The Comics

Hero Machine Contests

For the last few months, I've been entering my work in the Hero Machine character design contests. "Hero Machine" is a character design web application created by Jeff HebertJeff Hebert. It focuses heavily on superheroes, but can be used for fantasy and science fiction character design as well. All good comic book fodder. Jeff is working on version 3 of HM, and uses the contests to help keep up interest in the project and to spur on a lot ofbeta testing. It works out well for everyone. Here's a run down of my entries, most of which have finished as honorable mentions.

Britomartis and Britomart
Character Contest 73: Virgo
September 26th, 2011-October 3rd, 2011
"Britomartis and Britomart"

Yes, your challenge for this week is to design the coolest character image possible with the theme of “Virgo“. You could design something reminiscent of famous virgin warriors in history like Diana or Artemis, or you might design a spacecraft named “Virgo”, or you might draw inspiration from the historic origins of the name.

When I first read this contest, the image that came to mind was of a Minoan goddess called “Britomartis”, which means “Sweet Maid” or pretty much what “Virgo” means. Also, since her name comes down to us through the female Knight of Spencer’s Fairy Queen, I thought of Britomart. And so I set myself the task of capturing my image of both Britomartis and Britomart.

The Red Gang
Son of Son of Friday Night Fights!
September 9th, 2011-October 24th, 2011
"The Red Gang"

You have two weeks to come up with five HeroMachine creations. Starting on Friday, September 23, I will post all of the “Play In” entries in one big cage-match poll. On Friday, September 30, the top 16 vote getters will face off in a series of head-to-head matchups in traditional tournament bracket fashion. On Friday, November October 7, the eight winners of each bracket will face off in another round of head-to-head matchups, and so on until we have one overall winner.

See the Red Gang on the Family page.

Cosmic Ray
Character Contest 72: The Power COSMIC!
September 5th, 2011-September 12th, 2011
"Cosmic Ray"

My first thought upon reading this challenge was of a character named Cosmic Ray, once just an test pilot named Ray, who flew his bird far too high and to fast. Lost on the verges of space, he was never heard from again, but 20 years later, at least in his mortal form. Twenty years later he returned in the ghostly form of the energy being,Cosmic Ray. (OK, it’s a schlocky Dr. Solar, Captain Atom sort of origin, but hey, I grew up on those.)

Queen of Hearts
Character Contest 71: In the Cards
August 22nd, 2011-August 29nd, 2011
"Queen of Hearts"

Here she is, The Queen of Hearts, stepping out of the Deck and into the comics.

I suppose she should have a couple of tarty young side kicks.

The Colonel
Character Contest 69: Faceoff
July 25th, 2011-August 2th, 2011
"The Colonel"

With thanks to Hammerknight for the suggestion, your Character Design Challenge this week is to create an awesome face. That’s right, all entries this time around must be a portrait only of someone who looks interesting, cool, and/or awesome. When I say portrait view, I mean a close-up of the character’s head, roughly from the shoulders up to just above the top of the head.

Known only as “The Colonel”. this mystery man is thought to have once been The Man in Red, the world’s first costumed man of mystery, though he doesn’t look old enough to be been active for over 70 years. The Colonel heads the sprawling superhero clan known as “The Family”. Seldom active in the field, he has none the less displayed a devastating mastery of Tai Chi, and extraordinary strength.

Space Girl
Character Contest 66: Cyborg!
June 13th, 2011-June 20th, 2011
"Space Girl"

Your challenge this week is to design the coolest looking Cyborg character you can. Note that I’ll be looking for entries that not only pass the “Does it look awesome” test, but that are actually combinations of organic and technological parts to make up the whole. Pure robots or pure androids, in other words, wouldn’t really qualify.

She is Tisiphone, a cold Techno-Fury from an apocalyptic world. I tried to make her wild and feminine as well as mechanical, and to integrate the flesh and artifice as smoothly as possible (who knew there were so many uses for boobs in this thing?).

Space Girl
Character Contest 64: Legionnaire!
May 16th, 2011-May 23th, 2011
"Space Girl"

I’ve been a fan of the LSH since their first appearance, which I suppose tells you something about my age. My entry tries to capture a little of the look of the 50′s: aliens who were just humans with a different skin color, space helmet globes, ala Space Ranger and Cosmic Boy, but updated a little.

