All Sympathies: Azrael Picture

"Seasons don't fear the reaper
Nor do the wind, the sun or the rain
We can be like they are
Come on baby... Don't fear the Reaper."

~ Don't Fear the Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult

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IMPORTANT EDIT: I was discussing No Sympathies with a colleague, and it occurred to me that I didn't like the fact that the archangels are different genders while the seven princes of hell are not. I didn't want to change the princes, since they've sort of cemented as characters in my mind, and gender is a part of that. So I thought, why not make the archangels all female? They are sort of opposites, so having them be opposing genders would be thematically solid - plus it gives a big middle finger to the chauvinistic, misogynist, patriarchal mindset of most Christian myths. So yeah, I decided to make all the archangels female, because I have clearly gone mad with gender switching power. AHAHAHAHAHA. I'll leave the original artist's comments below unaltered, and you can find Michael and Raphael's original art in my scraps (the other angels didn't need to be modified).

Some people have asked if I will ever draw any angels as part of my No Sympathies project. At first the question seemed almost out of left field - it hadn't even occurred to me to tackle the other side. I was just focusing on demon lore, after all, and the story of No Sympathies doesn't leave Hell all that often. I don't have any major plans for showing the heavenly side of things - I don't want to repeat Paradise Lost and show the War in Heaven, for example. There are a billion wonderful stories that show the "before" scenes of the fall of the demons, but so very few show the "after." I'm focusing on the possibility for redemption, not the original sin.

...but at the same time, angels are a key part of demon lore. They are the original opposites of my devilish stars, and while the antagonists of No Sympathies are something completely different, I wouldn't rule out the angels making at least a few cameos.

So I started doing some angel research. It's harder to find angel folklore than it is to find demon myths - I guess I'm not the only one who finds the dark side more interesting. From what I did find, angels don't seem to have the chimeric variety of their demon counterparts. Most angels don't have much of a physical description, other than what items they seem to carry. However, there are a few types - species, if you will - that do stand out as physically distinct:

- Seraphs: These angels are humanoid and sport six wings. They are described as, oddly enough, snakelike - scaly, sometimes even with snake parts or features. That's a bit more... demonic than I was expecting. They tend to be blue and associated with fire.
- Cherubs: These angels have four heads - one human, one ox, one eagle, and one lion. They also have four wings, which they use to cover their torsos to keep humans from being shocked by their appearance.
- Thrones: Thrones are giant interlocking wheels covered in eyes and fire. They're... really hard to visualize, honestly.

There are other types of angels listed, but those are the only three that seemed well described in my research. So... let's go off of that.

While I didn't find as many interesting design challenges in the angels I looked at, I did find some interesting personalities. There are different "choirs" of angels that are organized by their purpose rather than species, the most powerful of which are the arcangels. MANY angels are said to be arcangels, though in at least one version of the mythos it is said there are only seven. Well, that works pretty well with my seven princes of Hell, doesn't it?

So in No Sympathies there are seven arcangels, each of which is specially suited to fight the seven princes. While the seven Princes of Hell each represent a deadly sin, the seven arcangels represent a heavenly virtue - the good traits that allow mortals to resist the allure of the sins and transcend their own wickedness.

Of these angels, only one currently has a solid design in my book - the angel of death. Of course, which angel is the angel of death is a matter of great debate - his identity is as inconsistent as the name of the true ruler of Hell in mythology. I chose Azrael, because that is a boss name for the Angel of Death.

And yeah, the design is what you'd expect for the most part - she's the grim reaper (yes, she - I'm going to do some gender swapping with the angels too). She's a big skeleton in a hooded robe that carries a scythe. I tried to add some personal touches while still keeping it recognizable as the Grim Reaper - her helmet (which you can't see for the most part) has a plague doctor-like raven mask for a visor, her armor has a skeletal motif, her eyes are serpentine, and her scythe has a paddle on the end in a nod to Charon from Greek mythology. I also imagine she has a skeletal, serpentine tail extending from beneath her hip instead of legs, similar to Lucifer's own body type.

Whether the Angel of Death is good or evil is a matter of much debate, but I go with the good approach. Death is a natural and necessary part of life, and the villainification of it that crops up in culture keeps us from coping with it. It should be treated as something that, while tragic, is natural. So yeah, Azrael gets to be a good guy.

That said, since Azrael travels between Heaven, Hell, and the mortal world, I wanted her design to be a bit atypical for angels. She's technically a seraph, but she lacks four of his six wings. Her body doesn't have flesh on its bones. She dresses in dark clothes rather than bright and radiant attire. She is a grim looking fellow.

But she's fair and unbiased, and probably the most angel most likely to be seen in No Sympathies.

Azrael is the Archangel of Diligence - i.e. hard work and responsibility. Her rival is Belphegor, the Prince of Sloth, who she personally cast out of Heaven. Azrael has the friendliest relationship with the demons of Hell, for while few of them truly like her, most acknowledge that she will give them a fair shake despite their fallen nature. She is Heaven's ambassador to Hell, and one of the few angels who can enter the realm of the damned without facing (much) retaliation. She leads the Psychopomps, a choir of angels devoted to helping the souls of deceased mortals find their place in the afterlife.
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