Reminiscing on Rovender Kitt (part 1)
I suppose this entry title may seem premature. It should probably read “Realizing Rovender Kitt”. After all, it is a little early to reminisce about a character which you’ve likely only met this past year in The Search for WondLa; but Rovender – the roving wanderer – has been traveling through my imagination for over a decade. For me, he has been a driving force behind these stories, reappearing in my life on-and-off since I first sketched him back in 1996.
Like many of my stories, the inception of WondLa began as sketches. I was thinking fondly of Jim Henson’s fantasy films, fairy tales, and the visions of French artist, Jean Giraud Moebius. From this inspirational pool came a character simply called “The Traveler”. This first drawing came to me while I was still working on role-playing games, like Planescape. And you can see in the drawing above, shapes and forms similar to the characters I had designed for that game. But there was something more to this sketch, something alive. This was a character I yearned to construct a world around.
Over the next year I worked on a myriad of freelance projects and began to seriously develop the manuscript for my first picture book, Jimmy Zangwow. From time to time, I would revisit the story of The Traveler in my sketchbooks. I started to craft a fantastic alien landscape for him to explore. I realized that this Traveler was some sort of alien himself. And yet, despite his alien-ness, he was someone I was sympathetic to. Perhaps it was his searching for his place in the universe that echoed my own yearning to find a niche for my creativity.
As I began to understand who this character was on the inside, I tried to figure out what he looked like on the outside. My first attempt was an extremely alien being, as seen in the pen & ink sketch above.
But that form was too bizarre and I returned to a humanoid figure. This time I infused it with some of his personality. I wondered what it would be like if this character was frustrated, moody and not an easygoing wayfarer. This certainly reflected my own frustration at the time as I labored to break into children’s publishing.
In Part 2: Edgar Rice Burroughs helps me out.