My Top 20 Favorite Covers Part 4

Well, here we are…the top 5 and the reveal of my #1 favorite cover.  You’ll notice as you go through this final list that I have once again cheated.  I have actually listed six covers because I have a tie.  Really it’s a “cop out” but as I mentioned before, it’s my blog so I can cheat if I want to.  (sounds like the name of a song….)

But before we jump in to the final 5 let’s (meaning me) discuss what makes a good cover.  When you are creating a cover for a comic or book, there is only one thing that really matters, visual impact.  Does it jump off the rack?  Does it make you look twice and most importantly does it make you buy the book?  These are obvious qualities but the question really is, how do you achieve them.

First and foremost is design.  Strong composition is vital.  Having a strong focal point in the image is essential to the composition or it just becomes noise.  I referenced this lightly when I blogged about the Top 10 covers of the Golden Age.  Specifically I am referring to Alex Schomburg’s work.  Most of his Timely work was stuffed compositions that looked exactly the same.  Energetic for sure but lacking in identity.  Then he put out All-Select #1 and USA Comics #7 generally thought to be his two greatest covers.  Why?  Both are more focused on a central image or idea within the context of a well executed composition.  Strong figure work and large dominating figures almost always proves a winner.   Gil Kane was masterful at this as well.

Quality of draftsmanship is also important but not as important as composition and design.  I’ve seen many a good cover that was not particularly well drawn but the design was great.  Plus “quality” is subjective.  But when the quality is transcendent as with such artists like  Frazetta and Adam Hughes or classic Neal Adams.  The quality of the draftsmanship is strong enough to overcome weak design.  That’s not to say that these artist’s are weak in the design sense (because they certainly are not) but I’m simply saying they draw so well they could get away with a weak design and still have a successful cover.

To me the final element is story-telling.  You always want to give your audience more than just a static piece of art, no matter how well it’s executed.  On second glance, what information can the reader discern from the cover?  Does it accurately convey some emotional content that will draw the consumer into opening the book and actually buying it and reading it?  This aspect has become less important as covers are being created sometimes without even knowing what the content of the books are.  This is especially true of variant covers.  But the cover itself can tell a story even if it’s not a reflection of the content of the book. (Specifically see my Weird Worlds #6 cover from the previous blogs)

It’s funny how obvious these points are and how often we as artist’s miss the mark.  Sometimes deadlines or just having a uncreative day can lead to uninspired cover work.  Sometimes editorial disagreements can sap the energy out of an idea.  Some days you just aren’t as motivated or drawing well.  I guess the moral of the story is, knowing what to do is only half the battle.  Actually executing it is another challenge.

So there are my thoughts on that.  Now let’s finish off this list!

#5:  Mystic #33. My favorite of all my Mystic covers mainly because of the inclusion of the Abominable Snowman.  Marc Alessi wanted to make a diorama sculpture of it (back when CrossGen was planning such things) so it has to have something going for it.  In fact, Alessi bought the cover from me or I would still have it.  Inks by Matt Ryan and colors by Wil Quintana.



#4a:  Deadpool -1.  Okay, let the cheating begin.  The truth is I have 6 covers that I wanted in the top 5, so here we are.  This is the first image I ever had turned into a T-shirt or reproduced in any way beyond the actual use as a comic cover.  This is my tribute to Steranko and it is not a swipe of one of his covers but a design inspired by several of his covers, most notably Captain America #111.



#4b: DK3 #1 Variant.  Let the cheating continue.  This is a recent cover but one that I just really like.  I penciled, inked and colored it.  It is a simple but strong design and color scheme is simple but effective.  I love the horse.



#3: Hulk: Destruction #4.  Who would have thought that a comic based on a video game would inspire one of my best covers?  When I got the assignment I knew I may never get the chance to draw the Hulk fighting the Abomination again, so I really tried to do something cool.  Although this cover looks eerily similar to a Mike Zeck Hulk Annual cover (purely coincidental) the layout is actual inspired by some Michael Golden covers.



#2: Harley Quinn #1 Store Exclusive Variant.  I just completed this cover a month ago and it has risen to the top of my favorite list.  I love how the Joker turned out on the poster, I love the Harley figure and I love the pink background.  Honestly, I can’t stand the new “trashy” Harley (I much prefer the original “cute” version) but somehow this cover transcends all of that for me.



#1: Excalibur #9.  This is it!  Number 1!  This cover featuring the Dark Beast turned out so good, I can’t believe I actually drew it.  Once again, Tim Townsend did some absolutely stellar inking on this and he actually wanted the original art as well but I wouldn’t give it up.  I still have it and plan on keeping it.


As a bonus I want to show all three stages of this cover.  Here are the inks by Tim Townsend.


Here are my pencils.  I think this is a xerox copy which explains the lack of nuanced detail in the image.  I don’t think I owned a scanner at the time or a very good one anyway.


So there you have it.  My top 20 (21) favorite covers list.  I’m sure if I did another one a year from now there might be some additions but as of right now, this is my list and I’m sticking to it.  (unless I realize I forgot one….like Green Lantern Corps #59…oops!)



