Ryan Hanson is a boy who has known very little happiness, born into a world of poverty and to the care of a relationship made toxic with hate and animosity. In this capacity, he has learned quickly that love is rare, and has made it his goal to protect his younger brother, Mark from the worst of the violence; sometimes even taking the fall for him.
As you can imagine, Ryan Hanson was the first character I created when developing the series, and much like my previous series, he inhabits many aspects of myself, but also incorporates a lot of traits from people I’ve either known personally or have heard the stories of.
I wanted to put a lot of time into the development of Ryan’s character, which is essentially why Part 1 of the comic exists in order to illustrate truly the direness of his situation. While it could have been easy to start with him meeting Janie, I felt that more context was needed to show the abusive life he suffers, the rotten state of his background, but also to establish the loving relationship he shares with his mother and brother.
The most important thing about Ryan was to not make him ‘too nice’. With many characters in his situation, you’d expect that he’s a boy that had no character flaws or ever put a foot out of line with regard to his peers. In truth, as a protagonist, Ryan is both very strong and very weak, his strengths being his ability to find the goodness in anyone and any circumstance, but his weaknesses being his mental fragility and distrust of those around him. He’s a boy who’s known the worst of society and the people around him, but at the same time would like to try and find the best in others, nurturing the hope that he may one day find that – thus the reason why he bonds with Janie so quickly. Nice people are a mystery to him, and so when he does experience genuine human affection, he likes to hold onto these fleeting moments of love and care.
Most importantly, I didn’t want Ryan to be dumb. His analytical mindset and desire to learn more about those around him, despite his young age, was a trait carried over from myself. From my youngest years, I have always observed the world around me with curiosity, attempting to understand how things got the way they are. In my youth, I never spent five seconds outside the company of a book, and was often the butt of many jokes about how the only TV I’d ever watch was National Geographic, but this was all part of my desire to learn – to seek the context of life and the world around us. Ryan is very much the same, a boy who is old for his years, but in so doing is able to comprehend situations and make judgements on what his actions should be.
His love of sport, including baseball and basketball, are also a carryover from myself, but instead of those two particular games, my own hobbies include fencing and swimming. The piano and musical traits are imported from my older brother, who is a natural musician, pianist and guitarist, with an ear for melodies so refined he can immediately put his finger on the correct note or key the song is being played in – he’s never had a formal lesson nor has he ever read sheet music.
In terms of his design, the first aspect of his character was his hair. Ryan is among the blondest characters in the series, a choice made partly to help him stand out, but also a factor that comes into play as the story progresses, and even provides a trace of his own bloodline dating back to beyond his parents. At the same time, I wanted him to be quite a tall boy when compared to the other students in his class as, once again, it helps him stand out, but also increases his nervousness around others as he’s unable to really hide or be aloof – a boy who’s head and shoulders above those around him isn’t hard to miss.
Overall, Ryan is a ‘nice’ character, but one who isn’t too nice that he becomes saccharine. He has his naughty moments, and at times can be mischievous, but that’s all part of growing up. I never wanted him to be a saint among those around him, but at the same time I wanted to show that he was, at heart, a genuine character who treats anyone, regardless of their background, with respect.