A peek under the hood of M&M

December 1, 2010

Mutants & Masterminds 3rd Edition Art Preview #1

The new edition of Mutants & Masterminds is releasing soon, and we want to give you an inside look at what went into making it—and more importantly—what went into the art! So over the next couple of weeks we'll show you some behind-the-scenes concept art and give you a peek at what went into making the cover to the new edition.

Concept Art for The Sentinels

When Steve and I sat down to come up with art for the new edition of Mutants & Masterminds, we wanted to expand the world of Freedom City and the characters in it. So we decided to build a new team who would make their debut in the 3rd edition rulebook: the Sentinels.

Of course, a whole new team meant we needed a whole lot of new characters. So we started hammering out some ideas for characters that met a few different needs: The heroes had to fit into classic roles that people would recognize. We wanted them to look cool, not just for M&M fans, but for any comic book fan out there. We wanted to make sure the characters had interesting backgrounds, origins, powers, and appearances. Finally, we wanted to share them with you, so we had to make sure they were PL10 heroes, so your players can use them if they want. (We'll post their write-ups in January!)

All that in mind, we came up with a long list of names, and argued it down to our favorites. Then I wrote a short background for each character, and Steve made a few tweaks. But we decided we wanted a better vision of the characters than words alone could provide, so I asked Hal (Lord of the Art Budget) if we could get concept art for each character. Luckily, there was room in the budget, and I added a short description to each character that the artists could use as a seed for the visuals.

Today you get to see some of the results. In alphabetical order, meet the Sentinels:


First up is the team mystic. I wanted to do something different than the usual Doctor Strange/Doctor Fate type of mystic, so I thought about the setting (which you'll be learning more about soon) and decided it would be cool if the mystic came from an Eastern style of magic. I described him to the artist as "an Asian man wearing traditional Chinese clothing with a dragon woven into the silk. In order to use his powers he has to perform maneuvers similar to dragon style kung fu."

The magical effects here are green, but we decided a golden/yellow color was better. The original idea was to have him wear different colored clothing at different times, but I think he's always in red in the art for the M&M Hero's Handbook because I forgot to tell the artists. Whoops.

Anyway, I like the end result and think the dragon-style kung fu poses give him an interesting visual aspect.

Dragon Eye Concept Art

Kid Robot

Kid Robot came to me late in the process. But when I hit upon the name Kid Robot, I thought, "I can work with that!"

He's a robot/artificial intelligence who's naive and inexperienced when it comes to the real world. He joined up with the Sentinels in order to learn about the world while having "adventures," as he calls them.

I wanted him to be some kind of energy controller and thought force fields would make for a cool effect, so he has a force field to protect him and an array of force blast effects. For his description, I told the artist I wanted something like a cross between Astro Boy and Robotman (from the Doom Patrol, not the All-Star Squadron version). I think he ended up a bit more like a young C-3PO, but with clothes on who can tell? In this image he has a simple antenna sticking out the top of his head, but during the development of the art for the book I asked that it be changed to a little lightning bolt-shaped antenna, which looks better.

Kit Robot Concept Art


One of my personal favorites. I wanted someone who had powers and abilities that would be useful in a lot of settings, and while Mongrel isn't the most physically powerful characters he's sneaky, stronger than a normal human, can move around both city and rural environments quickly and easily, and has senses that allow him to track. He may sound like Wolverine, but to me, he's more like Spider-Man, maybe because he's a wisecracker.

For his visual, I asked for a modern take on the classic wolf-man. Not the huge, dog-headed werewolf we see all the time in movies these days, but the classic half-man/half-wolf from the past. His costume caused the most problems. Here you'll see it's dark brown and green, because I thought that would be a good combination for him, but once we got to the art for the book, we experimented a bit and it changed to brown and orange. Again, the changes came late, but they made him look better.



I've had this name lying around for a long time. Simple, easy, and no question (in my mind) as to what the character is like. So when I had to come up with some samples for character creation in the DC Adventures Hero's Handbook (and repeated in the M&M Hero's Handbook), I pulled her out. Also, because she mainly has high Abilities and some Powers, she makes a nice foil for the Rook, who is a skill-heavy character.

Anyway, I wanted her to look like a super-powered version of the girl next door: cute, sweet, fun-loving, nice, a little geeky... but able to knock your block off. Her appearance had been cemented in my mind for years, so that was easy: "cute girl in blue jeans and a pink baby doll shirt with the word "Princess" written across it in sequins." The version of her below is good, but the one on the cover to the new Hero's Handbook is perfect.



Who doesn't like big guys made of rock? I mean, it's a classic!

Rocky is a mutant made of living stone. He's the other powerhouse on the team. He's very dense and tough, with a number of Immunities, powerful legs that allow him to run and jump around, and can perform a couple of feats of strength that make him a good choice for taking on groups of minions. I had a pretty good visual in mind for him and a complete back story, so it was easy to get the result you see below; a big blocky guy made of slate-grey stone and about as wide as he is tall, wearing biker shorts. The reference I gave the artist for how Rocky looked was Kryten from Red Dwarf. The artist did a great job turning out the perfect visual on the first try.


