Posts tagged: Creating a Cover



Marvel Universe – Avengers:Earth’s Mightiest Heroes #16

Adapted by Joe Caramagna
Cover by Christopher Jones

Ms. Marvel joins the Avengers against Ronan the Accuser.
Based on season two of the hit Disney XD TV show!
32 Pages / All Ages – $2.99

This is the second in a series of three covers I did recently for the comic book tie-in for the Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes animated TV show.

Initially all I was told was that the cover was to feature “Ronan the Accuser and Captain Mar-Vell putting the earth on trial.”

Without any other specifics on the story, I wasn’t sure how to represent that idea visually? I asked “Would you want some kind of alien courtroom setting? Who other than Ronan and Mar-Vel would need to be on the cover?”

I was told “Let’s go a little more sci-fi here – Ronan and Captain Mar-Vell looking down on Earth, the Avengers preparing to defend it,” and that the Avengers to be included were Captain America, Ms. Marvel and Iron Man.

Ronan & Mar-Vel cover sketch

Sketch A

Ronan & Mar-Vel cover sketch b

Sketch B

My first thought was to have the heroes in a “ready for a fight” pose with Ronan and Mar-Vell towering over them, looking judgmental. I wanted Earth in the background, which meant that our immediate location needed to be in open space or on a spaceship of some kind. If they were on a ship, what kind of ship was it? If they were in open space, are the Avengers characters wearing space suits? I was reluctant to solve these problems with specifics that wouldn’t correlate with the actual story.

I had a second take on the cover that gave more focus to the story’s “guest stars” Ronan and Mar-Vell, looking from their level down at the trio of heroes on some kind of platform with a protective force field dome and the Earth behind them. While this platform was likely to be specific only to the cover and not found in the story, this layout seemed to do a much better job of getting across the idea of Ronan and Mar-Vel presiding in judgement over Earth and the heroes. To strengthen this impression I put the heroes in shackles, and tried to make the platform a bit of Kirby-esque space sculpture but also bearing a resemblance to the top of a Grecian column, hopefully further evoking a courtroom ambiance.

Avengers EMH - Ronan Cover pencils 100

Cover Pencils

Avengers EMH Cover - Ronan 100

Cover Inks

Sketch B was chosen, so pencils and inks were pretty straightforward. I had a great deal of fun drawing Ronan and Mar-vell, especially.

You can find my previous Creating a Cover installments here.

Creating a Cover: Young Justice #25

It’s time for another installment of my Creating a Cover series. As was often the case, this cover was being designed before I had seen the script for the issue in question, so I had to rely on a suggestion from series writer Greg Weisman for an idea of what would be appropriate subject matter for a cover. Greg suggestion was basically “Everybody versus Brainiac.” I hadn’t seen a script for our Brainiac (aka “The Collector of Worlds”) in action yet so I wasn’t sure what kind of offensive capabilities he was going to display. I figured I’d just have him in a “ready for action” pose and make it obvious that combat was imminent. The “everybody” he was going to be fighting included all the Young Justice Team members, plus members of the Justice League – everybody who had been seen up to this point on Brainiac’s ship or the ship belonging to our other villain Kylstar.

I asked if there was any one character who was the focus of the final showdown with Brainiac and I was told that there wasn’t. Because of that and the fact that this was going to be the final issue of our series, I didn’t want to emphasize one of the heroes over the others for the sake of a more dynamic layout, so the the challenge became how to include more than a dozen heroes fighting a single opponent, without giving any one of them the lion’s share of the focus.

As is often the case when trying to include this many characters on a cover, the way to organize them into a layout is a process of almost mathematical deduction. I knew what I wanted to do, but I felt the need to offer multiple options and present my reasoning.

