Slippery Joe has become one of my favorite characters in our story. He’s a pickpocket who can slip and ooze through a crowd with ease. But while he’s a petty criminal - and a snitch - he’s still an all-around amiable fellow. Here’s a description from our original pitch bible:
“Joe’s a pickpocket with a gift for the lift, and he’d sell out his own grandma for a stick of gum. Two-Headed Cop taps him for the underground skinny, but he’s a hard man to get a hold of. Literally. Handcuffs can’t hold him, and he can steal the shirt off your back without you knowing.”
One thing I’ve found useful in getting the design process started is finding reference imagery of actors, outfits, attitudes, anything that I think of when I imagine our characters. Sometimes it’s not about how the actor looks, but the demeanor or attitude. The reference pictures can be meant as a vague starting point, or a more definite blueprint. For example, I found a great catalog of clothes from the ’40s which has proven invaluable for nailing down styles with our designer, Anna, as well as the modelers.
Here are some of the images I sent to Anna to get started on Slippery Joe:
So, clockwise from the top left that’s Steve Buscemi, Roman Polanski, a weasel, and David Byrne in the big suit. We liked different aspects of each of these (like Steve Buscemi’s eyes and creepy smile) but the point wasn’t necessarily to make a Frankenstein’s monster of the different parts we liked, but to use as inspiration. The suit was thought of for practical reasons as well, so that he’d have a place to store all the items he’s pilfered. Anna took that in a funny direction in an earlier sketch.
It’s funny, but we wanted Joe to be more sleek and fluid, which she nailed in the final drawing at the top. I particularly love the crazy-long fingers.
One of the reasons I’m so happy with how he turned out was that Anna not only incorporated the references well, but turned it into something entirely of her own creation, which is exactly what you want in this kind of collaboration.