"Narwhal Man, Narwhal Man,
Always mistook for a Unicorn Man.
Takes out his frustration on smaller man.
-- after They Might Be Giants
At Dragon Con a couple weekends ago, a fellow came up to the table, looking to get a sketch. I asked him what character he'd like me to draw and looked around at the stuff I had displayed, and then pointed down at something and said, "How about this guy?"
Turns out he was looking at the cover to Paul Jenkins' Sidekick: Super Summer Spectacular #1, and the character he was pointing to was Narwhal Man. He's actually an incidental character I created for the cover, and doesn't even appear in the book. I was just looking to put some stupid-looking heroes to sit on the committee holding the superhero tryouts Eddie's entered. Originally, he was going to be Unicorn Man, the only difference being that he was going to have a unicorn on his chest. But the more I thought about it, I wasn't sure the unicorn would read when it was printed, so I opted for the more obscure, and by that token, sillier idea of the narwhal being this guy's animal of choice for a superhero identity.
So a concept of the character began to form after I drew it on the cover. That often happens when creating any character-- it's my preferred way to create any character, even, and I think, especially, the minor, incidental characters. I was always taught to draw every character like they're the hero of their own story. It makes drawing background characters fun if you think about them as distinct personalities. Body language comes from an attitude, and one's life experiences form an attitude, so it's all pretty much connected. For Narwhal Man, the decision-making process involved in drawing the character was the basis for this invisible backstory I'd created.
Narwhal Man, I decided, is constantly being mistaken for a Unicorn Man. And he hates-- HATES-- when that happens, because it happens constantly. He used to be a pretty nice guy, kind and gentle, much like a real narwhal-- but years and years of people calling him Unicorn Man have hardened him. Now he's just pissed off all the time. He goes through his day waiting, just waiting, for someone to call out, "Hey, Unicorn Man!" and then he proceeds to blow his top.
Will this make it into the pages of Sidekick? Maybe. But I wasn't counting on it. And I sure as hell wasn't counting on someone asking for a sketch of Narwhal Man. That's what I love about conventions, though-- you never know what people will ask for when it comes to sketches. I'm consistently surprised and delighted with what folks come up with.