• Let's Review: Comic OCs!

    Last week we briefly touched on a character's design and its impact. This week, let's take a look at some of the comic-exclusive characters that stand out in memory.

    Catch the full review after the break!

    Radiant Hope
    Hope may be more infamous that appreciated due to her role in The Siege of the Crystal Empire. Design wise, however, I find her interesting because of how it speaks to her relation to Equestria more than her own personality.

    It led her into comic continuity.
    A tenuous land on the brink of collapse at all times!

    In terms of body style she is a standard pony. Close-ups show her Crystal Pony texture but one could easily mistake her for a standard unicorn. Her mane is reminiscent of Fluttershy's while her body color seems like a darker counterpart to Twilight. A fitting choice because Hope's friendship with Sombra nearly doomed the Crystal Empire and Equestria. 

    Probably dodged a bullet there.
    Equestria's princess ranks are over-saturated.

    Her cutie mark is a caduceus, which is often associated with medicine. It seems like a fitting match for Hope's healing magic, though a little research turned up that the caduceus is not the truest representation. Yet it is the more recognized so it balances out. Yet I find a danger in relying too much on symbols found in American culture. Part of what works with the ponies is that their marks are simple enough that they can transcend almost any culture. Getting this specific feels limiting. 

    Did you know that symbol is based on parasite removal?
    Fun learning!

    Yet the most interesting element to Radiant Hope is her cloak and hood. Why? Because for the entire Siege storyline, she never takes it off. It's not for concealment nor warmth, yet it becomes a statement. Hope is at odds with Equestria in every way. She doesn't put her faith in destiny and her goal is to aid Sombra. The fact that her design looks like a standard unicorn adds meaning to how she tries to cover it up. She is not connected to Equestria and so she tries to hide her own appearance. It's an interesting idea and it helps her stand out in my memory.   

    The only pony who can browbeat Sombra.

    Standing opposite Radiant Hope is a character who's personality infuses every part of his design. As the royal adviser, Kibitz's poise and dress reinforce a very rigid personality. He wears a coat and scarf that look comfortable yet officious. This reinforces that he's comfortable in his role despite the demands. 

    He needs a stiff upper lip to support that mustache!

    Unlike most ponies he is bald on top which hints that the stress of this job has taken its toll despite his mannerisms. Kibitz is often depcited in either a calm, composed serenity with his eyes mostly close or shows his demeanor broken by his bulging eyes. The fixed composure of one mood helps add to the humor of the other's intrusion. 

    Kibitz is always advocating fiber. Scrolls are high in fiber.
    Kibitz must endorse this!

    Although not every culture would understand a stopwatch (especially in this day and age),  I think his timekeeper cutie mark is simple enough that most will get the hint. Cap all of this off with braids to keep his mane in order and  glasses to reinforce a more intellectual viewpoint and you don't need Kibitz to say a lot to understand him. This conveyed personality allows him to jump in and instantly contrast against Princess Luna. 

    Backhooved compliments!

    Kibitz remains one of my favorite comic-exclusive characters. Hopefully we'll get to see him in a future issue.

    Marcie Pan and Fawn Doo
    These two characters are meant to be a pair and their designs show it. Both feature a red-and-yellow color scheme with inverted emphasis. We don't get to understand their individual personalities because they don't say a word throughout Friends Forever #12, but much like Kibitz there is a study in contrasts here.

    They look so adorable. So sweet.
    They are evil incarnate.

    As sellers of the phnomnomenons, these two look like sugary sweetness incarnate. Frilly clothing, aprons and shirts. Bows to highlight rounded manes that swish and curl. Despite some sharp edges int eh designs, such as the bow on Marcie Pan's head, everything is blunted by frills or some other fashion choice. The end result is that both characters look the image of innocence.

    Even their cart looks delicious!

    Which just adds to the conflict as Pinkie Pie can't resist their sugary treats. We get to see their sweet exteriors melt as they gleefully tempt Pinkie and take her money. The outer sweetness helps highlight the transformation as their more toxic expressions emerge. Whether this is their real selves or Pinkie's own projection I can't say. Yet the visuals of these stand-out ponies really adds to the story's conflict. 

    Sugary evil!

    Calamity Mane
    Referenced in The Last Roundup but never seen until the comics, Calamity Mane was more a witness to the events of Friends Forever #33. Yet though she was more a victim to the whims of other ponies, she more than any character from that issue stands out in my memory for her design.

    The aura of western-ness around her
    is overpowering!

    Color theorists would have a field day with this. It makes sense traveling rodeo show pony would emphasize an earthy tone. We witness that with Calamity's coat color and the western clothing. Yet offsetting that is the mixed blues of her mane and eyes. Pony eyes are often a different feel than their bodies. Applejack's bright orange helps her green eyes stand out. The bright tones of Pinkie Pie help her blue eyes. I don't see this contrast as often with manes. 

    Roasting a tomato?
    I've never tried that. Is it good?

    In some ways I'm not sure why her design is so exception while her role in the story is underplayed. I get the sense she could do more in a comic and have an interesting backstory. However, much of her design might have to do with contrast Cherry Jubilee. A darker coat against Cherry's lighter tone. Blue mane against her red. This is Calamity 2.0. It makes sense that the artists would want to emphasize how different she looks from her predecessor.

    The lines under her eyes make her look
    older than her first appearance.
    Likely fatigue.

    Starting to notice a trend even as I write these words. More than that later.  

    I do mean it! We're gonna talk more about contrasts later.

    Flax Seed and Wheat Grass
    Ah, the hippy ponies! How I love them. 

    I was a fan of these characters from the moment I saw them.

