In a change to the usual – never a bad thing – I was asked by un ami to create a drawing based on the titular character of the Astro Boy manga series, specifically the 2003 incarnation. The series has been around since 1951, with the first TV adaptations coming just over a decade later. Their visual direction embodied the anime aesthetic, and indeed Astro Boy is considered the first of that style to enjoy global success.
The series is set in the now not-so-distant universe of 2043, where robots and humans coexist. Astro himself is an android, equipped with immense powers and unmatched intelligence. Devotedly modelled by Dr. Tenma after his late son, he was initially shut down during development, after the doctor noted the ill treatment superceded robots received, drawing parallels to his initial loss. When Tenma later disappears, Astro is discovered by another professor, who revives him and attempts to gift him a normal robotic existence. Beside a no-nonsense career fighting off rogue robots and humans, Astro must also try to find out the truth about his elusive father. Compelling stuff.
Naturally, it was the aforementioned arsenal of powers that formed the basis of the drawing. Astro packs a cannon in one arm, a super-powerful beam in the other, and soars into the sky with the help of rocket booster boots. All that impressive stuff, but can he put some trousers on…?
The character drawing itself was a fairly simple vector process, completed in Illustrator and then taken into Photoshop for shading and then experimentation of backgrounds. Some were geared to a more simple end, others a more in-depth attempt at reflecting the universe. In fact, the second piece you see above makes nifty reuse of a skyline created for a redux of the legendary Blockbusters title sequence, one of my first ventures into animation. An interesting result came of it, but I think the understated variations come off far better.
This process meant that what was a single drawing mutated into several! Photoshop’s often-ominous filters came in very handy here, with cutout effects and motion blurs giving a suitable backdrop for the art direction – I particularly like the results seen below.
The impact of Astro’s artillery also prompted some fun with lighting, too, giving some pleasing variety across the developments. I don’t think my Astros can quite tangle with the beauty of his anime counterpart, but nevertheless they came out better than expected.
Having not done a vector character since Sonic’s Grounder back in April, this was a welcome revisit. As always, it was heartening to do it for someone else, and to respond to a completely new world. ‘Twas a good few days!