Birth of a Character: “Marine Sunrise”

Hello everyone!

I know I usually only write here when I have posted an I’m Famous in Japan page, but since it might be a while before I develop the next page I thought I’d show you guys what I’m thinking about right now regarding the comic.

Michael, Alex and myself have discussed a few times over the past few months on what to do next with Famous Japan. I’ve already drawn most of what Alex had scripted for me, and so we’re now in uncharted waters story-wise. One idea had come up a few times, which I think we all agreed on: Lone Wolf should have a Japanese rival. This idea kind of excites me, since the potential for parody here is huge.

So Lone Wolf needed a rival. But there was question of who could this be. A few ideas came forward, such as DragonBall Z style character, a Japanese Lone Wolf, or even a take on the legendary Lupin the Third.

But one last idea came forward which I think really stuck in my head.


Now ask yourself, when you think of Anime, what show sticks into your head first?


This must be that time they battled the Jackson 5 to the beat of Saturday Night Fever
This must be that time they battled the Jackson 5 to the beat of Saturday Night Fever

The answer probably is, Sailor Moon.  (if you are of a certain age)

This was one of the first Anime/Manga titles to successfully break into English speaking markets back in the early 90’s (despite the English dub being a horrible mess) and it could almost credited for the rise of Anime in the Western World during that time. Well…I say *almost* because other far better shows deserve that credit, but needless to say this show stuck in the public consciousness.

For those who don’t know; Sailor Moon was a ‘Shoujo’ anime (meaning that it was aimed at young girls), which also belonged to the ‘Magical Girl’ sub-genre. In Magical Girl anime, a set-formula is usually followed where a seemingly normal girl ends up with magical abilities for some reason, and thus dons a costume to fight evil (or other similar stuff). In that spirit, Sailor Moon followed average Japanese teenager Usagi (Named ‘Serina’ in the English dub), who turns out to be the titular ‘Sailor Moon’ after some exposition. She also had a whole load of friends who where in the same boat as her…but I’m not going to bother mentioning them all here.

What I would like to mention are some of silly habits that this show seemed to have, which made it prime fodder for parody. Sailor Moon is kind of notorious for an over-use of ‘Transformation Sequences’, where a character danced about in an OTT manner to change from their everyday appearance to their magical alter-ego. This would often be repeated for every girl involved, seriously eating into an episode’s running time, and was usually done as a cost-cutting measure. This habit has been repeated a lot in this genre of anime. One other silly trait worth mentioning, is Sailor Moon’s pre-battle speech. Yet another excuse to re-use animation, Sailor Moon would always declare to her enemies that she was Sailor Moon, and that she would stop them in the name of Justice and all that…before attacking. (It’s worth mentioning that the English dub speech is very different to Japanese one. Still cheesy as hell though). Not the best battle tactic in the world frankly, but oddly enough the script allowed her to succeed anyway. The whole speech thing has also been prime fodder for parody in the past.


Creating “Marine Sunrise”

And so, that brings us back to the point of this article, the Lone Wolf’s Japanese rival. On finishing the last page of Famous Japan, I had decided that my next batch of work on it would be a character study. In other words, I would begin creating a new character for scratch. I already knew that I would develop a Sailor Moon clone before I started, however to match the Lone Wolf’s personality I wanted her to be an unhinged bi-polar mess of a person. With that first idea “Marine Sunrise” was born. The name was my next idea. It’s really just a direct corruption on “Sailor Moon”, simply replacing the type of military and planetary event used. After that, it’s down to the drawing board.

Well…I say drawing board…I really mean drawing pad…

I’m about to show you something kind of embarrassing for me. The following is my ‘Proto2’ rough sketch of Marine Sunrise.

Proto2 Marine Sunrise
Proto2 Marine Sunrise

Yea…erm…looks all over the place doesn’t it? That’s kind of because I’m just throwing ideas down at this stage. This is actually how I start every character I create. I’ll do 3 ‘Proto’ pages before I try to set a character model. Proto1 is usually a rough sketch of the face (I didn’t post Sunrise’s Proto1, since it turned out worse than Proto2). You see here I’m working out her costume and some aspects to her face. I abandoned her body work when I accidentally ‘hammed-up’ her right forearm and couldn’t find my eraser (yes folks, that alone can ruin my low-tech drawing). In the margins, I started to flesh out the ‘bi-polar’ aspect of her design. (Look out for anything labeled ‘Rage’).

Following this, I collected myself and set into the ‘Proto3’ sketch.

Proto3 - Nearly a Character design
Proto3 – Nearly a Character design

In Proto3, I focused a bit more, and did some proper body work, on both Marine Sunrise, and her ‘everyday’ appearance (working name of ‘Ryoko’). Notice the ridiculously long hair? That’s another trait of Sailor Moon (and several other anime), many of the girls sported hair with enough length and girth to be used as a small boat-sail. I toned that down a little bit for Sunrise, but it’s still there. In both designs she wears a sailor-suit which had become the standard girl’s school uniform in Japan. (I don’t know if this continues to be the case). Her Marine Sunrise form, includes some corruptions to that design including shoulder-pads which are similar to the pads I use in the Tron-uniform of the Q-Matic Universe (As seen in my manga-style webcomic Back Office).

Finally, the 3 prototype faces again. Displaying her regular face, angry face, and finally enraged face. This part is important to get right. Marine Sunrise isn’t your typical Anime girl who’s cute one minute, and then hitting your protagonist with a large mallet the next minute, because he might have seen her naked. No, Marine Sunrise is a bi-polar mess, who goes from being the cute girl-next-door to undying hell-bitch in the same sentence. So it’s important to show how evil this girl can be given the situation. She is the Lone Wolf’s rival after all, and I want you all to love to hate her. That is my hope anyway.

Now, these drawings are just prototypes, and the final character model isn’t started yet. But I felt it might be interesting for you to see how a character like this is born, and what process I use to draw them from scratch. The design is far from final, and I would love to hear input from readers on what they would like to see in Marine Sunrise. All ideas are good ideas in my eyes, so please don’t be shy.

That’s all I have until next time.


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