Step-by-step: Jennie Canuck -- a DC Bombshells-inspired pin-up poster

Jennie Canuck is the latest entry in my on-going line of pin-up posters, many of which are inspired by the DC Comics Bombshells comic series. In this case, however, the character is not connected to DC and is my own creation, modelled after Johnny Canuck, a Canadian comic book hero whose exploits took place during World War Two.

Johnny Canuck appeared during a brief heyday for Canadian comics, which itself arose as a result of restrictions imposed as a result of onset of WWII. Prior to that, American comic books had dominated the Canadian comic book landscape, leaving little room for the homegrown product. But as rationing and other concerns reduced the flow of comics from south of the border, Canadian comic book publishers sprang up to fill the void, and for a brief period of time characters like Johnny Canuck, Nelvana, and a host of others ruled the local newstands. Unfortunately, as soon as the war ended, American comics once more flourished and flooded across the border, crushing their Canadian competitors and driving them out of the market.

Jennie Canuck is a bit of homage to those war years when Canadian comics enjoyed an eager readership. I’ve created a backstory for her and may at some point turn that into a book, or possibly even a graphic novel.

(Briefly, Jennie starts out as a scientist working at the NRC (National Research Council) in Ottawa during World War Two. As a woman, she struggles to be accepted in the academic community and have her work taken seriously by her male peers – even the closest of whom tends to regard her somewhat patronizingly.

Working on a serum intended to permanently enhance the strength, endurance, and healing factors of soldiers on the battlefield, Jennie is sent by the government to test the drug on volunteers in England. But Nazi spies, having gotten wind of her work, seek to kidnap her and her serum and take her to Berlin.


Somewhere over Greenland, the air transport ferrying Jennie and her serum across the Atlantic is intercepted by the Luftwaffe and forced to land on a glacier. As the plane rolls to a stop, SS troopers surround it and make short work of the pilots.

Now alone, Jennie knows she has no alternative but to destroy the serum to prevent it from falling into the hands of the Nazis. But as she shatters the ampoules of the drug, she realizes she must also make the ultimate sacrifice if she is to ensure that Hitler is denied the formula. Aware that the serum can be deadly in too high a concentration, she injects herself with twice the dose given a man, believing it sufficient to bring about her demise.

As the serum courses through her veins, she is seized by paroxysms of pain and quickly falls unconscious, only to awaken sometime later a hostage of the Nazis. Unbeknownst to her captors, however, the double dose of the serum has transformed her. What happens next soon becomes the stuff of legends as Jennie overcomes her captors and wipes out the platoon of SS troops guarding her. She continues to fight on as she assumes the mantle of Canada’s super soldier and battles her way through Europe, aiding the Allies in the fight to defeat the Nazi scourge.)

The Jennie Canuck costume takes its cues from the current Canadian flag and the RCMP uniform, bearing in mind that this is meant to mimic a pin-up aesthetic. Accordingly, I have made the image appear as if it were the nose art on a WWII bomber – hence the riveted panels and other details that are designed to evoke the metal skin of an aircraft fuselage.

The figure was rendered in colour pencil and the background an uneven gray water colour wash intended to give the illusion of a bare aluminum surface reflecting a cloudy sky. The logos were done using markers.

The Step-by-Step

It starts with the initial sketch, setting the composition of the drawing, getting the pose and proportions laid out. I'm using Staedtler HBs here, on Canson Mixed Media 160g (98lbs) paper measuring  35.6 cm X 43.2 cm (14 in X 17 in).

Once the pose and composition are set, the sketch is refined, adding detail and some basic shading.

Once the figure is fleshed out in pencil, some of the background is worked out. In this case, as the figure is meant to represent pin-up nose art on a WWII bomber, lines and rivets outlining paneling on the fuselage are roughed in.

The character's name logo is roughed in at the bottom.

Colouring begins. I usually begin with the face, because frankly, if you don't get that right, you might as well forget about it. The colour is applied in layers and then blended using a blending pencil.

The mixed media paper is slightly textured, so you don't get quite as smooth and glossy a look as you would using bristol board. I use Prismacolor Premier wax-based pencils and a Prismacolor blending pencil.

With the face finished, I move onto the hair, again laying down a base of colour, then adding to it with highlights and blending.

I move onto the legs next, setting a base of flesh-toned colour, then shading and highlighting. I finish with a blending pencil to create a smother transition.

Once the hair and exposed flesh areas are complete, I move onto the costume, following the same technique of laying down a base and then highlighting and shading. A blending pencil is again used to smooth all this out and give it a richer, deeper look.

Once the figure is basically completed, I move onto the name logo, outlining and colouring it in marker. (In this case Artist's Loft Water Color Markers, Sharpie, and archival ink fine point markers.)

I add the Bombshells logo to create continuity between this poster and the others I've done. (However, I should note here that Jennie Canuck is a wholly original character of mine, owned and copyrighted by me.)

After the logo is complete, I add a gray, uneven wash in water colour. This is to create the illusion of slightly reflective aluminum panels reflecting an overcast sky.

I complete the background by detailing the rivets with shadows and highlights.

More detail is added to the rivets, including shading and highlighting around each one to give the impression of dimpled metal and accumulated grime. I complete the picture by adding a few more background enhancements, including an access port on the right and a weathered stenciled sign on the left.