YJ #25 cover sketch a

Sketch A

YJ #25 cover sketch b

Sketch B

YJ #25 cover sketch c

Sketch C

I presented three sketches to indicate the three basic approaches I saw as our options:

Sketch A places Brainiac at the center background with everyone else rushing him. The disadvantage of this approach was that while it makes for a compelling image, it puts most of the heroes in a position with their backs to the viewer – something I especially wanted to avoid on the cover for our swansong issue.

Sketch B takes more of the lateral view – viewing the gang-rush of heroes more in profile, with Brainiac down in the corner to allow the heroes to be more spread out and coming at him from both ground-level and from the air!

I felt the strongest option was the one presented in Sketch C – with Brainiac in the foreground, cheated “towards the camera” so we get a better look at him, but his attention clearly on all the heroes converging on him from the background. This option has the heroes coming at us front on, and gives us lots of open space to spread them across the cover, still leaving room for the logo at the top.

YJ #25 cover pencils prev


YJ #25 inks cover prev


Happily for me, Sketch C was chosen so I proceeded to pencils and inks. This ended up being the only time I got to draw Lagoon Boy in his “puffed up” combat mode. This is also a great look at our version of Brainiac, who I was so happy to have gotten to design for Young Justice.


Final Cover

And finally, here’s the final version with color by Zac Atkinson complete with all the final logos and other trade dress.

I really enjoyed getting to draw so many of the covers for my run on Young Justice. I enjoy drawing covers overall, and I really enjoyed getting to contribute more fully to the total look and feel of the Young Justice issues I did, as opposed to The Batman Strikes were most of the covers were by other artists.

You can find my previous Creating a Cover installments here.

Creating a Cover: Young Justice #24

It’s time for another installment of my Creating a Cover series. As usual, this cover was being designed before I had seen the script for the issue in question, let alone had drawn it, so a suggestion from series writer Greg Weisman was key in figuring out a cover concept. Greg suggested Batgirl being grabbed by the throat by an arm belonging to the yet-to-be-revealed Match in his mutated “Bizarro” form. Behind them, would be Plastic Man, helpless to intervene behind the force-field barrier cutting off central Metropolis from the outside world.

Cover Sketch a

Cover Sketch a

Cover Sketch b

Cover Sketch b

We had wanted to hide Match’s identity/appearance on this cover, because while he was revealed in the previous issue, this cover would be made public as part of the solicitation for the issue before that had happened, so a shot from Match’s point of view seemed the most effective. My next priority was to get Plastic Man and Batgirl as large in the frame as possible, as we were more concerned with the characters and their expressions than the setting. The first sketch was well received, but Greg wanted Batgirl to look more aggressive and less victimized, so a second sketch with an angrier expression and a Batarang clutched in her hand as a weapon was added. I had to shrink the Batgirl figure down a bit to have room for her hand with the Batarang in the frame. I tweaked a few other things while I was redrawing, such as the pattern of lighting and shadows on Batgirl’s mask, and I realized that I hadn’t had Batgirl’s hair visible in the first version, so I rectified that as well.

Young Justice #24 cover pencils

Young Justice #24 cover pencils

Young Justice #24 cover inks

Young Justice #24 cover inks

The layout drawing was tight enough that progressing to pencils and then inks was pretty simple. It’s always nice when penciling to know you’ll be inking your own work. While my pencils are still pretty tight, I don’t have to much thought to line weight or texture at this stage, since I’ll be making those choices myself rather than having to indicated it for another artist in the pencils.

Young Justice #24 cover colors

Young Justice #24 cover colors

Young Justice #24 final cover

Young Justice #24 final cover

On the left is the first draft of color by Zac Atkinson. Zac did his usual great job, but we wanted Match’s arm to be a little more pale and chalky – not as completely bleached-white as a full-on Bizarro form, but far enough to be noticeably paler that Batgirl and to provide strong contrast with his original skin tone. On the right you can see the finished color as it appeared on the published cover, along with all the final logos and other trade dress.

You can find my previous Creating a Cover installments here.

