Hawkman/Adam Strange #2 Cover

Let’s take a quick look at my process for illustrating the cover to issue #2 of my current mini-series project for DC Comics, “Hawkman/Adam Strange: Out of Time”.  I would love to surprise you and say I did something different here, but no, it’s the same old process just with new art.

I did three cover sketches for my editor to choose from on this cover.  I was a little torn on this one.  I liked both A and B and I would have been happy to do either.  B was chosen with a few modifications suggested by the editor and writer.

HawkAS#2cvrsketchA HawkAS#2cvrsketchB HawkAS#2cvrsketchC

 

Here in the pencils, you can see one of the modifications.  The Thangarian hawkment swarming from the planet added a nice balancing element to the composition.  The planet breaking apart was added after this pencil scan.   Both were excellent suggestions that made the cover stronger.

HawkmanAScvr#2pencil

After I got the okay on the pencils I took the art to the ink stage.  I used almost exclusively brush on this.  Some of the hard lines were inked with a pen but that’s pretty much it.  The fade from the black to the white at the bottom was accomplished by using a couple of different pen sizes and just dabbing dots until I got the effect.  A bit tedious but I wasn’t about to mask off the art and spray it with black splatter.  In my book, that has disaster written all over it.

HawkmanAStrange#2Cvr

This is one of the occasions where I chose not to color the cover myself.  The biggest reason was I had a turn around time of only three days to get it designed, penciled, inked and colored.  I am not an efficient enough colorist to do a good job that fast.  So I passed it over to Brad Anderson who was more than up for the task.  To think he did this color job in 24 hours is remarkable to me.

HawkmanAStrange_2_CVR_fnl

I really like how this turned out and it just made my new favorite list!  See you soon.

 

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.

Couv_157937

 

#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.

734983

 

#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.

DK3cover

 

#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.

Hulk_Destruction_Vol_1_4_Textless

 

#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.

HarleyQuinnPinkCvrFinal

 

#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.

Excalibur_Vol_3_9

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

excalibur9

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.

exdarkbeastcvr

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.

Superman_Vol_1_699

 

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.

Legends-of-the-Dark-Knight-66-0

 

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.

624745-wonder_woman_025_page_001

 

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.

METAMORPHO_1_CVRv2

 

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.

e011f953988fea8ea58e3b91ffcb49d0

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).

624689-wonder_woman_026_page_001

 

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.

1087811

 

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.

495061-wonderwoman023

 

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.

Marvel_Adventures_The_Avengers_Vol_1_2

 

 

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.

1841427-weirdworlds06_001

 

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.

Power3#2cover

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.

aaron-lopresti-excalibur-no-8-cover-callisto-magneto-x-23-omega-sentinel-and-excalibur

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.

REBELS_Vol_2_27

 

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.

wonderwoman35monstervariant

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.

JLI2

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.

Power3headshot

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.

HerculoidsCvr

 

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.

HarleyQuinnAHarleyQuinnBHarleyQuinnC

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.

HarleyCvrPencil

 

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.

HarleyCvrInk

 

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.

harleyquinncover

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.

HarleyQuinnCvrColorblue

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.

HarleyQuinnPinkCvrFinal

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.

 

 

Kit Carter…..Finally!

Yes, it’s that time again.  Time for me to start another creator owned book.  I am committed to getting as many of my creator owned concepts out in the marketplace as I can over the next decade. (Actually, the next 8 years but if you go back 2 that’s when I started Power Cubed, so moving forward this is still part of my decade of creator owned projects).  I figure in 8 more years my desire to work on two projects at once will be long gone, so I need to do it while I still have the energy and desire.

Kit Carter is my next personal project.  I have been producing prints and sketchbook material of the character for years, so the ground work has been laid out.  Now it’s time to move forward with it as a comic project.  I’m going to treat this differently than Power Cubed.  Kit Carter: Galactic Ranger lends itself to self-contained adventures more so than something like Power Cubed, therefore that is what I am going to do.  Single issue adventures.  Rather than killing myself trying to write, pencil, ink and color a mini-series in my spare time, I will do this project as a series of one-shot adventures, thus enabling me to get it out in the marketplace in a timely fashion.

I already have semi-finished pencils for two pages.  I am motivated and rolling along with it now and after I get burned out after one issue, I’ll be done!   It’s a masterful plan if you think about it (pats self on back).  Realistically, I think I can get this done by the end of 2016 and have it in comic shops in the spring of 2017.  I haven’t put together a publishing deal yet, so I can’t say who this will be released through.  Hopefully soon, though.

