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Captain Phasma and the Arkham Knight: Lessons in Mysterious Character Design

Captain Phasma and the Arkham Knight: Lessons in Mysterious Character Design

Arkham-Knight-captain-phasmaCreating new characters is tough, and even the coolest franchises suffer occasional missteps when it comes to introducing new blood. But while some characters are at best easily forgotten and at worst universally despised (Jar Jar, anyone?), there are some recent striking examples of character designs that have been so good they’ve grabbed the attention, and wallets, of fans long before the public really knew much about them. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force AwakensCaptain Phasma and the titular bad guy from Batman: Arkham Knight are two such figures, and they share some very particular elements of what we might call “mysterious character design.”

Want to create a successful mysterious character? Take one dash of bad guy, add full body armor (so you can’t see the face), sprinkle with visual elements reminiscent of other established characters, and top it all off with the barest hint of a storyline. Lastly, garnish with a cool name and voila! Of course, these aren’t the only elements that make characters interesting. On the flipside, plenty of characters with these features haven’t taken off with the fans, but they definitely hold true with our examples. The concept seems straightforward enough, and Star Wars really set the bar with this back in the old days with Boba Fett, so it’s no surprise that Phasma continues the tradition in grand style.

star-wars-captain-phasma-FatheadIt goes without saying that fans are excited about the upcoming Star Wars sequels, but above and beyond the baseline interest, there has been a huge and immediate reaction to Captain Phasma. Even at this time, less than three weeks away from the film’s release, we know very little about her. The official documentation states that she is a commanding officer in the First Order, leading her loyal Stormtroopers into battle against the heroic Resistance. In behind-the-scenes articles, director J.J. Abrams revealed that the Captain’s name is an homage to the killer silver sphere in the film Phantasm. That’s appropriate considering what Phasma wears: a unique take on the classic Stormtrooper armor that features not only the updated First Order design, but also a highly reflective chrome and black color scheme that looks absolutely fierce! Captain Phasma bonus points: female character, played by fan-favorite Gwendoline Christie of Game of Thrones fame.

This summer Rocksteady Studios and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment unleashed the latest installment in the Batman: Arkham series, Batman: Arkham Knight. In advance of the game’s release promotional material revealed a brand new big bad for Batman featuring a super cool look. The Arkham Knight was introduced as a mysterious villain with a major hate for the Dark Knight, coupled with an obsession and seemingly complete knowledge of the hero’s techniques and strategies. The Knight immediately caught peoples’ attention with his outfit consisting of an armored camouflage jumpsuit with noticeable Batsuit-like elements like reinforced gauntlets, a chest panel decorated with the Arkham Asylum symbol, and of course a high tech helmet with bat ears. Arkham Knight bonus points: looks like Batman, major mystery, promise of a new character.

Arkham-Knight-forbesIn both cases fans latched onto the initial images that fired their imaginations, leading to plenty of theories about the characters, as well as an outpouring of cash to buy them in action figure and statue forms. Captain Phasma figures are among the first of the Force Awakens toys to sell out whenever stock becomes available, and multiple companies are releasing Arkham Knight figures in price points ranging from Mattel’s 4 inch Multiverse figure at $10 to Prime 1 Studio’s $900 polystone statue and everything in between.

While both characters have enjoyed intense early popularity based primarily on their looks, it remains to be seen what their legacies will be. We won’t go into spoiler territory here out of courtesy for those who have yet to finish the game, but suffice it to say that the Arkham Knight’s true identity ties him very closely to Batman. Meanwhile, the world will be watching the exploits of Captain Phasma when Star Wars: The Force Awakens (finally) hits theaters on December 18th.

What characters have piqued your interest based on their looks alone? Let us know in the comments below!

Image credits: Batman: Arkham Knight/Rocksteady Studios/Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment (TechnoBuffalo, Forbes), Star Wars: The Force Awakens/Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures (Vanity Fair, FatHead)

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