“Nothing in this world has any value except the things we can make with our own hands.”Yukito Kishiro
Thank you to all our friends who have supported us in our efforts to tell stories and make art. Because of you, our work has a community and a home, and that is more than we could have ever hoped for or dreamed of.
As our gift to you, please enjoy these high-resolution scans of the illustrations and concept art that were used in the production of Hop Frog. These full-sized and unedited images have never been made available publicly, so for the first time anywhere you will be able to see the level of detail in the illustrations as well as the creative process and evolution of the eponymous “Trip” and “Hop” while the project was known by its code name “Razor Doll.”
Edward October and Nic Calavera
Nic Calavera’s Production Notes
The setting of the original Poe story is somewhat ambiguous in terms of time and place. We know that we are in a dangerous foreign land and it is (probably) in some time period that predates the modern era.
As I was designing the characters of Trippetta (Trip) and Hop Frog (Hop), my original intention was to update the setting to an anachronistic Victorian era with a touch of the excesses of the French incroyables. Thus, Hop sports a cap and bells paired with a stylized morning jacket and spats while Trip wears a fairly traditional bodice-style dress with a Gibson girl hairstyle and everything is accentuated with ruffles and lace . Even in this early incarnation, there was a strong visual theme of hearts in the designs of both Trip and Hop’s costumes symbolizing their emotional connection to each other.
Note that in this incarnation, both Trip and Hop are intended to be of a diminutive stature, similar to how they are described by Poe in the original story.
Eventually, these Victorian designs were scrapped as Edward wanted the characters and setting to have a cyberpunk feel.
After reviewing the initial concept sketches for Trip and Hop, Edward felt that the designs were a little too safe and asked for something edgier with a cybernetic/punk rock look more in line with the typical pinup art that I produced. At the time I was a little disappointed, because I had been looking at Hop Frog as an opportunity to do something different to show that I could draw more than just naked women and monsters.
However, looking back on it now, Edward absolutely made the right call in asking for a visual shift towards something that was less grounded in the prose of the original story as the result was a version of Hop Frog that did not look like anything else.
Reflecting this design shift, I coined the code name Razor Doll when speaking about the project publicly, as a reference to one of the new suggested hairstyles for Trip which was based on the punk rock singer Razor from the classic LucasArts point and click adventure game Maniac Mansion.
The biggest challenge with this edgier approach was in designing the look of Trip. I seem to recall that Edward said he wanted something along the lines of a “punk rock ballerina,” which sounds good in concept but is a little bit harder to actually nail down when you put pencil to paper. My primary concern was that most of the designs that I was coming up with looked more like strippers than dancers.
What eventually saved the design was my decision to incorporate more elements of traditional dance attire into the costume, specifically a tutu and dance ribbons. I had actually desperately wanted to avoid a tutu at all costs because it seemed like such a cliched vision of what a dancer is. Even the original Trip design, which was a more classical vision, did not use a tutu as part of her dancing attire. However, it was really the only garment that provided the right silhouette to suggest a dancer, so, it ended up in the final design, albeit heavily modified from how a tutu normally looks.
By the way, you’re only seeing the designs for Trip that I thought were good enough to show Edward. There’s probably about half a dozen that went straight into the garbage.
Hop was a lot more fun to redesign. I basically just took a bunch of rock fashion from various eras and remixed it together.
Edward ended up choosing “Davey” (named after Davey Havok) as his favorite, since he liked the idea of a military dress coat that had been modified into a straitjacket. My personal favorite was probably “Kurt” (named after Kurt Cobain) because I liked the idea of a grunge-slacker for a court jester. However, it probably ended up being a good thing we didn’t go with “Kurt” as I’m pretty sure that smiley face is copyrighted (there’s a long history of the Vertigo comic book Transmetropolitan having to secure the rights to use a similar smiley face).
The Masks We Wear
I remember from pretty much the first conversation I had with Edward about Hop Frog I had told him that Trip and Hop are going to be wearing masks. This is a pretty common theme in a lot of what I draw, but in this case I had an internal logic for why I wanted to do this.
In the Poe story, it’s never really made clear who Trip and Hop are or where they came from. It’s mentioned in passing that they were taken from another kingdom during a military conflict – so it’s possible they’re political prisoners. In any case, I started to think that as performers in the king’s court, perhaps Trip and Hop would have to keep their faces covered both to hide their identities and to denote their lesser status (they literally have no identity other than the one given to them by the king).
Edward was into this idea, and I guess this was one instance where I was okay with drawing what I always draw.
Interestingly, what we disagreed on was what was underneath the masks. Originally, I had envisioned that underneath his mask Hop would have a scarred, but handsome face. Edward insisted that Hop should have “no face.”
I decided to take some artistic liberties with the story at this point.
In the original, Hop is described as being physically disfigured while Trip has classically beautiful features and proportions. It’s implied that Hop harbors affection for Trip, but it’s unclear whether the feeling is mutual.
In the Octoberpod version, the final reveal of the story is that both Trip and Hop have similarly disfigured faces. And, I like that better because, at its core, I think Hop Frog is a story about love and longing, and this wrinkle in the narrative shows how Trip and Hop have a bond between each other not just because of their shared circumstances but because of their shared loss as well.
I don’t draw a lot of art that could be considered sentimental, but I did try very hard to convey a degree of tenderness in this final scene. I think everybody knows that feeling of loving someone from afar for a long time, and there’s that moment where you touch for the first time and you feel vindicated, because for all those stolen glances and sleepless nights and the empty moments where you think that maybe there’s no such thing as love and you’re going to die alone, suddenly, there’s a person standing across from you, letting you know that you’re loved back.
And that’s what Hop Frog is really about: love, and what you must be willing to do to get to that moment.
Update 01: Well, the gallery was a good idea but it looks like it’s not allowing you to view all of the art, so here’s the links to each piece shown below: