Hi everyone, welcome to page 5 of the Digitopia The Web Comic, if it’s your first time here you may want to start from page 1, if you’re keeping up with the story then this is where the ultimate villain of our piece comes in.

I’ve studied screenwriting and writing for comics for a long time and one of the lessons that keeps coming back is that any hero, any dramatic tension, any conflict can only be as strong as the villain is.  What I wanted to create here with the Villain who I’ve called Natiahs (aka Corporal Punishment) is a more than a cliche bad-ass for Jay to overcome.

Without turning this post into a lesson on screenwriting (there are already a lot of good books and posts on that subject), I want to talk about the specifics of Natiahs and why is more than just the token villain – that he is actually the antihero of the story.

I really think that all the best stories and adventure is where the antagonist is more than just the baddie stopping the goodie from achieving their goal, just someone put in there for the good guy to battle against.

It’s actually the opposing point of view they present.  The bad guy, has actually suffered themselves, sometimes an unrecoverable loss that has led them down this path.

When I was writing the character of Natiahs, I based it off another idea for a screenplay I had in mind called ‘Corporal Punishment’, which goes into how Natiahs became known as ‘Corporal Punishment’, this story may well take on its own life yet, I’m thinking ahead to the prequels to Digitopia and having the story of ‘Corporal Punishment’ as a story within the Digitopia universe – well, when you sell a screenplay they want to know ‘what else you got’ right 🙂


Designing a Character is not as Simple as it Looks

In this post I’d like to explore some of the creative challenges we faced when designing Natiahs – this was one of the most challenging characters that we had to write about.  We learnt a lot about

  • the story,
  • the character,
  • about working with each other and
  • about how a team can pull together in the common pursuit of a worthwhile goal.

I put together initial designs for each character using a template that I designed, this was the original character design for Natiahs.

Though he knows his time is coming to an end, he still has a wisdom that the new army and Confederate leadership doesn’t have – he knows the land, he knows the enemy, in fact his original back story as you’ll find out as we draw into the story further shows he has traces of Digitopian within him.

I wanted him to be older, a decorated war hero, who is now out of date – a relic of the past that’s is rejected by the new Confederate army

As the story developed we find out more about him and the direction he takes has changed several times – in a very early draft of the script I had him has a General in the Digitopian army, in fact he was the commanding general of Silas and Jay – when I had them both written as soldiers in a draft 3 and 4 of the script.

It was when I started working with Seb and Simon that we had to nail down a character sheet for Natiahs as we had to draw something.

Here are some early sketches that Seb came up with for Natiahs.

This image more than any other character sparked our biggest conversation around design very early on in our working relationship together.

Simon gave some feedback in the conversation

which then led onto more variations in the character design


Changing Directions

For me this wasn’t the direction I had originally planned upon, it did feel too sci-fi, too tech heavy and for me that took away a lot of the menace and curated wisdom that I had initially written in for the character.

This was really interesting as the three of us had barely been working together for a month and this was our first set of creative differences we’ve had as a team – don’t worry we’ve had a lot more since, but given this was the first difference we had to approach it in a way that allowed for everyone to voice their ideas – as I think you get the best ideas when the team is free to put forward their own visions – in fact here was mine

So back to the drawing board we went for the second iteration of the Natiahs character design.

For me the two movie characters that resonated most with Natiahs are Bane from Batman and Humongous from the second Mad Max movie – Road Warrior

These two characters represented a world where technology and guns had become redundant and it was sheer brute strength – primal and brutal that I wanted to echo in Natiahs.

That just his presence would scare the living cr@p out of any of his opponents and allies alike.

The thing I found really interesting about these two characters is that they both have an intellect and an ideology behind their brute strength – which serves to make them more intimidating.

So I put these ideas back into the art team.

He definitely seemed more beefed up now, but I felt he looked a bit too regal, a bit too civilised, the cape and cloak I felt took away from his intimidation level, the mask hid any sense of emotion and the whole outfit would make it hard for him to fight in a brutal way.


The Team Works

Simon offered some ideas which helped steer the direction towards the sheer brutality of the character – going for a more barbarian look for Natiahs.

I liked this direction now, I could have given more backstory and description of Natiahs, but actually exploring the character motivation and how the character fits into the script actually helped us figure out not just his look, but the way he will carry himself through the story – here was my next input to the conversation.

This not only helped us understand Natiahs, but the final couple of points helped us create context for Silas, Jay and Natiahs in relation to each other.


Bodies and Faces

We started to get closer with our searches, I wanted a mix between Vader and the Sheriff character played by Tommy Lee Jones in No Country for Old Men.

If we could find a way to get the Sheriff’s face onto the wrestler’s body I felt we’d get closer.

We were getting a bit closer, now it was the war paint and lack of hair that was coming through – see watching Mad Max movies and excessive WWF (as it was known back then) came to some benefit in the end.

Then Simon found the right reference image that nailed the character

Yes, this was something that we all resonated with.


And the Weaponry?

Next item was to sort out his weaponry which in itself wasn’t as simple to lock down – I didn’t want him gunned up to the eyeballs with all the latest high tech blasters – I wanted something more old school that had stood the test of time – as that would have fitted in with his character.

then with a team that understands the character and is invested in making the right decisions for the script we discovered the solution


And what did we Learn?

That is how we have come up with the character design for Natiahs for where we are now.

I think one of the big takeaways for me is that there are times when it’s better to listen to your team and take their lead on things, but equally there are times when you need to guide the team.  In this early phase of the project, I felt I needed to make sure the design of Natiahs went in a direction I was happy with.

Over the next few months there were definitely more times when Simon and Seb lead me to the right decision – I think as we have gotten to know each other better we’ve been able to get to decisions faster as the team is equally bought into this comic as much as I am.

On the next page you’re going to see more of him and in the web comic as we go – be sure to subscribe to be the first to know when the next page is live and how to get your hands on loads of exclusive goodies (of the books and art work kind, not the protagonist kind).

As I always try to do, here are the original blocking and inking images along with the original script for this page so  you can see how it’s changed with the input of the team.


Original Blocking



Original Inks


Original Script

PAGE FIVE (full page spread)

Panel 1.
Behind them their big chief, NATIAHS, something between a man
and a machine approaches, this guy looks like the Predator’s
older brother, he breathes heavily through a mask that covers
his lower scar-covered face.
Make sure composition is done so we can see Jay’s eyes. We see
sheer horror in his eyes, he’s never seen anything like this
38. CAPS (JAY):
I used to think there was good in everyone.


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If you’d like to start from page one you can click here.  Otherwise see you on the next page.

Thanks so much for joining us on this journey.