Designing the dragons in Code 45 was a process that took into account a number of factors. Given that the graphic novel’s environment was located primarily underground – and in the fairly claustrophobic quarters of Montreal’s metro tunnels – I wanted to move away from the traditional medieval dragon look.
Massive, slow-moving, heavily-armored beasts are certainly intimidating, but their ability to navigate a rabbit’s warren of subterranean caverns felt a little unbelievable. I also wasn’t keen on juxtaposing that kind of bulk against the ethereal, ‘are they or aren’t they real?’ question continually being posed by main character Vanessa and her crew.
It’s here that artist Joe Ng suggested looking at a more Asian design for our fearsome beasts. The two of us began looking through representations of dragons that favored long, lean, and in some cases feathered appearances that were every bit as terrifying, but far more believable from the perspective of how we wanted them to move in our story.
These creatures were incredible strong, capable of bursting through solid concrete or derailing a metro car, but they were also lithe and sinewy enough to suggest grace and speed when stealth rather than raw power was called for in the script.
Eventually, we went with a hybrid look, one that borrowed some of the spikes and spines of European lore with the stretched, long-limbed countenance of their Asian rivals. Of course, being able to play with the darkness of the tunnels, as well as the hallucinatory aspects of the Code 45 story, gave use further tools to obfuscate, disguise, and otherwise integrate our dragons into Vanessa’s environment – making it that much more difficult to understand their true nature.