Character Contest 55 Winners!

Thanks to everyone who entered Character Contest 55: Capricorn Won! I have noticed that the Zodiac contests don't seem to generate quite as much enthusiasm as others, so I wanted to ask up front how you all feel about them -- keep going or give it up?

Anyway, I've gone through the submissions and have picked a few that I thought you would enjoy seeing. As usual, this is all just my personal opinion about what makes, first, the best image, and second, fits the contest theme best. If yours isn't highlighted here, that doesn't mean it wasn't good! I just have so much time and space and have to go with the ones that I think for one reason or another are particularly worthy of praise.

Off we go, with the winner coming at the very end!

I noticed a lot of satyr representations, but as I understand it, the god of the satyrs, Pan, is somewhat peripheral to the versions of the story in which he appears. It's not a human top with a goat bottom, it's a goat top with a fish bottom. Because myths need to make sense, dammit! I kid. I have to confess I deprecated the satyr-centric ones a bit, though several did make it as Finalists, but I felt there were more creative (and mythologically accurate) ways to go with it.

For instance, Airia's "Arysta" (thanks for ultimately naming the file right!) is a very nice image, particularly in the environment with the colored trees, the swirling winds, and dancing leaves. A kick-ass image can cover all sorts of other hiccups.

Asder's "Capricorn Girl" went with a fish bottom with the human top, which is off in the opposite direction. But, like Airia's, it's a very cool image. I like the line coloring and environment a lot. I don't quite understand why a mermaid would have furry clothing, but it's all good.

Fishsticks claims to have been lacking inspiration this week, but you certainly can't tell it by his fantastic "Tropic of Capri", a very imaginative way to approach the concept of Capricorn. The framed forest scene frames the figure very well. And the figure itself is wonderful, from the diaphanous dress to the wonderful hair adornments.

Iago Valentine took the fact that the date range for Capricorns falls in the dead of winter to inform his almost lyrical "Lady of Winter". I love the way he's faded out the background furthest in the distance to reinforce the idea that it's far off, gradually bringing up the color saturation as the elements come closer to the viewer's eye. The use of the star field as snow is great, too. And the character's expression of wistful sadness, reinforced by her hand positions and the flowing of the skirt, really elevates this image to a whole new level.

Kytana's star-god-made-flesh shows a ton of creativity both in concept and execution. Turning that horse body into a big gruff goat is genius. The red eyes, horns, and startling star on the forehead reinforce the idea that while this might look like a goat, it's definitely something more. Her use of warm brown tones throughout the foreground leaves and animals, offset by the cool purplish blue clouds makes for a very convincing, yet simple, setting.

I am determined to publish each of MLS's ongoing Zodiac Commandos as long as we have these!

Rancid's "Capricorn Man" is so fun I can barely stand it. By far one of the best Japanese animation style characters I've seen come out of HM.

Robo's "Capricorn" in some ways is the most traditional "super hero" submission, but I think it's very creative in concept (including aquatic and goat elements) and looks cool at the same time.

SpiderCow2010 nails the point I was trying to make about satyrs not being quite right in this brilliant send up of what is, let's be honest, one of the more nonsensical ancient myths:

Finally, you have to love Watson Bradshaw's fake movie poster featuring "Mergoat Kidder" and "Christoper Bleats"!

Which brings us to our Winner for this week. For me it was between three -- Iago Valentine, Fishsticks, and Kytana. I went back and forth and even got my wife's opinion. Ultimately, though, I decided to go with Iago Valentine's "Lady of Winter", for its ability to evoke an emotion and excellent all-around craftsmanship.

Congratulations to Iago Valentine and all the Finalists!

29 Responses to Character Contest 55 Winners!

  1. Airia says:

    Congrats Iago, you’re picture is truly beautiful!
    Jeff thanks for the mention but what are you talking about naming the file right? I thought I was doing it right.

  2. Airia says:

    I also really liked Kytana’s Star-God-Made-Flesh. Reminded me of Princess Mononoke.

  3. B. Clouser says:

    Congrats to the winnters! I’ll put my ‘Sacrificial Goat’ into the next critique day and see what I can do to spruce it up.

  4. Whit says:

    Congrats to Iago!