My Top 20 Favorite Covers Part 3

The only time I do a daily blog is when I have several figured out at the same time.  Thus is the case with my top 20 covers.  I obviously had to come up with the entire list before I started the process, so I am able to post daily.  Well, until I run out of covers, of course.

It was an interesting procedure, coming up with the top 10.  I discovered that I liked more of my covers than I thought I would.  It’s amazing to me how much a little time changes your opinion of your artwork. Some of these covers I was disappointed with when I first drew them but after a few years I can look back on them with a fresh perspective and see something of value that I didn’t see before.  Psychology 101….blah, blah, blah…let’s get on with it!

NO. 10: Superman #699.  The story behind this is pretty funny.  I got a call from an editor who needed this cover penciled and inked in a day and a half.  I did a couple of roughs, they picked one and I had to pencil it that day/night.  The next morning I got up, inked it and turned it in.  I liked it the minute I finished it and I still like it.  Sometimes working under the gun can create some surprising results.



NO. 9: Legends of the Dark Knight 100 page Spectacular #3.  This is on this list for one reason and one reason only.  Batman.  Okay, that’s a lie, Joker, Clayface and Killer Croc are also huge reasons.  This is a story that I wrote, penciled and inked, so I was thrilled that I got the cover as well.  Although the design is pretty standard fare, it’s a cover that misrepresents the content of the story in a literal sense but captures the content very nicely in a metaphorical sense.   I also spent a lot of time cross-hatching the bricks behind Batman and I colored this one as well.



NO. 8:  Wonder Woman #28.  The intent here was to capture a Norman Rockwell americana vibe.  I think I succeeded.  It also features my daughter when she was in kindergarten which makes it a keeper for life.



NO. 7: Metamorpho TPB Cover.  This was originally supposed to be the cover to Metamorpho #1 but when the title got absorbed into the anthology book “Legends of Tomorrow”, there was no need for a Metamorpho cover.   Since there is a trade paperback coming out, DC decided to use this art for the cover.  Great inking by Matt Banning and nice rich coloring by Soto.



NO. 6: Excalibur #10.  I can’t tell you how much I like this cover.  It has been one of my favorites since I saw the inks by the great Tim Townsend.  When I drew it I wanted to capture a Wrightson Frankenstein feel in the rocky cliff and the skeletal remains.  I conveyed this to Tim and he brought it home.  This is a keeper and that’s why I still have it.


Well, that’s it for now.  Only the top five remain….so if you have come this far you are obligated to come back and see the exciting conclusion.

My Top 20 Favorite Covers part 2

Last time we visited my top 20 comic book covers (that I drew) numbers 16-20 plus a couple of honorable mentions.  So it seems only reasonable to address covers 11-15 in this the second part of my four part blog.  Why waste time with idle chit chat when we can jump right in.  This is me jumping right in!

NO. 15: Wonder Woman #26.  I have three Wonder Woman covers in my top 20 and this is the first entry.  It’s a simple but dramatic composition that tells the story of the comic.  I also like the color job.  (I’m pretty sure it’s Brad Anderson but don’t quote me on that if I’m wrong).



NO. 14: Mystic #37.   The work I did on Mystic for CrossGen resurrected my flailing career and got me back in the good graces of Marvel and DC.  This is a cover that I elected to keep because my wife (she’s a math teacher) gave me all of the equations for the cover.  I also think it is a unique design that metaphorically references the villain she is facing in the issue.  Great inks by Matt Ryan and colors by Wil Quintana.



NO. 13: Wonder Woman #23.  I love the composition and the super-hero power of this cover.  To me it feels like an old Marvel Comics cover.



NO. 12: Marvel Adventures Avengers #2.  Man, did I love doing these covers ( I did the first 4 issues).  I got to draw the whole group on every cover but this was my favorite, probably because it was so difficult and it wasn’t your typical team shot.  Plus I got to draw the silver age Leader!  This is another one that I still have.




NO.11:  Weird Worlds #6.  Most people are probably completely unaware of this comic. But it features my creator-owned monster comic, Garbage Man.  It was a 12-part serialized story that ran consecutively through two separate anthology mini-series ( first Weird Worlds and then My Greatest Adventure) I got a little criticism for it being too much like Swamp Thing…uh….duh!  That was the whole point.  Anyway, I only got to do one cover for the first 6- issue mini-series so I tried to knock it out of the park.  This is one of the first covers that I penciled, inked and colored.  See if you can find the storm trooper hidden in the garbage.



Well, this completes the bottom 10.  Next time we’ll get to the bottom half of the top 10.

My Top 20 Favorite Covers Part 1

If at first it seems a bit self serving to list my top 20 favorite comic covers that I have drawn; just remember, this is my blog!  What’s remarkable to me about approaching this topic is I can’t believe I have drawn more than 20 covers in my career.  The truth is, I have drawn a lot more than that.  Shocking, I know,  but true none-the-less.