The Rook

Along with Princess, the Rook has already been seen as example of character creation in the DC Adventures Hero's Handbook. He's the quintessential dark avenger with a little bit of gadgeteer thrown in for good measure. He's a normal human, but he augments his training and athleticism with a utility belt, a cowl full of sensors, and high-tech wings that allow him to fly silently.

I described the wings as something like a cross between the Falcon and Hawkman, but what I got in the concept art was something more like Batman. Not exactly what I wanted, but it looked impressive, so I went with it. I like giving illustrators a bit of artistic license with the characters, so you'll see some "inconsistencies" in the characters throughout the Hero's Handbook. I think it lends the art more of a comic book feel as one artist leaves a book and a new one makes his mark on the character. But again, the version of him on the cover of the Mutants & Masterminds Hero's Handbook is exactly what I had in mind. You'll see that cover later in this series of previews.



Finally! The battlesuit!

One of the problems I've always had with aquatic characters is that they come off a little... lame, sometimes even a literal fish out of water. But the setting we were building was a coastal city, so it made sense to have someone who had some kind of association with the sea. Talk about a diving suit led to a suit of high-tech armor that was able to deal with a number of different environments, which then became Ultramarine!

Power-wise, she's (yes, it's a woman in there) what I like to think of as a generalist; she's strong, fast, tough, has ranged attacks, senses, and pretty much everything else you'd expect from an armored character.

As for her costume, well, it didn't take much to get a cool battlesuit out of the artist, just a few reference images, and he nailed it on the first try. The color scheme also seemed pretty obvious, ultramarine and other shades of blue. I think she turned out great.



Victor Prophet, the son of Doc Prophet, the Man of Marble! He, like Kid Robot, was developed fairly late in the process, but I really like him.

Victor is a highly athletic and talented young man who benefited from conditioning and training given to him by his father. He's a natural leader with the ability to make his teammates into something more than the sum of their parts. He's an excellent unarmed fighter, but also wields a ray gun that allows him to exploit weaknesses and set up the bad guys for a takedown by his teammates.

For Victor, I wanted a very Pulpy look, like the Rocketeer or a World War II-era fighter pilot. I love the look of double-breasted jackets, but I thought that might result in him looking a bit too generic, so the idea morphed into a V-shaped double-breasted jacket, which turned out pretty well. The colors aren't quite right on him in this first piece of concept art--I wanted a deeper Navy blue--but this gives a good sense of what he's like.



The cocky troublemaker. The redemption-seeking ex-villain. The thrillseeker. Vortex is all these things, plus he just happens to be a powerful teleporter with the ability to open vortices to other dimensions that allows him to fire a number of different energy blasts with the Variable Descriptor extra. His teleportation creates portals he steps through (he can choose to take others with him, but it's taxing). He's also figured out how to open a "partial portal" below him that he can stand on (Flight with the Platform flaw), so he's very mobile and prefers to stay away from the action.

The visuals for him were a simple black costume with an iris-like pattern on the front, the center partially open and glowing to match the energy signature of the dimension he's accessing. He's often shown with blue power effects, but his powers could be any color. I kept telling the artist to vary it up, but they really liked the blue. I'm sure there will be a couple of images of him with differently-colored effects.



The Sentinels' resident alien. Xeno has a number of powers including super-strength, flight, incredible resilience, eye-beams (I've always loved eye-beams!), intangibility, and the ability to morph into humanoid forms.

Xeno is another one of those names I'd had kicking around for years. I knew I wanted an alien on the Sentinels, so I cobbled together a couple of images for reference for the artist and told him to make Xeno look like a humanoid praying mantis combined with manta ray and the image below was the result.

Originally, her skin was a different color, but red looked soooo much better (even though it makes her look a little too similar to Pseudo from the Freedom League. But it looked good, so whaddayagonnado?). I love the X-shaped bands on the costume both because they look cool and because it's the first letter of her name.


Assembling (and Disassembling) the Sentinels

Ten characters seem like a pretty large team, and it is, but there's a method to our madness. We wanted to give players a wide choice of characters to choose from if they wanted to use characters from the book to sit down and start playing without writing up their own character. These ten characters fill a number of different roles (energy controller/blaster, generalist, sneak, powerhouse, etc.), have different origins (accident, alien, mutant, tech-based, trained, mystic, etc.), and have a wide range of personalities. So hopefully at least one of the characters will appeal to most players.

But one of the other considerations that loomed large in the creation of the Sentinels is that we wanted them to be disposable. Yep, you heard me, disposable. If you don't want the Sentinels in your universe, you can remove them and replace them with your own heroes. Our goal was to make it easy for you and your players to jump into playing, but we also wanted to make sure you had an even better chance to make your PCs the central heroes of your series, without other heroes around to take all the glory (or take off the heat when the villains set their plots into motion!).

Coming Soon...

In the next couple of weeks you'll see more art coming your way, including the process we went through to create the cover to the new M&M Hero's Handbook. You'll see how the concept art here grew and changed to become something really spectacular, going through the same experience we did when the artists sent us an update every few days—but you'll get to do it in a much shorter time-span and on a regular schedule!

When the previews end in a couple of weeks, the release of the M&M Hero's Handbook PDF will be near, so watch for the special pre-order offer and the hardcopy to follow about a month later!

Jon Leitheusser
M&M Line Developer