Now, in the draft for today’s post, we initially wanted to bring up Donnie and one other character – but we couldn’t, at least not without going into spoiler-territory. I think it might be fair to give Donnie a post of his own, and I intend to do so later today tomorrow!

First off, let’s take a closer look at the people who both literally and figuratively run the show aboard La Palazza, both of whom are so tied together that we wanted to include them in one single post:



Ventro Remington servers as the ringmaster and, at least on paper, the owner of La Palazza – which is also why the actual circus-tent is named after him; “Remington’s Big Top”. In our first drafts, we wanted a stark division between Ventro’s part of the ship (the “Marvels”) and Florence’s (the “Merrows”), there would have been a significant amount of in-fighting, distrust and petty rivalry between these two sub-factions. Ventro’s design would have reflected this – shifty, rail-thin, pointy, angular – like Dick Dastardly, Snape, Waluigi. Those were all references we threw around when Rudy and I first discussed Ventro and his part in the story.


When we moved the conflict elsewhere, this opened up a whole new dynamic about the ship. Instead of focusing on division, we could celebrate diversity and use the ship as a platform for misfits of all kinds, Marvels and Merrows, to find a place to call their own – even if it would only be temporary. Ventro, as a result, got to mellow out and lose a great deal of his hard edges – which we then moved to another character, but we’ll get to that in a future post.

Ventro, for whatever reason, is still reluctant to take centre-stage. He’s a leader by default, not by choice – but he goes along with it, as best as he can. He would genuinely prefer to be left to his own devices, but he’s aware of his responsibilities towards the people aboard the ship. He’s cunning, but also defeatist – in some ways, his manners and mindset are much the same as Riley’s.



Florence Russo’s initial design was cut from the same cloth of Ventro’s. For her first design, we considered the stereotypical ex-ballet primadonna, who would hold her pupils to draconic standards. She would have been ruthlessly calculating, showing warmth – such as it was – only to the Merrows, then still named the “Painted Angels”. To everyone else, she’d basically just be the meanest step-mother your storybooks warned you about.

By removing the in-fighting aboard La Palazza, we were free to advance Florence’s character in a different direction – while still a powerful figure aboard the ship, Florence would instead become a dangerously savvy matriarch to the entire crew, exuding genuine warmth and care, but most definitely not above using tough love. We also changed her appearance accordingly – instead of tall, rail-thin and pinch-faced (like Ventro’s initial design), we made her shorter and more rounded with a wider, open face.

Perhaps most satisfying about the change in direction was that it also allowed us to change the dynamic between Florence and Ventro. Instead of solely being defined as Ventro’s rival, she instead would become his friend, muse and motivating force, unwilling to go accept his lack of ambitition and unafraid to call him on his crap. We decided that, instead of warring faction-leaders, they should instead span decades as on-again, off-again lovers – but life-long friends, confidants and co-conspirators, either way.

Though warm, open and matronly, Florence is nobody’s fool. She’s focused and calculating, and refuses to put up with mutiny, intolerance or excuses. She is, in many ways, the Ella to Ventro’s Riley. And let’s be honest, who do you think really calls the shots on the ship?