Posts tagged: process

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.

Creating a Cover: Young Justice #12

Time to break down the creation of another cover! This time it’s Young Justice #12, the second part of a storyline featuring Clayface, for a story that tells the unique Young Justice continuity origin of the character.

Once again we had to developing the cover before a finished script was available. To be clear, this isn’t meant to imply that the scripts were late or anything. Rather it’s a function of how early the cover is needed for solicitation/promotional purposes. DC likes action covers whenever possible, and the confrontation between Clayface and The Team didn’t come until the end of the story. There was some earlier conflict between Clayface and Batman and Robin, but Batman and Robin had featured on the previous issue’s cover, so there was a real desire to show the Young Justice Team. So we fell into one of my pet peeves of comic covers – we essentially tease the issue’s cliffhanger ending on the cover. Oh, well. C’est la vie.

So the cover became less of a conceptual challenge and more of a compositional one. The mission: Design a cover featuring Superboy, Miss Martian, Robin, Kid Flash and Aqualad all fighting Clayface in a sewer location. First off, the sewer had to be big to allow for all this action. The second issue was how to occupy all five heroes in combat simultaneously against a single opponent. Thankfully Clayface is not only large, but is a shape-shifter, frequently seen growing extra limbs to perform various tasks. So I placed a large Clayface figure in my sewer tunnel, with a separate arm holding each of four of the team members, with Superboy punching Clayfaces’ body, showing the futility of such an attack by splashing harmlessly into Clayface’s torso. Since Miss Martian is also a shape-shifter who has also produced extra limbs in the TV show, I thought it would be fun to give her an extra arm while she grappled with her own Clayface appendage. I placed her in the foreground so the figure would be a little larger and the extra limb a little easier to see. I wanted to have the solid parts of Clayface emerging from an amorphous mass of clay in the bottom of the sewer, making it feel the heroes were surrounded by Clayface – that we was coming from everywhere!

Young Justice #12 - Cover Sketch

Young Justice #12 – Cover Sketch

The sketch was well-received overall. Greg was concerned that Clayface wasn’t imposing enough, and suggesting making his figure more central. Jim Chadwick and Mark Chiarello at DC liked the asymmetrical design, and it was suggested to make Clayface proportionally larger than the heroes. They also wanted Clayface to appear more “solid” as they were already concerned about the sewer setting making Clayface look like a poo-monster.

So there wasn’t much room to make the Clayface figure bigger, so I made the heroes proportionally smaller. Rather than having the arm grappling with Miss Martian emerging from the bottom of the sewer, I had it at winding around from Clayface’s side, and I ended up flipping her position to make her work better in this tweaked composition. I also turned Clayface’s head so he was less in profile, hoping it would make him a little more menacing-looking.

As I said, this cover largely teases the cliffhanger moment at the end of the issue, and when the scene picks up at the beginning of issue 13, the script called for an arrangement remarkably similar to the cover here, so I kind of got to draw the scene again from a slightly different angle.

Pencils and inks by me are seen below, plus color by Zac Atkinson.


Young Justice #12 - Cover Pencils

Young Justice #12 – Cover Pencils

Young Justice #12 - Cover Inks

Young Justice #12 – Cover Inks

Young Justice #12 - Cover Colors

Young Justice #12 – Cover Colors

And there you have it! So this probably would have been a better cover for issue #13, but we used it on #12. So what did we do for #13? Watch for the next Creating a Cover blog entry to find out! Check this issue of Young Justice out in digital form or at your local comic shop. Watch for a Commentary blog entry on this issue soon!

Creating a Cover: Young Justice #11

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

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

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

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.

Young Justice #11 - Cover Rough

Young Justice #11 – Cover Rough

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.

Young Justice #11 - Cover Pencils

Young Justice #11 – Cover Pencils

Young Justice #11 - Cover Inks

Young Justice #11 – Cover Inks

Young Justice #11 - Cover Color

Young Justice #11 – Cover Color

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!

Character Designs: Young Justice #11

I had a chance to design some characters for Young Justice #11. Most of the major characters featured in the comic have appeared on the Young Justice animated TV series so there are existing animation model sheets to follow, but occasionally DC Comics characters who have NOT appeared on the TV show appear in a story, and then it’s up to me to design them for the comic. These character drawings are done to give the comic’s editor as well as Greg Weisman and others working on the TV show a chance to approve or request changes to the designs before I start drawing them in pages of the actual story.

This issue featured Ra’s al Ghul trying to launch a weapons satellite into orbit, hijacking a launch overseen by Green Lantern supporting character Carol Ferris. Both those characters had already been designed for the show, but the comic featured Ra’s’ daughter Talia and his personal bodyguard Ubu, and Ferris Aircraft technician Thomas Kalmaku, all of whom were left to me to interpret in the style of the animated Young Justice.

For both Ubu and Talia, my vision of them is formed by their first appearance in Batman #232, as drawn by Neal Adams. That was the jumping off point, but I wanted to create a unique take on both characters that fit within the “Young Justice” style. The show tends to interpret costumes as not just tights, but with seams and indications that they are constructed to incorporate armor, padding and other functional elements. Ubu and Talia are both first seen in the story in the context of a commando raid kind of operation, so I wanted to give them looks that had a paramilitary feel blended with their traditional comic book appearance.

Talia al Ghul

Talia al Ghul



These drawings also indicate my suggested colors, and you’ll note that I used green on both characters. I wanted to make them look like they were connected, while stopping short of putting them in matching uniforms. I also wanted to put some color on them given that we were also going to have Batman and League of Shadows warriors, which makes for a lot of gray. Green seemed like a nice option for breaking up the gray, while still having a paramilitary/night-ops sort of feel. I gave Talia a white belt and holster as those elements had been a part of several of her comic book looks, and I gave Ubu huge fists, as I not only wanted him to look powerful, but the script called for him to make a two-fisted swing at Batman in one panel, hammering the ground like the Hulk, and I thought huge fists would help sell that move.

YJ #11 page 4

YJ #11 page 4

There’s not as much to say about the design for Tom Kalmaku. He was only going to be seen clearly in one panel, and he was seated in a NASA Mission Control center, so I just put him in a business shirt and gave him an ID badge. The shirt was partly untucked to give him some character, but it’s a detail not visible in the finished comic.

Thomas Kalmaku

Thomas Kalmaku

I had a great time drawing this issue, and I hope you check it out, either in digital form or at your local comic shop!

As always, questions and comments are welcome.