HM3 Journal: It figures

I spent the latter half of last week finishing up client change requests on the "Horror Mini" (you remember, the one that was supposed to come out at the beginning of December? Yeah, right) and the Zombie Mini, both of which I think are finally Done with a capital D. I think. Hope.

So the last two days or so have been spent thinking more about HeroMachine 3, and drawing out some figures. I'm a bit torn on this score, as I have the sneaking suspicion that the art style I'm using sucks. It's hard to say from the inside, because I don't know if there's a moment when you as a creative person think "OK, this is my style, that's how I'm doing it from here on out." It seems more organic than that to me, that you just sort of fly along, doing what you do, and eventually you look back and realize you could pick out something you drew from a thousand other pieces, not just because you know you drew it but because it looks like you somehow. And wham, there's your style.

I'm not there, not by a long shot. I think the basic figure of the Minis is decent, and I like the stuff I'm doing as the prizes for the Caption Contests, but I still (at almost 40 years of age, blegh!) don't feel like I've figured out yet how I draw.

It's like this. When I look at the Her-O-Matic, everything in it is very tight and cohesive. And that's because he is using Bruce Timm's style, which is very well thought-out and meticulous in its adherence to its own rules. As any animated series must be, when you're relying on hundreds of people overseas who don't even speak the same language you do to draw all those thousands of cels. You have to have your art direction absolutely rock-solid, and it definitely shows in all of Timm's DC Animated Universe stuff.

So when you look at output from the Her-O-Matic, you know in an instant what you're looking at. And it works. It's absolutely a cohesive illustration.

I don't have that, certainly not in HeroMachine 2, which isn't surprising given that it consists of artwork strung out over the course of almost ten years. Given the (let's be honest) not very good figures the whole thing is based on, a lack of a satisfying portrait is unsurprising.

That's one of the things I'm most excited about for HM3 and with the Minis, that I was getting to start from scratch and rework it all from the ground up. And I have to say, when I see the stuff people have come up with, it definitely looks a lot tighter than any previous version. I can't wait till the Game Contest is over and I can see all the entries, but even just the ones in the gallery UGO put out were pretty nice looking.

Which is all a long, angst-ridden way to show the figures I've come up with so far for possible HM3 usage, and to ask if you're happy with the artwork in the recent minis.

34 Responses to HM3 Journal: It figures

  1. I cant draw but cold they done in a more 3d way
    but if not why not develop a program were you cab put them in comics

  2. No, putting the program in 3D is not something I can do. Plus, if you want that, City of Heroes has a great 3D character creator.

    Putting the character in comics would be an enormous undertaking. The scope of the project is to make a character portrait creator, and that’s more than enough given the time and resources we have.

  3. The legs on M4 look sickly when compared to the rest of the figure.

  4. Will there be Brick poses in HM3? How about some teen poses?

  5. Jeff,about your article (“It Figures”), perhaps you suffer from the same fate as do all artists: you are your harshest critic.

  6. I like number, M3

  7. I like the style of the artwork in the Modern warrior Mini ( not overly thrilled with the pose itself, but the style of the body is nice ) Absolutely HATED the figures in the Horror Mini. I suppose it works for making Zombies and the like, but are way to flabby/pudgy looking for SuperHeroes or Fantasy RPG Characters.

    Looking at the two female forms you have above I have to say that the first one is Ok, but just not “Heroic” enough in my opinion and the second is too cartoony looking to me. the Male M4 is also too cartoony to me.

  8. F2,M3 and M4 are my favorites though ,as someone else mentioned, M4s legs look odd compared to the rest of the body.

  9. Hey, an androgynous figure (one which is neither obviously female nor male) would be nice, as well as a slinkier male build for speedster/scientist/not-so-fit heroes. As well as a nice She-Hulk-alike for females.

    But, I dig.

  10. The more serious art style of M1 and M3 are my definite preference. I really like the M3 pose, too, but it makes designing characters with different arm designs/accessories kinda impossible. As for the females, there needs to be more variation. Not all heroines are brickhouses, and neither are they all skinny. Maybe a “svelte” or petite female figure (well-toned, of course) as well as a mid-sized and large. Maybe the muscle intensity/rippedness could be a skin that gets layered over the blank body, hmm?

  11. Il like M1, M3 and M4 and for female characters F1.

  12. M1 anf F1 are my faves…Maybe position f1’s arms more like m1’s

  13. Interesting comment about the Me (Horror and Zombie) figure being too stout, I hadn’t thought about that before.

  14. Hi Jeff,
    I first wantto say that all of your work looks great!
    Second, as an amateur artist myself, although without too much experience, I can say that I can’t point to a certain style as mine. Even when looking back at my previous drawings. Well there is some kind of a style there, but I am not sure it so well defined, and maybe that’s for the best. being versatile. But compared with other people’s art, I can say what is not my style.

