Archived: Design, dynamism and selling the book

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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.

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