The Making of a Batman Cover

I finally get to announce what I have been working on since Amethyst ended.  Since April, I have been writing, penciling and inking a 30 page Legends of the Dark Knight story.  This is my first attempt at a straight up Batman story.  It’s not the first time I have drawn the Dark Knight but it is the first Batman solo story I have ever drawn and I got to write it too!  The story premieres digitally on September 5th so it is still too early to show any of the interior work but I can reveal and break down my cover process.

There was really nothing unusual or different about executing this cover than any other that I have done except I did feel a bit of pressure seeing how it was a Batman cover.  It was a little like the first Wonder Woman cover I did.  Working on one of the Big 3 always makes me take extra care.

Let’s start by looking at my three cover sketches.  Any time I have a cover with a lot of black on it, I like to do the sketches in ink so the visual impact of the black placement  can be clearly understood (visually speaking).


I was torn on this one.  I liked “A” because of the inclusion of the classic Batman villains but I thought “C” was the most dynamic and interesting.  My editor chose “A” probably because “B” and “C” showed a defeated Batman (although that is pure speculation on my part).  If I had to choose one, I probably would have gone with C but I was more than happy to take “A” to finish. (Shortly after I posted this blog my editor, Hank Kanalz, facebooked me with his reasoning for choosing cover sketch “A” He stated, “I chose “A” because of the villains AND we don’t reveal who Batman is going to face next!  But also adding the extreme foreground fist heightened the drama.”)  Excellent editorial insight that we are not always privy to.  Thanks, Hank!

The next obvious step was to do an 11X17 pencil.  As is the case with most of my covers, I drew a pretty tight pencil on 20 lb paper and then light tabled it on to DC board with some adjustments to get my final pencil.


Once I was happy with the final pencil I inked it using a combination of brush and micron pens.


I used cross-hatching on the shadow on the back wall as well as the shadow on the ground instead of solid black.  Although cross-hatching is a somewhat laborious process, I didn’t want the foreground hand (which is mostly black) to get lost in the shadow, which would have happened if I had made the shadow black.  I opted not to carry the cross-hatching over the top of the fallen villains who are also covered by the same shadow because I reasoned I could do that in the coloring.  Here’s how it came out.


I think the overall effect worked out the way I thought it would, hopefully you will agree.  If not keep your opinion to yourself! (kidding, sort of…..) I colored everything normally in photoshop and then dropped a 30% blue over everything that was covered in shadow to create the effect.  It will be interesting to see how it looks when printed.  That can always be an adventure.

Do Colored Pencils Make Me a Coward?

As Comic Con 2013 fast approaches I find myself once again gearing up to do a whole lot of Con Marker Sketch Commission.  The real bread and butter of any con attending comic artist.  Occasionally I will throw in some red but for the most part all of my con commissions are gray tonal marker.  I won’t do full color con sketches for one reason, they simply would take too long to do.  So what’s the difference?  Why would color take longer than gray marker?  An excellent question.

The answer is simple:  I don’t use markers when I do color, especially flesh tones.  Again, I can hear you demanding “WHY?”.

When I do gray tone markers I have a variety of values to work with.  The grays come in 10%, 20%, 30%, 40%, etc. all the way up to black.  This allows me to build slowly.  I can start with the very light gray and add a darker and darker gray until I get the desired value without jumping in feet first with something that might be too dark.


The problem is you can’t do that with the colored markers.  Yes, there are several different flesh tones and greens and blues, etc. but you can’t find one flesh tone with 10 different values or the same blue with 10 different values.  When you lay down a color with a marker it is 100% of that color and often very bold and very bright.  So I prefer to use colored pencils to do my flesh tones and many of the colors.  I can slowly build up my color just by controlling the pressure I apply to the pencil.  I may eventually build the color up to being very bold and bright but it is on my terms!

Dejaface2013I know this is sort of a cowardly approach and I probably need to be more bold and confident but I am admittedly a color coward.  Interestingly enough many illustrators at first will develop a rendering or drawing style approach to painting before moving on to a looser more confident painterly approach.  Most of us comic artists are very adept at black and white line drawing because we  have been doing it most of our lives.  It only makes sense that when applying color we would want to use an approach that is most like drawing so we can feel in control.

So until further notice, I will continue to only do gray sketches at cons and leave the full color for those occasional home commissions.  At least until I quit being a coward…