Friday, January 29, 2010

Gay Heroes -- in 3D: welcome to Hellgate

Gay heroes have never looked so good! 3D art suits this genre so well, and it's my great pleasure to introduce you to Neil Travers, one of the central characters in the incredible world of Hellgate. If you're not big on gay heroes, there's plenty more on this blog to inspire and delight. Browse around, you'll find every kind of guy, every kind of hero. And if it's the "how" aspect of this kind of artwork which gets your blood moving, check out the Tutorials section. But...

If gay heroes put the kick into your life, you're on the right page, and -- welcome to Hellgate! I guess I should say a few words about what Hellgate is, before I go on a ramble about how I'm systematically creating the characters for this universe. First: it's not a movie. Well, not yet! It could easily be ... and there are those of us who would stand in line to buy tickets! But at this time Hellgate is still a series of books: 4 out now, 2 more to go to finish out one of the wildest rides in science fiction -- and they'll be out by the end of 2010...

The teaser for the series is this: In a place where time and space collide, the future of mankind will be decided.

And that, my friends, is the tip of an iceberg the size of the planet Neptune! I was hooked, with these books, from the first part of the first volume, and I can even tell you why. Imagine, if you can, a series of REAL books with plot up to the eyeballs, mainstream SF that could have come from Greg Bear or Kim Stanley Robinson, or one of the best in the business ... and then make the heroes gay. It's like Greg Bear wrote a space opera twice the length of Lord of the Rings, and the heroes are gay. Which is a cause for a grin as wide as Sydney Harbor.

(If this sounds like your idea of a way to spend some delightful rainy afternoons, you probably want to click here: that link will take you the the Hellgate Page on MK's website, and you can catch up in no time. In fact, if you prefer ebooks over paper, you can be reading in half an hour.)

A loooong time ago, when Mel Keegan first signed with DreamCraft, the idea we had in mind was to publish the books to CD-Rom. They were to present the whole text with masses of art and animations. That idea sounded exciting to some people, but not to a wide enough audience to make the amount of work involved attractive...

However, The World of Hellgate has stayed in my mind ever since. I've always thought, how fantastic it would be to use this idea as a promo. Till recently, though, artwork has meant the usual: painting. And anyone who's done it knows how long it takes! Imagine having to do about 50 - 100 paintings, minimum, for one promotion.

Then, along came 3D art and everything changed. Suddenly I can design the characters and stage the artwork in about 1% of the time. In other words, I can do 100 3D paintings in the same time it would have taken me to do one. And suddenly The Word of Hellgate doesn't look so scary.

Step one: get the characters created.

And that's not as easy as you might think, because there's DOZENS of them, and they're all totally different, and every one needs to be approached as a separate project and then combined later. It takes about a week to get a design that Mel Keegan will say "wonderful" to. (Not a full 40 hours, y'understand, but tinkering on and off and sending images on emails and getting feedback.)

Last week we got the "wonderful" stamp on Richard Vaurien:

..and today, meet Neil Travers. And Neil was not easy to design ... if you know the books, you'll know that he shares a very very similar description to Stoney, in the NARC books, for which I'm also designing the characters (same reason too).

Compare Stoney and Travers:
On paper, boy-oh, do they sound similar! But you don't want the same character showing up in two major projects at the same time. That could get majorly confusing. So the challenge was to create another face, another guy, who'd answer to the same physical description, but be a different man. And I'm really happy with the result. So's Mel.

Next challenge is Curtis Marin, who's Neil's partner in every way. That's going to be a big job. I think I'll start with something like the Greg Farris character I did for the cover of Ice, Wind and Fire, and work from there ... and here's the hard part. Curtis has curly hair. Ouch! There's not a lot of curly haired styles available in the DAZ catalog, and the shortage will make this, um, interesting.

However it works out ... it's fun!

Jade, 30 January
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