The Last Viking Returns

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Character design – choosing colours for the cast

Over the last 3 months I’ve posted my rough sketches for all the characters in the book.

I’ve covered Josh’s family, all the Viking characters and the two villains.

This post gathers all the colour reference versions together so you can see the links between them.

I’ve made some notes on each major group of characters and their colours. Most of the time my colour choices were a matter of gut feeling, and it’s only after the fact that I can figure out why certain combinations seemed to work.


First up is Josh’s family.

I didn’t intentionally make Josh’s costume out of primary colours, but it turned out that way – yellowish hair, red helmet and shield, blue shirt. Add a bit of green and you’ve got a bunch of bright happy colours, which all help Josh stand out from whatever moody background he’s in front of.

Wolverine’s colander helmet and collar are the same shade of gold and red found on Josh’s chestplate. This sharing of colour is a simple way to link Josh and Wolverine together.

Josh’s siblings are in blue and red shirts – the same blue and red found in Josh’s costume. Their shorts/skirt are darker shades of the blue and red respectively. All three children have the same colour boots. Again, it’s about linking Josh with his siblings in the eye of the reader using colour.

Nan is the only one in the family to wear a shade of purple. I find it a loud colour for some reason; I don’t wear it a lot, and it seems to clash with a lot of colours I normally use. This fits with Nan’s no-nonsense, outspoken personality. I made it a soft, warm shade of purple though (at least to my slightly colour-blind eyes) as it seemed like a colour a loving, caring (but feisty) Nan might wear. The sneakers have purple trim in the same shade.

Pop is all in shades of grey – warm shades, tinges of brown in there. The dark vest is a strong contrast to the colour of his skin, shirt and pants. His colours seem warm and masculine and strong to me. Bright colours just didn’t seem to suit Pop; he’s silly and child-like, but he’s strong and grounded. I imagine he would give very big bear hugs. His colours make him stand out, not only from his wife but from all the other characters in the family.


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Character design – Sigurd

Between now and the launch of The Last Viking Returns (Sept 1st, 2014), I’m doing a series of posts showing my rough sketches for all the characters in the book.

I’ve covered Josh’s family already and I’ve just started on the Viking characters.

Today I’ll show you my sketches of Sigurd.


Sigurd was a Viking hero, not a Norse god. He was renowned for his feats of bravery, including the slaying of the dragon Fafnir. (More on that later).

In The Last Viking Returns, Thor sneaks out of Asgard to have a holiday. Sigurd is left to defend Asgard against Fafnir.

Sigurd needed to look different enough to Thor to provide a counterpoint; he needed to look more responsible and down to earth. That’s why he doesn’t have the fanciest clothes or the shiniest sword. His appearance is also based on his original occupation – Sigurd was a blacksmith. He wears a leather cap, similar to what a Viking blacksmith would have worn, and this also helps him stand out all the other Asgardians (who all have horned helmets).

There is in fact an earlier version of Sigurd that almost appeared in The Last Viking, but he looked completely different back then- I’ll show those sketches another time.

These are my reference sketches and notes for Sigurd.






I made a standard colour version of each character too, so that I could keep their colours consistent. Here’s the colour sheet for Sigurd:


Next week I’ll talk about Thor’s father, Odin.



Wow, I’ve just discovered that James and I are in good company.

One afternoon after we had a done a gig together at Guildford Grammar School, we were having lunch in the nearby Woodbridge Tavern and began discussing what we would like in the new book. James has always been keen on dragons and thought he could do a good job of bringing one to life on the page. At the same lunch we also decided that a theme park called Viking World would be a good location for the plot, as it will get all the characters out of the house and would be a fabulous, colourful background to whatever we then decided would happen to them.

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Designing the Norse Gods- Forebodin’ Odin, Therious Thor and the others

First off- apologies for missing a week! I’ve been pushing through the final artwork and attending family weddings. Busy busy busy.

The original story mentioned quite a few Norse Gods- Odin, Thor, Sigurd, Freya and Hemrod. Our brilliant editor Cate helped to whittle the text down, removing supplementary characters to focus on Odin and Thor (Check out this post by Norm for more info on Odin and Thor).

Here are my first sketches and notes on the Gods.

Thor on the left, Sigurd on the right


That's Odin right down the bottom, with some lumpy crows


Odin looked a bit like a pirate here

After a bit of research, I found out that Odin is an old old man. So the black hair wasn’t going to look right for his character. Also, Thor is his son, so they have to look similar.

Storyboard sketches began to take more form…

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Harald Bluetooth

Famous Vikings

and what great names they have.

King Harald Bluetooth, (No, true, that really is his name. Would I lie to you?)  ruled Denmark between 940 and 985 AD. He was the son of King Grom the Old and his wife Thyre Danebold, the daughter of King Ethelred of England. Harald’s grandson, Canute, went on to be the king of all of Denmark and England, and a mighty fine king to, according to all reports.

When still young Harald  developed the usual passion to go a –viking in search of gold, treasure and new lands for Viking settlements , and, like his fellow Vikings, Harald considered it honourable to plunder wherever and whenever he felt like it.

Harald’s sister Gunhild was married to a Norwegian King with the marvellous name of Erik Blood Axe, but when he was killed Harald decided to seize  Norway for himself, making himself king of much of  Scandinavia. (Well, why not.)

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