Jun 252012

With our past focus on superheroes, villains, and other characters, we branched out last class into creating characters who were not quite human.   We learned about creating characters, and drawing… aliens and robots!

Just because these characters aren’t human, it doesn’t mean they can’t have very human like feelings and qualities.  To find out more about what we learned, as well as the work the students came up with, scroll down.  As always, first comes the lesson plan we reviewed, as well as everybody’s work.

Here we go!


“Outsider” Characters, And What It’s Like Not To Be Human

Today’s lesson will have character work AND drawing exercises.  It will be about: CREATING CARTOON ALIENS AND ROBOTS! 

Both are popular types of non-human characters.  And, both of them can have trouble fitting in– we’ll talk about what it means to be an “outsider” as a character, later in this lesson. 

Robots and aliens each have many things that make them alike, as well as many things that make them different.

Let’s start off with:  ROBOTS and MECHA CHARACTERS

Robots, first of all, are machines. They are man-made machines.  Stories about robots are called “SCIENCE FICTION” stories.

These stories often have to do with technology, machines, science, and other life forms– so, Robots and Aliens get featured quite a lot.

Robots can look a lot like people, or almost nothing like people– but in stories, they are usually almost as smart, and they can sometimes be smarter.

They have what’s called “Artificial Intelligence:” Smarts that were programmed by humans (instead of naturally developed, the way human brains develop).

“Mecha” is a word for Robot Stories, in Anime movies and Manga comics.

Anyone can tell a story using robots, and Mecha styled robots– but it is good to know the country that the word comes from.  Quick review:  what country produces Anime and Manga?

(Answer:  Japan!)

Although “Mecha” is a term used in Japanese stories, that actually comes from the word “Meka.”  “Meka” is a slang word in Japanese, based on the English word “Mechanical.”

What does the word “Mechanical” relate to?  Hint– it’s the word that describes what a robot is!

Mecha robots can be big or small, can look like cars or like animals, can have wheels or arms and legs, and sometimes, they can be humanoid.

Here are some popular types of robots:

*An Android, or Automaton, is a word that not only talks about phones.

Android is also a word to describe a human-like robot.  There are some in real life that look very realistic, and they are very popular in made-up stories.

*Cyborgs are similar to Androids because they are human like.


The difference is that they are part human, and part robot.  They are often tall, strong, and powerful fighters.


*Machine-Like Robots– These robots look the least human, but can still be very intelligent.

Think of WALL-E from the Pixar movie, or R2D2 from the “Star Wars” series.

SENTIENCE:  An Important Theme in Robot Stories

Ever heard that word?  It is a big word, that means this:  having the ability to feel.

In the world of science, there is always research being done if real-life robots could ever “gain sentience.” 

If you’ve ever seen the story “Pinocchio,” you’ll see the things that can happen when a character is not human, but wants to be, and to feel like he’s real. “Pinocchio” is all about a little boy who is a puppet, and hopes to become a “real boy.”

In many stories, stuffed animals, dolls, puppets, and robots– who are not living and breathing animals or people, technically– still have feelings, and have trouble understanding why they can appear real, but not count as real to everyone else.

Pinocchio might not be a robot, but what he wants—to be human—is a a feeling.  And feelings– or gaining sentience– is common theme throughout many robot stories.

In a different way, it can also be an important theme throughout alien stories, as well.

     Robot characters that look human– but are not treated like people– can have a lot of conflicts and struggles.

*  They are built to think.

*    They are built to take orders.

*    They are just as smart as people.

*    Because they’re machines, people often treat them the way they’d treat a toaster or a hair dryer– just something that a person uses, to get something done.

*    Most importantly:  people can be mean and careless to robots sometimes. Because, as machines, they are not meant to have feelings– many humans then forget about kindness towards them.

A theme that runs throughout many comic books, movies, and books, is this question– what would happen if a Robot  became SENTIENT, and began to have feelings?

Here’s an example from the movie, “A.I. :” 

The story is about a young Robot, who appears exactly like an eleven year old boy.   He has been programmed to have feelings, and he feels love.  A family adopts him, because their biological son is sick and in a coma.   He is happy, and loves his family very much. But when their human son’s incurable disease is finally cured, they start to love that boy than their robot son.  Because the robot son loves his Mom and Dad, he is confused and very hurt by this.

