Over the next few days I'm going to be posting some of the unseen designs and preliminary art I made for the game. Turns out there's quite a bit!
Jill Off was a pretty tough gig, I guess, since I think one of the worst things a cartoon can do is make you feel like a creep just for looking at it. Japanese cartoons often feature cute cartoon characters having it off, and there is a fine line between that being cute and funny and being completely repulsive. A general rule of thumb is if it looks as though the artist was getting off on it when they drew it, then I'm probably going to want to throw up. Japan usually doesn't get this right! If you don't believe me google 'lolicon' and see for yourself. Sex + Cartoons can be the worst equation in the world!
So the odds were kind of stacked against me when I agreed to do the intro graphics for an S+M-themed take on Mighty Bomb Jack. BDSM isn't really my thing, but I wanted to be able to show the Queen and Jill's relationship in such a way that BDSM people would like and even identify with. At the same time, I didn't want it to alienate people, myself included, who might be turned off by that sort of thing. I've always admired European comics for the permissive attitude they have to sex in cartoons, so I decided I'd try and use that as a model for how I approached this. In Europe, cartoon characters can have sex or be sexy like it's no big deal. European comics creators often play sex for laughs, or just to establish relationships between characters, or even to titillate, but because of the open-minded attitude Europeans have to sex they usually manage to do it in such a way that it doesn't seem creepy or out-of-place. There are some Japanese creators who manage this too, like Monkey Punch (Lupin III). So with that in mind, I felt like there was a precedent for this kind of thing actually working.
Dessgeega had finished the sprite art when she asked me to contribute to the project, so the character of Jill was basically 'designed' when I came in. It was left to me to decide what she looked like close up, and this can be quite tricky. Do I make her into a funny little megaman character, or a grown woman? If she's a grown woman, won't that make the tone of the cutscenes too serious? Conversely, if she has childish proportions, is that going to look like some creepy Japanese lolicon moe thing? I'd already decided the queen had to be sexy and authoritative, and I imagined her as being a fully grown human with relatively realistic proportions. Would a child-like Jill look weird when put next to the grown-up Queen?
I sent Dessgeega the following sheet, which features a variety of Jills all with different proportions, and asked her to choose one. I figured that rather than over-think this conundrum myself I would just throw it open to her instinct, and see what she decided. The Jill in the top right has the same proportions as the Jill in the game, and is also similarly proportioned to characters like Super Mario, who is basically just a baby with a moustache. It's a standard videogame design. Bottom right is a slightly more realistic Jill, proportionally closer to more heroic characters like Link from the Legend of Zelda series. I decided I didn't want to go much more realistic than that, since the tone of the game is humorous- the more 'real' the characters look the harder they are to believe in and identify with.
Because Jill is an almost completely black character, I experimented with adding red details to make her stand out against the dark dungeon backgrounds. Since this would have compromised the idea that the character is wearing a rubber fetish outfit (rather than a crazy wrestler costume), we opted to keep the character black and make the backgrounds contrastingly bright colours.
Here another sheet of design, where I was just trying to get a feel for the character. On the top right is how the orginal Mighty Bomb Jack artists chose to Bomb Jack in all the promotional art. It's nice, but I figured Jill might be more loveable if she looks dumpy and podgy. It also seems to fit her character, since she's meant to be the submissive part of the relationship, it makes sense she'd be more babyishly proportioned, like she's unable to help herself.
Bottom right, I thought it was pretty funny that Bomb Jack went around with 'BJ'on his chest, and I thought it made sense for Jill to have 'J/O', but I couldn't make it stick.
More colour experiments! Jill is Batgirl?? You can also see my struggling to work out what kind of facial attitude and expressions she should have.
That's all for now! Be sure to keep checking back, as later this week I will be posting
-more po-faced and vaguely apologetic analysis
-unseen pictures of The Queen!
And of course if you haven't played Jill Off yet, please do! It's the game review sites in the Czech Rebpublic are already calling 'fanaticka skokanka'!