MTV Comics' Karl Altstaetter Discusses Me2 Character Development

Editor's Note: The is the first in a long line of guest blogs from our MTV Comics creators on the development of their stories, characters, art, and influences.  Get to know the creators and gain insight into their comics during the creative process. - Tom

Me2 Story/Character Development "Not Just Another Kid"

My name is Karl Altstaetter and I’m a writer/artist, probably best know for my self-published comic Deity. I am excited about the new comic project I have being published by MTV Comics, appearing exclusively on MTV Geek and available for download on comiXology. The title of my book is Me2 and it’s the story of a young girl named Crystal who suffers from a multiple personality disorder. If that wasn't bad enough things take a turn for the worse when Crystal finds out each one of her personalities has a super power!

I had been bouncing around the idea of Me2 in my head for years. Originally, I had planned a version of it as a follow up to Deity, but different ideas and opportunities got in the way so Me2 was put on the back burner. When I revisited the story I realized I had changed as a writer and as an artist and wanted to develop it with a different tone and perspective. The more I thought about the characters the more I focused on Crystal. Since her’s is the main personality (of the multiple personalities) she carries a lot of the burden of the story and she is our "in" as viewers into the world and story of Me2.

As an overall mood for the book, I had a strong sense that I wanted the story to bring a darker, supernatural slant to the idea of super powers. The idea of having super powers has always terrified me. And I don't think everyone who had them would put on tights and start fighting crime, I think most people would be scared out of their minds. This idea bled into my development of Crystal. Crystal wants to be normal but so many factors in her current life and her young past have made it impossible for her to be "just another teenager". Instead of wanting to be different she is just trying to fit in. With this in mind I wanted to have her strive to be normal in her deeds and actions but visually to have a few things that set her apart and hint at the struggles within. She needed to have her dark past and inner demons peeking out through the design while at the same time not pushing readers away. Crystal’s the main character so it's important for readers to empathize with her. Finding the balance between making Crystal likable and still having that edge has been the challenge I’ve set up for myself.

In this first exploration I wanted to focus on her body type and how it conveyed her emotional state. When the story opens Crystal has been committed to an insane asylum for the past 3 years. She hasn't seen much sunlight and she isn't great at interacting with new people. I imagined her to be a bit pale and skinny. In these designs I focused on her body language as aloof but guarded, along with a clothing style that was relaxed and low maintenance. She wants to fly under the radar, so her focus isn't on fashion.

From the very beginning I had imagined Crystal with a streak of color in her hair for multiple reasons. Visually it would set her apart and would make her easily recognizable. It also serves an important story element. I'd tell you more but I don't want to ruin it for you.

In this next design I started playing more with color. Color plays a huge part in the development of each of Crystal’s personalities. In this case I chose purple as her key color. Purple says royal and mysterious to me. Crystal is the "Queen" of the other personalities so that purple, coupled with the darker side of her personality, seemed to be the perfect choice.

In my experience how a character looks and feels really develops over the course of drawing the actual comic pages. In the pages and through the storytelling is where you really get to see the characters "act.” This often is where the subtle refinement of the design happens. Certain visual ideas get pushed forward while others are discarded. Designing and maintaining a character through their "life" in a story is a process. As I've started drawing the pages I can see that Crystal is becoming more fully realized. Like all good characters and character designs, Crystal is beginning to take on a life of her own.

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