Welcome to Week 18 of the Wise Not Withered Character Showcase! This week I am proud to present Ronda, our 58-year-old pirate captain! Her dark, epic story was written by Priyanka from India, and captivating illustrations by Fanny from Mexico.
When it came to the Pirate Captain, I really had no idea what I wanted the story or her look to be like. I personally have very little experience with pirate stories and characters—I watched the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie in high school, and... that's it. So I really left her look and her story up to the artists that chose her from the list.
Fanny, Ronda's illustrator, got to work right away and was actually the very first illustrator to complete the character's drawings! So Ronda's illustrations are more so snapshots of her personality and lifestyle, rather than directly connected to the story.
Fanny was so great to work with; she sent us her sketches, did very well with my alteration requests, and completed the full set of illustrations very, very quickly. She may have been one of the younger artists I recruited for the project, but she worked very maturely and efficiently.
Captain Ronda's strengths include her intrepid, bold personality, ability to lead her crew and delegate tasks clearly and effectively. Her main weakness is her peg leg, so she isn't as fast, but she's still strong and purposeful, and excels in close combat.
I found Ronda's story writer Priyanka on Instagram, where she goes by "Perifene Rose". I was drawn in by her dark, powerful language and was shocked to find out she was just a teenager.
Priyanka's story for Ronda was exactly what I didn't even realize we needed. I helped out with editing the story but I did my best to keep the integrity of Priyanka's writing. I was just floored by her strong language—not profane, just very striking, bold words. As usual I will include an excerpt of the story at the end of the episode.
Ronda's role as captain is just as important as her role as a mother figure to her crew, especially the younger ones. Her team is comprised entirely of her adopted daughters, women whose ages range from 18 to 35. They all have been taken in by Ronda, some rescued from horrendous slave trade. Others were orphans and were in the right place at the right time when Ronda found them. It was important to me to include characters who embraced their wild and adventurous side, while still being loving and nurturing. It can be easy to create female characters that take on typically male characteristics, implying that feminine traits such as softness and flexibility as not as valued. But I really tried to make all of these elderly female characters well-rounded in as many ways as possible.
Here is Ronda's illustrator Fanny introducing herself, talking about her career as an artist and her experience being part of the Wise Not Withered project!
"Well hi, I'm Diana Estefanía Sanchez, but you can find me on social media as Fanny Sanchez Art. And I'm from Monterrey, Mexico. I start to draw since I was five years old. I always carried a notebook and colors in my bag. I really, really liked to draw Yu-Gi-Oh! cards, Sailor Moon stuff, and other animes. But I start to take it seriously, I think, in high school. Because I studied things related with drawing since junior high school, like technique... I don't know how to translate it. And finally, my career as a graphic designer and animator. Now I can say I'm a digital artist, and I work in an animation studio, making illustrations, creating characters, making motion graphics, and graphic design.
For me it's very important to do the best work I could. For Ronda, I made a lot of investigation, searching the clothes, poses, and women her age, because I had no experience designing characters like pirates, or older women. But when I had all these references, I could start making the full body first, then expressions and poses, and finally the illustration with a background. For this final illustration I chose that scene because I thought that she shows all her personality when she was sailing the ship.
Well, the brand looks so cool and interesting for me, because I have never worked on a project like this before, with other female artists of different countries. Also I really love the idea of expanding the representation in media of the elderly woman! And I hope when I reach that age, I still have the possibility of working in the creative world, still making characters, or book illustrations, or paintings.
And finally, my message for other female artists is that if you do this for a career, it will be difficult. But it is worth it, if it is really your dream. And remember, the continuous practice and learning from your mistakes is very important to becoming a better artist."
And now as usual, I will end the episode with an excerpt from Pirate Captain Ronda's dark, epic story, written by Priyanka with edits by yours truly.
"On the surface of the forebodingly calm sea, a three-mast ship—the Crimson Maiden—cut through the dark misty waters of the Jaladri Gulf. Soon the entire ship was drowned in murky fog, ominous clouds hanging in the sky above, obscuring the last rays of sunlight.
Captain Ronda stood tall on the wooden deck, her rough hands tightening around her sword's hilt. She took a deep breath, inhaling the musky smell of damp wood mixed with the salty air. A chilly gust of wind rifled through her bones, insinuating that a wicked storm was on its way. But that was far from Ronda's concerns: her gaze scanned the gloomy waters before her that she knew housed the most malicious of beasts. She understood that a shortcut through these dark waters could be dangerous, but desperate times called for desperate measures, and her crew's supplies were running low.
