One class of iconic characters that has never made its way into Kekionga canon (which of course is built out of all the character archetypes I can think of) is the aquatic humanoid. There are definitely some water beings out there (Old Fourlegs and the other coelacanths, and Nestor the Lake Monster come immediately to mind), but I’ve never done a mermaid or a fishperson or a water sprite or anything like that. I can’t really say why, except that I don’t personally much like getting wet .
But I’m currently writing up some notes for a Kekionga spin off featuring tiny characters (say knee high to a human and down) that I’ve always wanted to write about. I finally had an idea for a storyline for them, so I have been drawing them in my sketchbook, trying to figure out just how big they are and how they might fit together in a panel.
So I was using a diner coffee cup as a size regulator for Tiny Anubis …
And this little guy popped out of it. He was plump, with big underwater eyes, fin-like ears, webbed feet and hands, and catfish barbels on lips and chin. He was definitely a thing.
Turns out that he’s a small sentient amphibious being who lives in coffee, or around coffee– sort of a brownie of the coffee shop, who can easily turn into a gremlin if he doesn’t get enough caffeine. He’s a Java Cat. (That’s cat for catfish, and from classic hipster slang, not the meowing kind.)
These are actually the second and third Java Cats I’ve ever drawn, but this drawing is the proof of concept for the basic character designs. You can see that I am still experimenting with the number of fingers and toes and the shape of the webbing, and I think the shape (and possibly number) of fins varies by individual. The only clothes a Java Cat will ever wear is the miniature barista’s apron some ‘Cats wear when they have adopted a particular cafe, diner or coffee place as their own responsibility. Otherwise they go around naked, their cartoon modesty preserved by patches of iridescent scales in a “bathing suit” or “bike shorts” pattern. Otherwise, they have smooth skin in any shade of coffee color. Their fins and eyes are silver grey.
Just for fun, these Java Cats appear today in full color. Well, full color for me, anyway.