Shaping the Underworld: The Scars We Bear

March 8, 2016

“A scar just means you were stronger than whatever tried to harm you…”
– Author Unknown

Scars. The physical reminder of a past injury. Some rouse memories of loss or pain. Others are kept hidden from sight, a source of shame and regret. But in the Court of the Dead, scars are badges of honor, worn proudly for all to see.


This is no mistake, according to the Court’s creator, Tom Gilliland. A scar or deformity is a way to show asymmetry, which is a key aesthetic design principle for the Court of the Dead world. “This [asymmetry represents] the fact that they live in a world that is insanely out of balance,” said Gilliland. This imbalance is at the core of the Court of the Dead, a world in which Death is the potential savior of mankind, while Heaven and Hell are the menacing villains.

This upset of traditional expectations about heroes and villains also extends to the characters themselves. There is one scar in the Court of the Dead that really stands out, scratched deep across the left eye of Shard, the first living mortal to be brought to the land of the dead by Death. The story of how Shard actually acquired her scar will be told in the upcoming Heavy Metal comic book series. But what is the story behind the design decision? Why give a prominent protagonist such a brutal defining mark?

“Shard is a soldier, an extremely competent commander, and a veteran of many battles – with the scars to prove it,” said Gilliland. “I wanted her to have marks that showed some of those laps around the track, but that were instantly noticeable, too. I wanted to jostle the reflexive vision of the glamorous fantasy female warrior and instead hit first and foremost with a vision of an ass-kicking veteran.”

“Besides the visual shorthand, [Shard’s scar] was inspired by one of the mightiest adventuring warlords I know to exist, G.I. Joe!” added Gilliland. “Why does G.I. Joe have a scar on his cheek? It’s because they told the 12-year-old me that he’s a badass.”

“The language of scars, and the crucible it represents, is something that triggers a reaction,” said Gilliland. “But above all, it speaks of something that’s earned.”


Add this trespasser to your collection, the Shard: Mortal Trespasser Premium Format statue is available for pre-order now! Join the Court of the Dead email list for updates! To uncover the story behind Shard’s scar, follow her journey in the Court of the Dead comic book series published by Heavy Metal, available in local comic book shops July 2016.

Subscribe to newsletter