I love Metamorpho, I love the Creeper, I love Neal Adams’ Deadman, I love the Spectre, I love Shazam and I love Plastic Man! I wrote and drew Metamorpho and now I recently got to draw the cover for the first issue of a new DC Plastic Man series. (All the other characters will have to come at a later date, I suppose)
So lets take an in-depth look at how the Plastic Man Cover came to be from concepts to colors.
I was thrilled to get this assignment but since it was/is to be an alternative cover, I was not entirely sure what overall vibe to go for . Old style fun or what appears to be the new direction, criminal noir. So I did four cover sketches each representing a different contextual angle.
The first is an obvious homage to Amazing Fantasy #15 but it does represent a similar scene in the first issue. The second was based on a commission I did last year and absolutely loved. I thought the third one here is interesting in that it depicts the “new” Plastic Man bursting through a black and white photograph of the “old” Plastic Man and Woozie Winks. They chose the more noir-ish Eisner-esque option. Which I was perfectly happy to do since I am a big fan of that type of stuff, as well.
Penciling this proved a greater challenge than I originally thought. It’s really supposed to be Plastic Man over-viewing himself as Eel O’Brien after a beating he takes from his former partners that leads to his becoming Plastic Man. So Plastic Man had to be part of the scene without really being part of the scene.
My original thought was to have Plastic Man stretching in from behind the background city scape but in order to have enough room at the top of the page, I would have had to shrink the foreground scene substantially which I thought would greatly lessen its impact. Dilemma.
I thought of first making the foreground alleyway building actually be the name, “Plastic Man”. This would reinforce the “representational” concept of the cover and up the Eisner factor.
However, the femme fatale was too big and covered up too much of the name as to make it almost unreadable. I wasn’t going to shrink the girl so I dropped the idea of using Plastic Man lettering on the cover.
I also wasn’t convinced the layout perspective was the best choice. So I thought changing the perspective to clearly show both sides of the alleyway might be better. The vanishing point would be right in the center of the cover drawing the eye right where it should be. This would also make it easier to have Plas coming from behind the background cityscape.
And again, no. In order to have the side alley walls at a reasonable angle, I would have had to raise the horizon line which would have then made the foreground body of Eel O’Brien less dramatic. It would have gone from a low angle shot to essentially a straight on shot, killing the drama of the scene. (this scan only shows the dramatic and much too sharp angles of the walls if I had kept the low angle horizon line)
I finally came to the compromise of lowering the alley wall and having Plastic Man coming over the top of that building rather than from behind the background cityscape. In doing this I was able to keep the size and angle of the foreground scene intact. I did have to raise the horizon line just a bit but I was still able to keep most of the drama from the original low angle shot concept.
I liked how it turned out so I inked it. Mostly brush on the figures and pen on the backgrounds.
The coloring on this was pretty straight forward. I used the violet/blue background sky color as my base. I added a variation of that violet to drop over the thugs in the background to help them recede and to maintain the feel of a night time scene. The bleeding body of Eel O’Brien and the Femme Fatale are better lit because they are the focus of the scene, along with Plastic Man coming in over the top. I used some of the background violet on Plastic Man as a”kicker” light as well as a white highlight coming from the right side to give him a more dimensional feel. I also made sure his red costume was not too red as to be distracting. It looks red but it is not nearly as pure red as it was when I initially dropped the color in. I ended up laying a 15% violet/blue over all the inanimate objects to help maintain color harmony. Even the browns and grays in the alley have a violet/blue tint.
There is a an artificial highlight on the wall behind Plastic Man to help draw the eye to where it is supposed to be looking.
I’m quite happy with how this turned out and I think it is one of my more successful covers in recent memory.
Thanks for checking it out!