So, the above image is what I want to talk about. Not about improvements in art cause yeah, that's definitely a thing; no, instead I wanted to talk about the evolution of character design and what four years and do.
In 2011, when I had started doing the actual design work on eeeearly Dead stuff (I think the original picture of Jack is from 2010 even) I had no idea what I was doing. Not just because of lack of experience or talent, but also because I didn't know these characters. I didn't know who they were or what they were like. I knew nothing more than a basic design I'd slapped a name on with no personality or substance.
At the time of their original designs Victoria and Julia were basic things. They had names, associated colors and clothing and the faintest hints at their language and movement, of their reasons for being who they are.
The origins of them are so far removed from who they are now they may as well be different characters entirely. Victoria was originally shy, clumsy and somewhat inept. She was Jack's assistant in the bar and rarely spoke and was, reluctantly, pulled into monster hunting. When she did, she stuttered and stammered and blushed.
Things about her have stayed the same, she still has a hard time speaking, still doesn't do well with people, but her core has changed. She's an accomplished Exterminator, a skilled fighter and confident in herself. Her stutter doesn't come from fear but simply a speech impediment. Her anxiety is mostly due to mild paranoia and PTSD from the horrors she's had to deal with in her lifetime.
Her physical design has changed to reflect her personality (as well as my own personal taste). Not really shown in the newest version but her clothes are pretty much the same as the 2013 design. Her original clothes were more for appeal than anything, with nothing about them really particularly useful in combat. She's scarred now, cares less for her personal appearance or for conventional beauty standards and more for keeping herself patched up and ready to hunt.
Julia, I think, has gone through some of the most drastic changes (other than Clem) compared to anyone else in the group in both personality and appearance. She was, originally, going to be a rival for Victoria, even somewhat an antagonist. She was even planned to be part of the main Big Bad in the story, even going so far as to be the reason that Victoria lost her eye and some other kinda important things happen that I'm going to still use but in another way so I'm not going to spoil them here.
Instead she slowly changed from that into someone who's a bit headstrong but ultimately caring a good-hearted. She became She's incredibly protective of Victoria and people in general, going a bit too far in her attempts to defend them, hence the abundance of scars. She does still have a bit of a complex and deep seated hatred of undead, but it doesn't lead to her doing overly irrational or rash things when faced with them. Anger is still an issue for her as well, but not nearly in such a violent way as it was originally. She would, before, fly off at the smallest thing, usually destroying some property in the vicinity. Now, she typically stores up any frustration or anger she has and lets it out during a fight, or sex (which is all well and good by Victoria's standards).
She took pride in being a large, furry, dog-woman even before the werewolf tearing her arm off. Her body and appearance changed as my tastes and outlook did as well; going from a typical comicbook female form (skinny, tall, white) to being far more realistic as someone who doesn't do much more than swing a sword and punch things with her prosthetic arm. Her clothes became more practical over time (the 2013/2014 clothing choices still stand) and her scars and body hair piled up over time. As a close range fighter she doesn't need or want a short skirt and tanktop, something covering but still flexible enough is more suitable. (Don't worry that hair has a reason for being there as well) Her body shape is, well, more reminiscent of mine than anything, honestly, just a bit exaggerated; muscular arm, shoulder and legs but not so much in core strength. She slouches more, her posture is more relaxed than it was and overall she gives off more of a tired vibe than anything else.
This entire thing started just from me looking at old art and seeing the changes all of the characters had gone through. I realized that even with all the time constraints, lack of personal ability and everything else that've gotten in the way of working on Dead properly, the thing that has been the biggest issue is that I didn't spend enough time developing them beforehand. I tried to throw some loose ideas onto a page and thought it was good enough, but it's really not. Everything falls apart after a short time unless you build it up right, so I guess that's what these last couple years have been, rebuilding it in a way that'll stay together this time.
Max coming on and helping me with it really helped solidify some of the characteristics for Julia and Victoria quite a lot, both in terms of their designs and personalities. Without them I would definitely still be stuck in that 2013 mindset and still unwilling to really experiment with either of them, or the rest of the cast.
Dead is going to go through a few more changes before I'm done. I'm not solid on some things, others need retooled, but it'll happen; maybe not even in its current format, but it will.