- April 25, 2023
Who are you going to put through hell? Who are you going to force to fly the plane, before you decide to set said plane on fire? Whom will it be most interesting to run up a tree and then throw rocks at for the audience’s pleasure? (Personally I prefer the burning plane metaphor, more action and agency.)
Somehow the initial concept of a ‘tween girl/young woman’ protagonist has remained a constant (pun intended) factor throughout the evolution of TCS. Jea (‘Gea’ at the start, but we decided to go with ‘Jea’ simply because Lucas and I could never have a conversation and pronounce the name the same way twice.) has always represented the force of youthful curiosity, a quality present in all children whether they wear pants, dresses, capes, or anything else. Inside a magical world, you want someone seeking awe to drive the exploration. I’ll also confess that the ‘young girl adventurer’ archetype in my mind harkens back to older fairy tales and folk tales, as well as representing the position that women and girls have occupied in science fiction since the early days. From ‘Maria’ in Lang’s Metropolis through ‘Princess Leia’ in Star Wars and beyond ‘Kamala Khan’ in Ms Marvel, young women have always been a symbol of curiosity and capability.
The other thing I knew early on is that our protagonist needed to be a misfit, someone who didn’t see things the way the rest of her community did. Even when populating a bizarre otherworldly environment with a permanent settlement of people, most of those people are likely to be more absorbed in their daily lives than they are in the everyday wonders around them. Only by making the world of TCS mundane can we give motivation to Jea to want to see beyond it, to want to learn and thus help take us on our journey. ‘The Talented Misfit’ is my favourite character archetype (not to ever be confused with a ‘Byronic hero’, a trope I despise at all levels) simply because it’s the kind of underdog all but the most confident individuals can empathise with. We all feel alone. We all feel that no one gets us. Jea is as much that as anyone, yet she’s lucky enough to also possess a desire for exploration and a need to press boundaries. (and an exceptionally talented artist gloriously rendering her every move).
Meeting Jea in the framework of a sullen, antisocial tween is no mistake. This may be a world created by Lucas and myself but Jea is the one who’s going to explore it with us. I’m not sure how pumped about that prospect I’d be if our guide was up first thing with the lifting mists. I like that Jea sleeps in. I can relate.
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Your friendly neighbourhood illustrator here to talk to you about something close to my heart: window mullions. What are they? How do they work? Much like magnets, nobody really knows! But apparently they hold the key to unlocking the secrets of the universe.
It’s no spoiler to say that stellar bodies will play a major role in this story — it is in the title, after all. Our characters are deeply connected to the workings of the universe, even if they themselves don’t realize it. The greatest design challenge for this project was to develop a visual language for their cosmology, and to weave it subtly into their world. It is a symbology very much set in the background, a part of their collective mythology but taken for granted by most characters until it is too late.
I don’t want to say too much more, so for now, enjoy some cosmological mullions: