When thinking about our hero, Neit Gunnar, I wanted to project the idea of a strong outward appearance that doesn’t necessarily scream disability. It was important to me to reflect my experience of someone who battles a chronic condition but one that isn’t easily apparent to those who might run into him on the street.
His name inspiration is the Celtic god, Neit. God of War. Last of his kind. Etymology: impassioned, fighting. Gunnar (fighter, soldier) referred to by Vikings as warrior. Seemed fitting to go this way to also express some of my own cultural heritage in the main protagonist. The more I learned about him, the more fitting it seemed that this connection had to be a part of the book.
When I was a kid reading comics, one of my favorite things to do was to go down every rabbit hole I could find when there were references in the books I was reading. If any kind of allusion was made then I was certain to try to track down whatever information I could find and read those primary sources. It led to my love of literature, mythology, comparative religion, history, politics, etc. Those experiences had a lot to do with how and why I became an English teacher. To be able to help provide that experience to a younger generation is something I am quite mindful of.
I was thinking of modeling Neit after myself somewhat, bald guy with stubble, athletic build, maybe even go a bit bulkier, like a David Bautista type build in terms of size, but he wouldn’t be as cut, and we’d rarely see him outside of his comfortable clothing. I think having someone who people look at and assume he’s in good shape plays into the treatment he receives, looks he gets while using a cane.
The stronger someone looks the more that is expected/assumed about them and people overlook what could potentially be some serious underlying issues. So when he is annoyed or short with people, or even an aggressive fighter, it’s more of a reflection of who he is rather than his internal struggle with the pain he experiences inside and how that often interferes with his reactions.
Grey hoodie, dark cargo pants, tennis shoes, blue cane while out in public, toying with the idea of a reflective mask for when he’s fighting as a way to reflect back on those whom he encounters in the same way they are reflected in him.
Early designs centered around the look he would take on when he was crime-fighting. Wanted it to be something simple that would lead to a progression of his look as the character evolves.
This was a hard one to land on since things can easily go in the direction of harder science-fiction. You can see how some of my initial descriptions led to something a little robotic or stormtroopery. I also wanted to play around with the idea of comedy/tragedy and I didn’t feel like we were landing on who Neit was. It was important to have how he looked while stepping in to help people was an extension of his character.
This one went back and forth before we landed on something with a mask that was more reflective. Since at the heart of the book we deal with Neit’s strong sense of empathy, we landed on a smoother mask that will be reflective. That way when someone looks at him they see themselves; this is an extension of how Neit interacts with the world. See’s himself in the emotions and experiences of others.
It would be tempting to go full “Jedi” hood and mysterious, but those aren’t the kinds of hoodies one just picks up at the store. Nothing too fashionable since this is a guy who has a modest background and isn’t buying designer clothes, especially something so recognizable that everyone would be able to single him out. We see people wearing hoodies all day long, and it would be difficult to describe what they look like in a hoodie and cargo pants, that’s a lot of guys (myself included).
These early sketches helped me ground the story moving forward and descriptions I would provide to David as he started drawing the issue.
Seeing the way David shows Neit relying on the cane as an extension of himself, even though he has no physical damage was also important. My cane has a way of letting people know to keep their distance from me, and it also makes me somewhat invisible to the point that people don’t even notice me, or I am an obstacle for them to move around. Want to see people rush? Watch them try to get ahead of me as I’m walking to the cashier in a grocery store!
These early designs will help the reader see part of what he has to give up in order to insert himself into a situation where someone needs help. More on that later!