Chinatown Evolution: The Kids
Our book started as a manuscript—all text, a few rough sketches, and lots of ideas in our heads. As the book evolved and progress on the manuscript continued, we started working out our characters on the page. In some ways, designing the youngest generation of Chinatown—the kids—was especially challenging. Let’s start with Damon, who we described in an early draft like this: “Damon Chan, Lucy’s older brother, has thick framed glasses. He’s a smart, mean, angry little twerp.” Damon’s character design was largely unchanged as the creative process went on. We wanted him perpetually angry and uncomfortable with life, which often made him insightful, even if immature. For his design we had a great reference, since he looks an awful lot like Brad. His “Legend” shirt is part of the pop culture branding Brad designed for the larger Chinatown world.
Amy gets introduced early on (page 2, actually) so getting her character design spot on was very important to us. She gets introduced hanging out in Lucy’s room, and in our early notes we described her this way: “Amy is thinner and prettier [than Lucy], with more skepticism and savvy than her friend. She’s also a bit older, more modern, more androgynous, and has an angular face.” We always imagined Amy older than Lucy (a tween), but in earlier sketches she looked a little too old to us, so we ended up making her look younger. And although we did want her more worldly and grown up than her friend, we also didn’t want her too streetwise or seasoned. Instead her final character design reflects more of a bravado and overeagerness to balance out her timid best friend.
After the prologue with Amy and Lucy, our first full-blown scene takes place in Pigsy’s BBQ, owned by the jovial and portly Wu. Travis works in his dad’s restaurant as a busboy and waiter. We described him like this: “Travis Wu, an Asian teen, looks up from cleaning a table, eyes squinting from the light. He’s skinny—almost too skinny—with piercings, and a shaved head dyed green.” We wanted Travis to be difficult to approach but not mean or nasty. We also wanted to give him an air of suspicion and a sense that he didn’t quite fit in—not only by dying his hair and piercing his ear, but also because he’s the only skinny one in the Wu household. As with Amy, as his character design evolved, we made sure he looked younger, but still one of the oldest kids in Chinatown.
In the coming weeks, we’ll revisit other Chinatown character evolutions and more behind-the-scenes peeks at our process. For now, we’re getting ready to shoot our Kickstarter video for our campaign next month. Look out for photos and other updates on Facebook and Twitter.