Teen Wolf Bestiary

The Bestiary was commissioned by MTV as a 32-page comprehensive guide to the supernatural creatures that have appeared on Teen Wolf through its current four seasons. The book fictionally belongs to the show’s Argent family and initially dates to sometime after 1767 when the family first became Werewolf hunters.

8,500 copies were distributed to Teen Wolf fans as a limited edition collector’s item at San Diego Comic-Con 2014.

The Pitch

To obtain a green-light for the project, I was asked by MTV’s Art Director Jim deBarros to illustrate one of my favorite creatures from Teen Wolf (yes, I’m a fan of the show) in a style reminiscent of Leonardo da Vinci’s sketchbooks. Since I felt Werewolves would be too obvious of a choice, I went with the Kanima (another shape-shifter who has reptilian qualities and is a mutation of the Werewolf gene).

Kanimas Pitch Sketch

The Process

To start the project, MTV’s research team provided me with an outline that listed the creatures they wanted to include in the Bestiary and reference images from the show. The outline also included bullet points detailing each creature’s important traits. From there I was given creative freedom to interpret the Bestiary as I had done with the pitch illustration (with the caveat that Teen Wolf’s creator, Jeff Davis, would have final approval).

Initially I provided MTV with rough sketches for each spread like the following:

Alphas Rough Sketch

rough sketch for the Alphas spread

Kanimas Rough Sketch

the rough sketch for the Kanimas spread expanded upon the pitch illustration to include a winged Kanima and the colors were adjusted to match those that I selected for the final Bestiary

Nogitsune Rough Sketch

rough sketch for the Nogitsune spread

Although I wasn’t hired to do so, I wrote copy for the Bestiary from the bullet points provided by MTV’s research team and my own ideas from watching the Teen Wolf series multiple times. My intent was to make it easier for the eventual copywriter to understand which bullet points were meant to go with which vignettes. Ultimately MTV liked the copy I wrote and only requested some tweaks to it.

Aesthetically, there were some concerns whether the text would be legible, so you will notice that the font changes in the body copy from the early rough sketches to the final Bestiary.

Bestiary Details

The cover to the Bestiary features the Argent family crest along with the Hunter’s code that they follow. I chose Athena (the goddess of wisdom and combat strategy) as the presenter of the crest, since women are the decision makers in the family’s Werewolf hunting pursuits. To the sides of the crest are a crossbow and wolfsbane which the Argents commonly use to hunt Werewolves. And upon the crest is a dying La Bête du Gévaudan who Teen Wolf credits as the Argent’s first Werewolf kill.

Bestiary Cover

Given the ambitious scope of the Bestiary project and its tight deadline of two months (which ultimately extended to about two-and-a-half months), many of the illustrations are based upon artwork by past masters. The book dramatically opens with da Vinci’s famous Vitruvian Man reimagined to illustrate a Werewolf’s strength and recovery abilities from being shackled and tortured by Werewolf hunters.

Werewolves Detail

Some facts about Teen Wolf’s supernatural creatures presented a problem. For example, a Kitsune’s aura can be seen by either supernatural creatures with enhanced vision or through flash photography. But flash photography didn’t exist back in the early 1800s, so I included modern-day handwritten annotations in these cases.

Kitsune Detail

One of the most difficult vignettes in the Bestiary to imagine was the Nogitsune’s trick — and it needed to be malevolent. I contemplated this on and off for about a week before starting the rough sketch for the spread. A harmless disguise trick that would irritate a Werewolf was what I kept coming back to. But the concept didn’t become fully formed until I added the Nogitsune’s disguise concealing a leg hold trap that the Werewolf would ultimately be painfully tricked into.

Nogitsune Detail

What I love about the Nogitsune figure is the contrasting body language: the disguised Nogitsune facing the Werewolf appears demure, while the actual Nogitsune facing away appears smug.

The Bestiary

And following is a glimpse of the Teen Wolf Bestiary in its entirety.

Bestiary Cover

front cover

Title Page

title page

Werewolves Spread

Werewolves spread

Alphas Spread

Alphas spread

Kanimas Spread

Kanimas spread

Banshees Spread

Banshees spread

Druids/Darachs Spread

Druids/Darachs spread

Nemetons and Fireflies Spread

Nemetons and Fireflies spread

Oni Spread

Oni spread

Kitsune Spread

Kitsune spread

Nogitsune Spread

Nogitsune spread

Werecoyotes & Werejaguars Spread

Werecoyotes & Werejaguars spread

Berserkers & Wendigos Spread

Berserkers & Wendigos spread

Symbols & Elements Spread

Symbols & Elements spread

Argents/Hunters Spread

Argents/Hunters spread

Acknowledgments Page

Acknowledgments page

Back Cover

back cover

The Result

MTV was a great client. From the very start they were supper supportive of both the Bestiary project and my work on it.

After seeing the first two completed spreads (Werewolves and Alphas), Teen Wolf’s creator Jeff Davis commented in an email:

This is phenomenal. We should use this in the show.

Fan reaction to the Teen Wolf Bestiary has also been overwhelmingly positive since its debut.

Want to Own a Copy of the Bestiary?

While book copies of the Teen Wolf Bestiary are limited edition collector items (and have already been distributed), you can buy high-quality art prints of your favorite spreads from the Bestiary at either:

  • the shop page (conveniently here at Swann Studio), or
  • SwannSmithArt.com (for a richer browsing experience).