She is Karna B’rwon, aka Space Girl. Evolved among a race of asteroid dwellers, she can live in space, but earth’s atmosphere is toxic to her. She can absorb any form of energy and survive in pressures from zero to greater than the deepest seas. This renders her invulnerable to all energy weapons, and hand carried kinetic weapons. The absorbed energy nourishes her and allows her to fly.

Glamorous and beautiful, she cannot touch or be touched by anyone who requires an atmosphere. On Earth, or any inhabited planet she has to wear a protect suit–later a forcefield created by Brainy–and space helmet. She often comes off as cold, stand-offish — untouchable.

Character Contest 63: Taurus
May 2nd, 2011-May 9, 2011

When I started with the notion of creating a Taurus-based member of a Zodiac-themed supervillain team, I had some pretty specific notions in mind, but somehow he “just growed”. He’s now less bullish, a little more Zeus, the Greek thunder god, and wandered a little more Thor-ward than I expected.

So, here’s my Taurus, the member of the new Zodiac team who will go toe-to-toe with Thor when they take on the Avenegers. He kinda makes me want to flesh the team out a smidge.

Fantasy Warrior - Female
Character Contest 62: Fantasy Warrior
April 18, 2011-April 25, 2011
"Fantasy Warrior - Female"

I need to add the HeroMachine 2 list of "sample characters" into the HeroMachine 3 Templates, and I want you all to be the ones to design those instead of me.

Character Contest 53: Bad Guy
December 27, 2011-April 25, 2011

Granted, it’s called the “Hero” machine, but let’s be honest — the Flash programming environment is fairly value-neutral. Which means it’s time for you to unleash your inner bad-guy!

It seemed like the easy way out was lots of weapons, blood or fire, the markings and symbols of evil. So I set myself the task of creating the Man of Menace, keeping it, as I usually do, as simple as possible, or at least simple looking. Not sure how well it worked, but here is the black sheep of the family, Eev-El.overlords!

Princess Sagitaria
Character Contest 52
December 13th, 2010-December 20th, 2010

Known as the Centaur or the Archer to the Greeks, and “The Soldier” by the Babylonians, your challenge for this week is to design a character based on the concepts suggested by the Zodiac sign “Sagittarius“.

I was late in posting on this one. I didn't finish till after the deadline, but I liked the character, so I posted it anyway:

My entry is the Princess Sagitaria of the Elder Wood. She’s the very young granddaughter of the Old King, the original Sagitarius. As the Fays and Wer Houses withdrew from Earth long before her birth, she knows humans only as old mare’s tales told to scare the younglings into behaving. Now, as she seeks to venture into the World of Men, she is going armed with the finest of weaponry, her bow and inquisitive mind, and painted for the hunt.

Battle Rain

The Night Baroness
Character Contest 38
June 28th, 2010-July 5, 2010

Whoever comes up with the best character based on a random name generated by Seventh Sanctum Superhero/Villain Name Generator will win his or her choice of either any item they like, or a portrait, to be included in the final HeroMachine 3 version!

"Battle Rain"

I didn’t like any of the batch I got, but the first of them “Battle Rain” got me thinking of Valkyries and Battle Crows, the Morrigan and, well Napalm. And so, here is the modern incarnation of the the Morrigan, “Battle Rain”, who brings a rain of fire and destruction, all while looking photogenic and fetching…

"The Night Baroness"

OK. The second spin of the wheel had a much better name than any of the ones in the first batch. Elizabeth Batthory once more walks the earth, known now as the The Night Baroness…

Nikki Chopper, Robo-Girl
Character Contest 29
Mar 8, 2010-Mar 15, 2010

In honor of the wee-inducing release of the Iron Man 2 trailer today, Character Contest 29 challenges you to come up with the best “Power Armor” character you can.

I decided to make the task a little more challenging by trying to create a feminine powersuit character, "Robo-Girl".

The Bodacious She-Thing

Rak-El, The Rising Flamebird

The son of Elektra and Daredevil
Character Contest 28
Feb 22, 2010-Mar 8, 2010
"Child of..."

With a heartfelt tip-o-the-hat to UGO Forums user RoboZ from waaaaay back in the day of 2003 (jeepers, I forget sometimes how long HeroMachine has been around!), your challenge for this week is to create a character who is the child of two established super-heroes. For instance, what might the super-powered child of Clark Kent and Hawkwoman be like (it was a long, boring night of duty on the JLA satellite station, let’s say)?

