"This was my first ever illustration of Cat. I wanted her to look approachable and down-to-earth, and to give the impression that while she cares about her appearance, she's also a sensible dresser, especially on a cool fall day!" - Sarah Zaidan
Original outfit design for Cat by Jen Vaiano.
"When designing Cat's look I knew I wanted her to look like a young, fresh out of high schooler with a 90's feel. I ended up referencing an older cousin of mine. She was fun and adventurous, but still very focused on her studies and future. I imagined Cat would be the same way. I chose a blue dress to compliment her natural red hair, and I toned down the blue so her face would stand out.
I wanted people to get the sense that she was the main character by making her stand out in a crowd, while still blending in as a college student."
- Jen Vaiano
"I try to think less about these characters being costumed in a typical super-heroic sense, but rather form their appearance that speaks to their personality. These people are 'real' within the world of the story, and their clothes are personal statements."
"This idea also manifests in the way I draw. I don't go out of my way to make very realistic drawings...but I do try to give it just enough to make you feel like you might know them, someone like them, so they become easier to empathize with."
"I tried to give Dahlia and her daughter a look which would blend into society (as Dahlia's character wants to do) but also set them apart. The purple hair does a great deal of that on its own, but the very pale, rosy skin pushes it. Dahlia is very put together, and her outfit - a stylish 2-piece suit - reflects that. I toned down the flower imagery from the primary sketch as well and made the hints more subtle in the final design."
On Cat's clubbing outfit:
"A few searches for 90s grunge gave me a good idea of where to go with this one! Cat seems like the type to keep it comfortable but not messy-looking when out on the town, so I set her up with ripped jeans, solid boots and a torn band Tee over long sleeves. And, of course, some fun accessories like her cat-head necklace. Sunnychar (for the curious) is a Japanese indie-rock group."
- Suze Shore
Suze Shore's colour design for Cat's clubbing outfit.
"The visuals were very clear and detailed in my mind as I wrote the scripts, but now I can't quite distinguish my original conception of these scenes from what Suze and Sarah transformed them into. In some cases, the artists made subtle changes or added another dimension, in a process of collaboration between writer, line-artist and colorist; looking at the finished pages now, I couldn't imagine them any other way."
- Will Brooker
"I wanted to get as far away as possible from presenting Cat as a sexual object. So she might be getting dressed, but she's not showing off. The placement of her hands holding her skirt shut as she finishes pulling up the zipper deliberately echoes the classic "hands-on-hips" superhero pose, while subverting it: this is a superhero text, but with an everyday young woman as its protagonist; if she's got her hand on her hip, she's not doing it to pose, it's part of the everyday act of getting dressed."
- Sarah Zaidan
"I commissioned London artist Carl Hoare to produce these first designs of Urbanite: I thought it would be interesting to have male creative input into our hyper-masculine law-enforcer. Carl's work is deliberately satirical and grotesque, and his Urbanite is like a political caricature of a riot cop, a hybrid of Iron Man and Darth Vader.
These images, with my notes to Carl, show how we brought the character closer to the black-armored, phallic figure of the finished comic. Already in this design you can see the dark speech balloons that convey Urbanite's voice-modulated dialogue." - Will Brooker
"I had a lot of fun with these designs; While Cat is always stylish, this outfit called for something fashionable in a laid-back, casual way. Will suggested the boat shoes and I built up from there with layers and accessories. Cat's long hair adds versatility as well. and though we ultimately went with the loose bun and outfit on the right I'm still partial to the one sided braid."
- Suze Shore
"Kay Nevermore: I based his design off those street goth punks from late 80's early 90's movies. Added a dash of The Cure for color!
Kit Farben: He reminded me of the typical rich kid in those late 80's early 90's movies. Jordache jeans, and high top sneakers all the way! And of course his rainbow vest."
- Jen Vaiano
Original outfit designs for Kay and Kit by Jen Vaiano.
"Misper was really fun to work on...I got to fondly look back at all these old 90's grungy clothes I had thought were so cool back then, but now began to see how much they actually are quite ideal for a superhero-type. Dressing in layers to adapt to whatever situation arises, wearing shorts over trousers (which is SUPER classic hero wear, right?). Once you gather all these simple ideas that actually are practical for a fight or dealing with the elements (and of course the PLAID), Misper just naturally emerges." - Clay Rodery
Original design for Enrique Garcia by Jen Vaiano.
"Enrique is about 25 and of Puerto Rican origin. He has no job, though he mixes in various circles, from car and bike mechanics to alternative bands, amateur boxers and college classes.
Enrique grew up in a low-income neighbourhood, in a female-dominated household, with his mother and sisters. He secretly enjoyed telenovelas and developed a sense of romance and melodrama, and an interest in fashion, which he kept to himself to avoid mockery." - Will Brooker
"We had discussed that there should be this element of total encapsulation with Urbanite's costume, that no humanity shows through. There's a Darth Vader quality about this character, but not because of any practical application; Urbanite's visage is like a walking special effect."
