Behind the scenes: Character heights

Closeup of scribbly sketchbook doodle showing Morio, Emmie, Fara and the Prince standing next to each other, alongside rough height estimates.

I generally have a sense of relative height when it comes to my characters. For instance, I intentionally designed Emmie to be shorter than most adult humans they would meet, and I “knew” Morio was about a head taller than Emmie, and that Mrs. G was very short. Beyond that, I tended to decide on a whim while sketching a panel in terms of what felt right, and then in the future keep coming back to past panels to doublecheck and make sure I was still consistent.

Making character style or model sheets seems like a no-brainer to help creators avoid headaches every time we need to remember exactly how we designed something. For some reason I just never seem to get around to it. I make rough sketches of parts of things in my sketchbook and if I’m feeling particularly motivated or organized I might eventually take a photo or scan it and organize it in folders to be able to reference it easily. The reality is I usually end up flipping resignedly through my old sketchbooks trying to find a certain instance where I came to a decision on something. Every so often I can’t find my solution, so I end up working out another version of it. And that’s how inconsistency perpetuates, haha.

Photo of brown-toned sketchbook page with brush pen drawing of several characters standing next to each other: Emmie, Morio, the Prince, an identified character, and the Crescent Asura standing in the foreground.

This is the first attempt at a height chart I can find, in 2015. (At least, it’s a drawing clearly intended to be a height chart, and not just Emmie and Morio standing next to each other.) The gladiators have different non-human designs and interact directly with the main characters, so I put more effort than usual into working out details around relative heights. The character in the back is actually an early version of the Lady of the Sea. I would say she’s much taller than this now.

In 2016 I drew a new version, my most comprehensive height chart attempt. This one even has actual height measurements! Again, the first character on the left is an early version of the Lady of the Sea at 6-8′, followed by: the Crescent Asura at 6’4″-6’6″; Morio at 6′; Fara slightly behind him with a label reading “projection”; Emmie at 5’2″; the Prince at 5’5″. The blue lines to the right of the Prince were intended to help me figure out the relative heights of the laundrybots.

Photo of sketchbook page with scribbly drawing of several characters standing next to each other marked with heights, as well as several coloured lines that seem to be background shapes or boxes.

Emmie at 5’2″ and Morio at about 6′ are really the only two I feel settled on; everybody else is really a relative comparison against that in my mind. Aside from the above, here are a couple others, for fun!

Photo of sketchbook page with sketches in green ink of the delinquents from Chapter 0. There are drawings of portraits of the characters and all three of them standing, with a rough drawing of Emmie yelling for height comparison.

These are the delinquents from Chapter 0 who are scared off by Emmie. I actually found a drawing with a fourth delinquent but then I realized I didn’t need four characters to play the scene. If you check out the actual scene, Emmie spends most of the panels looking rather chibi so the heights are not really exact.

Here’s the Lord of the Earth standing up in a height comparison. Everybody else is in chibi form, and the Little Ones are significantly larger relative to the Lord of the Earth, but as a rough comparison that was all I needed. (For those interested, you may notice the Lord of the Earth is labelled “Lord Dizang”. He was indeed inspired by the Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha or Dizang Pusa, who appears in my short story Tusita’s Last Tenant.)

Photo of sketchbook page with the Lord of the Earth (his head still missing and undergoing maintenance) looming over a viewform with Emmie, Morio B and Morio A looking up at him. Emmie is exclaiming in amazement while Little Ones fly out of the Lord of the Earth's sleeve, circling them.
Photo of very rough sketchbook doodle of the M-series family - Morio, Emmie, Yùzǐ and Shiny, in summer outfits.

Last but not least, here’s a fun doodle of the M-series family in summer wear, going out for a day trip to the beach or something. Yùzǐ and Shiny are the exact same heights.

I’m very excited to say that I did finish production of Now Recharging Book 3 – and it will be debuting at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF) this month!

TCAF takes place in person April 29-30. Due to pandemic concerns, I will only be exhibiting in the Digital Marketplace, which is open for a much longer period of time than the physical festival. My comics/zines/art will be available for buying outside of Canada and the US – yay! I plan to have some show specials too – if you’re interested in the Genjimonogatari card deck keep an eye out, hint hint!

TCAF Digital Marketplace (Open from April 21-May 7!) – TCAF official website

The marketplace will be showcasing works from amazing creators all over the world, and you can explore and shop from all of them at once instead of dealing with separate stores/shipping. This still blows me away – it’s such an impressive thing to coordinate, and so great for small indie creators and the readers who support them alike!

Please check it out if you can – I find it a very inspiring event!

Sending you all splendid thoughts of spring and warm moments of kindness,

♥ Maiji (April 17, 2023)

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