I just really didn’t want to follow the brief for this exercise so I thought about what the exercise was looking at and wrote my own brief. I thought the exercise was about trying to rebrand something which has a very stereotyped brand and trying to update it.
My brief is to develop a cartoon / comic book character called “The Gma”. (This is short for Grandma) The series is not aimed at children, more in the lines of the Marvel comic books / graphic novels which are aimed more towards an older audience. The writer wants the character to be an older lady but not in the usual grandmotherly mode. She is not conform to the stereotypes of a little old lady with a wrinkly face bent over a stick which is the typical cartoon figure with older people being characterised as being very wrinkly, physically frail.
This character, the Gma, has overtones of “The GodFather”. She is a powerful, albeit shadowy figure, she is an arbiter of wisdom and judgements, doesn’t take any shit, steps in when necessary. She is active and surprisingly physical. The challenge is to portray the character as an older lady without using the easy stereotypes of little old ladies.
Research and Ideas
I googled cartoon old ladies and found nothing helpful, more stuff I didn’t want to use. I made some drawings but very quickly thought that I could make the character an animal. The graphic novel “Maus” uses mice as the human characters which does not take away from the integrity of the story being told and in fact makes it bearable to read. I am a big fan of Lynda Barry and as well as human characters she has a regular cast of animals, the “near sighted monkey” and the cephlapod.
I liked the idea of the character being a cat, the inscrutable, loner aspect, the way cats are always their own masters. I thought that the fur could be grey/ silver, the sex signified by the hair ribbon (and a homage to the near sighted monkey). The half moon glasses were surprisingly good signifiers of age.
I thought of a few settings in which to place the Gma to show her character, doing yoga, doing weights, giving advice, working in her studio, working on the computer, having a coffee.
I also thought about lettering, ‘signage’ that could accompany the Gma. I drew out a title using a graphite stick and played around with it a bit. I used graphite for thought and word bubbles, in keeping with the silver colour. I tried Bradley Hand font but preferred an actual handwritten font.
I decided to use mainly orange, purple and green as the main colours. I experimented with a few backgrounds, preferring a textured, to a flat background.
I was quite happy with the images and text that I produced. I noticed that I needed to put more thought into the placement of text on the images, but I had spent a lot of time on this exercise and I wanted to stop fiddling around with details. At the moment these are just a collection of images but I was happy to have made a start which I want to build on.