Saturday, July 24, 2010

Character: Turbo Granny!

Say hello to Turbo Granny, who seems to be a bit out of her usual territory in the above illustration. To be precise, Turbo Granny (ターボばあちゃん) is something of a Japanese urban legend, and I found the idea so hilarious that I decided to translate her into a picture, slight cultural shift included.

Read on to find out more about Granny, the legend, the illustration, and the weird thing she's doing with her hand.

Includes a "Making Of" article with rough sketches, multiple character designs and lineart!

(click to enlarge)

So who is Turbo Granny anyway?

Well, the story is this: Imagine you're driving on the highway, maybe by night or through a tunnel. Maybe you're sleepy, possibly you're half-hypnotized by the repeating visual patterns and the monotone humming of the engine. Feel it? Good.

Now while you're in that semi-trance, in your car at very high speed, imagine a CRAP WHAT IS THAT -- "knock knock!" sound RIGHT NEXT TO YOU. Someone knocking at your car window from outside!
Not even thinking clearly, you turn your head and see... a little old lady moving at the exact same speed as your car, knocking at your window and grinning at you like mad.

Congratulations, you now know who Turbo Granny is.
Also, you've just died by planting your car into the next wall, truck or pillar.

...And that's it. Looking at Wikipedia, the character seems to be all but unknown in the rest of the world, as there's not even an English page about her.

Well, consider this her first appearance. Be sure to look out for Granny when you're on the road, and give her my regards!


So here's how Granny came to be, because that much beauty doesn't come easily. First, a couple of half-interested granny sketches:

Note how the first one even kind of tries to keep her a bit Japanese-ish.
Of course, that one completely lacked the "Turbo" bit and had zero scare potential to anything other than a tea biscuit. So the next iteration, while abandoning every bit of Japanese-ness, had her sporting an appropriately maniacal grin and the knock-knock gesture. Also, I added a few mechanical touches.

Speaking of mechanics, the next question would be how exactly she moves. Would she run, or maybe fly, or skate?

While I'm 90 % sure that the original urban legend had her running on her legs, or maybe on all fours, the "skating" idea looked far more promising in connection with some exhaust pipes, a few tons of machinery and a pair of wicked, ferrari-red custom demonic turbo shoes.

OK. So far, granny had this "Jean-Paul Belmondo in drag" face, which was first a bit too cartoon-ish and secondly looked a lot like Groo the Wanderer, for some reason.
So, new faces!

Now the term "scary" should not be taken too strictly here. I did decide to take the comic route, so there was no point in doing a crazy demonic monster face. It should, however be something that would give you a nice jolt if it stared you right in the face without warning. So... big, crazy, maniacal eyes and some teeth.
In the end, I decided to go with 5, adding the teeth from 6. (Note the hiimdaisy pupils on 3!)

With that done, the only thing missing was the pic itself. So here we go!


(click to enlarge)

Note the good-sized machinery on her hips, chopper exhausts, and a freaking stripped jet engine thrown in for good measure, all done with some photo reference. I'm kind of happy the parts did turn out to look mechanical while still keeping their cartoon-ish feel.
Pointy magical skating shoes are there too, and for the rest our Granny seems to dress in a decidedly normal (and non-Japanese) way.

And for the final piece, just scroll back up to the top :)

I hope you enjoyed the read! Any comments or questions, I'd be happy to answer them right here below.
Thank you for playing!


  1. This is awesome. I love the in depth look at what you did. More urban legend projects! Great job man!

  2. Das ganze Zeug ist wunderbar. Würdest du mir eine Tätowierung entwerfen?

  3. Oh, na wenn du willst, gerne!

    Was möchtest du denn drauf?

  4. ich hab noch keine Ahnung. Es soll vom Unterarm auf den Handrücken übergehen. Ich dachte an Blumen: Kornblume mit Mohn, also leuchtend rot und blau.