Saturday, May 11, 2013

Interview with Illustrator and Graphic Designer of 'Pack of Heroes' John D-C

What Is Pack Heroes? How have you been involved?
Pack of Heroes is an up-and-coming, action packed card game where players control a team of comic book superheroes and battle it out in a quest to gain control of Power City.

A little over a year ago my good friend and game designer Phil Walker-Harding from Adventureland games asked me whether I wanted to help him illustrate and work on the graphic design for his latest game, a superhero card game. This was pretty much my dream job. Phil really understood what he wanted the game to be and we were definitely on the same page about creating a fun group of brand new superheroes for the game. Phil set the scene with a few ideas for characters but was happy to let my imagination run wild.

Describe your illustration style and influences?
My illustrations are based around the many characters I create, they include the ever romantic Dorothy Dish and Edward Spoon, the hip shakin’ chain rattling Frankie, a pink fluffy monster with a sweet tooth for vinyl records, an attacking race of pizza slice aliens and now a pack of 30 brand new superheroes.

I have my own particular style of illustration, where I use a mix of traditional hand generated techniques as well as digital processes to achieve a 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s commercial illustrative feel. I like to fill my work with colourful pop culture references from comic books to album covers and movie posters to animation. 

I have been reading and collecting comic books for the past 25 years, it is one of my favorite hobbies. From the beginning of the Pack of Heroes project it was clear that we were looking for a fun and offbeat group of Superheroes to make the game enjoyable and accessible to a wide audience of people of all ages who aren't necessarily comic book fans. Here I decided to look back to the silver-age of comic book production for a little inspiration.

For a little bit of background, the silver-age of comic books spanned from about the mid 1950's until the 1970's. It left behind a lot of the gritty realism and propaganda seen in comic books of the World War II era (think of the early gangster crime and detective world of Batman, or the War efforts of Captain America) in exchange for more fun science fiction based story lines. This period saw the creative talent of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby help Marvel Comics take the spotlight with the creation of characters such as The Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk, Ironman, Spider-Man and the X-Men, characters who were fun, new, exciting and well and truly fictional.

When it came to illustrating the game, I looked to the dynamic, poses and bold costumes created by illustrators such as Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, John Buscema, Sal Buscema and Herb Trimpe. Within the game each character is only shown once and the illustration had to clearly represent what the character is all about while also show off their powers at a glance.

What are some challenges you faced while working on 'Pack of Heroes'?
By far the biggest challenge I faced was the scope of this project, conceptualizing, sketching, refining and creating finished art for 30 new heroes is no mean feat and while I lost track of the actual time I spent on this project many times, I reckon It was somewhere around the 300 hour mark. A further challenge was really keeping continuity in the illustrations, how could a Humanoid Unicorn in a pair of rainbow metallic shorts and a Blind Female Superhero Judge carrying a giant gavel exist within the one game? It was all down to the illustration. I had to make sure each character worked on their own and together as part of the whole project, ensuring that my Illustration style didn’t change as the project moved forward. I overcame this challenge by making sure that my sketches were well and truly locked in before I began working on the finished artwork.

A further challenge was treading, a sometimes very fine line between referencing, acknowledging and parodying existing superheroes and popular culture to create something new, exciting and fun which appeals to a broad audience.

Illustrating a game is one thing but working on the graphic design for it is another thing entirely. It is quite tricky with usability and continuity definitely being the most important factors to consider. While working on the graphic design for the game I also really wanted to fill it with references to superhero comic book design, be it through layout, typography and logo or icon design.
What can people expect to see at the exhibition 'Pack of Heroes'?
The Exhibition is really the first public outing for Pack of Heroes as it now moves from its play-testing phase into its production stage. It will unveil the 30 brand new superhero characters that John D-C has illustrated for the game as well as featuring a behind the scenes look into the development process of the game.
The exhibition will allow you to meet the creators of the game and even have a play of it before its release!  It will also feature a few things created to help advertise Pack of Heroes, such as a promotional-viral video and a series of one-off action figures created by John D-C