    So, I had a very busy weekend and didn’t get to finish my pic til just now (so glad the save feature works so much better than back in the day), so thought I’d post my depiction of the most famous Capricorn of all–The King.

  5. Me, Myself & I says:

    Congrats Iago, well done.

    Jeff, I certainly think that you should keep the Zodiac contests up. I suspect that part of the reason there are fewer entrants is that it is a little more specific topic matter than many of the others. When the criteria is more specific it requires more work to make an image that fits the concept.

  6. Frevoli says:

    I enjoy the zodiac contests, personally it reminds me of the FNF; trying to draw interpretations from the single characters and then working out how to fit them in with the others (I realise that not everyone has linked the characters, therefore I retroactively added the “personally”)

  7. Fishsticks says:

    Nice work Iago; you were very successful at conveying emotion. As an honorable mention, I personally liked Asder’s King Capricornus.

    Top three finalist?! Wowwee, thanks Jeff!

    I say keep the Zodiac theme going. I suspect Aquarius to draw up more attention.

  8. ams says:

    Congrats to all the finalists. Extra cudos to Iago for his great pic!

  9. Iago_Valentine says:

    Thank you, Jeff, and congratulations to all the other finalists! There were some great ones in this round, I’m genuinely surprised that the Lady made it to the top. The Zodiac themed contests, even if they’re not as popular, seem to draw out some exceptional work from the community, so I think we should definitely keep going with them.

  10. Jeff Hebert says:

    Happy for you, Iago Valentine, I’ve always thought you had a very distinctive personal style with your images that was remarkable.

    Let me know whenever you decide what you want for your prize either through a comment on any post, or via the Contact Us link up that top right, or by private message (

  11. Mr. Q says:

    Congratulations to all the competitors and to the winner, Iago Valentine. Your “Lady of Winter” went about and beyond all expectations. My hat is off to you for such a breath-taking piece. Anyone who ever questions Hero Machine as an art form need to talk to Iago.

    Mr. Q

  12. Myro says:

    Far be it from me to nix anyone else’s enjoyment of the Zodiac-themed contests, but I, for one, have had a hard time trying to wrap my head around my entries on this one each month. I’m not saying to discontinue the contest series, it’s just that the theme sometimes is so specific, it tends to generate a lot of the same type of character (i.e. Centaurs for Sagittarius, seemingly Satyrs more than Goat-fish for Capricorn), that I usually end up rebelling against the theme, and want to produce something slightly against type, which hasn’t really worked out the best for me.
    You might as well keep it going though, my mind is already trying to crank out a suitable idea for Aquarius.

  13. Me, Myself & I says:

    Myro (13) that is exactly the approach I took as well with my entries. Trying to break out of the mold so to speak. I figured making an image based on Caprica from the Cylon’s of Battlestar Galactica would be a little different. Then going for the humor option for my other entry. Honestly I like a lot of the images that were ‘out of the box’ so to speak.

  14. joel says:

    great jobs all around

  15. Watson Bradshaw says:

    wonderful job Iago Valentine, I actually like the zodiac theme, but yup Capricorn was a tough one to work with.

  16. spidercow2010 says:

    Very nice work, everyone, and congrats to I.V.
    Um, I feel I should mention that I wasn’t actually trying to do a send-up of anything–no satyr intended–with my entry. I was just going for a reversal of the front-end-goat/back-end-fish motif. I’m a little surprised it made it this far; I figured the best it would get was a half-smirk if somebody looked at it while stoned. Nevertheless, thanks.
    I also find the zodiac theme rather confining, especially given the inevitably finite number of images HM allows. I mean, how many goat and fish components are there? The prospect of having to think out of the box, do something that’s not just a slight variation on what 12 other guys are doing, and still stay within the contest theme is perhaps sufficiently daunting to discourage entries. My .02.

  17. Myro says:

    Spidercow (17): That, I think was what I was trying to say, only you seem to have made the point much more cleanly and eloquently than I did.

  18. Kytana says:

    Thanks, this was my first try.
    And gratulation the winner. Its good, but i personally believe that fischsticks pic was better.
    (And other better than me).
    And sorry for my terrible english.
    When it were better i can say more about that.
    So i try to explain short. Its hard work. When you find the time and the right pic in your head you can to anything to also witz short funds.
    I hope you unterstand what i mean. I find all contests very nice.

