Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Somebody already did a VERY nice Cass Cain redesign!

And it's Thomas Branch coming up on the inside, taking the lead by a nose... one length... two lengths... running away with it down the home stretch!  Six lengths and the finish!  What a race!  What a win!  What a costume! The Wonder Girl is a fantastic design, too, even if that's not my favorite version of the character.  I'm a 1960s era Wonder Girl fan and I always will be.  She's cool and fun in a way not many characters-- even those claiming her superhero name-- can match. 

But this is a Cass Cain Batgirl blog, so let's talk about Branch's work on her costume.  While I'm not sure if it's Cass-Batgirl or Cass-Black Bat, it works for either.  I like the exposed eyes for visual communicative ability and giving an artist the opportunity to draw her facial expressions, even if she's not going to be chatting everyone up like your Spider-Man or Deadpool type heroes.  The capeless look for extra-martial arts freedom-of-movement magic is definitely the way to go.  She really needs to tie back that hair so it doesn't get in her eyes while she's kicking ass, though.

There are some interesting points raised by both Dean Trippe in the post and by a commenter below it in the comments thread. 

One, I agree with Trippe these costumes have a "Marvel" kinda vibe.  But I think Branch's Cass also has a GI Joe action figure look.  You know, the 1980s toy line, which featured ninja and ninja-inspired characters like that guy with the mask with the wolf and that guy in white.  That mask-wolf guy didn't talk either, for some reason.  I don't remember their names, but you know who I'm talking about, right?  Cass looks like she could be a friend or partner to either of those guys.  Maybe it's the katana strapped to her back.  None of this is remotely a negative.  Actually, I think these are all positives.

Two, as the commenter asks, does Thomas Branch use fitness magazine or celebrity photos as reference, or does he trace directly from them?  Whichever it is, I don't care if he does.  As Trippe points out in his reply to the person bringing this up, Branch adds to or changes the image enough that it constitutes an original work.  I look at both those drawings and the farthest thing from my mind is tracking down original photos Branch might have based them on.  Trippe is also correct in stating there are plenty of artists who work this way-- I could list some big-name greats who occasionally (or more often) relied on photo reference (my university illustration instructors were always after us to establish our own morgue files for that kind of thing in case we got jobs drawing cars or fashions from three years ago or something), either drawing from it or tracing it outright then modifying the proportions and lines to fit their styles or used half-tone or high-contrast copies to paste up backgrounds in their work.

Some people do misuse this resource-- there's one guy who's infamous for it and I think we all know who he is without my having to name him-- but using a photo to draw from or even tracing it are not in themselves wrong.  I don't feel like going into great detail the times when it is wrong.  Think about it and get back to me with your own take. 

I will tell you upfront here my own process sometimes includes referencing some of those crazy Japanese martial arts pose books you can buy here, with fight scenes photographed from several angles.  I've "cast" celebrities as characters before, too.  One of my Cass drawings stars Japanese actor Ryoko Hirosue because I liked the pose and extreme camera angle.  Probably not appropriate for a story, but perfectly fine for one of my crap drawings-- and it does help me learn about anatomy and foreshortening for when I come up with a pose out of my own imagination (I do this a lot, too).

Use the tools you have.  That's what they exist for.  Lately, I've been playing around with Manga Studio 5 and you'd have to be crazy not to take advantage of that program's customizable and poseable male and female figures.  Do a thumbnail of the pose you want, pull one of those onto your page, stretch and bend it until it work and use the heck out of the three-point perspective ruler Manga Studio automatically generates based on your camera angle.  You can trace out a rough based on the pose, then add your own proportions and details in your own style and dress it up, but it's a handy tool to have at your disposal, especially if you're a like me-- I'm a stickler for relative heights and distances between characters and their environments and getting perspective just so, but I don't have the brains to figure all that out manually or the skill to fake it believably.  I know the theories behind it all, which is important even when you're using Manga Studio... but now I don't have to sweat the math.

Anyway, the point is, Thomas Branch has a way with costumes!  I'll flat out state for the record however he works, he's a better artist than I am, and I'm jealous as all get out of his Cass!

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