On either side of Captain Ronda stood Carmen and Jaaga, the eldest and most experienced of her crew, both in their mid-thirties. The women's sharp eyes gazed intently through the thick fog, their breaths coming out short, anticipating the impending doom. They each carried a weapon at their sides, Carmen with a scythe and Jaaga with a lance.
The ship rocked suddenly, and Ronda's focused eyes shifted to where Caspia and Cordelia stood toward the front of the ship. The two of them, in their late twenties, had been around long enough to know how Ronda handled intense conflict, but these particular waters were brand new to them. Their gazes swept from side to side, analyzing their surroundings which did not look so promising. With a single, sharp, swift gesture from Ronda, Caspia and Cordelia left their positions with soft steps toward the deck, where Daria and Hama stood ready with four cannons. Although just in their mid-twenties, Daria and Hama could handle the cannons almost as well as Ronda herself. At the wheel of the ship was Maris, the youngest of the crew. Ronda trusted her keen sense of direction and ability to read the stars.
A flash of lightning tore through the vast black sky, and instantly thunder boomed overhead. The Crimson Maiden began to sway with a sudden surge of waves, and at that moment a giant serpent—the living death of the sea—reared its head above the water, letting out an ear-piercing roar. Globs of festering saliva spewed from its mouth before it dove across the deck and back into the sea, beginning to coil itself around the ship like a restless predator closing in on its prey. A part of the ship cracked and splintered with the pressure.
'Keep up the speed, Maris! Do not slow down at any cost!' Ronda yelled toward the young Maris, who gripped the wheel tightly, struggling to keep with the waves. 'Caspia and Cordelia, stand on either side of Maris! Jaaga! Carmen! Attack its tail! Do not hold back!' Ronda shouted with zeal and confidence, as it was not her first time fighting these wretched sea snakes. She knew their weakness and she was waiting for the perfect opening.
'Hama! Daria! Ready the cannons! Aim at its face when it resurfaces! Wait for my signal!'
Jaaga and Carmen slashed at the serpent's flesh, steadily ripping layers of its thick, coarse skin, preventing it from tightening further around their ship. The beast's tail flung out of the water and smashed right into Caspia—adrenaline surged through her body as she cried out from the shocking impact. Not a second later Cordelia drew her dagger and screamed as she stabbed the serpent's tail before it retreated back into the water. Maris kept her hands steady on the wheel while Caspia and Cordelia locked their arms around her and each other.
Ronda sneered as she knew it wouldn't be long before she would stare death straight in the eyes. It had been a while since she had slain living flesh like this, and the image of scarlet in these black waters fired her up.
The beast began to hiss, stirring up the water even more, vibrating against the ship, rumbling through the entire crew's skin and bones. Ronda prepared herself, knowing that it was all-or-nothing. One chance is all Ronda would have to claim victory; losing would mean only one thing, and she was not planning for death anytime soon.
Right on cue, the monster surfaced at the side of the ship, hissing with fury, its beady eyes filled with rage—and locked right onto Ronda. As soon as it opened its jaws, the captain bellowed:
Daria tightly gripped and aimed the first cannon with a steady hand, while covering an ear with the other. Hama drew the string and blasted the cannon right at the serpent's face. Working together they swiftly fired one cannon after the other. The cannonballs smashed into the monster's jaws, fragments of teeth and slimy skin raining down on the crew. The explosions left billows of smoke in the sky above them, and though the beast had been stunned momentarily, it suddenly screeched and rushed forward.
Ronda dodged the serpent's bite, prancing like a tiger, her peg leg supporting her sideways lunge. She swiftly stabbed the beast's neck, and Carmen and Jaaga quickly followed suit, faithfully protecting their captain with their lives, pinning the monster down. Ronda ripped her sword out of the monster's neck and dealt the final blow, driving her sharp blade right into the beast's eye. The serpent shrieked in agony, unraveling its coiled tail around the ship, wildly thrashing about. The scythe and spear that had pinned it down were flung overboard as the serpent withdrew back to the depths of the black sea.
The dark clouds parted and blue sky was revealed once again, as the serpent itself had brought the storm, which it now took deep into the sea with it."
That's it for this week! Hope you enjoyed learning a bit about Ronda, the pirate captain! Stay tuned for the next showcases of the Wise Not Withered characters.