I've produced three entries for this contest:
  • The Bodacious She-Thing, daughter of the She-Hulk and the Thing
  • Rak-El, The Rising Flamebird, the son of Kal-El (Superman) and Jean Gray (Marvel Girl, aka Phoenix)
  • The (as yet nameless) son of Elektra and Daredevil

Mr. Scarlet and Pinky
Character Contest 26
Jan 25, 2010-Feb 8, 2010
"Golden Oldies"

Your challenge this week is to bend your enormous creative skills (with a little help from HeroMachine, of course) to the task of reimagining one of these other four masked men. Take their fundamental concept and twist it, change it, tweak it, update it, make it modern and cool and stylish.

From left to right on the cover, your targets are (click to get more info on them) Spy Smasher; Bulletman; Minute Man; and/or Mr. Scarlet.

My entry was "Mr. Scarlet and his sidekick Pinky".

Nighthawk, the Dagger of Monthu
Character Contest 24
Dec 29, 2009-Jan 5, 2010
"Super enemies"

This time, your challenge is to develop a bad guy! Come up with the best enemy for an established character, explaining who the person is and how they’re related to the main character.

My entry was "Nighthawk, the Dagger of Monthu", an enemy created for Marvel's Moonknight.

Father Frost
Character Contest 23
Dec 8, 2009-Dec 15, 2009

This week's contest was to come up with the best character based on a fable. You might mine classic fables like those from Aesop (the Big Bad Wolf, Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Three Blind Mice, etc.) or Arabian fables like those from “1001 Arabian Nights” (Ali Baba and the Seven Thieves, Aladdin, Sinbad, etc.) or even American Folklore (Paul Bunyon and Babe the Big Blue Ox, Pecos Bill, John Henry, etc.).

My entry was "Father Frost" or "King Frost", a character from a Russian fairy tale.

The Bronze Dragon
Character Contest 21
Nov 10, 2009-Nov 17, 2009

The premise of this contest was that you had to produce an illustration based on a randomly generated character name.

After rejecting a few choices, I was offered "Bronze Dragion" and decided to explore the recently added features for creating a female character.

Nightshade 1 & 2
Character Contest 17
Sep 22, 2009-Sep 29, 2009
Mirror Universe

"Your challenge is to design two versions of the same character, one “good” and one “evil”. They might be from mirror universes ... or they might be twins of the one-good, one-evil variety..., or one might be an evil clone of the other..., or whatever else you like."

Nightshade in either form is a ghostly figure of retribution. In the first image, we see him as an agent of Justice. The second Nightshade is a figure of cruel vengeance, continuing, rather than atoning for his misspent life. In many ways it was the most thought out design I've done for the contests.

Imperial Eagle & American Eagle
Character Contest 17
Sep 22, 2009-Sep 29, 2009
Mirror Universe

I submitted a second entry to this contest. In sort of keeping with the "Mirror, Mirror" origins of this contest, which its Empire vs Federation motif, we have an Imperial Eagle vs an American Eagle.
The Imperial Eagle represents a militaristic authoritarian world, whereas the American Eagle is a more individually heroic democratic hero.

Character Contest 16
Sep 8, 2009-Sep 15, 2009
"Progression" - Golden Age/Modern Age

"Give us two designs for the same character concept, one that was (supposedly) introduced in the Golden Age and then its modern reinterpretation."

I overshot the goal a little on this one doing 1939, 1959, 1979, and 199 versions of "The Man in Red", a bit of a twist on a character who may have been the first femal sperhero, "The Woman in Red".

Character Contest 11
July 7th, 2009-July 14, 2009
Black Terror

"In the 1940's a dashing figure cut a swathe through the criminal comic book underworld, by the name of "The Black Terror". Your task is to update that character for a relaunch in the present day.... Come up with the best character reimagining around the name "The Black Terror" to win."

I tried to do a faithful version of the original character and then took two approaches, a "grim and gritty" modern character, and then merely updating the original Terror to a more modern aesthetic.

The Patriot
Character Contest 10
June 30, 2009-Jul 7, 2009
"Patriot" theme for the 4th of July

"Come up with the best character illustration centered on anything related to July 4..."

"Patriot" to me has always conjured up the image of Isaac Davis and his neighbors who fought a few miles from where I live during the Battle of Concord.

Character Contest 8
June 16th, 2009
"Your Character"

Your challenge for this week is to make an illustration of a character you either currently play, or have played in the past, in an RPG of some sort.

This is Erylthorne, the Centaur ranger that I played in a D&D campaign some 33 years ago. It was a lot of fun trying to recreate him in HM3, and the result is very much the way I pictured him when he first joined the party.