Creating a Cover: Young Justice #23

It’s the long-overdue return of my Creating a Cover series! I promise I’ll go back and fill in the issues I’ve skipped, but I wanted to do a piece on cover for the just-solicited Young Justice #23 as it seems to have generated some interest.

This was another issue where we were able to sort through some cover ideas in email conversation so I didn’t have to do a bunch of sketches that weren’t going to be used. Since I knew our villain was a redesigned (by me) Kylstar, I thought it would be fun to do a close up of our bad guy and show the heroes facing him reflected in the facets of his crystalline form. Of course, we’d used that trick a couple of times before, most notably on the cover to Young Justice #09 which showed the team reflected on the surface of the metallic body of Captain Atom. (Check out Creating a Cover: Young Justice #9 for more information on that!)

Young Justice #09 cover

Young Justice #09 cover

Of course then it occurred to me – Kylstar is a Captain Atom villain! There’s a connection! Which means this could be an homage! Or at least that provided an excuse…

Young Justice #23 cover layout

Young Justice #23 cover layout

This is the “proof of concept” sketch I submitted for approval, based on email discussions with my editor Sarah Gaydos and series writer Greg Weisman. I posed Kylstar as similarly to Captain Atom as his very different proportions would allow. I also brought his hand up into the shot to further mimic the Captain Atom image. Having his hand in the frame also gave me more facets to play with for images.

On the Captain Atom cover I had one image of the team reflected across his body. With Kylstar, I thought it would be fun to have fragmented images of the heroes repeating across his various facets. I wanted to strategically feature good reflections of the heroes, but then fill other facets with random fragments of reflections. I didn’t want this to become a flat, two-dimensional mosaic of reflections, so I planned the shot to use edge lighting on the facets at fairly oblique angles to bring out the dimensionality of the Kylstar figure, while using the facets facing us more flat-on for the reflections.

This concept was enthusiastically approved, so it was time to actually draw the cover!

Young Justice #23 cover - inks

Young Justice #23 cover – inks

Notice that I repositioned Kylstar slightly in the finished artwork. The changes are subtle, but I was trying to maximize the dynamics of the composition. I made more obvious changes to what reflections went where.

You can see that some portions of this artwork are in black and others are in grey. The black image featuring Kylstar was drawn as one piece of artwork, and the reflections of the heroes seen here in gray were drawn separately. This allowed me to play with the placement of the reflections and have bits of the reflections repeat on different Kylstar facets. The artwork was submitted to colorist Zac Atkinson with the reflections as a separate layer, hopefully making it easier for him to work with them at the coloring stage. Or at least giving him the option of isolating them more easily, depending on his process.

YJ #23 cover tones & reflections

YJ #23 cover tones & reflections

I wanted to make sure that my original intent for how this should be treated tonally was communicated, so I applied the approach from my original proof-of-concept sketch to the inks to create this reference guide which I also sent to Zac.

Young Justice #23

Young Justice #23

Here is the stunning result of Zac’s coloring. I especially love the treatment he gave to Kylstar’s eyes. I’d originally imagined them a cyan color, but I think the burning yellow-orange makes for a great contrast with the cool blues of the rest of the image.

Look for more of Kylstar in coming issues of Young Justice! Issue #20 will be out THIS WEDNESDAY, which represents the comic’s shift to the Season 2 / Young Justice: Invasion time-frame. You can find Young Justice at your local comics shop or in digital form!

Character Designs & Creating a Cover: Young Justice #14

We’re going to jump ahead in sequence of our Creating a Cover series, and we’re combining it with the next installment of Character Designs. That’s because most of what there is to tell about this cover is about the desgin work that needed to be done for it, and there are SO MANY new characters appearing in Young Justice #14 that I thought I’d get a few of them out of the way with this entry before detailing the rest of them in a separate entry on YJ #14 in the near future.

