Posts tagged: sketches

Cincinnati Comic Expo 2013 Hightlights

CCE13 FRI - Table Set-up

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to have been invited to be a guest at the Cincinnati Comic Expo. Hal and I arrived at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport which has the airport code CVG, the same abbreviation we use for our home convention CONvergence, which I suppose could be taken as a good omen for the weekend to come. We were met at the airport by Amanda Gilliam, which was the first time that I’ve ever had the driver-with-your-name-on-an-erasable-marker-board experience. Amanda wasn’t driving us though, she hooked us up with a pre-paid shuttle to our hotel in Cincinnati while she went back to wait for the next out-of-town guests due to arrive.

Friday afternoon was spent setting up my booth. We’re forever trying to find ways of streamlining my convention set-up, making it faster to put together and getting the most bang for the buck given the limitations of bulk and weight that is practical to bring to a convention by plane. This was the best iteration to date, but we’ve already got ideas of how to improve it for next time!

CCE13 SUN - Jim nate_the_robot fan art

Young Justice fan art from Jim Haas

The convention was open from 5:00-7:00pm for a “preview night” for Exhibitors and VIP Ticketholders. I didn’t do a lot of business, but there was a lot of browsing and it was a great chance to meet some of the other folks there for the show while traffic was light. The cosplayers were already out in force, and we started capturing photos. When I say we, I mean mostly Hal. She’s the reason you see as many photos in my social media on a convention weekend as you do, as she’s both taking the photos and posting them while I’m busy drawing and talking to fans. Hals are very useful, I highly recommend them.

We captured so many cosplay photos over the weekend I created a separate blog post for them, which you can see here.

CCE13 FRI - TMNT Balloons

TMNT Balloon Sculptures at Geek Prom

Friday Night was the Comic Expo’s Geek Prom, which had a Saturday Morning Cartoons theme,with many of the attendees in cosplay or pajamas.

CCE13 SAT - Art of War II

Art of War II at the Mainstay Rock Bar

Saturday Night featured an after party at the Mainstay Rock Bar including the second annual installment of an improv drawing event called Art of War. Artists went head-to-head in drawing challenges in an elimination structure. This year I was happy to just watch, but if I make it back next year, maybe I’ll participate!

I love meeting all fans, but I’m always especially amused by exchanges with costumed fans that revolve around their costumed personas. A Nightwing cosplayer asked if I would “sign his wing,” and then proceeded to lean over for me to sign the chest logo on his costume, playing it up like I was signing a female fan’s cleavage. (I never get asked to do THAT… maybe I should be grateful?) Judge Dredd and a colleague stopped by and were very concerned with whether the free candy being offered at my table met with regulations.

CCE13 SAT - Signing Nightwing

Signing Nightwing’s costume

CCE13 SAT - Judges

These Judges meant business

My favorite had to be when a Dalek glided to a stop in front of my booth. Its eyestalk examined my many Doctor Who prints and then informed me “YOU ARE CHAR-GING TOO MUCH FOR DE-PIC-TIONS OF A TIME-LORD.” I said there was a discount for Kaled Mutants. The eyestalk returned to the prints, then pointed back at me. “I WILL CON-SI-DER YOUR OFFER.” Then it glided away. I wish I had video.

I did a number of sketches while at the Expo, and you can see those below.

CCE13 Sketch - Ace the Bat Hound

Ace the Bat Hound

CCE13 Sketch - Zatanna


CCE13 Sketch - Vader

Darth Vader

The first sketch request of the weekend was for one of the Super Pets, and I opted for Ace the Bathound. I’ve always loved the inherent goofiness of a masked crime-fighting dog, and enjoyed doing a melodramatic take on the beloved Bat-pet. Next up was a Young Justice style Zatanna. I’m convinced that the only reason she didn’t have her trademark fishnets on the TV show was the limitations of animation, so she’s got them in this sketch. Finally, I was asked for a Darth Vader by Cincinnati Comic Expo founder and director Andrew Satterfield. I don’t often get asked for characters from outside of comics, so this was fun to do. Big thanks to Andrew for bringing me to the convention!

