Time to break down the creation of another cover! This time it’s Young Justice #11, the first part of a storyline featuring Ra’s al Ghul, a villain who has been a favorite of mine for years. He was one of three villains declared off limits during my run on The Batman Strikes (the others being Two-Face and Scarecrow), so despite my 44-issue run on that Batman title, I’d never had a chance to draw Ras’ professionally before, and I really wanted to knock it out of the park.
When we starting talking about cover designs this time, I learned that Ra’s was our villain and that the story featured an encounter between Ra’s and Batman and Robin, but I didn’t know much about the rest of the story, as the script wasn’t final yet. My first instinct was to pay homage to one of the early Neal Adams covers that represent the comics that made me fall in love with the character in the first place. Here are the covers I was suggesting along with my notes to writer Greg Weisman and my editor Jim Chadwick. (Notes in blue.)
Batman #232 – First appearance of Ra’s. I think it would be fun to swap Batman and Robin’s position on the cover. With or without the same text.
Treasury Edition collection of the early Ra’s al Ghul stories – Again I think it would be fun to swap Batman and Robin’s roles. If Talia isn’t in the story, we’d have to decide if there’s another character to put in her place in the composition, or whether to eliminate the figure.
Even if we do a new composition, I’d love to do a cover with a big, ghostly Ra’s figure in the background as in either of these two covers.
Batman #244 – I’m guessing the Lawrence of Arabia setting wouldn’t work, but I think the Ra’s and Batman figures could be recast as Ra’s and Robin.
Not knowing the specifics of the plot, I didn’t know if any of these were remotely appropriate – even as a symbolic cover. Greg responded with the following suggestions of his own that tied in more specifically to the script-in-progress:
1. A confrontation at a missile launch site. (Which I think is more or less where the story opens.)
2. Something Lazarus Pit oriented where someone or something is rising out of the pit. (Which I think is more or less where the issue ends).
I asked for more specifics about what Greg had in mind regarding a “missile launch site,” but a Lazarus Pit scene captured my imagination. I suggested the following:
What about Ra’s rising from a Lazarus Pit in the foreground, with a missile launching from the pad (symbolically) behind him, with Batman and Robin looking on in alarm, either as figures or as ghostly images like Ra’s in two of those classic covers? (I can clarify this with a sketch if it sounds like a direction we’d want to pursue.)
I assume whatever Ra’s is wearing in the story we’d want him in his main costume for the cover, unless he’s seen rising from the pit in which case I’d prefer him bare-chested.
Greg and Jim liked the direction of a Lazarus Pit scene, even though it meant a symbolic cover that depicted a scene that did not literally take place in the story.I wanted Ra’s to be the focus of the piece and make him look powerful, with Robin the next most prominent figure as he’s the only character on the cover who’s a regular star of the book. I settled on a low angle shot looking up at and past Ra’s with Robin closest to Ra’s in the foreground with Batman further back (and therefor smaller.) I did this relatively tight sketch for approval. The dark setting served to simplify the background and keep the focus on the characters, as well as allow for dramatic under-lighting. I tried to make the image more dynamic by using strong vertical lines in perspective, which can be seen not only in the background architecture, but in the Lazarus Pit goo dripping off of Ra’s.
As always, I was careful to leave enough room at the top for the Young Justice logo and other DC Comics trade dress.
The sketch was approved, so it was relatively straightforward to proceed with pencils and inks. I elaborated on the doorway Batman in running through, trying to pull in some of the architectural detail of the Fortress Al Ghul location where the Lazarus Pit would be located in our story, a location seen in episode 6 of the TV show, “Infiltrator.” Pencils and inks by me are seen below, plus color by Zac Atkinson.
And there you have it! This turned out to be one of my favorite covers for the series so far, and some others must have liked it as I saw it used in a number of articles previewing DC titles coming out that month. And the story inside turned out to be a lot of fun, too! You can check it out in digital form or at your local comic shop.
I’ll be doing a Commentary blog entry on this issue soon, and will be doing another “Creating a Cover” entry for Young Justice #12 sooner still!