Character Design: The Cambodian

Issues #9 and #10 of Young Justice feature Captain Atom and a number of characters dating back to the late 1980s Captain Atom comic book series, the creative team of which – not coincidentally – includeed Greg Weisman, producer and head-writer of the Young Justice TV show and co-writer of the Young Justice comic.

Before a cover or a page of interior art for this story had been drawn, I was told that one of the villains in the story would be The Cambodian, although the character name was going to be changed, and that we’d need to reinterpret the character for the animated look of the Young Justice series. BTW – the character was ultimately never renamed, he was just referred to only by his given name of Rako, and the title “The Cambodian” was never used in the story.

I was sent the following as reference for The Cambodian character. I did some hunting online, but honestly didn’t find anything that helped me out much beyond what I was originally sent!


Original Cambodian Design

Original Cambodian Design

Captain Atom #7 cover

Captain Atom #7 cover

The image on the left shows a little more detail of the character’s armor, but Greg pointed out that the gray coloring from the cover of the character’s first appearance in Captain Atom #7 was the color scheme he considered “correct.” Armed with this and my understanding that the design sense of Young Justice tries to mix the colorful look of the superhero genre with a touch of practical functionality and realism (costumes with visible padding, closures, wrinkles, etc.) I set out to design “my” version of Rako – the Cambodian.


Cambodian Model - original

Cambodian Model – original

Cambodian Model - revised

Cambodian Model – revised

The design on my left is is pretty much a straight up translation of the original armor. I was concerned that the original armor was a little boxy and generic. I decided to offer it side-by-side with a version where I took more liberties. I tried to invest the design with a little more detail suggesting ancient armor while keeping the visor and the overlapping triangle design elements from the original. It was my understanding that the armor was modern, functional armor in a sci-fi world, so that meant it could still be stylized and streamlined, even with these ancient armor design elements. I kept the gray color scheme that Greg wanted, but also retained the red color of the visor from the more widely used gold and orange color scheme of the original armor and added a sash in a matching color.

The feedback on this second design was very positive, although I was asked to keep the design of the sword closer to the original (which I hadn’t been able to see very clearly) which includes an odd little rod or secondary blade parallel to the main blade. The design evolved slightly from there to what appeared in the actual story. The headpiece on the helmet become more pronounced and the trim was changed from a lighter gray to what I’d wanted to be a dull bronze color.

A good look at the armor can be had on the climactic page from Young Justice #9.

Young Justice #9 page 20

Young Justice #9 page 20

See more of The Cambodian Rako in Young Justice #10, on sale today!


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