The newest Warriors novel, Crookedstar’s Promise will be released next Tuesday, July 5th and it features an exclusive manga that I illustrated. This was a fun project that gave me a short break from working on the Skyclan trilogy. It was cool to design the look of Crookedstar as well as revisit some old characters like Graystripe and Silverstream. Portraits of Crookedstar have already appeared in Cats of the Clans and on the cover of the upcoming novel, both illustrated by the amazing Wayne McLoughlin so I was able to use those as a starting point when designing the character. However, for the comic, my version of the Warrior cats must be a little more expressive than a real feline and slightly anthropomorphic. Below are the paintings by McLoughlin as well as my first take on the leader of Riverclan.
After submitting this version of Crookedstar to my editor, I was asked to emphasize his deformed jaw even more. Sometimes, it’s easier to show the “grotesque” in a cartoon than in a more realistic painting. Below is the final character design. As you see, I kept the same markings as in the portraits but added the protruding tooth and a more “fatherly” expression. I wasn’t sure how everyone would feel about the tooth but the editors at Harper liked the addition!
It takes a while to get a character “right” but I think Crookedstar ended up with a lot of personality. Here are a few panels from the comic (minus the text) that show the process from thumbnail sketch, to tighter pencils, to hand inked and digitally toned illustration.