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!)