Dr Mephistex and friends (webcomic)

Dr Mephistex was a character I originally designed about four years ago as the hero (or rather, anti-hero) of an adventure platform game I was working on at the time.

In the game, the good doctor had recently been bested by his nemesis, the space adventurer Zip Murphey who, having thwarted Dr M’s plans to take over the world got bored of being a hero and decided to use his robot army to take over the world for himself. Dr Mephistex then had to jump around in a typical platform style, solving puzzles, talking to people and shooting things in an effort to save the world from Zip so that he himself could rule it.

At least, that was the plan. As it turned out, the source file for the game decided to corrupt itself and since to me backing up is something that happens to other people, I could never finish it. However, being rather bored and in need of somebody to replace the sadly departed Bub (I really haven’t learned to back up), I decided to recreate Dr M in 3D, with a view to going on and making him the star of a new webcomic.

If you want to see what I am going for it’s probably easiest just to play the game. You can download the most complete version of the game before it got corrupted from here:

http://www.paul-jeffries.com/DocM.zip

Or, if you can’t be bothered but still want to see some ‘reference material’, here are a few screenshots:

http://www.paul-jeffries.com/drMscr1.jpg
http://www.paul-jeffries.com/drMscr2.jpg
http://www.paul-jeffries.com/drMscr3.JPG
http://www.paul-jeffries.com/drMscr4.JPG

Anyway, without boring you further, here is the model so far:

http://www.paul-jeffries.com/DrMrest.jpg

Here is his rig set-up:
http://www.paul-jeffries.com/DrMrig.jpg

And a few test-poses:
http://www.paul-jeffries.com/DrMlook.jpg

http://www.paul-jeffries.com/DrMrun.jpg

http://www.paul-jeffries.com/DrMdrop.jpg

Any crits about anything at all are welcome, though I’m especially interested in how you think the transition to 3D has gone. I’ve stayed pretty close to my original design for the character, but then he was originally designed to look good as a sprite about twenty pixels tall. Is there anything you think needs to be changed to make it work better as a 3D model? Does he need more detail, textures, ears?

Looks good!
The eyes are too simple for my taste though, keep the shades on unless you model them, I’d say.
Ears… eh. Seems ok as is.

Although he more like the evil scientist to me. Oh anti-hero. That makes more sense. The corrupted hero Zip sounds interesting too.

I went ahead and created a comic out of it, primarily to test how easy and fast the rig was. In the end it took just over an hour and a half to create the ‘set’, pose the armature, render, assemble and add speech bubbles in photoshop, which is fast enough, I reckon. Won’t be funny unless you’re familiar with BBC’s Dragons’ Den and lets be honest, probably not even then.

http://www.paul-jeffries.com/DrM1.jpg

dgebel: Thanks for the comment! The eyes have been a bit problematic for me, I have to admit.

I’ve tried several different ways of doing the eyes and this is the one that looked the best, while being simple, expressive and faithful to the original design. But, if anybody has any ideas of how they could be done better I will love them forever. Well, until at least four o’ clock, anyway. Though Dr M will mostly be keeping his shades on (they’re prescription lenses, you see), the supporting cast (see below) will not. Here’s a shot of him without his shades on so you can see the eyes better:

http://www.paul-jeffries.com/DrMeyes.jpg

And finally, what evil genius would stand a chance of success without a seductive, ambiguously eastern-european, highly-trained female assasin in a ridiculous skin-tight costume? Not many. So, this is Xenya:

http://www.paul-jeffries.com/Xenya.jpg http://www.paul-jeffries.com/Xenyastand.jpg

http://www.paul-jeffries.com/Xenyafight.jpg

I’m rather proud of the hair. It took a while.

The pose in the next to last frame of the comic is SUPEr.

I really like this style of character with proportions similar to stop motion characters like Bob the Builder.

The eyes are fine, but they all seem to have some kind of black smudge under them like a baseball player would have.

Maybe an alternative to consider would “anime” styled eyes. Instead of the ones you’re currently using (which remind me of Lego people eyes).

