Q is for Quasimodo

“Q” is already a pretty challenging letter, but if I was going to stick with my self-imposed AlphaBooks parameters of using only characters from books I’ve read, using the first letter of the character’s full name (rather than the last name as with “Don Quixote”), and using only one character from any given book, I didn’t really have a whole lot of options this week. It boiled down to either The Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland or this guy:

Q is for Quasimodo — From The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo

I’ve picked and chosen a bit among the various details in Hugo’s description of the character in the novel:

We shall not try to give the reader an idea of that tetrahedral nose, that horseshoe mouth; that little left eye obstructed with a red, bushy, bristling eyebrow, while the right eye disappeared entirely beneath an enormous wart; of those teeth in disarray, broken here and there, like the embattled parapet of a fortress; of that callous lip, upon which one of these teeth encroached, like the tusk of an elephant; of that forked chin; and above all, of the expression spread over the whole; of that mixture of malice, amazement, and sadness.

And a paragraph or two later:

A huge head, bristling with red hair; between his shoulders an enormous hump, a counterpart perceptible in front; a system of thighs and legs so strangely astray that they could touch each other only at the knees, and, viewed from the front, resembled the crescents of two scythes joined by the handles; large feet, monstrous hands; and, with all this deformity, an indescribable and redoubtable air of vigor, agility, and courage,–strange exception to the eternal rule which wills that force as well as beauty shall be the result of harmony.

It’s easy to criticize the Disney Hunchback character design for so drastically toning down the character’s deformities, but one thing they really nail that many versions of the character–including my own–don’t really capture is that last line about “vigor, agility, and courage.”

If you follow me on Twitter and are online in the evenings (EST), you’ve probably seen sketchbook pictures I’ve posted from my recent experimenting with big areas of spot black. I decided to carry a little of that over into this drawing–although, I kind of chickened out with the left side of the face. Overall, though, I’m starting to get a little less hesitant with spotting blacks. I don’t see myself really going this direction with my “real” comics work, but one of the main reasons I participate in projects like AlphaBooks is to have an opportunity to experiment a bit with this kind of stuff outside of my regular comics work.

Drawn in colored pencil and graphite, inked in Digital Manga Studio, colored in Photoshop.

Next week: “R”…

You can find all the AlphaBooks entries to-date at the AlphaBooks tumblr: http://alphabooks.tumblr.com. You can also follow many of the entries as they’re posted in real-time by following the #AlphaBooks hashtag on Twitter on Mondays.


  1. Isaac says:

    You’re doing another Q next week?

    I really like the way half of your Quasimodo’s face (his right, our left) seems to recede, in its deformity, into the shadows—like it’s dented.

    I had no idea Hugo was so explicit about Quasimodo’s face and body. It’s almost like the work of a carnival barker running a freakshow.

  2. Ben says:

    @Isaac – Thanks! And… it’s “R” for next week like everyone else. I just cut and pasted that from last week’s entry and forgot to up it by one letter.

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