The real reason I am doing this, though, is because if you are going to have a blog, you have to have something to blog about.  In the absence of a viable topic I will always choose self-promotion.  It seems like a reasonable default.

So let’s take a look at the first two runners-up.  I know this is technically cheating but since they are not officially in the top 20, just consider it bonus coverage.

POWER CUBED #2:  There’s nothing clever about the layout and nothing original about a character montage but it has a dinosaur on it and I really like the inking and coloring I did on it.


EXCALIBUR #8:  This is clearly a David Finch inspired layout but with the awesome inking of Tim Townsend, it had to get at least an honorable mention.  It is also the first cover I did for my Excalibur series at Marvel.


Now on to the actual list!

NO. 20:  Rebels #27.  I like this one because I like the inking I did on it and I got to wreck the cover logo ala Walt Simonson’s classic Beta Ray Bill Thor cover (#337).  I also like the volume and 3-dimensional weight I was able to give the character.



NO. 19: Wonder Woman Halloween Variant issue #35.  I like the vampires, the Dwight Frye-esque grave digger and the coffin of all things.  Really, in retrospect, Wonder Woman should be standing in an open coffin and there should be blood running down her chest where she pulled out the stake but nobody’s perfect.  Especially me.


NO. 18: JLI #2.  My best cover of my very short cover run on JLI.  The cover job was taken from me and given to David Finch for reasons other than dissatisfaction with my work.  I’m still a little bitter about it, even though Finch did some terrific covers for my run on the book.  Anyway, I love the stark layout, the lighting and the dramatic impact of the piece.


NO.17:  Power Cubed #1.  Luckily my creator-owned book sports one of my best covers. I really like the story-telling and the layout of the piece.  Your eye is directed right at the cube and you get a clear sense of the villains and protagonists and how important the cube is to all of them.


NO.16: Future Quest #1 Herculoids variant.

This is probably a favorite of mine based more on the subject matter than the execution.  Pretty simple design but it still manages to create a little energy.  I kept the line work simple along with the color scheme to better reflect the characters’ Saturday morning origins.



Since it is well past mid-night and I want to go to bed (old age….sigh), I am going to break this blog topic into 4 parts.  This then would officially be the #’s 16-20 portion of the list.  It stands to reason that part 2 will feature #’s 11-15 and so on.  It makes for easier reading and easier posting.  Really a win win.

See you soon!

Harley Quinn Variant Cover

I was recently asked to create an exclusive Variant Cover for Harley Quinn #1 for a comic shop in Virginia called Painted Visions and Comics.  This is only the second time in my career that I have been asked to create a specific cover for a specific comic dealer (the other was my DK3 cover) so obviously I jumped at the chance.  The book will be out the first of August 2016 and if you want to get one you will have to talk to the store.  But right now, let’s take a closer look at how this cover came to be.

As always we begin with the cover sketches.


Since I have fallen in love with the Joker ever since I saw Brian Bolland’s rendition in the Killing Joke, I had to include him on the cover.  “A” was the best concept but “C” perhaps the most desirable because of the inclusion of Catwoman and Poison Ivy.  “A” was chosen with the retailer requesting the dolls be super villains and the pictures on display include Batman and Robin.  Both were great calls and I incorporated that into the final.

Here is what the original pencil drawing looked like. You can clearly see the blue line underdrawing that is very common on my originals.



As you can see the requested changes were incorporated into the piece.  However, I did add a French Bulldog down on the pillows.  They are probably my favorite breed and they are so goofy looking I thought it would be a perfect match for Harley.  I was quickly informed that Harley actually has a dachsund, so my frenchy was removed and replaced with a wiener dog.  I also added the “angry” remarks written on the poster since Harley no longer is in love with the Joker.  I almost added a drawn on moustache but I’m glad I didn’t since I was asked to remove the lettering from the final file.

When all of the changes were incorporated, I took it to inks.  I used mostly brush on this with some micron for the straight line work.  As you can see the lettering has been removed from the poster.  It is still on the original inked version of the work but not here on this scan.



I then took the piece to the final stage; coloring.  This I did in photoshop.  This is how it first looked when I turned it in.


At this point I was asked to change the pink background and remove the lettering from the poster.  I removed the lettering but was not agreeable to changing the pink background.  But at first, I did it because I am a very easy to work with compliant artist.


I turned it in with a changed to blue background and the lettering removed.  Truthfully I just couldn’t stand it.  I thought the irreverent irony of Harley having a pink room was perfect.  I also felt that the pink would draw attention to the cover as it sat on the rack.  A long discussion ensued and finally we all agreed that the pink was the best option.  I solicited my friend and fellow artist Terry Dodson’s opinion and he agreed with the Pink choice.  I used this in my arguments with DC and it may well have helped swing the tide.

So here is the final version of the cover to be released this August.


All in all, I am very pleased.  In fact, this may be one of my best covers all-time.  For some reason I just think it works on just about every level.  I guess I can retire now.