  19. unknownblackpaper says:

    Since I’m a Cancer, I was really looking forward to trying something awesome for the crab. Please keep the zodiac!

  20. B. Clouser says:

    I think it would be a shame to no finish the zodiac and just leave it hanging in space as an idea.

    However, it’s clear that some people are having a hard time with meeting the requirements. I don’t know if my Capricorn entry was too far off the confines of Capricorn or what, and that makes me apprehensive about future zodiac entries. So my point is, my confusion on the subject may also be happening to others and that is why there are less submissions. People don’t want to make new heros if they are sketchy on what is required.

    Perhaps broadening the requirements or giving people more of what you are looking for next time? I know you want to give us room to be creative though and we should be grown up enough to do our own research, but I’m still confused if my entry was too far off the beaten path or what.

    I’ll still enter and do my best but I’ll keep wondering if my stuff is suitable for the contest.

  21. XionUnborn01 says:

    I personally enjoy the Zodiac contests, though for some reason I had a big issue coming up with something for this one, but that’s just me.

  22. spidercow2010 says:

    @Myro(18): Just agreeing with you, buddy. I think your opinion crystallized my thoughts for me. You and MM&I(14).
    Just for the record, my input would be to keep plugging thru the zodiac, encourage creativity (it’s virtually required), and stipulate that if we can justify our choices in an accompanying paragraph, it’s all good.
    This however won’t help Kytana much, I realize (who, by the way, has a better command of English than I have of his language).
    And I think I do understand what he means (#18). It’s a rebuttal to my point. He says, “Its hard work. When you find the time and the right pic in your head you can to anything to also witz short funds.” In other words, this stuff ain’t easy, but if you’ve got a good image in mind and enough time, you can knock it out regardless of the limitations of the medium. Hell, come to think of it, I was taught in art class that a good artist never blames his tools. Oh, snap, Kytana. Touche! I’m outta here.

  23. Kytana says:

    Thats what i mean.
    And by the way the english stuff is not easy going too.
    Find the right word in my mind and try to explain what i think. With short vocabulary. Its pretty much the same.
    (my language is german btw)

  24. spidercow2010 says:

    @Kytana: Guten morgen, then. It’s morgen where I am, anyway.
    Yes, English is crazy. So many exceptions to rules. More exceptions than rules, I think sometimes.
    While we’re talking, let me say that your capricorn entry reveals more every time I look at it. There are tree insignias growing out of the tree trunk. The trunk and the swirling leaves have swirly patterns masked onto them. You’ve used the cloudbank, much reduced, as foliage below the chipmunk. I’m not at all sure how you did the lighter-toned, fading-at-the-edges area on the goat’s chest. Wunderbar! With all due respect to everyone concerned, I would’ve given you the win.
    One more thing. I’ve been referring to you using the words “he” and “his.” Am I wrong?

  25. Me, Myself & I says:

    XionUnborn01 (22) I find it interesting that you mention specific difficulty with this particular contest. I found the Capricorn Zodiac a little more difficult as well because it is difficult to quantify including goat and fish elements together. They generally just don’t mix. You really got to step outtside of your standard expectations. It’s for that reason that I enjoyed it I think.

  26. Kytana says:

    You can also say “Servus”! (hello) Becaus i came from Austria, not from Germany.(its not the Land with the kangaroo);)
    i used for the brest woman hair that looks like a hood or cover. I wont use more pattern but i have problem with heromachine. He clear the horn that i would make bigger and i can not used more patterns. I noticed that is a little bit buggy. I save often but it dont works. So i have no time
    to make it again or put more background in the picture.
    In end of all or language is not better to unterstand and lern as yours. But i hope i make not so many mistakes.

  27. Kytana says:

    Sry for two post.
    “One more thing. I’ve been referring to you using the words “he” and “his.” Am I wrong?”
    Yes you wrong, but not problem for me. Many guys play in mmo female characters an took a name like She-hulk. 😉
    And i hope the next zodiac contest come soon.

  28. Kaylin88100 says:

    My entry (if it was on time) would have been: