Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Building the Future - Part One

For anyone interested, here's part one of a deep-dive into the process of creating the 2D art for Super Sonya - Defender of the Nexus...

My initial thinking was to use Sonya as a companion show for Leoric, in 'He-Man / She-Ra' fashion, but then realized setting it as a follow-up piece would give me more options.

While I had set Space Lord Leoric in the early 1980s (83 to 85), I decided to set Super Sonya later in the decade (89), allowing me to advance some graphic design elements and avoid too much retreading of the style established for the previous show.


The following was originally intended as the opening narration for the show but ended up as packaging blurb. It did however give me some basis for the show itself...

It is the 25th Century...
The Heroes of the S.T.O.R.M are lost and evil threatens the galaxy.
Now the Nexus summons a new protector, a warrior of incredible power...

Super Sonya... Defender of the Nexus!

From this starting point, I was then able to create a basic show bible which would give me foundation for presentation elements and text for packaging...

  • Super Sonya is set centuries after the original Space Lord Leoric show and takes place in the same universe
  • The Heroes of the S.T.O.R.M have long since fallen into legend
  • The show opens with the peaceful world of Sanctuary being attacked by the villainous Lord Krullen
  • Krullen's base of operations is the D.E.D Moon (pronounced 'dead moon'), which stands for Destroy Everything Device
  • The lifeforce of the Universe, known as the Nexus, is based on Sanctuary and Krullen is determined to destroy it
  • Sanctuary is protected by an energy shield, but it is only a matter of time before Krullen can break through
  • The Nexus summons Sonya, a wandering warrior who is the sole survivor of a tribe wiped out years ago
  • Sonya is imbued with great power by the Nexus and given two sentient Battle Blades; the headstrong Klash and the tactical Klang
  • Revealing that only the combined power of the Heroes of the S.T.O.R.M can stop Krullen, the Nexus charges Sonya to search the galaxy for new heroes to rebuild S.T.O.R.M
  • Sonya must return with the Heroes before Sanctuary's shield is destroyed and defeat Krullen once and for all


Whereas Leroic's logo treatment was heavily inspired by the original 'He-Man', I went with something a little more slick for Sonya, overlapping the font and incorporating her flaring eye and each of her battle blades into the design...

The next challenge was to create a piece of Sonya-themed art that could be used across multiple formats. 

Using my backstory for the show I knew some of the elements that I wanted to use (such as the world of Sanctuary and the D.E.D Moon), but the rest came from experimentation. My first design was inspired by the presentation of the character selection screen from the Heroes of the Storm's front-end, but this was ultimately dropped in favor of something a little more rugged. Harking back to Sonya's barbarian roots, I decided to keep some elements of the Nexus but created a rocky outcrop for her to stand on.

Below is the original 'Nexus' background and the final 'Rocky Outcrop' version...

The addition of a vertical glow around Sonya helped set her apart from the background, as well as creating a focal point when overlaid on the background horizon line that draws the eye directly to the character...

The final image was then split into different components, allowing me to move them around to suit the needs of different media.

Sonya Action Figure

Separated from the Space Lord Leoric packaging by five years, the graphic design and layout changes between the two are quite subtle but help create a noticeable generational shift when compared side-by-side...

Some of these differences include:
  • Dropping the frame border and letting the Sonya background image fill the card backing
  • Prominent health and hazard warnings
  • Softer, rounder corners
  • Plastic nubs added to the figure enclosure allowing the packaging to stand on its own as a display piece
  • The addition of gold-foil to the title logo, making it pop from the darker background.

In addition, since this was supposed to be a continuation of the Blizzmation franchise, I also needed to update the logos for this fictional element. The original, more straightforward designs used in the Leroic packaging (which are so early 80s that they're still influenced by the late 70s) can be seen below, and beneath them are the new 1989 versions, with more gloss and flair.

*Weapons Included!

Whereas Leoric's weapons had been left out of his packaging (as both a joke to the numerous things that were *not included in toys when I was a child, and some designer laziness on my part), I was determined to feature Sonya's battle blades since they had become actual characters in my background story material (the headstrong 'Klash' and the tactical 'Klang').

An early version featured an enclosure for both blades, on either side of the figure...

 ...but this stole space away for packaging blurb so the final version saw both swords bundled into one enclosure, leaving room for text and information.

Plastic Detailing

After previously experimenting with the additional 'toy' detailing seen in the Star Princess Luma action figure (which featured joints), I decided to increase the level of detail for Sonya's figure, which was built in the same fashion as both Luma and Leoric (

The 2D figure was first painted with highlights to create a glossy, plastic feel, and shaded to create a 3D sense of depth. After this, knee, shoulder and hip joints were added, followed by visible seams running along the lengths of her arms and legs to help create a subtle impression of the plastic-molding process used in real action figures...

Sonya's swords were created with the same process, grabbing screenshots from the game and then painting over them and shaded to create a plastic look and feel (once again with visible molding seams)...

One final feature added to the swords was some flaring to the hilts, to help create the impression of excess plastic left over from the molding process...

Wear and Tear

Creating a convincingly aged effect lies in the placement of wear and tear, as you need to tell a believable story of the decades this packaging has traveled down through. 

The impression that numerous fingers have handled it by its top corner, fatigue from being hung from hook after hook and impact on its lower edge after being dropped one too many times... by focusing on all of these key points you help create something that hopefully appears authentically long-lived and shelf-worn.

Below is  the final 'clean' version of Sonya's packaging and the 'aged' version for comparison... 

Su-Xen Action Figure

While working on Sonya's action figure I had started thinking about a possible companion figure for her, and the Cyber Wolf mount from the Heroes of the Storm game immediately popped into my head.

However, after creating the cyber wolf figure it soon became apparent that it would need a very different type of packaging to house it. Luckily, I had already tested a boxed figure design for Sonya before settling with the standard packaging, and with some scale changes this proved perfect for Su-Xen...

Above is the early, discarded 'box' design for Sonya and the adapted design for Su-Xen.

After creating some backing art using the customizable background components, along with some new art for the cyber wolf herself (complete with kick-ass eye lasers), I applied it to the box design.

Due to the fact this is a 2D image I then had to reinforce the perspective of the protruding box face. This was done simply by cutting out a central horizontal strip and then squishing the remaining two elements together, creating the illusion of the art wrapping around a '3D' surface.

The box mock-up below shows how this would have been achieved if it was actually constructed in 3D... 

Another element that helped create the illusion of depth in the 2D image was shading the box interior and the figure 'inside' it, which used several layers of shading for both the box itself and the figure...

Finally complete, the box packaging was then aged with similar process to Sonya's, focusing on corners and key edges to create the impression of wear and tear. 

Below are the 'clean' and 'aged' versions of the final Su-Xen box packaging...

Together, both Sonya and Su-Xen's packaging hopefully create a good illusion of toy product branding, evocative of the late 1980s.


In the next couple of posts I'll go over the design of the VHS and Genesis covers slips, and how the Animated Intro was created.

-Never Surrender!



  1. Off the chart mate. Love this stuff. So good! You need to do a Gummi Bears remake next :D

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Super Sonja is one of my favorite characters in this game. After all, she's cool! My brother is interested in eSports and he bets here . I watched it and also decided to make a bet. Previously I looked odds and chose a suitable candidate.


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