Thursday, April 22, 2010

REKIRA, The Super-Monster - Introduction

Today is the 19th Anniversary of the creation of my own original Godzilla-inspired kaijuu (the Japanese term for "monster"), Rekira! He is the star of several projects, chiefly a webcomic project I'm working on. I had also done a Capstone student video short with the character at ITT Technical Institute as my "graduation" piece. (Above is the watercolor illustration used in the closing credits of the video.) In this post, I'll elaborate on the creation of this one character.

Some of the art here can be seen on my deviantART site, while some of the exclusive new art featured here will be crossposted to DA).

Rekira's origins went back to April 23, 1991, when he started life as a Godzilla fanfic, The Godzilla-Man. The work, inspired by both Ultraman and Gou Nagai's Devilman, resulted in a graphic novel, the first book finished on March 5, 1992 (a total of 10 1/2 to 11 months). Immediately after that, I worked on a second, shorter graphic novel, with a third unfinished. (The move from New York to Virginia may have affected this.)

After my move to Virginia, I did a complete reboot of The Godzilla-Man from June to November of 1994. Originally intended to be pitched to tokusatsu-specialized magazines featuring comic stories (including G-Fan and the short-lived Sentai), it was never picked up (but it did get praise, especially from JD Lees and Ben Dunn). A second issue was never completed, as I was looking for a new direction for the story.

Then, in 1997, my friend Marc Miyake convinced me to convert Godzilla-Man into a similar but original creation, not only because he thought I could have more creative-control, but I could own it personally. For a while, I was pretty devastated, and I thought, "He's right!" He put it to me without being as condescending as those who simply said, "Come on, man, do something original!" and expected me to do something more along the lines of the "dark, brooding" superhero of the day (ie. Batman, Wolverine, Spawn, etc.). Dammit, I'm trying to do a Japanese monster/superhero here! Think Godzilla, Ultraman, and Masked Rider rolled up into one! So, before Marc made his suggestion, I had considered a backup plan, and finally decided to get some mileage out of it; Godzilla-Man then became Tatsu-Man (inspired by the P-Production pilots Jaguarman and Hyouman). I spent a lot of time developing the idea, which I further played around with in about 2000, when he became The Draconian, and then Dracoman in 2001 or so. (I'm writing this from memory offhand.) In those versions, Rekira was called "Dracos." The design was the same as the following...

(ADDED: May 20, 2010)
On March 26, 2002, I wanted a fancy Godzilla-type name for my monster, so I renamed the character Dogira. (A name that was supposed to be a mix between Godzilla's Japanese name, "Gojira," and "dog.") I figured on the name while on my ride home from Lunacon that year. It was here that Rekira began to finally take his almost-fully dog-like appearance (although still strongly resembling an Eastern Dragon at its core, much like Falkor from The Neverending Story, a major inspiration for the character).

From August 31, 2002. This is the point where Rekira was truly inspired by an Eastern Dragon. I finally added fur to the torso, with added plates down the body. This was inspired by a dragon design by Leonardo DaVinci (which you can search for on the Internet).

Pencil sketch from February 5, 2003, basis for below design:

Drawn April 25, 2003. Colored in Flash.
Drawn June 28, 2003, colored in Flash.

While somewhat slimming down the physique, and shortening the neck and body, I kept the design and gave it a dazzling color scheme in this crude color outline I did in Flash on April 17, 2004.

All things considered, I thought that most kaijuu, especially Godzilla-inspired monsters, looked too much like Godzilla. In fact, I'd say that they were Godzilla in all but name. So I wanted to create a Godzilla-type monster that truly stood out. I also figured that since I love dogs, and always thought that Godzilla looked rather like a dog, I figured, why not create a dog monster? And best of all, give it superhero colors! The colors in the above design were inspired especially by the multicolored Godzilla toys, especially the ones by Marusan, Bullmark, and Marmit, that were colored red/blue, and even red/gold.

From February to New Year's Eve of 2004, I worked on the "Pilot" of Rekira, entitled Dogira. Of the actual completed comic projects I've ever completed, this is the one I am most proud of. In this project, I had the story in my head, but pretty much wrote it as I went along (even left in whatever ridiculous ideas I had.), and I can decide on what works and what doesn't work when I get to doing an actual comic. I may share the pilot comic with you on this blog sometime.

And it was on October 26, 2005, when the monster took his final name... Rekira!

As you can see below, Rekira went through many design changes, subtle and major.

Drawn December 23, 2005, with a mechanical pencil and a Staedtler Mars 780 drafting pencil. As I love doing pencil drawings, this is one of my most detailed Rekira drawings ever. Retained from the first drawing are the plated forelimbs (much like an eagle's or Red King's). (Note the slight error in the furigana; "tai" instead of "dai.")

Done on December 29, 2005, while I was on vacation in the Outer Banks. After being inspired by seeing river otters (which I basically thought were aquatic dogs) at the Outer Banks Aquarium, I gave Rekira an otter-like physique, while still maintaining the previous design. (EDIT: Note the alternate "Reki" kanji, which Marc told me is actually preferable over the one I've been using.)

Drawn January 19, 2006, this was the finalized version of the "Otter Rekira." Colored with Tombow brush markers (given to me by my friend Robert Wertz weeks before). The actual drawing, with crude text and all, can be seen on my deviantART site. Some of you may remember seeing this exclusive edition on the "Kaiju A Go-Go" Art Gallery on the US DVD release of the excellent short film, Negadon: The Monster from Mars!

From March 12, 2007. I drew this while sitting in a cafe at Barnes & Noble's. The body plates are gone, and here, I finally use a long body-stripe. Thus, the "tadpole formation" colors (all around the vertical center of Rekira) are born. Here, the stripe also converges into the stripes on his arms & legs (much like Ultraman). The plated forelimbs were somewhat simplified, and had yellow lightning stripes. And finally, this drawing was the genesis for the lightning-shaped horns (as opppsed to the moon-shaped Ghidorah-style horns I used previously) that Rekira would sport to this day.

Drawn on Easter Day (March 20) 2007, this is the final color rendering of the 2007 design. In this design, there were additional rib stripes emanating from the center stripe.

This redesign from January 11, 2008, is, admittedly, my favorite redesign. I was inspired by both Varan (Toho's movie monster) and Shoutarou Ishinomori's concept designs for Masked Rider Amazon, so I played around with a somewhat more humanoid version of Rekira. This really accentuated the "hero" image somewhat, and I love the dynamic poses.

The finalized color version, from February 15, 2008, scanned and colored in Photoshop. This is the design used for the video short the same year.

I played around with the 2008 design on New Year's Eve (December 31) 2008, while on vacation in the Outer Banks. Here, the design is the same, but I changed the blue forelimbs into furry paws, this time with blue webs (between the fingers/toes) and blue pawprints.

On June 17, 2009, I used my Bamboo Fun tablet to trace over the "Furry-Paw" Rekira. This time, the limb stripes are detached from the body stripe, and thus, the arms and legs have stripes of their own.

And finally, the latest Rekira drawing!

Here is the 2010 Rekira design. It's an amalgam of the 2008 and 2009 designs. Note I brought back the blue forelimbs (now simplified), as I actually liked those, and gave him a distinguished look. (I did, however, keep the webs and paw tips.) This was drawn completely in Photoshop with my Bamboo Fun tablet on April 22. (I was able to do construction in Photoshop before I began drawing proper.) This and the previous design have the same bilingual vector logo (done in Flash). This is my best Rekira tablet drawing yet!

In future posts, I'll get more into story details as I prepare my webcomic. You'll also see other drawings, character designs, and more!

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