Forensic Sketches of Your Favorite Literary Characters

Sherlock Holmes CompositeUsing Law Enforcement Technology to Draw Fictional Characters

It’s like when the movie version of your favorite book ruins the book for you, only worse. A project called The Composites uses the same methods employed by police sketch artists to draw literary characters. If you’re wedded to your own mental picture of your favorite novel’s characters, you’re not going to like this one bit.

Composites of Literary Characters

Images: Brian Joseph Davis

The Composites (which has a ‘suggest a character’ feature) is the creation of Brian Joseph Davis, who uses descriptions of characters from novels and a forensic profiling computer program called Faces ID to create sketches of what famous literary characters might look like. The results are posted to his blog. Davis combs through books looking for descriptions of the characters’ physical attributes and then turns to the software, which offers a choice of over 10,000 noses, eyes, brow shapes, etc. for him to choose from.  The result: a pseudo-scientific rendering of the face of some of the most iconic fictional characters in literature.

Emma Bovary from Flaubert's Madame Bovary Maltese Falcon Sam Spade

The project is ongoing, and so far Davis has used his software to draw over 70 classic characters, including Madame Bovary, Humbert Humbert, Captain Ahab, and Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Newer characters from novels by Haruki Murakami, Cormac McCarthy and Neil Gaiman have also gotten the mug shot treatment.

Movie vs. Mugshot

Perusing mugshots of your favorite fictional characters is a fascinating and often surprising experience, especially in the case of books that have been made into movies. Our mental pictures of fictional characters so often come from the actors who portrayed them on film, and Davis’ composites show how close the film portrayal got to the character described in the book.

What Christian Grey Really Looks Like?

Humbert from Lolita 3 versions

Lisbeth Salander Drawing

 The Creator of The Composites

Brian Joseph Davis is the artist who created the fictional character images in The Composites.  He is a co-founder of the literary website Joyland . His music and art productions have been acclaimed by Wired, Pitchfork, Salon, and LA Weekly.

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