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Woohoo! Amidst all this school and essays, I finally found time to continue with the latest addition to project pantheon, Gong-Gong! He represents the Devonian Mass Extinction event, and since the Devonian period is the age of fishes, his design is mainly based off Placoderms. The rocky parts represent to possible ways of extinction, tectonic activity and bolides, aka, meteors that explode over the atmosphere, giving him the fractured look.
A major artistic opportunity for me, I decided to forgo my usual lineart style, in favor of painting value and shading within the lineart itself. I need to learn this because soon I'll be begin the production of my major assignment, a PreViz short, and that requires me understanding how to shade backgrounds. So I'm using Gong-Gong here as an experiment, and man oh man did I have fun trying to texture rock and water. I had to study several references, including images of water elementals for Gong-Gong's watery body and characters like Havel (of Dark Souls fame) to create his rocky exterior, as well as the Hippocampi of GoW.
One of the highlights of his design is the use of the Wish-Granting Pearl, which can mean a lot of things in Chinese art, be it thunder, immortality or just the moon. Here its a conduit for his magical abilities.
This also marks my first great experimentation with different kinds of Photoshop brushes, including airbrushes and pencil brushes, largely for the rocky parts of his body
He's also the first great beast that is truly psychotic. All the other great beasts at this point are sane, if a lot of them are just really angry. Gong-Gong is not.
Because I want to illustrate his descent into madness, he also has the longest history of the Great Beasts... So without further ado...
“The line between genius and madness is a fine one indeed, this creature is irrefutable proof of it.” – Thoth
“He was gifted a brilliant mind… and he chooses to inflict untold suffering upon thousands, all to sate his wounded pride.” – The Archangel Raphael
“Pathetic… unbefitting to anyone who calls him or herself great beast or dragon…” – Vritra
“He may be crazy, he may be a jerk who rants about how I’m “not a real dragon”, but rest assured, with all the spells he’s studied over the eons he’s dangerous as f-” – Orochi
“Many ask… why would I want to keep such an infamous creature as ol’ Kanghui here, well to them I say; As long as you give someone even a slight chance of getting what they want, even a few breadcrumbs here and there… they will follow you through the ends of the universe under the premise that eventually, in the end, they’ll receive it! And as long as they're loyal to you, might as well make use of it…” – The Jade Emperor
Gong-Gong, The Black Dragon, The Mad Sorcerer, The Living Sea, is the Great Beast whose hailed as an intellectual powerhouse and whose sanity is most questionable, is the powerful and odd of the dragons within the Jade Empire, the realm of the Jade Emperor’s Celestial Bureaucracy. Not a being of flesh and blood who controls the elements like other eastern dragons, he essentially is the elements, specifically a giant mass of ocean, whose form is kept in place by a stony carapace, reminiscent of powerful fish from an age long past. With the use of magical pearls, he has mastered several arts of magic, and knows countless spells to compensate for any weakness.
They say when he spawned from the immaterium, it was said his presence could shake the galaxy, such was his size. He once prided himself of being the strongest of the “Lung”, as the citizens of the Jade Empire would call his kind, above even Ao Kuang, and once claimed his power can challenge any god… Until he met Zhu Rong… the fire god sent by the Jade Emperor to humble the beast.
Believing that he, the Living Sea, could swallow any flame no matter how powerful would be enough to defeat Zhu Rong, attacked the fire god head-on, with all the fury of the ocean… He was wrong. Zhu Rong’s fire-bolts blasted apart his stone carapace and skeleton, and after a long and grueling battle… the Black Dragon admitted defeat… and was never the same again.
As he healed and licked his wounds, he stewed, going angrier and angrier at his defeat by a mere flesh-god… Until he was so angry he proceeded to go on an epic rampage across the Jade Emperor’s section of the galaxy. Everywhere he went, the oceans swelled and flooded worlds, and some he even ate and absorbed into his being, becoming larger and larger than ever before.
To stop him, the goddess Nuwa, used the stone legs of Ao, another great beast, to replace the worlds that Gong Gong destroyed. Using her own skill in magic, for every world Gong Gong destroyed, she replaced, and over time, the dragon finally relented. His pride absolutely crushed that he could do anything to beat the gods in the long run, and amongst other Pantheons and great beasts, earned a reputation as a savage beast, unworthy of respect.
Here, the Jade Emperor found an opportunity. To showcase his wisdom, that he can convince anyone to the path of good… he struck a deal with the dragon. To satiate his need to be “equal” to the gods, little by little he would be taught the art of magic, from all the sources he could possibly find, from all the pantheons he was in contact with. He gifted the dragon with divine pearls, conduits of magical ability. As long Gong-Gong remained loyal, he would be given more and more of these small “gifts”. Gong-Gong’s loyalty soon became something akin to filial piety toward the Jade Emperor.
Many god-heads were alarmed at this, believing that the Jade Emperor was changing as a person, becoming more pragmatic and less “conventionally” wise, others were impressed at his cunning.
When the Omni-War struck, and pantheon fought pantheon, having a sorcerous great beast turned out to be incredibly advantageous to the Jade Emperor, as while most great beasts relied upon what they were gifted with, Gong-Gong could use spells to heal himself and strike foes without having to go into contact.
His need to research on spells, enchantments, anything, discovering that pantheons as a whole are chock full with secrets, drove him psychotic, believing that yes, this is the path to true godhood. This earned him the ire of the beast that would be his greatest rival amongst the beasts… Vritra.
The Great Naga, Vritra, himself knowledgeable of the magical arts (as his armor was enchanted by Indra himself to bind him), knew how to counteract Gong-Gong, and as a being of drought and desolation, Vritra’s mere touch could evaporate Gong-Gong’s watery body. Unable to defeat the Great Naga, Gong-Gong retreated… once again his pride having been wounded for a third time.
As the Omni-War waned, unlike all other Pantheons, the Jade Emperor managed to wrench out a piece of the Milky Way to traverse the universe with an empire intact, he knew he can’t just let Gong-Gong go to waste. Using his considerable resources that he still had, he created a solar-system sized dyson sphere for the dragon to study and research in.
In the modern era, as human pantheons have become the dominant force of the universe, whenever the Jade Emperor feels that his presence need be felt, all he has to do is send Gong-Gong for a “expedition”… and all would be in order once more. He promises one day… That Gong-Gong will finally have his chance to defeat all those who wronged him…
With Gong-Gong finished, Tiamat is the next final entry to the current "season" of great beasts of Project Pantheon. Afterwards I'll be mostly focusing on the designs of the gods, the setting and the overall story of the setting.