    I myself, am trying to learn from other people, who I find their work inspiring, in developing my own style and version of it.

  15. As for your latest peice it is great, although I didn;t like too much M3. I think that adding more figures like, dwarves could also be great. I also think that making it possible to build a character’s body from different pieces (slots) could be nice. Like head (ears, eyes, nose, mouth, hair, facial hair, eyebrows, scars, tatoos, horns, etc), neck, torso (chest, and stomach/belly), arms, hands, legs, feet, wings, tail,etc.
    With the ability to rotate each.
    I think that a combination of something like M1, M2 and maybe M4 could be good. I mean the torso of M1, appears too triangular to me, and too muscular for a base figure, but I like the arms and legs positions, away from the body so you can distinguish between them, and the same for the female version.
    I didn’t mean to offend in my comments, and if I have, I am sorry.

  16. First off I just want to say Jeff under no circumstances should you make anything like M4. I know Hero Matic does the Tim Gunn thing, but there is a reason I have your blog and Heromachines bookmarked and not his. Of course there are certain advantages of using his style, but the cartoonish way he draws, isn’t something I’m always in the mood for. Could you improve? What artist couldn’t? But your style has this weird way of getting me what I want but at the same time making me feel creative. Look at guys like Kaldath and Blue Blazer and so many others in the forums, and how they use things shouldn’t be used one way, but they make it work.

    Jeff you’re reminding me of all those actresses who were good looking naturally, then end up getting nose jobs or lip injections or other things that end up uglying them up, because even though others like what they look like, they feel the need to compete with others, by looking the same as others. I like what Danny Beaty said ” you’re your own worst critic”

    Jeff get a mirror right now I’ll wait……………Ok Got it? Now look in the mirror and repeat after me.
    I’m good enough…
    I’m smart enough…
    And doggone it, people like me.

    As to the figures above, there are things I would change, but I won’t worry about them now.

  17. I like:
    M1 (but with M5’s arms)
    M3
    F1
    F2

    And yes, we artists are naturally too hard on ourselves.

  18. With the figures, the thing about the figures is that every one of the male figures look like warriors or physical fighters. That might work for a mini, but for HM3 there are so many other kind of characters that would look really bad with those poses, and by the way M3 straight up looks like he’s doing butt clenches or something. Every male figure is looks like they are doing some kind of flexing. The HM2 I think was a really good all around pose, almost as if any character was posing for a picture. And I like realism too which is why I wasn’t totally in love with the Modern warriors, shoulders and abs. I loved HM2 figure.

    M2 and M5 both remind me of this guy I used to know who was a little hefty, but also he stood and walked like he had a rod inside the back of his shirt that prevented him from bending.

    I like broad shoulders, more than narrow shoulders, but I also like characters that can be stealthy or athletic. One of my favorite games is Prince of Persia The Sands of Times. Because of the movement, but because he looked loose. All those poses are little too stiff.

    I think one thing you might consider is not worrying about getting every single detail. Like with guns and stuff, I think it sometimes looks too cluttered, because you try to get so much in

    Anyway I didn’t realize I made this so long, but the fact that it is so long should show that you have created something so great, that people have such a passion for it, and you did it, just by doing what you do. So props and love.

  19. i like m3 the most its cool! but m2 and m5 look like fat ppl, m4 is to cartoonesh and the first one is well to generic!

  20. i cant find the horror or the zombie!help me!

  21. You know I love the M3 since I asked you to make one of my CC winners out of it. I kind of like the F1, its a good start for heroic female. Someone said it but having a brick that was big and thick but more in the style of M3 would look good. M5 is interesting and could be a brick if bigger.

    I can see what you mean about what kind of artist you are. I like the reality based figures you draw more so than the cartoon style, but that’s just me.

  22. you know I was thinking about it and one thing that popped into my head was that post about how you started HM. And one thing I noticed was that Hawk guy. I mean I love every bit of that character. From the helmet, to the torso, all the way down to the boots. They say when going forward, it’s sometimes good to look back. Not sure how you made that character originally, but I think that character is top notch.
    http://www.heromachine.com/2008/02/07/whats-old-is-new/#more-180

    And also I was wondering do you make that Shataki Warrior one. Because I think the pose for the female is pretty good on that one. The body has a good shape, and I really like how the hips look especially with the 4th pants attached. And there are a lot of items that you might think of putting in

    Anyway, good stuff, you rule all of cakeland, and parts of China.

  23. Good point about the Shakti poses. How about adopting those for HM3? Especially the teen ones. It’s next to impossible to make convincing-looking younger heroes with HM2. I will say that I like your crisper, thinner-lined style that you’ve used on the minis and Shakti much, much better than the more cartoony, thicker-lined style you used for HM1 and much of HM2. Especially the noses and other facial features – so much better looking now!

