Capcom’s Resident Evil 2 remake has been hailed as a horror triumph and a faithful reimagining of a classic game. While critics are praising it for one thing, fans of the franchise are far more interested in something else: Leon S. Kennedy’s role as a longtime sex symbol. Resident Evil 2 thrusts Leon back into the spotlight, and fans have responded to this new interpretation of the character with a load of fan art and fervor.
[Ed. note: This post contains NSFW imagery.]
Fans have been thirsty for Leon since his return to the series in Resident Evil 4. In that 2005 game, Leon is a hardened government agent, who sports a tight black shirt that flatters his incredible forearms. He is a one-man army working his way through a Spanish village infested with hideous creatures, a tiny, prematurely aged nobleman, and a knife-fighting, beret-wearing super soldier. He even stops to save a dog at one point!
Resident Evil 2’s Leon, however, is young and vulnerable. It’s this take on the character that has made him such a smash hit online with fan artists.
One prolific content creator, Ria, posts under the handle Everglaid on her Twitter. Before Ria even started playing Resident Evil 2, she was drawn to the title. “The re-imagining of the characters is what made me want to try it out for myself,” she told Polygon over Twitter direct messages. “Leon’s overhaul is what made me gravitate towards him — his face albeit changed only slightly is more approachable and sweeter looking, and his personality is softer than I had expected.”
Ria works with the 3D models to create her own custom art. “I love that photogrammetry is used for all the characters,” she says. “It’s intriguing to me as a 3D artist to see the detail and realism put into the characters, and I think it makes all of them much easier to relate to.”
Sometimes, this art is risqué. Her first Leon pinup features him shirtless, except for a Raccoon Police Department vest, sitting on a table and holding a gun in a very salacious manner. The pinup went viral across Twitter, leading Ria to start posting her work there to wide acclaim.
Ria shares that the reception to her art has been “overwhelmingly positive,” and is happy that so many people have responded to her work.
“I feel like I’ve awoken a hidden, massive (and thirsty, but welcoming) fanbase,” she says.
Many artists — some inspired by Ria, and many who were independently interested in Leon — pitch in to the growing Leon legion. A brief search can bring up a healthy amount of fans celebrating Leon’s soft new look.
Leon’s alternate costumes are also a source of interest, like his noir-themed outfit. Leoren, an artist on Twitter, is one of the fans celebrating Leon’s stylish new look who still keeps the base appeal of the character.
I'm not a fan of horror game / movie, but Noir Leon changed my mind . I really love his costume in this DLC .#ResidentEvil2Remake #residentevil #RE2 #LeonKennedy #LeonSKennedy pic.twitter.com/HeRdaqSUXI— Leoren ⭕️ CWT + Comifuro (@LeorenArt) February 5, 2019
While a healthy amount of this art is centered around Leon viewed through a sexual lens, part of this particular zeitgeist is also based around ribbing Leon.
"please make a picture of leon working at mcdonalds" pic.twitter.com/UkRm7JLt0j— everglaid (@everglaid_) February 1, 2019
omg i found a secret hidden cutscene in RE2!! pic.twitter.com/Om5BcL6BD0— everglaid (@everglaid_) February 1, 2019
These jokes come from a place of genuine fondness for a likable character. Resident Evil 4’s Leon is cool and slick, popping off one liners and winning deadly knife fights, but Resident Evil 2’s Leon feels like someone you could get a little closer too. He’s more grounded — less of a Hollywood action hero.
“I grew up owning the Resident Evil manuals and reading through fan sites to find out all of the lore and notes,” says Alicia, a fan of the series. “My parents wouldn’t let me play the actual games, but that just made the world more intriguing to me. It felt very grown up at the time. Now that I’m in my late 20s and live on my own, I bought Resident Evil 2.”
For fans like Alicia, they entered Resident Evil 2 seeking a horror experience. For many of these fans, this desire comes from part of their childhood; there’s a sense of homecoming or rediscovering an old interest that gives a satisfying burst of nostalgia.
“I ended up falling in love with Leon more than I expected,” Alicia admits. “I think part of that is the fact that Claire comes across as more badass and prepared. Leon’s a little more lost, and I gravitated towards that in a horror setting.”
Fans, including Ria, also enjoy the idea of juxtaposing Leon’s relative innocence against one of the game’s antagonists: the menacing Mr. X.
Though they’re enemies in the game, artists have turn Leon and Mr. X into romantic partners ...
Saw that Leon x Mr. X shit and felt compelled also ugh pic.twitter.com/YPmVfOe2iu— Shannon (@definethelimits) January 30, 2019
... and reimagined Mr. X himself as a cuddly sex symbol.
In fact, a recently released mod for Resident Evil 2’s PC version is all about the sexier side of Mr. X. MisterHecks’ “Beachboy X” mod strips the relentless Tyrant down to a pair of flip flops and tiny Umbrella bikini bottoms.
For some fans of the game, hearing the telltale thud of Mr. X’s footsteps does provide a sense of tension — just not the kind you might expect.