A Merman, Maybe

Summer Drawing Challenge Day 10

Continuing my obsession with designing mer-people characters, I had an interesting conversation with my comic-jam friends tonight at our weekly get-together. I asked them what they thought about the ideas I’d put forth so far for the character designs. First we all agreed that I was being rather literal in my attempts to make believable merfolk, but my friends were willing to humour me in this. The first observation about the hair-vs-no-hair was that without the hair they might seem more alien than I wanted to portray them. If they were to be sympathetic characters, then they had to be closer to human, and it would help to have some semblance of floating hair, even if it was short and curly or even made of seaweed. Another person proposed the model of otters, in that they could have close-fitting hair all over. We discussed various iterations of this, including diving birds such as penguins. This seemed entirely reasonable to me, so I decided to try a merman with some of these attributes. I also am trying out a tail that is more like a seal’s flippers, in that it has individual “toes” and claws. His hands are also more like an otter’s front paws. And I gave him finny ears. The drawing is kind of rough because the idea is still quite rough; but I’d love to hear some feedback!

mermaids 2

16 responses to “A Merman, Maybe

  1. It all depends on the story of course, but as an adult I favour the selkie version more than the Disney. Are we really so scared of the unusual? (I can answer that, yes we are, ask any handicapped person or somebody with a visual “flaw”)

    So the question is, will you cater to the “American dream” look to sell more or make a statement that aliens can indeed be nice and beautiful in their own right?

    Otoh everybody loves Beatric Potter, The Wind in the Willows and so forth. Kids happly accept Tinky Winky as well as Sponge Bob.

    I liked the lizard-y version in your last post too, but personally I would use and bring to life the seal/otter connection of the old stories. Do something with the eyes….

    And all that talk of body image leads me to another thought: Seals are FAT. They need blubber in that cold water. Does it then make sense that we always portray merpeople with slender, corsetted waists and bare skin? No sea creatures have waists. In fact not a lot of humans do either, LOL. (getting hit by menopause and sudden redistributions myself here)

    There is the whole fantasy copmic genre with nekkid women with wasp waists, giant boobs with sea shells, I mean armour bras, high boots and gigantic swords in their hands, but really?? We could think outside that box for a bit….

    As I said, depends on the story. If it’s really a story about humans living under water, doing human things, then go Disney. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

      • P.S. And no, the triton shell blowing underwater probably wouldn’t work — though I’m not totally sure of it! I should take one down to the pool and see. Really they don’t need any instruments because they have extraordinary powers of vocal projection.

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    • Exactly, Pia — it all depends upon the story. I’m totally not going for Disney here — as you can see in my later versions, they are getting plumper. I want them to be beautiful in a streamlined, under-the-sea kind of way, but without turning them totally into dolphins or seals (they have to have arms and hands to be able to do what they do). We find those animals attractive, so I should be able to come up with a viable undersea human. I had kind of a breakthrough yesterday morning about it as I was surfacing from my dreams; I’ll write about that in a future post.

      I had an old boss, when I was working in the scrimshaw trade, who used to get mad at me for my skinny mermaids (I was skinny then — making them in my own image!). He would say (he had a German accent, being from there), “Mermaids should be fat! Good German mermaids are fat! Make me a good German mermaid!” and then go off grumbling about skinny mermaids. So I fattened them up. I always think of him when I do mermaids!

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    • Haha! See my reply to Pia. I was using it mainly for him to have something to do with his hands, and blowing a shell horn is kind of a merman trope. But I LIKE the idea about the lunchbox!

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  2. I LIKE the ears a lot. I did some drawings several years ago of “descendents of Atlantis,” who were genetically engineered (per the story I was creating) to live under water or on land when the scientists of Atlantis discovered their land was doomed to sink beneath the sea. They still have legs, of course, but webbed hands and feet, transparent eyelids, gill slits on their cheeks, rather large dorsal fins and a kind of “mohawk” sweep of hair on their otherwise bald heads.

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    • That’s just about what I would go for if I were making them genetically engineered, too! I’d love to see some pictures, if you still have them. Genetic engineering was my first thought, as I was going to make it a future, after-the-fall kind of scenario, then my mentor said to stop being so literal and just go for magic if the only reason for the post-apocalyptic thing was to provide an excuse for there to be real merpeople. Since it wasn’t going to figure anywhere else in the story, I conceded that he was right. However, I like my magic to have some rules and consistency, and I had a breakthrough about that yesterday morning, as I mentioned to Pia above. I will reveal all soon!

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      • I can send you pictures. I used the “group” of Atlanteans (Kilesha and the Atlantis Rock Band) on the cover of two of the early stories . . . the ones I meant to combine and add to for a real novel someday . . . someday still hasn’t gotten here, though.

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        • I’d love to see them! Better yet, if you feel like displaying them publicly, there is a discussion going on over last night’s post about the sketch cards on my personal timeline, and someone else has posted some of her mermaids. I’ll tag you so you can find it. If you REALLY want to be public, you can post them on my facebook artist page!

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          • Thanks, Karen. Since they aren’t really “merpeople” it might not be appropriate to post them on your page, but I did put a picture of the cover on your FB discussion.

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  3. I prefer the dolphin tail as it looks neater and I don’t think most people would recognize the seal or sea lion toes on the tail. I agree with Pia that they need a nice layer of fat to help keep warm in the cold sea. I also have gotten thick around the middle like my mother’s side of the family. Not particularly fat, just an extra 15 lbs of insulation although my feet are still cold. I think we already have a model for mer-people in dolphins so I would follow that line giving them hands and faces that can speak.

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    • I am leaning towards that look too; it’s also easier to draw! They also have a connection in the story to a giant whale spirit, so it makes sense to keep it all in the family, especially now that I’ve worked out how the dolphin-human cross can happen.

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  4. Claws on the front flippers for seals are helpful in pulling themselves out of the water and onto the ice as well as what Google states about grooming, scratching and defense. The selkie twins of Petaybee in the books Anne McCaffrey and I did had this feature. I have seen some voluptuous fleshily gifted mermaids of the otherwise conventional type as gift items here in town. And who says mermen can’t have mermale patterned baldness?

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    • Good point! They might need to be retractible, so that they can use their hands for finer work like plaiting seaweed (ever try to do anything with long nails? Arg!) I’m just about to start re-reading the Petaybee series, at the risk of channeling you for the story — but my overall arc for the story is written out, so it shouldn’t change what I’m doing. And as I mentioned to Pia and Charlotte above, I actually know what I’m going to do for the magic of how there came to be merfolk, and will post about that soon. Maybe tonight, since you’ve all gotten me enthused about doing another character study!

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