Archived: Doe on X-Men: The 198, Immonen on Nextwave

Note: A version of this entry originally appeared on Jan. 28, 2006, at Supernaturally, my work and idea blog.

I've been meaning to link to PopImage's interview with artist Juan Doe, who borrows from Soviet propaganda posters and modern street art to create the striking covers for Marvel's X-Men: The 198 miniseries.
... We decided to base it in the roots of a propaganda campaign, each cover with a theme inherit to the story: "uprising," "revolution" and "death." We were working with some powerful ideas and were definitely on the same page. I loved David Hines' outline and the character of the project. Afterwards, it was just about sitting down and actualizing something.

They never asked me to do anything specific or draw a certain way; I believe they wanted a truly fresh approach, so I had free reign, a blank canvas for every piece. I thought that was really bold of them to allow me that much exploration, but it worked out great. I was able to design and interpret the whole cover, right down to designing the logo and type treatment. In the end, I think that my previous works in other arenas encouraged Marvel to use me for this project but there was no template for what the work should look like. That was a very exciting condition to work under-it allowed for a very natural vision to come through.
Back in December, I wrote about the covers for Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen's Nextwave series. Last week, Broken Frontier did the same, talking with the artist about his approach and process.
... In a rare moment of creative fraternity, Warren and I balked at the idea of the covers looking like everything else. I had a notion that they could maybe look like the cold austere work of Peter Saville, and Warren mentioned the Designer's Republic. After a long period of trial and error, and seriously deep thought on my part, I came up with a kind of "non-concept"-- that the covers would have nothing in common at all, except the layout; something in the upper three fifths and something else in the lower three fifths. I emailed "sketches" (essentially digital collages), which everyone loved, to my utter surprise. They are each, basically, a mess. But carefully constructed messes.
The article includes some of Immonen's early digital collages, which help to give the covers that energetic "found art"/pop culture mashup feel.

Hm. It seems strange to be discussing innovative, or even good, covers for Marvel titles, particularly given the publisher's penchant in recent years for generic, pinup-style images. Maybe Nextwave and The 198 are signs that the House of Ideas is turning the corner, at least when it comes to design.


Archived: Fables #49

Note: This entry originally appeared on Jan. 22, 2006, at Supernaturally, my work and idea blog.

I realize I write a lot -- too much? -- about comic book covers, but they fascinate me. Well, at least the good ones do.

Take, for instance, the cover for May's Fables #49, which artist James Jean posted on his website last night. The issue is the second of a two-part story, titled "Wolves," in which Mowgli (of Jungle Book fame) is sent to find the AWOL Bigby Wolf (of Big Bad Wolf fame).

I don't follow the series, just Jean's covers, so I have only a vague idea of what's going on, story-wise. But that cover is ravishing and haunting. The muted, wintery colors of the birch trees and the snarling wolf are punctuated by the almost preternatural yellow of the animal's eye, which is replicated in the accents of the trade dress.

And the beast itself -- representing Bigby, I presume -- is beautiful and terrifying. In the lower-right corner, barely noticeable in the tree line, is the hunter, Mowgli, eclipsed by his fierce quarry. Gorgeous stuff, that.

However, what interests me most here, and with many of his Fables covers, is Jean's dedication to experimenting with the series logo and trade dress. While the font remains consistent, its size and position on the cover do not.

On Issue 41, for example, the logo dangles from the end of strings, like one of Gepetto's puppets. On Issue 39, it crosses the cover like an official's sash, spelling out "fakery," "betrayal" and "lies." And for Issue 35, part of a story about Jack of the Tales in Hollywood, the title is appropriately shortened to "Fab!"

Defying comic-book convention, Jean treats the logo and dress as art elements, not static obstacles. They become part of the design, not just something to be plopped on as an afterthought. (With Issue 49, he even thrusts the UPC box to the top of the image, instead of cramming it into a corner, thereby freeing up space to tell a story -- something a good cover does.)

Some argue that the logo should remain at the top of the cover, so the book's title can be clearly seen on waterfall racks. It's a good point, of course, but not all stores use those shelves. Some overlap the books, so only the left edge shows, while others clearly present the full cover.

With little or no consistency in sales display, it makes more sense to allow content to dictate design, which appears to be what Jean and DC/Vertigo have decided. Form follows function, and all of that.

I'm not sure where I was going with that tangent, but I'm pretty sure I've arrived there. Now that that's out of my system, I'll get back to writing.


Note: This entry originally appeared on Jan. 18, 2006, at Supernaturally, my work and idea blog.

Monday's post set me on a Bite Club kick, which, in turn, got me thinking about Frank Quitely's covers for the 2004 miniseries. Damn, those are things of beauty. I'd love to have a poster of all six images.

Aside from the art itself, I'm a fan of the design: the repeated elements on the left -- the final cover for Issue 1, top left, sports "milk" cartons -- and the way the Bite Club logo is cleverly incorporated into many of the images. I also enjoy that vampish (hyuk) Risa Del Toro sports a little cellulite, something you don't usually see on comic-book women. She's sexy and imperfect. Heck, all the cover figures are sexy in their own way, without resorting to blatant cheesecake, or beefcake.

To round out the Quitely lovefest, I listened to the first of a two-p
art podcast interview with the artist at Good stuff.


Archived: Design, dynamism and selling the book

Note: This entry originally appeared on Dec. 9, 2005, at Supernaturally, my work and idea blog.

I probably think far too much about comic book cover design. That's largely because my so-called "real" job is creating posters for a company that publishes and distributes educational materials for use in schools, libraries, career centers and the like.

(Educational posters and comic covers face similar problems in trying to quickly convey information in an effective and attractive manner. Plus, the posters are sold to educators and administrators through catalogs -- like Previews, only smaller -- so we have to grab customers with an image and a few lines of text.)

But I also dwell on covers -- or, more accurately, on what makes good covers -- because I have a toe or two in the brackish publishing pool. Even as I rough out plots and jot down bits of dialogue, my mind wanders toward art and cover design, and creating a product that will stand out visually on overcrowded shelves and in a phone book-thick catalog. I worry, even before the script is finished.

Then I look at the covers to Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen's upcoming Marvel series, Nextwave -- Ellis debuted the Issue 3 cover today -- and I think, They get it. And they make it look so easy.

Of course, when it comes to cover design, Ellis almost always gets it (see Planetary, Global Frequency and Fell, even if the latter's resemble those of 30 Days of Night a bit too much).

The Nextwave covers look like nothing else being published right now. They're a fun, vibrant mashup of old and new design and pop-cultural elements that change from issue to issue: Hokusai's The Great Wave "sampled" for the cover of Issue 1, the old-style fight bill design of Issue 2, the co-opted Elvis photo repeated across the lower half of Issue 3.

There's an energy and dynamism there.

Of course, that mishmash approach isn't appropriate for my current/upcoming project. But the process and purpose behind it certainly give me more to think about.


About This Blog

Most Recent Posts


Art & Design

Comics Blogosphere

Publisher Blogs

ATOM 0.3
Weblog Commenting and Trackback by Blogarama - The Blogs Directory