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Trading Card Tuesday: Polar Vortex
Welcome back to The New Futurists’ special October Villain Takeover of Trading Card Tuesday!
We have LOVED hearing your thoughts on our original characters, Luis’s design notes, and the Omniverse lore we’ve shared in our new “Worldbuilding” section!
As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, we’re collecting your questions, feedback, and comments for an upcoming Omniverse reader feature. The easiest way to send us a message is to reply to this email (sorry y’all— it only took me two years of publishing on Substack to realize this was a thing). You can also DM us on Instagram or write us directly at email@example.com!
Now you may recall that we asked for your help on a little editorial matter. Luis and I left one spot open in our first set of trading cards and we asked YOU to choose a character for us to revisit. After a contentious first round of voting that made the battle for Speaker of the House look like a rhythmic gymnastics match, we had a head-to-head face off in our last post. And the winner was decided by a single vote! The people have spoken, so expect to see The American Spirit soaring straight out of the year 2045 and into your inbox!
Today’s featured character is a villain after my own heart! A disgruntled academic with a five year revenge plan? I’m not saying I can relate, but I definitely understand how he GOT there! Lol. Make way for the coldest criminal in New Cawkaigne, the frigid fiend known as Polar Vortex!
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Let’s see how many ice puns I can fit into this.
The iceman cometh! Dr. Darren Runzill aka Polar Vortex - the cyborg blizzard wizard himself. Now, with this guy I knew it was important not to fall into the… icy… trap of making him look like Mr. Freeze-lite but I also didn’t want to go too far with the ice theme like the sillier villains such as Icicle or Minister Blizzard. The cloak I think was the first part I knew I was for sure going to include since I wanted most of his face to be shrouded in darkness. He wears these glacial blue tech eyes that shine from under the hood with a subzero stare that would send chills down your spine. I wanted the technology he uses to look a little makeshift with wires hanging out of the robot arms and pipes protruding from the back of his cloak to let out steam. Unlike the cold-blooded Mr. Freeze, who thrives off freezing temperatures, I liked the idea of Vortex still being just a regular person who needs to wear a thick, fleece-lined winter-proof bodysuit to keep him from catching a… cold. Even supervillains get kind of… chilly… sometimes. I’m imagining it’s all pretty painful for him. I can understand why he’s developed such a bitter and…frigid…personality. One could even say he has a… heart of ice. I mean, he always looks miserable. And it’s probably because he is.
I also wanted to make sure the “vortex” aspect of his name came across in his costume. I made it look like his body is being slowly swallowed into his cape by giving it this dark gradient effect. Overall, it’s a little clunky steampunk, a little fantasy with a splash of Kirby. As for his trading card, I actually drew it while watching Big Trouble in Little China and I feel like you can kind of tell haha. I really wanted to just go for it and make him a… cool… looking ice menace.
Haha! Eat your frosty heart out, Arnold.
- Luis Valero-Suarez
Slow clap builds to thunderous applause for all those cold puns. What’s cooler than being cool? Being Luis.
Discerning readers may recognize Polar Vortex from his very first appearance here on Substack during our 2022 Revelation Day celebration. You can catch his brief cameo here:
This character had been rattling around my imagination for a while. I very much wanted him to be a climate scientist felled by hubris. That origin struck me as a tragic springboard for Polar Vortex stories. In terms of design, I wanted to reference the iconic Mr. Freeze without being too derivative.
Looking back over my correspondence with Luis, my primary aesthetic description was “cyborg wizard.” Here’s the direct quote from my notes: “Cyborg in that he’s replaced his frostbitten limbs with cybernetic prostheses. Wizard in that I like the idea of him carrying a staff-like weapon instead of a freeze ray.”
I absolutely love the references Luis pulled together when crafting this design. All of the tragic scientist refs from Doc Ock to Johann Kraus from Hellboy feel perfectly relevant. I also love the nod to Captain Cold, one of my favorite Flash villains!
I mentioned the recent X-men villains Hordeculture in my design notes for Luis because I liked the blocky, steam-punk-infused vibes of those characters’ designs. I really love the way Luis folded those steam punk aesthetics into Polar Vortex— and I particularly love the backstory he created in the process. This character is in constant pain due to his injuries, the power he wields, and the choices he’s made. And that, gentle reader, is a perfect example of why all artists— from Bill Finger to Jack Kirby— must be recognized for their role in creating the very ESSENCE of some of our most enduring pop culture icons!
— Ben Bolling