Sketch Fridays #39 – Shockwave

As mentioned last week, Shockwave rounds out the roster of the team Josh Tobey and I created together in high school––as early as 1994, it seems––and have been redesigning for the last month or so using my (our) modern aesthetic sensibilities and tastes. The last remaining character to redesign was one called “Shockwave,” or “the character with electricity powers.” And, as such a description indicates, he was a bit underdeveloped as a character, but they all kind of were. I think that the only character on the team to have a full name (outside of the code name) was Razorpoint (Shane Yashido) and, even then, Shockwave had the most hazy backstory/development of all the characters (with the exception of, perhaps, Backfire because girls are scary).

To that end, Shockwave––who started life as, apparently, a character named “Firespark” who then became “Firestorm” before settling on “Shockwave”––was mostly a tabula rasa character when approaching the redesign. Last week we saw the character’s creator share his crack at the redesign and, this week, I round out this trip down memory lane with my interpretation.

Firestorm, the prototype for Shockwave, drawn in 1994.

Unlike Katana before him where I designed my interpretation before seeing Josh’s reimagining, this time I had seen Josh’s version beforehand and tried my best to not be influenced by what had already been done.

The original character’s power set was basically electricity-based. For the redesigns, both Josh and I started from that foundation. In fact, both he and I had the same thought: as a character that generates electricity, think of him as a conductor––what kind of design could we come up with that could contain that amount of power?

Another (blurry) Firestorm from ’94, based on a pose by Jim Lee.

For my redesign, I again went into the character and how he relates to the premise of this reboot. If all of the members of the team (except Katana, though he may be revealed as a possible source) are infected by this techno-biological virus, then how does it manifest differently for Shockwave against the rest of the team?

My first thought was to go full John Carpenter, body-horror with Shockwave, to make him a mass of banded steel and pipes that was a cross of the blob (from the classic horror movies) and Tetsuo’s final form in Akira. After thinking about that for awhile, I came to a few conclusions: first, that’s gross and hard to draw. Second, of the redesigned characters so far, what hasn’t yet been done? To this point, all of the characters (Backfire and Razorpoint, specifically) have a visible manifestation of the virus and their bodies have become modified amalgams of biological growth and techno-organic infestation.

Which led me to  a simple question: what if you couldn’t see the infection? Which begged the follow-up: what if the reconstitution of flesh into bionics were completely internal?

So, the basic interpretation is that, of all the members of the team, Shockwave looks “uninfected” in that no real techno-organic material has surfaced. Instead, it’s his internal systems and organs that have been affected, the consequence of which seems to allow him to generate massive amounts of electricity. However, as is the case with electricity, it is difficult to manage or control through basic willpower. So, he wears an insulated suit that has technology built into it that allows him not only a modicum of control over this energy, but also allows for a variety of uses.

Development sketches and notes for the Shockwave redesign.

I wanted him to fly, since that was integral to the character back in the ’90s, so I tried to (with my limited knowledge about electricity) reason out a way to do that. So, the gauntlets he wears, with the bar across the palms, allow him to basically act as an electromagnet. He can pull things toward him and push them away and, after much practice, can allow him to levitate, at first, and ultimately fly. On his thighs and on his back are actually batteries that allow him to store excess energy generated as well as to tap into them to give his own systems a boost when he needs extra speed or to let out a huge blast of electricity.

Ultimately, it was fun adding accoutrements to the suit and not have it look too silly (to me) and I feel he has the most overlap, visually, with his old self’s costume. That makes sense because, for both Josh and me, we both apparently had a lot of fun drawing this character in high school and he was basically just a costume.

Looking at these characters now yields a very unexpected response. I thought it would just be a throwaway exercise but, for all of them, I look and see four characters I would actually like to draw and write, to flesh them out (give them names, for one!) develop backstories and a team dynamic and, perhaps, tell their story. I don’t know, but the surprising fallout of this experiment was how inspiring it ended up being. There are more characters in my sketchbooks from that time, but I’ll wait on bringing them out and try doing some other stuff for Sketch Fridays for awhile.

I’ll wrap up with one last really old, embarrassing drawing that has Josh and I drawing our respective Mary Sue characters on the same page. Those early drawing years were fascinating because I was drawing so much and, looking through these sketchbooks, I was improving so fast (the leaps I made in 1994 alone are staggering) that I kind of almost wish I could travel back in time and watch happen in real time. I kind of wish I still had that amount of gusto, but I also know that even though it’s more incremental now, I’m still improving. One thing I know for sure is that if I went back in time and showed fourteen year old Dan the work I’m doing now, he’d hate it. Top to bottom. And then he’d go right back to drawing, getting better with every line.

My character, Venture, with the medieval version of Josh’s character, Katana, in a collaborative drawing from 1994.