Meet Vlad
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More behind the curtain stuff today.

You’ve probably noticed that Kale and Callisto fill the classic film noir and pulp dynamic of the cool cucumber and the hot tamale, the thinker and brute, comedy and tragedy what have you, but they tend to swap sides of the dynamic because that’s how they fit together; like a deck of cards freshly shuffled. So when we introduce new recurring characters they not only have to somehow stand on their own, but they also need to reflect the Kale and Callisto dynamic in action.

Enter Vlad.

We needed a Charlie to the girl’s Angels, a Hannibal to their A-Team, but in the beginning we had a very limited palette of character types. Mars is supposed to be this exceedingly cosmopolitan place with multitudes of characters of all cultures and personalities, and the girls in particular meet all kinds of unusual sorts, so we didn’t want to just make another Synth – that would imply they were some sort of bigots by omission – and we didn’t just want a generic human nor one of the ‘indigenous martians’ because we hadn’t introduced them yet when their issues might become a plot point later. So the decision was made to make the character an android.

We didn’t want to do Data from Star Trek, and we didn’t want to do a replicant from Blade Runner. The former is too grounded in Pinocchio, too first world “what is a man” moralizing for the grey world of Monochrome Dreams, and the latter while similar is indistinguishable from humanity by design. What we did was cobble together this idea of cybernetic life form with full body prosthesis, but from a region of the world that says some element of third world to our modern senses. We wanted another grey market military type who could relate to Kale and Callisto, but we wanted to show a gulf of difference between them and the chic up to the minute style Kale and Callisto have.

What we got was this blocky, industrial looking, droid body with a streotypical east European bloc accent. You wouldn’t be far wrong if reading his text you heard Vladimir Kulich. But then how do you give him a character? In Animation you have the advantage of motion and inflection to create a personality for what is essentially a mobile weapons platform, in concrete fiction you’ve got pages and pages to make someone likeable. In comics you’ve got that one or two pages before a person is a part of the ensemble or an expendable flat.

Our solution was to juxtapose both elements of Kale and Callisto in one person. Vlad would be very controlled, formal, and conservative playing to his intimidating machine exterior, but inside would be this over the top person with an equally strong personality. He’s seen it all, been everywhere, knows everyone, and is just relaxed with who he is. And, like every old tiger grown fat on years of farmed meat, once in a while you would lock eyes with him and realize there was someone behind that exterior who could take your face off as easily as breathing.

To affect this confluence in addition to his physical form and implicit voice, we surrounded him with his own cast of colorful secondaries. His business the Nuts and Bolts reflects that collison of form and function, and to really bring it home I insisted we put him in that fancy suit. In brainstorming sessions we talked about how he would move, how everything should balance a sense of weight while carrying it like it was nothing. Vlad is this huge guy and breaks skulls in one hand, but he’s also the height of formality. He quickly became one of our favorite people.

Maybe if we get enough business on our Patreon we can do his own limited series so you can see what happens when we let the tiger out of his cage.

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