  24. Mr. JH, you are a great artist and programmer.
    I don’t dig on F2 and M4 because of the Batman Beyond cartoony factor (female waist too wasp-like, guy’s shoulders dwarf his legs a-la Savage Dragon ;-p).
    And I do agree with the notion of keeping the Normal, Brick, and Dwarf poses but adding another frame for younger sidekicks or just generally ‘smaller all-around’ types.
    HeroMachine rawkz.

  25. The best, by far, is F2, because of the naturalness of the pose. The rest are stiff and clenched. M1 and even more M4’s out-turned hands look particularly awkward. Getting past the sheer posing issues, M2’s chest and M4’s calves are a bit awkward. It would be nice to have a broader diversity of body types. Spiderman was cool at Day 1 (yes, I’m an old gray beard) because Peter Parker had a non-Superman physique. If there are enough poses, stylistic diversity would be fun, say by having your more realistic style for most poses, but a more Timm-like cartoony pose as well. “Here’s my character The Ferret, and here’s how he looks on his Saturday morning cartoon show.”

    Just my 2 bits.

  26. The problem with the pose is that it has to be a front-on, symmetrical one, pretty much, to allow you to flip items around and still have them fit.

    The idea in HM3 is that you’ll be able to rotate and scale various body parts to basically make your own body styles.

  27. Yes!
    I was hoping you would finish with the minis so you can finally work on HeroMachine 3.
    Awesome models, I actually like all of them.
    Can’t wait until you finally release this, I was waiting for it a while back, but I thought you forgot about it, but I guess you didn’t, I am one happy dude right now.

  28. Hey Jeff I understand your conundrum with the front on pose so I went on Google and typed in superhero poses and I think I have a couple ideas to maybe get the right pose.

    First off I found this pic (about halfway down titled “Elf Ranger commission — FINISHED at last!) The thing I thought was interesting was the way the arms show a slit bend at the elbow, and I think that could help, cause I think one issue with the Modern Warrior one was that the hands stuck out too far, because the arm wasn’t bent. If you use more of a 3D environment with the arms and add a little dimple on the inside elbow, but with the arms still pointing down that might help. The shoulders would probably have to be a little broad.http://www.sheldongoh.com/blog/

    Another thing is the legs. Again a slight bend could help, but also have the legs wide, rather than narrow, similar to the Modern Warrior except have the heels on the ground, rather than making it look like he’s on his tippy toes

    http://www.sideshowtoy.com/?page_id=4489&sku=4309

    And in the above link of a spiderman toy. The thing I think might be good to incorporate, is have the torso lean back just a tiny bit, similar to the M3 pose but face on.

    I know the body will be broken up, but I think a solid first pose is helpful. And I think HM3 should have the body as the default slot instead of the head.

    I’m going to keep looking, so we can get the pose. And then we can get to filling your computer with item ideas. I have a feeling you’re gonna hate us after this is over. But I hope not. πŸ™‚

    Also can you make separate slots for right and left. You can simply flip the items and permanently leave them flipped in the new slot. That way things like the randomizer can work by putting in an item for each slot. Just a thought.

  29. I do agree with the above comment that it would be nice to have a skinnier, lankier figure for more scientist types, sort of a more Reed Richards kind of thing.

  30. don’t know if this is possible but what if there were a way to scale your figure after you’d designed it to the way you liked without changing the gear, that way you could make your character fatter, skinner, shorter, taller, etc. and you could get the proportions right for different races like dwarves.

    btw I like m3. i think it’d be cool to have different action-style poses rather then them just standing there with the arms spread out like in the modern hero (which was otherwise cool)

  31. The problem with the straight on pose and rotating is that all you can do with the legs is scissor them. Since you won’t be doing 3D motion and most of leg flexibility is fore and aft, the legs will always be pretty stiff. (Not as bad as Liefeld’s mind you. You don’t have it in you to draw something that could even be scaled and rotated into something that bad.)

    The arms will be a somewhat more flexible, but I can’t help fearing that the result will be somewhat marionette-like. Who knows. You may pull it off. HM 1-present certainly show that how talented you are. Still I worry.

    Don’t let me rain on your parade, though. You have a vision of this thing, and just because it isn’t clear to m yet, doesn’t mean you can’t make this really great. For myself, I’d be willing to sacrifice a little flexibility (or even quite a bit) in the HM app for grace in the figures.

    Keep up the excellent work.

  32. That’s an excellent point, Brons, and something I am struggling with. The big advantage to the straight-on figure is not just the posability, but that I can re-use items more easily.

  33. Is there any way to get a small body? Not like the short stocky ones of HM 2.5 but short and slender, almost small child height? We play D&D and we have used HM to design our characters for like 2 years. Some of mine are very shirt and slender.

  34. wait a minute, isnt F2 Jean Greys pose from X-Men Evolution?
    drawn by Steve E Grodon ? oO

    its cool anyway