Many stories show possible Robot Sentience as a bad thing, because of the fact that machines are often more powerful than people.

If he people controlling the robot are mean, and tell the Robot it does not matter, because it is not “really” a person, there can be problems.

The Robot will be mad, and want to get back at the people who are treating it badly.

And because it has INTELLIGENCE, as well as PHYSICAL STRENGTH, the people who were treating the robot badly can be in for a scary surprise.

Sometimes, Robot stories are used to teach a lesson– no matter what you may think of someone else, it is never a good idea to hurt them or be mean to them. 

Another lesson that Robot stories teach, is how science can be amazing, but also really dangerous.   An invention can overpower its creator– think of the story of “Frankenstein.”

Robots being human-like, but not fitting in, means that they are characters who are often OUTSIDERS.  This ties them to Aliens, because no matter what, living beings from other planets are always outsiders at least when their stories start.

Here’s the dictionary definition of the word, “Outsider:”

a. One who is excluded from a party, association, or set.

b. One who is isolated …from the activities or concerns of his or her own community.

EXCLUDED is a big word, that means to be left out.

ISOLATED also means being left out, and being forced to be alone.

Characters who are outsiders have trouble fitting in– many times, it is because there is a group they do not belong to. 

Often, they either wish they could belong to the group and have trouble being part of it, or they do not want to be part of a group– yet, people expect them to be.

While Robots may look and feel human, real humans usually will not think of a machine as anything like a person. 

The same goes for Aliens– in many stories, even aliens who are very human-like are often not accepted by human beings.

Here are some common themes that happen in alien stories:  *Alien Invasion:  This type of story is when a group of aliens come from another planet, usually with better weapons and who are smarter, to ultimately take over Planet Earth.  They get to earth using elaborate flying devices called SPACE SHIPS, or UFOS (for “Unidentified Flying

These kinds of stories are action stories that often have fighting and epic battle scenes.

*Accidental Alien Crash:  Like Superman or E.T., sometimes aliens end up on planet earth without meaning to.

These aliens are often friendly, and who hope to talk to the humans to make new friends.

In stories like “Superman,” the Alien is so human like he becomes almost like an earthling, living in secret on earth among other earthlings.

In stories like “E.T.,” the Alien will make human friends, but ultimately have to go home so he can survive.

*Alien Envy of Humans- Much like Robots, there are sometimes aliens who wish they could leave their home planet, and get to be just like the human beings on earth.

Also like robots, aliens who try to do this usually have some trouble fitting in. 

*Humanoid Aliens, Vs. Creepy Crawly Aliens– Humanoid Aliens may come to earth for good or bad reasons, but they have intelligence– so it’s a clear decision they made.  Fighting with humanoid aliens is also scarier, and more like war between human beings.

Creepy Crawly Aliens, like many of the ones in stories like “Men In Black,” often are huge, look like bugs, and are physically powerful– but not as intelligent.  They operate with what’s called a “Hive Mind.”  The way that bees all work together in a hive, without making any decisions by themselves, is how these aliens act.

Sometimes, it is said that people are afraid of things they do not know about.  Part of why Robots and Aliens are both outsiders, is because they are always getting judged– sometimes unfairly.

Because people judge them before they get to know them, many times human characters will fear Robots and Aliens, and not want to find out anything else.


Aliens, unlike Robots, are not made by humans.  They are living beings, a lot of times with a language, a culture, and a place they call home– but unlike humans, they do not come from earth.  Robots are judged for not being human enough, while aliens are judged for not being human at all.

Luckily, when drawing your own aliens and robots, the sky’s the limit!

Aliens, as characters from outer space, are completely unknown.  In other words, since we’ve never met them– they could look like anything!  They could look just like us humans, only with purple skin, or they could look like a lizard, wearing a jet-pack, who was as tall as a building.

Robots can have as many wheels, machinery, or scary things as you like.  But, they can look just like people. Next, are some step by step examples of ways robots, and aliens, can be drawn:


Above is the “MOUSEY ROBOT.”  Much the way we did character design– and learned about the “Buggy Robot” this little guy is put together using shapes.


