SOLDIER Crew and A Whole Lotta Breakdance Research

Back in early February the world was blessed with what is, to me, the best remix of “One-Winged Angel” since “Advent: One-Winged Angel”:

When “The Prelude” comes in tho!!!

When I read the line “Sephiroth and his entire gang show up with a boombox” I knew I had to draw it. Originally I thought to make the gang consist of Loz, Kadaj, and Yazoo, but we never actually see Sephiroth interacting with the remnants. He just…takes over Kadaj’s body. If I remember correctly, the remnants don’t even mention Seph by name, they just call him “him ” with that tone that says you know who I’m talking about. In contrast, Cloud is affectionately called Big Brother. So I figure if Seph has a crew that would challenge anyone to a breakdance battle, it would have to be his Crisis Core era crew. I started the drawing in mid-February but had to set it aside until late March, finally finishing it a couple days ago.

Cloud, Zack, Sephiroth, Angeal, and Genesis pose together like b-boys. Genesis has the boombox. In the background is a brick wall with graffiti reading "SOLDIER アンド一般兵一人" on top of splash-paint style wings as well as my own tag.
Cloud’s trying so hard to be hard XD Seph’s pose was actually inspired by how GACKT usually stands, but it does also look like a Jojo pose. ゴゴゴゴゴ

Side note 1, which only people who use WordPress will understand: I don’t know why my captions aren’t displaying as captions. Gutenberg is so massively counterintuitive to me. The Classic Editor appears to be gone for good now so I’m gonna have to settle for manually making the text of each caption teal and centering it. —Nope, scratch that, I don’t even have the option to center the caption text since on my end it’s already centered. Ughhhh… T^T

I really wanted to draw something that would feel legit to people who actually breakdance, so I watched a lot of videos, starting with this 2012 R16 Korea battle; when the guy in the green shirt from Jingo Crew spins his whole body on his hands I was like WHAT JUST HAPPENED and had to replay that part like three times! Watching more battle vids, I noticed that, contrary to what I had assumed, the members of a crew don’t necessarily all wear the same thing. I also noticed that a lot of them, across crews, were wearing the same Puma shoes—but I’ll talk about the shoes a bit more later.

I also read some articles, such as this one, which ended up giving me the main grouping’s vibe and general poses, and looked at lots of vintage photos. In particular, this collection of boombox photos from the 80s included the photo of LL Cool J holding the Conion TC-999 which I used as the pose reference for Genesis.

Side note 2: NGL, I totally traced the boombox because screw drawing all those knobs and buttons freehand. Though I still had to look for more reference photos for the boombox, as parts of it are unclear and the photo’s in black in white. That’s how I found the boombox Wiki and read that this beast came equipped with its own alarm system! Wow! Ultimately, I may have gone just a tad overboard with this, as in the full size version you can even read the numbers on the radio panel. (^o^;)

The "midpoint" of the first image posted above. It includes all characters in flat color but without the full graffiti wall.
I originally had Cloud in an Adidas track suit not unlike his trooper uniform, mostly because I was being lazy and the knee guards reminded me of some tutorial vids in which dancers doing knee work wore guards. A friend on Discord commented that everyone else had a bit of a makeover, and I kept that critique in mind in case a better idea came along.

Originally, I was gonna give Angeal the Pumas because they just feel a bit older to me. I knew I’d put Sephiroth in the Adidas Superstars and that Cloud would wear the same shoe as Seph since Seph would still be his hero at this point. Zack would be in the Chicago model Air Jordans, as thanks to Miles Morales and Into the Spiderverse they have a young feel to me now. But what to do about Genesis? At first I was gonna leave him in his GACKT-esque high-heeled SOLDIER boots. But then I did a little more research and learned that Puma and Adidas were founded by two brothers who hated each other and spawned a rivalry that literally divided their small German town in two for decades. So of course I had to have Gen in Pumas if Seph’s wearing Adidas!

Side note 3: I also learned why the Puma Suedes became such an icon. At the 1968 Olympics, Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their black-gloved fists in protest when they took the podium, with Smith also raising one of his black Suedes, as the Puma logo resembles a panther. As Colin Kaepernick would be decades later, their peaceful protest would go on to spark a hypocritical backlash against them.

