During the development process for Hope and following a critique session, I realised the importance of not just representing females, but representing men and boys in relation to expressing their emotions. I had been flirting with the idea of having a secondary character for Hope to interact with through her journey – a leftover thought from an earlier concept – and this seemed like the opportunity to introduce it.
Teddy’s character stemmed from research into stoicism and the effect it has on men in Western society. The media portrays the stoic as a male ideal, but that sends the message that openly dealing with grief and emotion is a bad thing, which can be highly damaging. I wanted to create a character that was struggling to conform to this ideology, and also wanted their existence to put Hope in a position of mentoring, letting her teach another what she has learned and grow through helping another. For this to succeed, it was apparent to me that the character had to be younger than Hope, but for the same reasons I put Hope in her teenage years, I deemed it necessary to give this character the same mental awareness but lack of emotional control, and decided he should be two years younger than she is.
From there I began to explore what this character’s backstory would be, a type of pain or grief he could be experiencing that wasn’t as on-the-nose as death. This would also force empathy between characters, a necessary understanding of a situation differing from one’s own. I settled on bullying, an age-appropriate concern that would also act as an explanation why this character wouldn’t be in school in late September. I brainstormed what this character could be being bullied about and came up with several relevant ideas. I ended up choosing a stutter because I think it could be visually represented in his speech, and also being ostracized for being overly sensitive in order to face the topic of toxic masculinity head-on.
All of this thinking was inspiring the character’s physical design – I felt out the name Teddy for him and then began to draw. I wanted his shyness and self-doubt to be shown physically – a hunched posture and a lack of self-care, scruffy hair and a slightly nerdy appearance (sketchbook 1 page 68).
I added glasses to his design when digitally sketching him, trying to give him a similar distinct visual in the same vein as Hope. After playing around with colour schemes and outfit choices and receiving some feedback, I drafted a final design with the same line-weight and shading as I used for Hope.