CCE13 Sketch - Huntress

JLU-style Huntress

CCE13 Sketch - Artemis


CCE13 Sketch - Darkseid


One fan asked for a Justice League Unlimited style Huntress, which I was happy to provide. Next up was a quick head sketch of Young Justice’s Artemis which I did as gift for the daughter of Brian Tudor, who sent out a Tweet about wanting to see me in Cincinnati that got me on the radar of CCE Director Andrew Satterfield. The Darkseid sketch I did during some down time when I felt like drawing. I’ll have it for sale at my next convention for unless someone makes me a better offer first! :)

CCE13 Sketch - Tigra

Avengers sketch cover with Tigra

CCE13 Sketch - Etrigan Green Arrow

Green Arrow sketch cover with Arrow vs Etrigan

Two different fans asked for sketch covers. One had seen a Tigra sketch I’d done at another convention and liked that I emphasized her feral nature over her sex appeal, and asked for something in a similar vein. Another fan asked for Etrigan vs. Green Arrow.

CCE13 Sketch - Bowties are Cool

Madman without a Box

And finally, I did one more sketch just to be drawing during some down time. I started drawing the Joker, and had gotten as far as deciding what kind of tie to give him – bolo, straight necktie, or bow tie – when inspiration struck. Between the Joker drawing turning out pretty well and the Doctor Who reference, this seems to have gotten a pretty good reaction on social media. I may have to do another version of this as a print! I’ve still got this original art, so it also will be available at my next convention unless I get a better offer! ;)

CCE13 SUN - Posing at Hall of Justice

At the Hall of Justice – Cincinnati’s Union Terminal

Before leaving town I had to visit the great comic book geek landmark of Cincinnati, Union Terminal which these days is the Cincinnati Museum Center. Back in 1973 it served as inspiration for the Justice League’s Hall of Justice on The Superfriends!

My thanks again to everyone that stopped by my table at the Cincinnati Comic Expo, and all the great volunteers who made the event happen and made me feel so welcome there. You’ve got a great convention and I’d love to come back!

Now accepting online art commissions!

For a limited period of time I will be accepting commissions online for original character sketches and illustrations. This will be on a first-come, first-served basis and I can only fit in so many during a gap in my schedule, so get your orders in now if you are interested!

The commissions I do mainly fall into three categories: Character Sketches, Full Illustrations and Cover Recreations.

Character Sketches

I draw these on 9″x12″ bristol art paper in ink, featuring the character(s) of your choice. If you want it drawn in the style of a specific show, want the character(s) to be shown in a specific pose or action, or want the character in a specific version of their costume, please specify when commissioning your drawing. I’m charging $60 for the first character and $40 for each additional character. Some examples of these sketches from recent conventions are below. The images were captured with a smartphone under convention lighting, so forgive the photo quality!

sketch aa sketch c sketch g
sketch e sketch b sketch f
Sketch Maleficent sketch Ming sketch Evil Genius


Full Illustrations

These are drawn on 11″x17″ bristol art paper and are the equivalent of a comic book cover or full-page illustration. These can feature more characters and will include a fully rendered background as the illustration requires. The charge for a full illustration is $300 for up to 6 characters. Some recent comic book art that exemplifies the kind of illustrations I’m talking about are below.

Cover Recreations

I will do recreations of my own covers, or will recreate an existing cover in my own style. Any recreations will include an acknowledgement to the original piece with the signature. Like my original Full Illustrations, these are drawn on 11″x17″ bristol art paper and I charge $300. Let me know what cover you’d like recreated, and any twists you’d like made (such as having the cover re-drawn in an animation style or with characters swapped out for different ones).

Strikes #19 - INKS pg 10

Full Page – Batman Strikes #19

Young Justice #11 - Cover Inks

Young Justice #11 cover inks

Young Justice #24 cover inks

Young Justice #24 cover inks

Avengers EMH Cover - Enchantress 100

Avengers EMH #15 cover inks

Avengers EMH Cover - Ronan 100

Avengers EMH #16 cover inks

Avengers EMH Cover - PM & IF 100

Avengers EMH #17 cover inks

Young Justice #14 - Cover Inks

Young Justice #14 cover inks

Young Justice #11 - Cover Inks

Young Justice #11 cover inks

YJ #25 inks cover prev

Young Justice #25 cover inks


This offer is for the original artwork and does not include publication rights to the images. I don’t do any “adult” subject matter, and if I can’t do what you’re asking for at the price indicated, I’ll contact you to see if we can work something out. I’ll ship your artwork to anywhere in the United States for $10, and will ship internationally as well (shipping costs vary with location). I’ll happily combine shipping on multiple orders.

