Monday, November 1, 2010

My World : The Astro-Giants

From the far reaches of outer space, they come to planet Earth. They are...THE ASTRO-GIANTS!

The Astro-Giants are a race of phenomenally powerful cosmic beings who have, for reasons unknown, taken an interest in our world. They seem above the humanoid concepts of "good" and "evil", and carry out their masterplan without regard to either. The Astro-Giants have been known to prevent natural disasters, but were also responsible for threatening the existence of Thunder Man's parallel Earth. They do not tarry on our planet regardless of how their operations turn out, but whether this is simple preference or out of necessity is uncertain.

Captain Satellite and others have speculated that there is a connection between the Astro-Giants and the Mystery Spaceman. Though the faceless stranger clearly does not serve the cosmic colossi, the question remains whether these two separate enigmas from beyond our solar system are somehow intertwined.

I realize I'm stating the obvious here, but Jack Kirby was an amazing creative force. Why do I bring this up here? Keep reading!

I've wanted to include some "cosmic" characters in the Captain Satellite continuity for months, but had some trouble working out precisely what they should be. An early result of that process was the Mystery Spaceman, but he wasn't the original goal. I did manage to dream up a suitable name - the Astro-Giants - and included a few references to it in a handful of profiles that I was either writing or rewriting. But as far as who the Astro-Giants were, I was stymied.

I decided that my Astro-Giants would draw inspiration from a few sources. I looked to such Marvel characters as the Stranger, Galactus, and the Elders of the Universe, but there was one group in particular that struck a chord with me. That was the Celestials as featured in Jack Kirby's The Eternals. I'd always been taken with their designs and their air of mystery, and wanted to emulate that while still allowing the Astro-Giants the opportunity to develop into characters distinct from the Celestials.

I spent a month or two trying to design the Astro-Giants and working up a backstory for them. I won't go into details, but I expended a fair amount of effort crafting separate "looks" for each member of the race that I intended to include. I even gave them names that mixed mythology with foreign languages in an attempt to sound exotic. But at the end of the day, I had to be honest with myself and admit that it was all lacking the oomph I wanted.

The break-through came one morning while I was reading old Captain America stories from the 1960s. In one tale (pencilled by Jack Kirby, of course), Cap encountered this group of criminals that didn't even merit a special name to go with their colorful outfits. I don't think these guys have appeared since, which is unusual for a Marvel comic. Anyway, as I sat looking at these generic bad guys, I couldn't help but marvel (pun intended) at Kirby's ability to make even them look interesting.

That was where the lightbulb went off. I had been trying to create character designs riffing on Kirby, but let's face it, I'm no Jack Kirby. Then again, neither is anyone else. I studied these bad guys and began sketching. I didn't copy exactly, mostly because I don't have the kind of talent to pull that off. Instead, I tried to copy Kirby's use of shapes to make a visually appealing character.

The final result was the Astro-Giant look seen here. Figuring I shouldn't press my luck beyond one good design, I elected to make them distinct through color-coded armor. I'm sure they all have separate names and identities, but that will come out when/if a story featuring them happens. I'm just impressed I managed to generate even ONE design that looks passably Kirbyish!

If you are wondering, yes, that's the same drawing three times. Beyond the colors, I varied their heights in an attempt to create the illusion of perspective. I don't know how well that's pulled off, but I gave it the old college try.

Oh, and as a "P.S." for those of you who are fans of it, the opening of this profile is indeed a tribute to THE SPACE GIANTS TV series. It seemed appropriate, given the name.

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