Vega & Zhael. A history

Vega: middle school

I picked the name Vega in my early teens because I was obsessed with astronomy, stars and their mythical origins, and Vega had lots of interesting SF/fantasy and mythical associations. I watched the 1997 movie Contact (starring Jodie Foster, based on Carl Sagan's novel) where an extraterrestrial signal was sent to earth from the star Vega. I read the SF short story The Blind Pilot, by Damon Knight, in a SF omnibus, where the main character gets abducted by an alien to the star Vega. Vega and Altair are the stars represented in the Chinese legend Weaver Girl and Swineherd (also called Bridge of Birds), which I liked a lot. There are many more. Vega is also quite an important star in astronomy.

The character Vega already existed by the time I reached my early teens/middle school. He started off as a RP character and was a pale-haired, black-winged humanoid. He likely already had psionic abilities, which is a lifelong fascination of mine. This version began around middle school/lower secondary and I remember very little about it.

A bit later I started dabbling in furry/anthropomorphic art, and through that, ended up lurking on the edges of Internet furry subculture. At the same time, I got interested in Native American mythology, especially the coyote trickster archetype. So Vega morphed into a coyote furry for around 1-3 years.

His appearance started taking real shape now. Black hair, blue eyes (because the star Vega is blue), feathers and medallion in his hair (appropriated from Native American imagery), high-collared uniform shirt (dark green in colour), khaki cargo pants, and knee-high black boots -- all these materialized in Vega Coyote, and these details are practically unchanged except for the cargo pants. I don't think he had magical powers in this form. I remember drawing him wielding a pistol.

Furry artist XianJaguar drew Vega Coyote - an amazing gift and the first character art I ever received. Leks Bronks too, but it's no longer on their DeviantArt gallery. I did plenty of art trades with online friends so fanart of Vega Coyote probably still exists in some archival corner of the Internet, but I've lost (read: deleted) those pictures.

Fanart of Vega Coyote, kindly drawn by XianJanguar.

I eventually got better at drawing humans and lost interest in furry art, so Vega morphed back into a human. His skin colour became tawny/Native American in tone, a nod to the coyote form and the Native American inspiration. He kept all other traits.

Zhael: high school to university

Zhael came into being after my furry phase, about the time I finished high school. Her name was inspired by someone's nickname when I was RPing extensively on messageboards and forums. "Zhail" - and not to appear too much of a copycat, I named her Zhael. It never occurred to me to name her Altair, until it was too late to change names.

I was very into Tolkien and elves when Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings movies came out. Zhael and maybe Vega had pointy ears at some stage, but weren't elves per se. I remember drawing pictures of this. It wasn't serious - they soon reverted to fully human appearance and have remained that way ever since.

Zhael's appearance was developed around high school/university - pale skin, red eyes, black hair with bangs (sometimes in a ponytail, sometimes loose), complicated hairpiece/diadem, white gown, black boots, long gloves, and a sword. Her red/crimson eyes and empath abilities were lifted wholesale from Catherine Asaro's Skolian Empire SF novels. Vega's telekinesis has existed for a while but also got inspired a lot by the Skolian Empire worldbuilding.

University and beyond

My oldest sketchbooks date from here. I might have sketchbooks from high school lurking around, but this is unlikely.

Zhael's appearance and stats remained pretty stable. She's always wielded a sword of some kind - for a while it was a lightsabre, but soon became a solid blade. She might've had an oversized world-eater gun once, but that didn't stick. In recent years she acquired a telekinetic force-field shield.

Vega's appearance also settled down in university. He switched from cargo pants to uniform pants, his high-collared shirt stopped being green in colour, and his clothing colours morphed between black and dark blue. He started wearing a tan trenchcoat around this time, but I don't think I ever drew this. He started off with a pistol, then wielded a sniper rifle for many years. At some stage he shed the rifle and picked up two swords; much later he dropped them and picked up a telekinetic spear, and that's what he wields now. I think the telekinetic spear was inspired from The Red Star, Christian Gossett's military-SF graphic novel.

Any time Zhael and Vega have bladed weapons, they have been blunt tipped. They also wear asymmetric half-sashes. Both were lifted from the art of Kim Hyung-tae (Twitter, Naver), especially his character art for the Softmax videogames, War of Genesis III and Magna Carta.