If you are interested in commissioning some original artwork, please email me at I’ll email you back to verify details. The easiest payment method for me is Paypal, though if you prefer to mail me a check, I’ll ship the artwork after the check is received.

A Guide to Asking for Signatures and Drawings at Conventions


I recently got asked on my Facebook page if I could share my thoughts on fans asking for autographs and sketches at conventions. I thought others who are new to attending conventions might enjoy hearing the basics of this process. I can only offer my perspective, but it might prove useful for anyone approaching other artists or celebrities at conventions as well.

Speaking for myself, I’m happy to sign anything I’ve worked on for fans at a convention, whether they’ve bought it from me or not. Sometimes you’ll see celebrities at conventions who charge for their autographs, or will only sign the items they’re selling. This tends to be most common with actors selling photographs of themselves at conventions. Usually celebrities with these kinds of restrictions will have signage at their table clearly stating their policies.

While those policies can be frustrating, keep in mind that such revenue is probably a big factor in that celebrity being at the convention at all, and convention appearances may be an important source of income for them. Often the celebrity is willing to sign a personal item for a fan, but if I’m going to wait in a signing line to speak to a celebrity at a convention I try to purchase something from them as a courtesy. I feel like it’s my way of paying for the opportunity to meet them and have that brief exchange with them when I get my turn at the front of the line. Otherwise I’m taking up their time and trying to get something from them for free when they’re trying to make some money and there is a line of people behind me waiting to do business with them.

Regardless of what a given celebrity’s policy is, if you’re going to ask for a signature on an item you’ve brought or for a photo with them, ask politely. And if they decline, accept that decision politely. You might think you’re only asking them for a small thing, but to that celebrity, doing it for you may make them feel obligated to do it for everyone. And that might be more of an obligation than they can afford to make.


041512092143 2012-04-13_16-23-11_830 2012-04-13_16-21-01_495

As far as asking for artwork, I’ll often have fans ask me for a free sketch, and typically I’ll politely decline. I’ll occasionally throw in a quick head sketch with a signature for young fans at the conventions, but it’s at my discretion. It’s something I like to do for kids, but it’s very dependent on how much time I can spare at that moment. On the other hand, when an adult asks for a free sketch, it can come across as “I want the service you’re charging for, but I don’t want to pay so why don’t you just give me something for free?” Also, although this is rarely the case where I am concerned, it’s important to note that sometimes an artist is at a convention but they aren’t doing commission sketches at all. They might be there to sign autographs and sell pre-made prints or books, but aren’t drawing at the show.

(Here’s a tip – If you want a sketch from an artist at a convention and can’t afford what they’re charging, be on the lookout to see if they’re doing a signing for a publisher. Sometimes an artist will be doing quick sketches for free in such a setting that they aren’t doing when at their own table. Free sketches tend to be relatively quick and simple – you get what you pay for – but they’re better than nothing, right?)

Regardless of the setting, if you ask for a sketch, again – ask politely. And if the artist declines, accept their refusal politely. It’s expensive for creators to travel to attend a convention, and often they’re paying for that table in an Artists Alley. Commission sketches are a big part of how artists try to offset some of those expenses – with no guarantee of making enough to show a profit.

As a rule, creators and celebrities love meeting fans. It’s always great to hear from people who enjoy your work. But there are mercenary fans who try to ruin it for everybody. It’s not uncommon to see a convention sketch or autographed item for sale on eBay or elsewhere, usually for a higher amount than what was paid to the artist/celebrity (assuming they were paid anything.) And, the surest way to make a creator whose work you enjoy feel terrible is to act entitled and treat them as though by showing up they’re now obligated to do whatever you ask of them. So, well, don’t do that. Just be polite and courteous and you’ll both have a great experience!

Morgan and Me

“Can I please get a photo of you Mr. Freeman? I loved you on The Electric Company!”

Don’t get me wrong on any of this – I love meeting fans. I really enjoy attending conventions and encounters with fans are almost always the biggest highlight of the weekend for me, and I think most comics pros feel the same way. But I’ve been approached by a lot of fans both the right way and the wrong way, and the fondest memories are definitely of the fans who did it the right way!

So for the final time – our two recurring themes:

By all means ask for that autograph, personal photo or whatever, but do so politely.

If the answer is no, accept that answer politely, and understand that there may be a good reason that no needs to be the answer.

C2E2 Report!

C2E2 Logo

I’ve been so busy since getting back from Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo that I’m only now getting this blog post up! Yikes!