Example:
http://www.tutorialguide.net/anime_eyes_tutorial.html

Might give you a more expressive look, and still keep things simple.

Heh. Not bad!
Looks like those eyes will do the job. I was thinking more realistic, but I guess he just looked so cool with his shades… :wink:
The hair looks ok… from what we can see. Little bit hard to see. Maybe a side view would help the Ooos and Ahhs
You did the comic in 1.5 hrs? It would take me that long to get the first one done, if ever. sigh.
Awaiting the launch of Dr M now!

Thanks for all the comments, guys.

After having read what you’ve all said about the eyes and looking at the link that Dracofodder provided I’ve been thinking about they eyes a bit more. They are based on my method of drawing cartoony eyes in 2D, which is anime-inspired and so essentially a simplified version of many of the eyes shown in that tutorial. So, I have a thick line at the top to represent the top of the eye, the eyelash and the eyebrow, a black blob to represent the pupil/iris and a thinner line at the bottom to represent the bottom of the eye/lower eyelashes/top of the cheek. The whites of the eyes are therefore only implied. When drawing in black and white this isn’t a problem because all the skin is white, but in colour such as here it isn’t obvious. So, I’ve tried modifying the eyes by adding the whites:

http://www.paul-jeffries.com/Xenyaeyes.jpg

Personally, I prefer the older style, since it was softer and had more of an individual style. But then, I know what it’s supposed to represent so I’m not really a very good judge. So what I need to know is whether you guys prefer the old eyes or the new ones?

I’ve also been mucking about with Xenya’s colourscheme, seeing if an all-black catsuit looks better than the red and black one. I can’t really decide, so I’d appreciate opinions on that as well.

Oh, and I’m tweaking the hair, since after dgebel suggested I render a side-view of the hair I did just that and realised that rendered from the side it looks pants.

Eyes: definitely new ones preferred. Maybe a TINSY bit smaller though - the white makes them more visible now, thus looking bigger. B&W you need it bigger for the visibility I think.
Lego eyes! So that’s what it reminded me of!

Kind of prefer the multi-colour suit on her. Not sure about the boots, but the rest of the suit at least. Maybe red cuffs instead of boots, but then some of the ladies like the bright boots.

I really preferred the old eyes before… These are a little too… Angry looking (even for an assassin)

I’ve tried tweaking the size and shape of the eyes a little to make them a bit less freaky, and tried to make the whites a bit less… er… white…

http://www.paul-jeffries.com/DrMeyes2.jpg http://www.paul-jeffries.com/Xenyaeyes2.jpg

I think these look a lot better than the last attempt, but I still personally prefer the originals, they had a more cutesy tintin/asterix/bob the builder feel. I actually quite like lego men, anyway. The problem with having the whites is, I think, that the contrast with the black pupils makes their expressions seem a lot more intense. Plus it makes them look a bit, well, Sonic-y. I suppose I could add coloured irises to break it up but then where would the madness end? Ears? Nostrils? Proper teeth? I am, of course, still open to persuasion, though, so keep those votes coming in.

dgebel: Yeah, you’re definitely right about the colours on the suit. The main reason I wanted to change it is that Zip Murphey, when I get around to making him, will also have red/black clothes and I didn’t want it to look as if they were on the same side when they are in fact enemies. Still, if it does cause problems I can just change his colours when I get to him. Thanks for your continuing help.

Paul, the new eyes look good. I think you’ll be able to get more expression working around the whites. The lower lash line could be a bit thinner, though. I think you should experiment with different colored eyes, but ears? nostrils? no, no, that way lies madness… Besides, as long as the Dr. has only three fingers and wears shades, he doesn’t need ears. He never listens anyway, does he?

Try switching the red/black colors on the original cat-suit. Or all red – sure she’s a ninja assassin, but it’s a cartoon! Red is sexy.