    It's hard to look past the clothing and jewelry, but I think the strongest case for these characters lies in the idea of height. Flax Seed is already more tall and lanky than the standard stallion. Wheat Grass continues this by growing out her mane and tail to the point where I marvel she doesn't trip. Given that Equestrians rarely have their manes longer than their necks, this already sets them apart.

    Multiple ellipsis. The sign of duplicity!

    Their colors are pure earth-tones, emphasizing their view on nature and organics. This is where the clothing comes back into play. Everything is meant to be loose, long, inefficient. Contrast that against Rarity's fashion sense and the tension becomes obvious. 

    Even eyeshadow cannot stem the
    murderous intent I see in Rarity.

    So I think it a little odd that Wheat Grass relies on eye shadow. I have no idea if one can create all-natural eye shadow, but it does hint at a bridge between the two mares. It's Wheat Grass who takes the lead and is the more expressive. It could just be that she makes the eye shadow look good but one of the strengths of character design is that even little details can speak to something bigger. 

    I was like this with my classmates. We didn't even live
    near a valley, so why did they talk like it?

    8-Bit and Gaffer
    Shining Armor's buds from Neigh Anything were a mix. At one end of the group was Poindexter, who was adopted from Putting Your Hoof Down and retconned to be part of this group. Since he comes from the show I can't include him here. Yet with him at one end the other two friends are easier to understand.

    Shining Armor's best friends, everyone!

    8-Bit is fairly standard. Regular pegasus body type. His mane is duo tone but the variance so slight it's easy to miss. As with Radiant Hope, his cutie mark is tied more closely to a culturally-specific icon. A space invader will make sense to some fans, but others may be totally lost. The biggest thing with 8-bit is that nothing about his design says "I'm a geek". He enjoys the same activites as the others but there's nothing to convey social awkwardness. So of the group he seems more like the middle. Poindexter might be ostracized because of how he looks but 8-bit doesn't face that limitation. In this way I think he's the weaker median. 

    You are the fellowship of the dork!

    At the opposite end is Gaffer, who I consider the most memorable. Long before Sunburst hit the scene Gaffer and Pipsqueak were the only two ponies with duo tone coats. Not only that, but Gaffer's coat has a stripe leading up his face to a green mane that clashes against his orange. He's not ugly, but the fact he looks different from so many others makes me wonder if he's out the social outskirts for something he can't control.

    Still think that sounds like an invitation to murder.

    Again, his 8-sided die cutie mark is a very specific icon. Even his name is confusing. From a quick Google search it appears that a Gaffer is an electrician and lighting specialist for films. That might be his future, but it doesn't seem tied to his design. This is a design that raises more questions than it does express the true character. Within the group, Gaffer is the planner and tactician. He's the one who pushes hardest for Shining Armor to win over Cadance. I can't say for certain if this is a reflection of his own struggles, but as it stands I don't know.

    That does indeed sound critical.

    And not knowing is half the battle... for the reader's attention.

    Princess Amore
    A princess who is not an alicorn? Shame things didn't work out for her but I'll always remember this character for how she looked and how badly she failed.

    She even sparkles more than a crystal pony.
    Oh no. Is she the wrong kind of vampire?

    Amore's design tries to put her on equal status with Celestia. They have the same height and body shape, though Amore's curling mane appears to be static. She too wears finery but it appears to be modeled after Persian designs. Everything about her conveys beauty, wisdom, and composure. Which highlights the moment where she fails.

    Don't have much to say on her crystalized form.
    Other than it's a dark image!

    There may be something to the fact she is not an alicorn. We know very little of Amore, but what we see in King Sombra's Micro issue and Guardians of Harmony suggests that Amore was more militant. She protected the Empire with spells and potions while Celestia often turned to specific ponies. I think the visual comparisons to Celestia emphasize that Amore is trying to live up to a ruler's standards but was missing something critical. 

    What kind of shampoo yields this affect?

    Maybe it was empathy. Or perhaps she focused on more immediate threats. I sometimes wonder if she was unconsciously afraid of Sombra, the same as the other crystal ponies. Whatever the case, Amore's finery can't cover the fact that something was lacking, and her mistake damaged her entire Empire.

    Dude, you're asking the right question
    at the wrong time!

    Two Paths to Design
    I think I could point out other ponies but this seems like a decent list. Even writing this I had small realizations. I knew I liked these characters designs but the why wasn't always clear. 

    Shadow Locke might be worth discussion another time.
    This editorial has gone pretty long.

    In the case of characters like Flax Seed, Wheat Grass, and Kibitz I think their designs really express their character. We can understand them with a look and while this might not be a deep connection it allows the story to start moving. Because the artists understand the characters well enough to at least introduce them visually, the characters stand out in memory more than some of their peers. 

    "But if you could send someone with a vaccum
    to pick up the rest of me, that'd be swell!"

    Other cases like Princess Amore and Calamity Mane stand out because they are a visual counter to another character. Sometimes it's meant to highlight the similarities while others focus on the difference. In either case I think these characters fit into our memories alongside the character we already know. Even if we're not aware of the connection, some part of our brain files it away. 

    Marion the Librarian is a fun design,
    but not quite as memorable.

    Whatever the case, having a good grasp of a character leads to better design work. Last week I criticized a new addition to Equestria's setting who didn't seem to have a lot of design investment. Even though there were elements of Chef Chase that intrigued me, he is mostly forgotten. I hope IDW's comics will continue to introduce new characters with both interesting personalities and designs. 

    I didn't feature many antagonists.
    Not sure if that reflects well on the comics.

    We'll see as new issues come out. I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading! 

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