NOTE:  These are examples, and to help you get ideas.  As always, creatively putting together shapes– and then adding details– is the main way to create any character– Robots and Aliens included!


STEP 1:  Draw two cylinders, with one smaller and on top of the other.  This is the torso and head.


STEP 2:  Add circles:  TWO for the shoulders, ONE in the middle for his belt.  Add lines on the left and right, and one across his Robot mask.


The lines help make symmetry– remember how we talked about that last class, with face drawing?  SYMMETRY is when two sides perfectly match.


STEP 3:  Add lines and more cylinders, to shape the ears, the arms, and wrist cuffs of the robot.


STEP 4: Here’s where the shapes of RECTANGLES and HALF CIRCLES are added in.  This is for the robot’s thighs, calves, and feet.


STEP 5:  Connect the calves and thighs with a line, to have the Robot Knee!  This is close to the final touches, with adding teeth lines, circles for eyes, and rounded cylinders for the fingers of the hands.  Next…


STEP 6:  Is the last step!  Details are added here, which are mostly lines to show the metal workings and joints of the robot.  Little dots, and close together lines, represent where metal bends, and where the screws were put in on this robot.


NEXT, is the TRANSFORMER INSPIRED ROBOT.  These Robots are helpful to learn how to draw, because they’re somewhat human-like, but also very Robotic, Armored, and Big.

Voila!  Here is what your character will look like, once he’s shaded, and the practice lines are erased:


And below, is the first ALIEN example: The Creepy and Crawly, BUG LIKE ALIEN.


And finally, the more HUMANOID alien.

And now, for your CLASS ASSIGNMENTS!  You have a choice of a few.

 1.                  Design a Robot, AND an Alien.  It can either look like the examples in this packet, or they can be original.

REMEMBER:  Robots are machines, and often have wheels, buttons, and levers.  Even the humanoid robots have buttons to turn them off.  Aliens are from outer space.

They traditionally can have antennae or large eyes, but so long as you create an original character– and decide on what planet, real or imagined, they live on– the sky is the limit!

2.                  Take the characters you’ve been working with, superhero wise– and give them a new scene where they can fight crime!  That may be the evil factory, churning out scary automatons– or, it may be out in space, on the rings of Saturn.

Once you decide where your superhero or villain will be traveling to, DESIGN the character who they will meet.  This main character can be good, or bad.  However, this alien or robot has to interact with your main character.

3.  Design a Robot version of your main character– what would he or she be like if they were suddenly turned into a machine?

4.  Create a story where either aliens or Robots are taking over., or wanting to come to earth.  Here are some ideas to help you out, if you do not have any to start with:

*Robot Drones who are taking over have a programming problem, and the first person they meet is a seven year old kid.   With their wiring confusion, they decide to make that child the ruler of the world– does that child decide to SAVE the planet, or be evil, and lead the Robot Revolution?

 *Aliens who want to conquer earth, land on the planet.  But, they are made of chocolate– they have weapons made of sugar and marzipan.  Are the humans able to easily defeat them?  Or is the alien’s secret plan for the humans to eat so many sweets, they get too tired to fight in battle?

 *An alien has a fight with his family, and travels to earth.  He can shape-shift, so he begins living as a human.  He has to decide– does he like his new life and friends better, or is he going to go home to his family?  Other aliens like him are sent to earth, as a rescue operation.

*A robot who believes he’s human– he’s smart, he has feelings, and he’s strong– accidentally gets beamed up to space, when a UFO makes a mistake.  What happens to him next?

                    Good luck, and happy drawing today!  

Now, let’s look at the work our students came up with– both students in class chose to do stories about aliens AND robots, and how each group got along (or, did not quite get along) with each other!

First up, here’s the very fun and creative work of Woody Tuttle!

There are robot and alien character designs, and a comic about an upcoming epic battle between them.  Also note the detailed notes we discussed together, about the names of the aliens and the robots, their planets, and more facts about them!


And now, the fantastic, fantasy-world aliens of Jackson Siegel!

Note the brush work on his character designs, as well as the first pages of his comic– another epic war between the Robots and the Aliens.

As always, many thanks to everyone for reading  –!!

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