Art of the Apocalypse: The Making of Clem’s New Look

posted by Dave Bogan August 17th 2018

With a fresh new art style that calls back to both the comic book and the stylized nature of the earlier seasons -- along with some slick new visual tech we call “Graphic Black” -- The Walking Dead: The Final Season has given Clem an outfit and visual treatment that speaks to where she is at in her story. Finding AJ and surviving on their own has been a long, lonely road fraught with hunger, stress, and raw survival.

So naturally, the characters appear filthy and worn. Pickings are slim at this point, and chances to stop and wash yourself and put on new clothes are getting rarer and rarer. If you find something and it fits, you wear it until it’s worn out. As the art director, I wanted to compliment Clem’s resourcefulness by choosing clothes that would help her survive but also accent her rugged presence in this harsh world.

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A tough old jean jacket for the summer to fall months will keep her safe from scrapes and scratches. It will also help her stay mobile while evading zombies and people alike through the cover of mostly rural areas.

We also took a liberty here to go with a badass motorcycle theme to toughen Clem up (like she needs it). Did she come across an abandoned biker den on a lonely North Carolinian highway? Or did she salvage a trendy teen back-to-school jacket from a mostly ransacked mega-store in a small town in Virginia? Who knows. All I know is, it looks cool.

I think it’s inspired by my many outings with my dad to the motorcycle shows at Exhibition Place in Toronto as a kid. I still remember the ring he bought me with six skulls all stacked on top of each other. I never did wear that out in public, especially after it turned my finger greyish black, but man I still love that thing.

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What should I say about a hoodie? Everyone has one. If you say you don’t have one, you are probably lying or have forgotten about it. If you saw one lying around in the zombie apocalypse somewhere, you would grab it too. They are practical, will keep you warm, and keep your face hidden when you don’t want someone recognizing or remembering you. You can even stuff the hood full of soft things at night and use it as a pillow. When you’re constantly on the move, that alone would make life more bearable.

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You can never have enough pockets in this world, hence the rugged and utilitarian cargo pant for stashing the odd bullet and other small useful items like, say, a paper map (remember those?) or a compass or a needle and thread kit to sew your arm back together after being bitten wide open by a scabrous mutt waiting for someone to open that damn can of beans. Bags filled with necessities can be left behind in a rush or when surprised and upended by a threat, so it’s always good practice to keep some essentials on your person.

Also, a selfish Art reason for many pockets: they help breakup the silhouette of the character, creating interesting shapes in a mostly realistic shape design art style. (Plus, the little pocket flaps look cool moving in the wind shader.)

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Clem knows to keep her feet warm and dry and to look good while doing so. At this point, there aren’t many working vehicles (or gas to fuel them), so the people that are left do a lot of walking. And in this world, if your feet hurt too much to keep walking, you’re dead. A good sturdy pair of boots will keep her feet from getting injured and provide a barrier that should prevent zombie brains from getting under her toenails (does a person turn when that happens?).

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Whether or not you picked the “keep your hair short” choice from the end of Season One, Clem is keeping it short because she’s smart like that. I missed her short ponytails from earlier seasons, and I felt compelled to continue along the interesting path of the asymmetrical design from the end of Season Three, even though I was not fond of that last haircut. So I mixed them both together. We are left with hair that is long enough to put into a short ponytail on her left side but not quite long enough to do so on her right side.

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Can you believe Clem still has this hat? It is so old and crusty! The D is starting to peel off, and there are several holes apparent on the panels. How bad does this thing smell? How many times were walker brains and innards splattered on it? It doesn’t matter. This hat has become a part of the character, Clem’s only physical attachment to Lee and the time they spent together.

I made the mistake of showing Clem without her hat at PAX East in Boston, and the fans present had some serious stress oozing out of their pores about it. The fans want the hat, so I’ll give them the hat, albeit an old, worn, crusty, and bloody hat.

In almost every season, there has been a conversation within the team about whether or not to lose the hat. And yet, here it is. There is something magical about that hat and its ability to evade the creative butcher’s block here at the studio.

Editor's note: download the official cosplay guide here, and read tips on how to cosplay Clementine from "Done Running" lead writer Jessica Krause in our previous dev blog.