Just to prove I’m telling the truth, here is a couple of panels from page one featuring Kit and her partner, Rand Frontier. Is it a patnership made in heaven or one destined to quickly flame out?  No spoiler’s here.  You’ll have to pick up the comic to find out!

KitCarterRoughs

 

That’s all you get for now.  Be on the look out for a Kit Carter Primer sketchbook.  If all goes well I hope to have it put together for Comic Con in San Diego.

 

Here’s hoping….

Indiana Comic Con Creations

I did it!  I finally did it!  I remembered to take pictures of every commission I did at the Indiana Comic Con this past weekend.  I’m not posting every single one but here are a good many of them.  These are all done with Copic markers.  Warm, Neutral and Cool Grays. (of course there is red in there where needed)

IMG_0887IMG_0890IMG_0896IMG_0898 IMG_0899

There are a couple pieces I did in sketchbooks and I know some people like to keep their sketchbook stuff private so I won’t show those.  Anyway, this is a nice sampling and I am so proud of myself for remembering to take photos!  Until next time!

CONAN cover for Dark Horse Presents

I don’t know what’s gotten into me lately but here I am writing my 3rd blog in 4 days.  I guess it’s either feast or famine so let’s enjoy the feast!  Last year around the end of May I wrote and penciled an 8-page Conan story for Dark Horse Comics here in Portland (Matt Banning handled the inking chores).   It will finally see print this month, almost a full year after I started and finished it.  Although I can’t show you any of the pages just yet, I can show you the cover and my steps in putting it together.

This was my first and only (so far) Conan story of my career and I wanted to make sure I put together a memorable cover.  I came up with a few cover sketches where I tried to incorporate an iconic shot of Conan and at the same time be true to the content of the story.  Here is what I submitted for editorial consideration.

ConanCvrAConanCvrCConanCvrB

I can’t say for certain which is my favorite.  I know “B” has the most action but Conan is also the smallest in it.  I might have leaned more toward “C” but was really happy to do any of them.

“B” was chosen and I took it to a finished pencil.

DHPConanCvrPencilsmall

I inked it with my new regular approach of using a brush along with some pen work.  I once asked Mike Ploog what he inked with and he said he used whatever was within reach.  At the time I found that answer incredulous but now I get it.  What matters is what it looks like when you’re done, not what tools you use to get there.

DHPConanCvrInk

 

After finishing up the rather detailed inking chores, I scanned it and colored it in photoshop.  I used my fall back basic orange/blue complimentary color scheme.  I had my wife help me flat the colors and then finished it up with my usual abundance of color layering.

I need to point out the background trees and vines were more modeled and rendered but the editors felt it wasn’t dark enough and that the characters didn’t separate enough from the background so I darkened it with a color fade which covered up most of the modeling work I did.  If I had to do it over again, I would go in and put some more detail into the background but then again, you’re supposed to be looking at the characters not the background.

DHPConanCvrfinal

How long until my next blog you may ask?  I have no idea.   Until then….

Herculoids Cover

I’m not sure how many of today’s comic readers have any memories of Hanna-Barbara’s super hero cartoon universe.  So I may only be showing my age by creating this particular blog but I don’t think it is any secret that I have been around awhile so let’s boldly move forward.  I was ecstatic when I heard that DC Comics was finally doing something with the old Hanna-Barbara super-hero characters that I fondly remember from my Saturday morning youth.  Dan Didio and I have been discussing this for years, specifically the Herculoids, and when DC announced its new comic series, Future Quest, Dan through me a bone in the form of an alternate Herucloids cover for the first issue.

Let’s take a look at how this cover came together.   As always I did several cover sketches, mainly because I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with the characters.

HerculoidscvrAHerculoidsBandC

I thought maybe an action shot might be more interesting but the iconic team shot was selected so that’s the one I did.

Shockingly, I started by penciling the cover; but not without making a couple of changes.  I swapped Igoo and Zok so I could make the stone ape bigger.  (just between you and me, he’s my favorite).  I also decided to draw in a more “open” style to try and capture more of the original flavor of the animated show.

HerculoidsCvrPencil

I then inked it with a brush, mostly.  There is probably a little pen in there but nothing significant.

HerculoidsCvrInk

I scanned this image at 1500dpi bitmap or line and then colored it in photoshop.  I didn’t go nuts on the color rendering because like the drawing approach, I wanted to keep the flavor of the animated series.

HerculoidsCvr

I think the final product is my style but effectively filtered through the lens of the animated series.  Alex Toth (the legendary grumpy designer of the characters) would more than likely find fault with my take on his characters but I was only trying to impress myself….and my mom.