The bottom eyelashes on the female kind of look like bags… she looks tired and old:p I would get rid of the bottom eyelashes, and make the top ones curved upwards to make her look younger

I woulda kept the originals. They seem to fit the model better. If you were going to detail bo with muscles and the likes then the later eyes would be more appropriate. Kinda reminds me of bomberman 64. I loved that game…

Could you share any tips on lighting / toon shading settings that you used for your Bub strip?

Mike

These characters are amazing! Great work!

But I have to cast my vote for the old eyes - they had more ‘expression’ to them. Anime may be very cool and all, but it doesn’t have anything to do with the style of these characters. Let’s face it, this world has too much anime anywe… :smiley:

Good luck - I can’t wait to see what you do with this.

The smaller whites are, I think, an improvement.
Eliminating her lower lashes could improve her looks, if that’s what you want. Definitely fierce looking as is.
A mostly red suit might look good, as long as it doesn’t stand out too much. Would show more detailing, but maybe you don’t want that for a ninja character.
No, nostrils/ears etc aren’t needed.
If you really prefer the dot eyes, then keep them! Your characters, and I will admit, one does get used to them. The white eyes do draw the attention, maybe more than you want them too.

Whoops, sorry I haven’t replied here for a while - I’ve been busy making new characters and comics, and a minisite to house them on:

http://www.paul-jeffries.com/drmephistex/

Have a look and tell me what you think. The website graphics are all done with blender as well, so they’re fair game too. I’ve got three comics up so far, and a good healthy backlog of a further six done. I’ve decided to stick with the old versions of the eyes; at the size each character appears in the strip the lower eyelashes I don’t think are too disruptive and in Xenya’s case I wanted her to appear a little… ‘feral’ in any case. However if I’m doing a close up, or if I have a more feminine character I may delete/re-size them.

Mike S: Do you mean the old strip or the new versions of the characters in that thread? I’m afraid I the old version so long ago that I can’t remember the exact settings, and the .blends got stolen, so I can’t look them up. I think it was just basic toon shaders, I think with specularity turned off for most objects bar the really shiny ones, and emit turned up to about 0.4 so that no areas were really black. Oh, and then toon edge-enhance switched on.

The new ones were pretty much the standard settings with ambient-occlusion turned on - I hadn’t really had much time to fiddle with the materials. Nothing very clever really went into either of them, I just tweaked stuff until it looked how I wanted.

Your site and strip rocks. That means great stuff, man!. All you need now is better layout and design of the strips themselves. Every panel is the same long shot. Some medium and close shots in the right places will really take it to a new level (plus it will show off those great character models more too). Balloons could use a little work too. Good idea with the accent via font. A little hard to read but it really works (not sure if I’ve ever seen that done before).

I highly recommend Drawing on the Funny Side of the Brain by Christopher Hart (about $20). There’s some great info in there about comic strip layout, joke writing, timing and rhythm, etc.

Again, this is a great start. I like the attitude. Hope you can keep it that flavor. Btw have any of your characters taken on a life of their own yet? Telling you, instead of you telling them, what they do and say? It will happen eventually.

… and of course everything I say here is IMHO. :slight_smile:

Thanks Larry, that was really helpful stuff. The next strip and all the ones after use a slightly larger font, so hopefully it should be easier to read (I’m just a lazy sod so I could never be bothered to go back and redo all the lettering for the first few strips). Good tip about changing the shots; it is a bit 'talking heads’ish at the moment. I’m finding that as I create more strips I’m gradually getting more adventurous with the shots I use. The strip I’m working on at the moment is a bit more of an action scene, so I’ll be able to use your advice to good effect, hopefully. And I’ll definitely check out that book; comic timing and rhythm in comic strips is something I’m keen to know more about.

Mephistex himself is pretty much an embodiment of the evil little voice that sits on my shoulder and whispers things in my ear (mixed with equal parts Stewie Griffin, Edmund Blackadder and Rodney McKay), so he’s been telling me what to do for a while now. The other characters I’m finding a little harder to write for as I’m not yet entirely sure what I want from them, but they’re gradually getting there, I think.

The model looks great. I dunno about the whites of the eyes, though. Personally, I thought the old ones had a lot more to them.