With the anniversary of Michael Jackson's passing coming up, I thought I'd dedicate this post in his memory.
I'm always curious as to what goes in to making a character a character. Like "Why does Donald Duck have a temper?" or "Why does Indiana Jones use a whip?" or "How come I loved Eliza Dushku on Buffy the Vampire Slayer but couldn't love her in Dollhouse?" There's a certain chemistry that creators and writers and actors and environments concoct that is such a wonder. Even when creative folks are fortunate enough to concoct the "lightning in a bottle," it's a struggle to maintain it. One can only hope to ride the wave the best they can and tap the bottle as often as possible before it escapes.
By no means can I lay claim to have created an amazing character or even have the answers on how to do it. My angle is my own individual "how and why?" How does a character come about? How do you make him believable? Why do you choose these traits or this design style? Where are you in this character?
People often say, "Write what you know." When I created Johnny Bravo, I tapped my 24 years of existence to create a character that I liked and made me laugh. Like all the other directors in the "What A Cartoon!" program at Hanna-Barbera, I was encouraged to tell my story using my own unique point of view. And my own unique point of view involved doing a mash-up of Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Arthur Fonzarelli, Luke (Dylan McKay) Perry, The Dover Boys, my friends obsessed with working out, my friends who had an active social life, and my own frustrations with popularity, insecurities, and relationships.
Which is a nice segueway into Michael Jackson's influence on Johnny Bravo. It's no secret that I pretty much used Michael Jackson as the impetus for using whip snaps and cracks whenever Johnny strikes a pose. As you can see in the excerpt from Captain Eo below, it's done to make a point, or rather, an exclamation mark so that each movement has a purpose...
Michael made strong silhouettes and powerful lines whenever he hit a pose. Often times when I draw Johnny Bravo, I use pictures of Michael Jackson (along with body builders and fashion models) as inspiration. He was a huge part of my life growing up and I'll always be grateful for his influence on the creation of Johnny Bravo. I remember growing up, knowing that Michael was a Jehovah's Witness, and thinking that there's a possibility that he might one day come knocking at our front door. And what would he be wearing? Obviously, he never came, but I just read that Prince is also a Jehovah's witness, so a knock at our front door from an 80's icon is still in play.
FUN FACT: Michael Jackson and Joe Barbera were good friends and developed a show together which was loosely based on The Prince and The Pauper. Mr. Barbera showed me the designs that were done by Iwao Takamoto back in the early nineties. Unfortunately, it never got past the development stage.