Mike Rayahwk LEGO Playthemes
"Vladek" - 2003
My very first job out of art school was working in LEGO's Concept Lab in Los Angeles in 2002, and my very first big job in Concept Lab was cooking up ideas for what would eventually become LEGO's Knights Kingdom line of 2004-2006. This section of the portfolio is getting a little long in the tooth now - my trusty Cintiq hadn't even been invented yet when I was making these images - but it's worth keeping around for sentimental value if nothing else.

As we were leaving work one night in early 2003, the boss asked us to take a look at the prototype characters, see if we could make them look cool, and bring in sketches for the following morning. I knocked out the above image that night, and it ended up landing me the job as main illustrator for Knights Kingdom for the next several years.

This wasn't the final design for the Vladek character, and LEGO ended up toning down Knights Kingdom to the 5+ age group for the first year, and so he became much, much less scary in the official release. Still, I liked this version.
Castle (King's Version)
"Castle (King's Version)" - 2003
Castle Transformation
Castle (Vladek's Version)
"Castle (Vladek's Version)" - 2003
The early concept called for a transforming castle, so in another overnight job I mocked up a quick animation in Maya and did paintovers of the beginning and ending frames. (You can even see a tiny image of the original Sir Danju in the "good" castle - he originally wore gold rather than purple armor, until the kids in the market research group kept concluding that gold armor made him the king of the other knights.)

While the totem animals for Vladek (the scorpion) and all the knights (hawk, wolf, bear, and monkey) had already been decided, the king was still animal-free; I think this lion-themed castle was where his totem animal was decided. Not that it was a big stretch; LEGO kings have always been lions, so it was mostly inevitable.

Once again, the age reduction to 5+ meant we couldn't make the model this complicated, although it would have been awesome. We toned it down to what eventually became the transforming Castle of Morcia, which went on to win some of the highest awards offered by the toy industry.
Book of Morcia Map
Book of Morcia Map
LEGO 8781 "Castle of Morcia" - 2004

Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award Winner, 2004
Children's Choice Award by Canadian Toy Testing Council, 2004

Toy of the Year Award 2005 (Boys category) by the Toy Industry Association, for LEGO Knights' Kingdom
As the Knights Kingdom theme shaped up for its 2004 release, it quickly turned into one of the most story-driven lines LEGO had ever made (a fact that led to an unusual mention in Dragon magazine that summer), and so I got hired to draft up story illustrations to include with each of the Knights action figures. The style went over so well that we ended up making a series of trading cards to follow up; this turned into an adventure when the design agency we hired to assist dropped the job completely two weeks before the print deadline.

Luckily I went to an art school whose students pride themselves on the lack of any sense of self-preservation, and so I called up Jessica Lo, Eugenia Chen, and Jeff Nentrup, and we banged out the hundred trading card illustrations in the space of two weeks, though it almost killed a couple of us. These three continued to lend support through the rest of the Knights Kingdom run, through 2006.
Card 57 Card 22
Card 57: Shadow Knight Card 22: Santis
Card 73 Card 42
Card 73: The Citadel Card 42: Vladek
Card 40 Card 31
Card 40: Vladek Card 31: Rascus
2004 Knights Kingdom Trading Card Illustrations - 2004
These were followed up with minifigure-scale illustrations for the 2004 playsets...
Border Ambush Solved
"Border Ambush Solved"
LEGO set 8778: Border Ambush
Quest for the Citadel
"Quest for the Citadel"
Vladek's Grand Tournament
"Vladek's Grand Tournament"
LEGO set 8779: The Grand Tournament
Vladek's Attack Reflected
"Vladek's Attack Reflected"
... another series of trading cards in 2005...
Card 90 Card 99
Card 90: Sir Santis Card 99: Lord Vladek
Card 106 Card 97
Card 106: Siege Tower Card 97: King Mathias' New Sword and Shield
Card 87 Card 107
Card 87: Sir Danju Card 107: Morcian Crossbow
2005 Knights Kingdom Trading Card Illustrations - 2005
... and a new series of comics for the 2005 action figures.
The King Discovers a Problem
"The King Discovers a Problem" - 2004
Infiltrating the Dark Fortress
"Infiltrating the Dark Fortress" - 2004
Battle Across the Lost Kingdom
"Battle Across the Lost Kingdom" - 2004
For the Code
"For the Code" - 2004
Lowering the Drawbridge
"Lowering the Drawbridge" - 2004
The 2005 comics were popular enough that we got to do some actual comic book pages in successive issues of the UK edition of LEGO Magazine in the summer of 2005, shown here before the speech bubbles were added.
LEGO Knights UK Comic
LEGO Knights UK Comic

Knights Kingdom Comics - LEGO Magazine (UK), May 2005

LEGO Knights UK Comic
LEGO Knights UK Comic

Knights Kingdom Comics - LEGO Magazine (UK), July 2005

LEGO Knights UK Comic
LEGO Knights UK Comic

Knights Kingdom Comics - LEGO Magazine (UK), September 2005

By 2006 the product sales were dropping enough that we only got a half-year of additional sets, but the Knights IP was still going so strong that we teamed up with Scholastic to put out Knights Kingdom storybooks. As a result I'm now a searchable author in some online bookstores.
Vladek Reforges his Sword
"Vladek Reforges his Sword" - 2005
Setting the Traps
"Setting the Traps" - 2005 
Vladek's Ambush
"Vladek's Ambush" - 2005 
The Ancient Catapult
"The Ancient Catapult" - 2005 
The Gargoyles Spring to Life
"The Gargoyles Spring To Life" - 2005 
Sir Kentis Outwits the Gargoyles
"Sir Kentis Outwits the Gargoyles" - 2005 
Watch Out!
"Watch out!" - 2005 
Vladek is Defeated
"Vladek is Defeated" - 2005 
Mike Rayahwk
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All "Knights Kingdom" material is Copyright © 2003-2005 The Lego Company.
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