So then, what to do about Angeal? I started researching shoe culture more specifically and found the Reebok x Kendrick Lamar Ventilators, with this blog post in particular giving me the angle on the shoes that I needed for Angeal’s pose. It was a bit hard to find since most photos focus on the heel, as that’s where the message lies: one shoe is labeled “RED” and the other “BLUE” on the heel. These are the colors of the gangs the Bloods and the Crips. Lamar often talks & raps about ending gang violence, so he teamed up with Reebok to spread that message. The idea is that with these shoes, you’re wearing both gangs’ colors together rather than taking sides. Perfect for Angeal! Since the heels aren’t visible with him in this pose, I put blue and red stripes on his socks to make it a little easier to understand. Though I suppose some people might just read that as Angeal being completely clueless about fashion, which is an interpretation I find amusing.

The wing graffiti in the background was made from some clip art that I warped and painted. I spent a good 40 minutes writing 一般兵一人 (ippanhei hitori, “one trooper”) myself to get what I thought would be a believable graffiti vibe for Japanese as I couldn’t find a good font for that, and even searching for graffiti in Japanese yields lots of either abstract designs or writing done in alphabets. The “SOLDIER” writing was done with the RapScript font from Full Time Artists’ graffiti fonts page as a base and some Photoshop tricks to get the chrome effect inside.

Side note 4: I didn’t realize what “lock transparent pixels” meant as far as practical applications until recently and I feel dumb about it now. I use it so much now to change the color of line art or for text effects like this. Maybe there are other, fancier ways to do this but as I still predominantly use Photoshop Elements for these illustrations this relatively manual method works great for me.

I happened to come across the video for Erykah Badu’s “Ode to Hip Hop (Love of My Life)” a few days before I got back to work on this piece in late March. I’d only heard this song on the radio before and didn’t know the title so I had interpreted it as only a literal love song to a boy rather than as a love song to hip hop itself as well. But when I saw her in those purple Adidas sweatpants and fur vest I knew I’d found Cloud’s new outfit! XD

I think the vest is raccoon fur but far as I’m concerned Cloud’s is Nibel wolf.

In the days when I was trying to finish this piece (and nevertheless continuing to add more stuff to it 苦笑), I happened to come across a user on Twitter who had one of my old Sephiroth drawings as their profile picture with my writing either cropped out or erased. It was the Black Parade themed one which you can see on my terribly un-updated Fanart page here, and which I had originally posted to my personal blog back in 2012. It’s a very quick sketch so I wasn’t too upset about the art theft, though I did DM them to request credit or removal. No response as yet and the account seems inactive, but point is that it reminded me that even someone in an obscure corner of the internet, whose work is seen only by the elite few who somehow stumbled upon me despite my total lack of anything resembling a regular posting schedule, can be susceptible to art theft.

Side note 5: I appreciate you, O Readers!

Watermarks aren’t impossible to remove even if you splash them across some vital part of the image so I wanted to add more identifying markers. I remembered then that I’d actually done a lesson on “throwies” back when I was doing student-teaching at an elementary school and had designed one for myself. Since I was doing it as an example for students, I did it on paper with ink & color pencil, but I took this as opportunity to update it and really play around with Photoshop’s airbrushes, which I’d never used much.

The initials EVA in a cursive script, with a winged penholder & nib going through them. Above is a ribbon-like design, below is an abstracted French curve (the drawing tool).
The penholder with nib and abstracted French curve represent me being a (generally) traditional media artist. The screws and silver ring are references to the screws and plate I have in my leg from when I broke my ankle. The drips are supposed to be paint or ink but I realized later they could be taken as teardrops. But fret not, I have not killed three people.

I was really trying to rush myself to finish at this point and didn’t realize that my original throwie cuts off at what had been the edge of my sketchbook page. It wasn’t until I’d copied it to the SOLDIER crew image and put it on the wall that I realized it looked incomplete in its new setting. Since I had airbrushed it, I couldn’t quickly get things to match, but this was one point that I decided to let go. It doesn’t look too bad

Overall, right now I’m very happy with this piece!

おまけ!〜 BONUS 〜

Here’s the version with Sephiroth wearing cat ear headphones. I had initially drawn him with his harness on but it didn’t feel right for this. Still, I needed something black further up his body to balance the darkness of his jeans, especially once I’d changed Cloud out of the black track suit. A funny line from a fic I’d read (Dear Cloud,), referring to Sephiroth as a cat with the hilarious line “Have you seen him? Seven feet tall. Silver hair. Answers to the name bastard” floated into my head so I decided the nekomimi cans were the way to go. XD

This image is the same as the first one in this post, save for Sephiroth's black cat ear headphones.
Enjoy! (But please don’t repost, take their faces for pfp’s without asking, remove my watermarks, or otherwise do art theft.)

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