Designing Alexander

Caption: Alexander's final character design sheet, showcasing his expressions, physique and construction alongside historical sources for his design. I will discuss them below.

-

How do you design a king with many faces?

Most characters require a number of iterations for their design, which can vary a lot. For example, The Servant's design took 3 attempts across two drawings, while Hephaestion's required several months and many drawings until he looked perfect.

And there are the special, rare characters who come out almost fully realised from the start. Alexander is one of those.

This is my second ever drawing of Alexander in December 2018, based off the Plutarch description, the Alexander Romance, and the Lysippos statue. Those three were my core sources for designing Alexander's primary face.

  • "The outward appearance of Alexander is best represented by the statues of him which Lysippus made, and it was by this artist alone that Alexander himself thought it fit that he should be modelled. For those peculiarities which many of his successors and friends afterwards tried to imitate, namely, the poise of the neck, which was bent slightly to the left, and the melting glance of his eyes, this artist has accurately observed. Apelles, however, in painting him as wielder of the thunder-bolt, did not reproduce his complexion, but made it too dark and swarthy. Whereas he was of a fair colour, as they say, and his fairness passed into ruddiness on his breast particularly, and in his face." Plutarch, Parallel Lives, Part 1.4
  • "And the child grew, and was weaned ; and he became strong, and increased in stature and wisdom ; but as regards his form and appearance, he was neither like Philip, nor Olympias his mother, nor the god by whom he was begotten, but his features and looks differed from theirs, for his hair resembled the mane of a lion, and one eye was different from the other, one being white {light} and the other black {dark}; and his teeth were sharp like a razor, and his steps were firm like those of a lion. From his person then it was evident what he was destined to become afterwards." Pseudo-Callisthenes, Alexander Romance, Book 1 Chapter 13.
  • Alexander's shortness has been mentioned here and there by historians. I am unable to recover the specific sources I used ages ago, but this Reddit r/askhistorians post more or less explains how I got the numbers.
  • And his stockiness as well. In these early drawings I wasn't very good yet at drawing big men.
  • And some keywords: sensitive, pensive, off, English lit major vibes (I think I meant something akin to a Byronic college guy, which is a species of young adult I have seen in my humanities classes)

Caption: The first character design sheet for Alexander. You can see an early Hephaestion here.

With his basic design settled, it was only due to time and growing familiarity that his design matured into something usable in a graphic novel. Comics requires a lot of drawing the same character over and over again, which means a comic character's design needs to be efficient (for the creator) so time is not wasted tripping over a detail. It also has to be iconic, because these drawings have to be memorable (you don't want to confuse Alexander with another character) and distinctive in relation to the other visual elements on the page . Lastly, and maybe this is something that's only very important to me, the character needs to be expressive. They have to be able to pose and emote non-verbally, so that anyone who can't read the dialogue will be able to glimpse the story from the character's face or body language. Or get nuanced emotion that isn't available via dialogue, as unlike novels, there are little to no narrative description to fall back on. I'd always pick expressiveness and flexibility over too much abstraction or detail.

I also based Alexander's design off two real-life people: Dean Lewis for the face and hair, and Joe Kovacs for the body. I don't follow them too closely, but having real people to observe helps with making Alexander feel believable and human.

Newsletter

Follow the 21st century graphic novel retelling of the Alexander Romance, a historical-fantastical account about the life, deeds and legends of Alexander the Great. Never miss a single update.



Privacy policy