3 or 4 male characters, and only 1 or 2 females. The female characters are often pink colored, and are made up of personality traits like “feminine” and “she’s the girl one”. The reasons for this usually stem from these shows, movies and games being aimed at young boys, and the idea that boys will only be interested in seeing male characters. The added problem is that this actually alienates the potential female audience for a property.
The Direnauts is an attempt to subvert the 4 to 1 trope and make a team that can be enjoyed by everyone, and starring 3 female characters.
As I was developing this team, I figured out a semi-flat rendering style that I really liked, that also fit the tone of these characters. A story for each character, and their reason for being together, started to grow from the illustrations as well.
To begin, it was really important that the 5 characters worked well together, as a whole, which meant varying and complimentary sizes, shape language, and most importantly for this project, color.
This set of blobs, scribbles, and gestural sketches were the beginning of the ensemble. I’m not giving any mind to anatomy, drawing well, or anything like that. I’m purposefully doing a bad job, just to get archetypes, sizes, and broad ideas at first. From here, I can move on to the individual characters.
Myra is the youngest member of the Undaunted crew. Her optimism and plasma blade hands make her a fantastic contribution to the team.
Myra is meant to be a sort of audience surrogate, that helps the audience learn about the strange surroundings of this ship lost in space, and about the people aboard it. The best exposition is the kind that comes about naturally, and a new member gives a good reason for that exposition to be said out loud.
The color green is typically linked with youth and newness, which rounds Myra out as a character.
Kaz is a bit of a foolhardy crash head. He’s diligent, but sometimes blasting first and asking questions later gets him into trouble.
If this series were a traditional kid’s entertainment property, Kaz would be the defacto leader. Instead, he’s understandably sidelined here, due to having some qualities that don’t really make him fit for leadership.
I added some design element reminiscent of Rocketeer/World’s Fair futurism to contextualize the team as a whole as sci-fi.
Laven is escaping a rough life, and made the conscientious decision to abandon her brutal and primal people. She’s still trying to get rid of those inclinations, try as she might.
Laven took some inspiration from Samus Aran from Metroid, aesthetically, and the idea of the Klingon race in Star Trek assimilating with humans, despite their primal tendencies.
The design of her arm armor is still my favorite aspect of this character.
The boisterous and scrappy cyborg Blago is this crew’s mechanic and chef. Whether it’s converting raw materials into rocket fuel, or raw ingredients into some primo guacamole, it’s all chemistry to Blago.
I added Blago as a contrasting and large non-human character. He also occupies the “pink character” slot, traditionally held by a female character. Theoretically, he should be able to swap the mallet on his arm out for a variety of tools.
An accident left Yariq “Synapse” Agaille with rearranged and augmented brain chemistry, causing her nerve endings to double in sensitivity. While blinded, she’s incredibly attuned to her surroundings, making her a fitting leader for the crew of the Undaunted in Direnauts.
In the time-lapse for Synapse, you can see a bit of a struggle with defining colors that were indigo, not pink, while still high enough in contrast from the background. Almost on auto-pilot, I started to add some greebling (details on surfaces to make them more complex) in ways that were ultimately unnecessary.
This character is intended to be the leader, while also filling the role of inward and thoughtful, almost Jedi-like character.
The Direnauts pilot a ship named Undaunted in an obscure section of space. They scavenge on ruined and mysterious worlds just to get the supplies they need to keep moving. In order to get home, to return to safety, they’ll need to remain resilient in dire circumstances.