Both had psionic powers from the beginning. Vega also had a spaceship, which changed appearances over the years. I don't think I ever drew it. Right now I don't have ideas of what it looks like, so consider it parked outside space-time without any material form.

They were interdimensional space-time travellers by end of high school, and probably immortal too. Exactly what kind of immortal being, and what kind of spacetime traveller, has changed over the years. At one point I built them a world to live in, but they didn't stay there long and went back to roaming outside all of my worlds.

Vega is about 25 years old by now. He was my alter ego for a long time. These days, he's more his own character and not really an alter ego anymore, but he'll always be important. Zhael is over 20 years old.


Some art. This isn't exhaustive.

2004. Vega with a pistol, Zhael with a lightsabre.
2004. Elaborate, fanciful motifs were trending.
2004. Those high/Chinese collars won't be going away.
2006. Zhael's hair and hairpiece have changed styles a lot over time.
2009. I've had this image in my head for years. One day I'll redraw it.
2009. Drawn with coloured markers. Seems like the green shirt idea hasn't died yet.
2009. Drawn with coloured markers. Colours aren't true to character. Another pic I want to redraw someday.
c. 2008-2010. No idea where the sickle came from. First appearance of Vega as a leftie. He and Zhael are left-handed.
c. 2008-2010. Still carrying his sniper rifle, but I think it'll fall out of fashion soon.
2016. First appearance of Vega's spear; he's dropped all other weapons. Their clothes are looking more contemporary now.

Colours, finally

I drew a lot of Vega and Zhael when I revived my art skills in 2020. Most of them can be found on my Instagram and Twitter.

I only started learning how to use colour in my art when I picked up digital painting. This is the first time I've painted both of them in their proper colour schemes.

2022. Pencil sketch and painted digitally.

Ball-jointed dolls

When I was getting interested in BJDs in the mid 2000s, I asked Emera (whose dolls enabled me into the hobby) to suggest which doll would be the best to shell Vega. She sent me a handwritten letter with a lovely drawing of Vega and her doll suggestions. The letter is long lost and my memory is very foggy, but I think Emera suggested one of the Dollshe boys - likely Saint, maybe Bermann. She might've had other candidates.

I picked Dream of Doll Lahoo as my first BJD to shell Vega. I don't remember why I thought he was suitable. In retrospect, I'm certain I got enamoured by his default clothing and the general science-fantasy, FF-esque style that Dream of Doll had, which was a vibe that suited Vega and Zhael. If I had qualms about Lahoo, I ignored it. In my own defense, there were fewer dollmakers and less variety in BJDs in the late 00s, I was still figuring out my taste in doll aesthetics, and I don't know what alternative I would've picked for Vega at the time.

It didn't work. Lahoo was a good BJD but I was never happy with him as a shell for Vega. Eventually I dropped my plans for shelling these OCs, my tastes and character development for BJDs shifted, and I sold Lahoo.

c. 2009. My only photoshoot of "Vega". All my later photos of Lahoo are of him as a different character, purged of all traces of "Vega".

Zhael never got shelled because I couldn't find the doll I wanted. Iplehouse Be Yearn was discontinued by Iplehouse around 2009 - it was an obscure sculpt with no owner photos anywhere. I bumped my WTB thread on DoA marketplace for months, and stopped when my doll plans shifted. A Be Yearn finally appeared on the DoA marketplace in late 2022, proving that it actually existed in the wild, but the time for this sculpt was long past.

I saved these from Iplehouse's website before they removed Be Yearn's product page.

I have no desire to shell Vega and Zhael anymore. I'm more inclined to cosplay them through my existing BJDs. My Crobidoll Lance girl can potentially cosplay Zhael, but I won't create Zhael without Vega.

Vega is a bit more tricky, mostly because I am very reluctant to tempt fate a second time. Migidoll Miho is a strong candidate, preferably a tan Miho, but I have no plans to get this sculpt anytime soon. There's a chance one of my incoming dolls, Bimong Narin, can cosplay Vega. Narin and my Lance girl have skintones and height differences that are comparable to Vega and Zhael.

Page updated on 21 May, 2023.