Crafting a story – Designing villains part 1

Hello everyone, I hope you are all doing great!
I`m back with a new instalment of the Crafting a Story series. This time we are talking antagonists and I`ll focus on one of them: Valeska.


I never really liked coming up with “villains” in the past. They reminded me of animated characters singing about how evil they are. I`ve never really liked the two dimensional ones who are just evil because they like it. (Though even this can be done well, I do have examples of a few instances where I did love those villains)
For my own story I never quite knew where to take the antagonist forces, until I came up with an interesting sounding back story for them. Turns out, I even grew to like these characters.

My villain duo is a father and a daughter:



and Valeska:


Here`s the gist of their backstory: Alaric and Valeska are part of a family of former regents of the land of Tarina but their ancestors were banished from the country. A story full of anger and bitterness now runs through this family and Alaric, who is very intelligent, decides to finally “set things right.” In his long pursuit of this idea he drags his daughter along with him. Both are very smart and good with technology. They have an army of automatons (the forerunners of modern robots) at their disposal with which they attack Tarina.

Once I figured out the backstory I was good to go. I understood these characters better and even developed some sympathy for them. In the end it`s about their father and daughter relationship and how hate and bitterness gets in the way of all that is good in a family.

But how do you design villain characters?

My comic is a more realistic one when it comes to style. But still I wanted to get their character and their antagonistic nature in the comic across in their character designs.
I started thumbnailing the prologue, where the characters are 15 years younger and where the backstory is told. I went with the first images that popped up into my head. Valeska as a child was a very clear image and I pictured Alaric as a weird combination of 19th century scientists and aristocrat characters I remember from childhood series.

This was their starting point:

I will talk about Alaric in next week`s blogpost.

Grown up Valeska in my head was someone who had learned to ignore, and keep inside, all things that could be seen as weak. She is the one who is to practically execute her father`s plan so for years she has been trained to do just that. It has destroyed her empathy and all the plans she might have had for herself. She now only desperately wants her father`s approval and to see their family`s tragic cycle of bitterness to end. She grew cold and hard in both her face and her attitude. A little on the wild and crazy side when she gets on a controlling power rush.


Clothing is always fun too, especially since my comic is set in a fantasy version of the 19th century:


Valeska is doing the hard work during their “mission.” This is why she is wearing protective armour. It was tough to design, since I hardly ever drawn armour, but a lot of hours of research and looking for things that I found cool, but were still practical, later and I ended up with this:


One early morning I was walking to the train station and it was barely beginning to get light. A white building was in front of me, light blue now in the half-dark. It had very brownish and pale colours of yellow behind the windows. That was the exact colourscheme that would fit Valeska I thought. The cool, neutral and pale colours really reflected her aloofness and efforts to keep all emotions in. That`s what you see in the image down below in this post.

I really like this character. I hope she is a three dimensional one with a reason for why she does what she does. She even has some screen time all to herself so you`ll get to know her better then. She is already introduced in the comic`s prologue, which I`m working hard on right now so I have something to show at the next CTNx Expo. When the prologue is done I think I`ll post it online so you all know have a better idea what kind of story and art you`re waiting for. 🙂

In the meantime, you can follow the progress on the comic on the Recollection City Facebook Page. I might post more short ramblings and work in progress there.
Recollection City also has it`s own newsletter
for the people who are interested in the comic only. Or you can subscribe to the regular Pencils & Stories newsletter to receive news about new posts and my work in general (including the comic).


I hope you`ve enjoyed this post. let me know in the comments and have a great week!

Want to see more? Here are more posts about how I designed the other characters:
Designing Bern
Designing Max
Designing Ivory
Designing Robbie