Long before I drew the issue itself and even before I’d seen a final script for the story, I needed to design the cover for the issue, needed early for publicity and solicitation purposes. The scenario I was given was to do an underwater downshot of Aqualad, Miss Martian and Superboy surrounded by Hooded Atlantean Purists. Furthermore, Superboy was to be wearing one of Aqualad’s spare costumes, but MINUS the Water-Bearers, BackPack and “A” belt buckle. He was also to be sporting a clear oxygen mask that covers his mouth and nose with some form of filter/re-breather attachment. Miss Martian was to have shape-shifted into a more underwater-friendly form, having ditched her usual cape and morphed herself to copy Lori Lemaris’s mermaid tail from the waist down and having grown Aqualad-like gills on her neck.  She was also meant to be shorter than usual, but that didn’t end up being a big issue with the floating figures on the cover.

The Purists were meant to be cloaked and hooded Atlanteans of Aquaman’s type, i.e. to the naked eye they look completely human.  Like all Atlanteans, there were to have bare feet.  I was also instructed that their eyes were to magically glow from within the shadowed depths of their hoods.

Miss Martian’s mermaid form was almost a non-issue, as it was just putting the top of her body on the bottom of the design for Lori Lemaris, plus adding gills identical in design to Aqualad. Superboy was basically in Aqualad’s costume minus key accessories, plus the addition of an oxygen maks. And I had to design the Purists.

Purists first:

Atlantean Purist A
Atlantean Purist A
Atlantean Purist B
Atlantean Purist B
Atlantean Purist C
Atlantean Purist C

I wanted to give the Purists interesting looking hoods, as I figured we’d be getting a lot of shots of these hoods serving as close-ups of characters in the actual story. I also wanted lots of draping fabric that could swirl in the water and make interesting shapes and suggest movement. The draping sleeves and tabards tended to get even more elongated once I was actually drawing the story. The whole design evolved a little bit once I started drawing pages, but we stayed close enough to the approved model that no one complained! I wasn’t sure about a color scheme, so I put these three options together, half-expecting to have someone suggest an option D. Version B was chosen, but which do YOU prefer?

Superboy Underwater Mask
Superboy Underwater Mask

Next up was Superboy’s air mask. I wanted to keep this simple and unobtrusive. I wanted Superboy’s face and expressions to be unobscured, and I figured we were dealing with advanced Atlantean technology and we didn’t need to be constrained by anything resembling current diving gear and oxygen tanks. This is what I came up with, and it actually became further simplified in the story, losing those square-ish bits at the corners of his jaw.

So now it was time to design a cover!

Young Justice #14 - cover rough 1

Young Justice #14 – cover rough 1

This was a relatively tight drawing for a cover rough, but we seemed to be pretty firmly locked into a concept, so I felt I could do something fairly tight I could then use as a basis for the final pencil art. Given that the characters were floating in water, I wanted the heroes to be “surrounded” in a fairly 3-dimensional way. I tried to make it clear that the Purists were not only coming from all sides but also from above and below.

The feedback was that DC wanted a little more of a feeling of action. Also, they wanted the piece to have a little more focus, so it was suggested to emphasize Aqualad a little more since it was his story.

Young Justice #14 - cover rough 2

Young Justice #14 – cover rough 2

The revised version is pretty similar – I just changed the proportion of some of the characters, bringing Aqualad forward and pushing Superboy and Miss Martian back. I turned Miss Martian’s head to better show off the gills on her neck. Aqualad is now deflecting a magical attack from one of the Purists with one of his hard water blades.

This version was approved, so from there it was the routine progression of pencils and inks, with color by Zac Atkinson.

Young Justice #14 - Cover Pencils

Young Justice #14 – Cover Pencils

Young Justice #14 - Cover Inks

Young Justice #14 – Cover Inks

Young Justice #14 - Cover Color

Young Justice #14 – Cover Color

And there you have it!  Young Justice #14 goes on sale TODAY both in digital form or at your local comic shop!

As always, questions and comments are welcome.