While Forever 16 is my primary endeavor right now, I keep tinkering around with other concepts on the side – like Cocktails and Dreams, for instance. Ever since torquesmacky
gave me his blessing to work with his long abandoned cast of
characters, I’ve been thinking about how to build them up into something really cool. This is exactly the same way Peter got inspired to make his newest comic series, “Free Spirit”, based on an obscure sitcom from the late ‘80s he’d discovered – the potential for greatness was there in the original stories, but a few changes had to happen first before it could become really awesome. And also like Peter, I saw much of that potential in the underused female lead.
In the original Cocktails and Dreams stories from 2001, Princess Riana is kind of a blank slate. All we know about her is that she’s the ruler of Aibara Island and she’s Trey’s best friend. But she has the very first line of the very first story – standing on the shore as the waves roll in, staring off at the distant horizon far out at sea, she asks Trey “How much do you think is out there?” And that really got me thinking. I saw Riana as an adventurous go-getter, unbound by the traditional princess role and eager to go out there and explore stuff. True, that trope has more or less been run into the ground by Disney and other animation studios in the last 25 years, but at least Riana doesn’t have a pair of stick-in-the-mud royal parents breathing down her neck and wondering what to do with their improper free spirit of a daughter. That conflict is as old as the hills, but with Riana’s parents not in the picture, it frees her up to just be her own badass self, unfettered by what someone else expects of her. I think that’s a lot more fun.
I sketched these poses a little while ago. I would imagine whenever the Aibaran people are threatened, whether it’s by vicious wild animals or the Dravidian Republic, Riana is right there on the front lines to defend her people, sword drawn, confident, and ready to kick an entire continent’s worth of ass. Definitely a far cry from the Riana of 2001 who dissolved into a whimpering panicky mess when her village caught fire.