I have been waiting over a month to post about this cover. If you are my age or older you probably remember The Herucloids (if you don’t, YouTube it). They were part of the Jonny Quest Universe that Hanna-Barbara introduced in the mid-sixties. I didn’t actually first see them until they were re-running them in the early 70’s on Saturday morning. Well, in case you are unaware, DC comics has re-introduced many of the characters from these cartoon shows into the DCU…..sort of. They started with a limited series called Future Quest (featuring Jonny Quest, Space Ghost, The Herucloids, Frankenstein Jr., Birdman, Mightor, etc.) and then followed that with the current Future Quest Presents series. The former was one big story that contained all of the characters, the latter is a series featuring self-contained solo adventures. If you haven’t checked this out, you should.
Enough of the sales pitch. Here is the cover to Future Quest Presents #9. This book comes out in April and is the first of a 3-issue story arc featuring The Herculoids. I am penciling the interiors with inks by Matt Ryan. The covers, for better or for worse are all me.
I received an story outline breaking down the happenings in each of the three-issues. Using this as a guide, I came up with my cover concepts for the first issue. Here are the sketches I came up with.
I produced 4 sketches for editorial to choose from. They liked “A”, so that’s what we went with. Now this story arc introduces a new villain so I had to do some character designs. Since everything about this series is retro, I wanted the villain to have a retro feel as well. I decided to pull out some Kirby influence and I came up with this design.
It seemed to fit with the vibe of the comic, so it was an easy approval. With a definite look in my mind for the character, I started the cover. I wanted the villain to have a more interesting and dynamic pose than I produced with the sketch and came up with this alteration in the pencil stage.
I went with more delicate cross-hatching than normal for me in order to get a different look. I left the background blank because I knew it was going to be black with a star field on it. No need to color all that area in with a pencil when you are going to do it in black ink anyway.
Staying true to my throwback training, I used a toothbrush dipped in Pro-White to splatter the star field onto the black background.
Unlike a lot of my covers, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do with that nebula streak in the background. Vibrant color! However, I had no idea how I was going to handle the planet or the villain’s color scheme. I was pretty sure I wanted to go with an orange or red face but wasn’t sure what that would mean for his costume color.
I tried to use a lot of the same colors in the background nebula that we would be seeing in the foreground characters to create a little harmony despite the wide array of colors. I think it works pretty well.
After trying a variety of face and costume color combinations, I ultimately stayed with the orange-ish face for the villain. Blue being the complimentary color to orange, made perfect sense as the costume color. The trim color was hit and miss but I finally decided on the pale yellow as it worked well with the overall color scheme was not offensively bright or garish.
The other problem I had to solve was coloring the planet. I found some shots of earth from space on line and tried to mimic the coloring of the continents that I saw. A warm tan for desert and green for jungle or forested areas. I used a brush with a splatter texture to blend the colored areas on the continents. I did a color hold or fill on the holding lines on the continents and then added clouds using that same brush.
When I was done, the planet was too bright and was drawing the eye to it and past Dorno (the kid) in the forefront. Although the planet looked really bright and had great volume to it, Dorno and the Herculoids should be the focus, not a background planet. So I dropped a 15-20% grayish blue over the planet to knock it back a bit. It worked and now the focus of the piece is where it should be. Here are the two cover versions side by side so you can see the difference knocking the back the planet makes.
It is really the brightness of the clouds that causes the issue. I really do like the whiter clouds better and if I did a cover where the focus was the planet itself, I would go with the brighter version. But as previously stated, I felt it was too distracting and needed to be knocked back.
And that folks, is that. Thanks for continuing to tune in. Next up will be the cover to Wonder Woman/Conan #6. I cover with another set of unique problems that I got to solve. See you soon!