"He's all show. So I started pulling ideas from these various suits that militaries and law enforcement use to train with...these large, padded, incredibly cumbersome protective gear that is designed to still look intimidating. It almost has to make you wonder if Urbanite actually is even effective when things get rough." - Clay Rodery
"I wanted Urbanite to have a cyberpunk, dot-matrix display that he could use to give commands to Misper and announce his own manoeuvres, echoing the running commentary he delivers with his grim-n-gritty voice modulator. So he has his own text captions and speech balloons blaring out from his chest, like a ridiculous, real-life comic book. Obviously Urbanite's logo is a symbol of masculinity, and also the scarlet sigil of Mars, the God of War.
"For this early illustration of Urbanite, I was inspired by superhero animated series, and also Judge Dredd's shoulder pads! I exaggerated his physique, particularly his shoulders and hands, to emphasize the image of hyper-masculine strength and machismo the character projects. That I pushed these design elements so far was also intentional, as a reflection of how hard Urbanite clings to his image."
- Sarah Zaidan
With Cat, by contrast, I wanted her 'superhero costume' to be put together from stuff someone in her position could realistically get hold of or make. So her logo is yellow spray-paint over a commercial Urbanite logo stencil, which she's flipped around to turn the male symbol into cat ears. The fact that it's a homemade, subverted version of Urbanite spin-off merchandise seemed perfect." - Will Brooker
Jen Vaiano's first images for Connie and Sekhmet.
"This 'showgirl' outfit was Connie's first costume, inspired by Broadway theater; she soon abandoned it for a stronger and less sexualised look." - Will Brooker
"When Will told me he wanted to include an Egyptian inspired Afrocentrist character, I knew immediately what name he was going to suggest...Bastet. Bast is certainly one of the first to come to anybody's mind when talking of Egyptian feline references. However, it seemed to me that Connie was a fierce woman. A woman who'd fought hard for her position and identity. Somebody who may occasionally be given to fits of anger, who would roar at the moon, rather than simply howl. Connie was the kind of woman that would reference a lioness. Connie would have become Sekhmet.
Not many know the story of Sekhmet, but those who hear it know that she is not to be trifled with. Protector of the throne of Ra. Destroyer of Ra's enemies. When Mankind rebelled against the gods, Ra sent Sekhmet to punish them. Her bloodlust became so overpowering she wandered the land, killing indiscriminately until tricked into pacification by Thoth."
- Paul Harrison, consultant on Egyptian styling and references for Sekhmet
"The driving force behind Sekhemt's costume design was the balance between practicality and theatrical presentation. She strikes a balance between the figures we've already seen - Cat with her entirely practical outfit and Urbanite with his over the top bulkiness - by including elements of both. Sekhemt's over-piece is very billowy and dramatic, making for impressive entrances. The outfit underneath however is close-fitting and easy to move in, showing that Connie thinks just as much about getting things done as she does about presentation. This is only natural with Grace Jones as a character model, as she too is equal parts strength and style."
- Suze Shore
First designs for Sekhmet's costume by Suze Shore.
...and costume design for Sekhmet by Suze Shore.
"I was asked to look at the introduction of Connie/Sekhmet. I was immediately enamored with Connie, a strong Black woman with an artistic flair, a 'take-no-prisoners' attitude and fierce sense of self. I was struck by how her back story - having grown up a 'have not' within view of 'haves', her rise to stardom as the lead dancer in a hit show and unceremonious fall to working in the booth at the same theater - shows the roots of the determination that drives Connie in her Sekhmet persona.
Her crime fighting costume is a stylistic homage to Grace Jones and the Egyptian goddess, Bast, which accentuates Sekhmet's power and grace with the sexy but not overly sexualized look in line with the zeitgeist of My So-Called Secret Identity. While part of me wished that the first actual meeting between she and Cat had been more amenable, the hostility makes sense, at least from Sekhmet's perspective. As far as she is concerned, Cat is a newbie to the masked hero game who has not paid her dues. I anxiously await seeing more of Sehkmet and more of Connie."
- Prof. Bambi Haggins
"When asked to do a strong portrait of a black female superhero I just couldn't say no. I knew I had to make her portrait exude confidence. It had to be glamorous but down to earth, cool but fierce. I wanted to have her head held high and her eyes to look at us. I didn't want a vacant expression shying away from our gazes. I had a choice of expressions and I felt a smile was the best choice. The obligatory pout would not do: I didn't want her to come off as too flirty, like a partner hovering over her lover, but an idol to admire.
Usually in painting I sketch out everything in photoshop, and by sketch, I mean draw really vague shapes to map out placement. This time I sketched out a more precise image, took a picture with my laptop camera and got to work in photoshop. After the sketch I use layers for parts that need to be preserved, like the face, the neck, ears, hair and so on. In this case, I was able to focus on developing the face while preserving the sharp distinction from under her chin. So after I sketch, I use the pen tool to make the next body part, lock transparency, detail and shade, repeat." - Amanda Braxton
Ursula Dorada's concepts and work in progress of the Kyla Flyte pin-up.
