Cover Process

Posted by operator x On May - 3 - 2011

This is the finished cover for Superboy #9. I’m not sure what I think of it. Some bits of it I like, while other bits bother me. Superboy’s pose is a bit rigid and uninteresting, the colours are kind of lackluster and the depth of the foreground to background elements got lost. I think the worst thing about it is that it just looks like a piece of ‘interior’ art (which is not necessarily a bad thing) rather than a ‘cover’, which should be distinctive and eye-catching.
I thought it might be interesting to walk through the process and show you the initial concepts, with a bit of explanation for each.

This is the first concept I submitted. What many of you may not realize is that monthly comics covers are usually done with very little idea of what the final story will actually be. In this case, I had a plot breakdown for the entire story arc, so I decided to focus on the ‘Hollow Men’ because they’re the creepy villains of this story. They’re basically zombified farmers, which, if you ran into them in real life, would be scary as hell, but in a static image they just sort of look like farmers. Challenge number one.
I went with this idea because I wanted to maintain the simple, graphic look of the covers that was established with issue 1. Flat colours wherever possible and rough graphic shapes. I think, of all the concepts, I still like this one the best. It would have been eye-catching at least. There’s a creepiness about that farmer silhouette that says something’s not right in Smallville.

This was the second concept. A more traditional superhero cover. Still featuring the Hollow Men, but in a more aggressive situation with Superboy featured front and centre. He’s angry and fighting, which is something you see on 90% of all superhero covers and is something I usually try to avoid, but there you have it. I’d be fighting too if a bunch of zombie farmers were groping me. I like the foreground farmer’s head being punched, but otherwise this is pretty boring and run-of-the-mill.

Similar to concept 2, but with Superboy being overrun by the Hollow Men. This one also introduces the idea of the pitchfork visual, which says ‘threatening farmer’ pretty clearly. Though, unless those are magical pitchforks, I don’t know what use they’d be against Superboy. Anyway…

This was the final concept. More of a situational scene, we’re on a farm field instead of in a mucky cave setting. I think this concept works much better in grayscale than it does in colour. The editors liked the graphic composition of the criss-crossing pitchforks in front of Superboy and I was in agreement at the time. Maybe if I’d coloured it in sepia tones it would have been more successful. There’s also more motion in Superboy’s body than in the final piece – sometimes a final drawing can really stiffen up and it’s difficult to pinpoint why while you’re in the middle of working on it.
So that’s how I got to the finished issue 9 cover. See what you think and chime in if you like. I’m wrapping up my Superboy cover run soon and I think the next couple of covers are much stronger. Cover illustration is an art unto itself, and I’m learning as I go.
More next month!

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4 Responses to “Cover Process”

  1. SeirX says:

    Thanks for that: I’ve often thought the cover-artists had no clue about the story, and you’ve confirmed it. Always a frustration to me, for a cover to be so out of touch with the storyline inside. Almost like a bait&switch being pulled by the company. [end complaint]

    I like your original submission better.. still shows the main character, has a more unique kind of appeal to it, as it’s not the typical almost-splash-page style cover.

    Am curious as to why Superboy’s fists are clenched, when he could really just flick the farmers in the chest and knock’em all down.

  2. Darren says:

    very cool to see the process Karl.

  3. Nice review on the cover page. Yeah I agree that cover page should relate to story inside.

  4. these two types, there was another pocket type watch which has a lid but the user can look at the time through the cover since it is partially covered with glass.

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