"One of my references for Kyla was definitely Britney Spears. As I was searching for lighting references, I actually stumbled upon another very good inspiration: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She was fashionable, and she liked kicking butt. To portray the mystery of the character, I put her half in shadows - you don't really know what she is up to. Since the stage production light setup gave me the opportunity, I worked two different lights on her, to emphasize her duality. I really enjoyed working on Kyla, I love her strong yet feminine attitude!" - Ursula Dorada
Suze Shore's initial faces for Kyla Flyte.
"I'd previously worked on some... unsavory... politician portraits, and Carnival really kind of evolved from there. Lots of wrinkles to help conjure really characteristic inking, something aggressive. But he's also elderly, and these bluish-lavender tones, to me, give him a look of moldy bread." - Clay Rodery
"Corel Painter and a Wacom tablet. Colouring style owes a lot to J.H. Williams III's work (with writer Greg Rucka) on the Detective Comics run of Batwoman, which I'd been reading at the time." - Carlen Lavigne
Suze Shore's sketch and finished image of Kyla Flyte in lounge wear.
"Kyla was designed to be, at first look, the quintessential 'All-American' pop star. She's pretty in a standardized, Barbie-esque way and based heavily on Britney Spears during her heyday. Her face however has got a sharpness to it, keeping her from looking entirely approachable; Perhaps a hint that Kyla isn't quite as sweet as she seems..?" - Suze Shore
"I was so happy when Will asked me to draw his characters for him. I love doing pin ups, and it was refreshing to be asked to draw super heroines that weren't showing unnecessary amounts of cleavage. Seriously, how do some of them even fight in those outfits?"
"I really liked making up Cat's pyjamas (no pun intended) with her logos on. Every superhero has their own themed nightwear, right? They should do. In this scene, Cat's been kept awake by her fashion student house-mates, Kit and Kay..." - Rachel Smith
"The concept was to make the MSCSI characters look like a cool, 1990s indie band; people you would want to know, and know more about. I wanted it to look more like a band publicity shot than a conventional comic book cover. Fay's finished painting was so stunning I used it as the main publicity picture for our Kickstarter." - Will Brooker
Progression on the Cat pin-up for the Extended Edition, by Jennie Gyllblad.
"The original brief from Will [as I remember] was for Cat to be in a relaxed, non-confrontational pose: basically taking a well-earned time-out from her crime fighting role. I sketched some initial ideas using biro on copy paper and very quickly decided on placing Cat sitting on a rooftop somewhere eating noodles as it seemed the best choice for the scene. Once the composition was agreed upon Will suggested that this Cat should be a roller derby inspired version. It was a great idea and I worked on the pencils with those additional details. There still seemed to be an opportunity to add another element to the scene and I included the small girl in the lower right corner looking up out of her bedroom window at Cat (like a little sister would watch an older sister). It worked perfectly."
"I normally ink on tracing paper with brushpens as it allows a further edit when making the pass but for this piece I went straight to blueline on Bristol Board as I felt confident enough that the pencils were tight enough to commit to. I still prefer to work traditionally with pens and paper although there is usually a small amount of digital clean up when scanned for colour.
The next step was the colour and Yel Zamor was the only choice for me. I really wanted strong pink/purple and yellows from a sunset (Magic Hour) so I sent some references to Yel and we kept the palette fairly simple but with her digital painting technique adding texture and richness to the scene. Very pleased with the final result. And who knows? We may well see the roller derby Cat in future episodes of My So Called Secret Identity?" - Gary Erskine
Progression and reference pictures for Ursula's cover.
"Will approached me with an idea of the cover already in mind - we would work with a fashion aesthetic and general composition. Each character should have agency, style, and be confident in their own skin. I tried to stay true to each character's design and clothing choices, even if we aimed for the photoshoot polish.
We had a little back and forth about wardrobe choices, and I love the results we achieved on the final image. We have distinctive styles that work very well together - and help illustrate what the comic is about. This is an image I had a ton of fun working on, complete with cotton candy clouds!" - Ursula Dorada
Sketches for the original Kickstarter reward watercolors.
Reference and progression pictures of Jennie Gyllblad's Dahlia image..
"I work traditionally, using pencil and watercolour (with little hints of white gouache!). My main tool that I could not live without is my large lightbox, which serves as my tracing station! I will re-draw the same image sometimes between 3-4 times, depending on how well I feel it's going.
During the sketch phase, I use super cheap, disposable printer paper and a mechanical pencil. It's only once I'm happy with the sketch that I'll transfer it over to the much more expensive Saunders Waterford hot-pressed watercolour paper.
When I watercolour, I tape the paper straight onto my desk and keep adding layers until I feel like it is pretty much done!
So at the very end, I'll use the white gouache to add some highlights in places (like a shine in their eyes, and the white highlights in Dahlia's hair).
I won't go into the battle with the scanner that comes afterwards (I don't want to bore you!), but scanning watercolour paintings is difficult." - Jennie Gyllblad