The adventure started with my partner-in-crime Hal and I loading up the car (no small task with all the stuff I was bringing to the show!) and setting off on the 8-hour drive from Minneapolis to Chicago. Despite only getting a couple of hours sleep the night before with all I had to do getting ready for the trip, I managed to handle the first six hours of driving and didn’t have to turn the wheel over to Hal until after a refueling stop two hours out from the Windy City. We didn’t get in until late, and found that our hotel had an odd parking arrangement where they had a lot that you could have your car placed in by a valet driver, but this lot closed at midnight and we hadn’t gotten in until nearly 1:00am. This would have been nice to be informed of when I confirmed the room and our expectation of a late arrival. There was a parking space across the street, but it was a metered space that enforcement began at 8:00am, which meant I had to get up sometime after 6:00am when the hotel’s parking opened again, get the rest of the cartload of stuff out of the car, turn it over to the hotel’s valet driver to park, and then cart the stuff up to the room until we headed over to the convention center a few hours later.

With that unpleasantness behind us, we embarked on the adventure of the convention itself!

The whole thing took place within the utterly massive McCormick Place Convention Center in downtown Chicago. I had been to other conventions in Chicago but this was my first time at C2E2 and at this convention center. It’s Huuuuuuuuuge! Artists’ Alley was a very respectable size as well, and this was probably the biggest and most elaborate table set up I’ve ever done. And not bad, if I do say so myself.

I mean, we really pulled out all the stops, as you can see. I got a new banner, we had a digital slideshow, candy bowl, video camera and more. For the first couple days, I had a display of the different stages involved in creating a Young Justice cover draped over the front of my table. It was a fun idea, but not eye-catching enough to draw the kind of table traffic I’d hoped, so on day three I scrapped it in favor of displaying some of my prints.

More so here than at other conventions I’ve attended, space behind the table was at quite a premium. Convention set up is always about making table look interesting and inviting to the audience while underneath and behind is all your “junk” jammed in, but it was challenging here to just get up and get out of there to grab a snack or a bathroom break without disturbing other artists’ displays. I hope there is more of a pathway in future years!


Young Justice

A large chunk of the Young Justice past and present creative team were also at C2E2, and my booth was actually right next to Art Baltazar and Franco, who wrote Young Justice issues #0-6! Mike Norton, who penciled issues #0-4, was sitting behind me, and Zac Atkinson, who has colored the book since issue #0 was only a couple rows away. It was also nice to touch base again with Jim Chadwick, the book’s editor. But more about that later.

Cosplay in general tends to be impressive at these things, but I think one of my favorite memories of the weekend was getting to meet the Inner Mind Theater folks, who are internet-famous for their amazing Young Justice cosplay group. Check it out! 

It was actually kind of comical. I was completely geeking out over them while they geeked out over me, and that lasted several minutes. Of course I had to make sure they all walked away with free signed Young Justice comics, but it surprised me when they asked me to sign parts of their costumes! Make sure to look for the group among the interviews with the creative team in our Young Justice at C2E2 highlight video below!

Oh yes, we made a highlight video.


Catching up with People

One of the best parts of any convention is meeting or catching up with friends and peers from the industry, and that’s usually the part of the convention experience that happens fairly randomly in-between all the mores scheduled things you’re doing!

A priority for me was to track down Zac Atkinson, the colorist on Young Justice who I’d been working with for a year but hadn’t met before! Ah, the wacky world of comics.) I found him at his table and chatted with him for 15-20 minutes before rushing back to my own table.

I got to see Jim Chadwick again, (my editor on Young Justice). I’d met him for the first time this past February when when visiting DC Entertainment offices in Los Angeles. Jim sat with me during my Saturday signing at the DC Booth, then we met up with Zac for a quick lunch at a sandwich shop in the adjoining hotel.

On the way back from lunch with Jim and Zac I ran into Lynne Thomas (editor of Chick’s Dig Time Lords) and her husband Michael, who I’ve been friends with for a number of years and only manage to see once or twice a year – usually at a convention. Later they stopped by my table and I scored a copy of Lynne’s new book Chicks Dig Comics (which Lynne edited along with Sigrid Ellis).

Josh Elder & Russell Lissau who had been writers on The Batman Strikes! both stopped by my Artists Alley table. Not much time to chat, but it was nice to touch base with them both. I had seen Josh for dinner during my February trip to Los Angeles, but I hadn’t seen Russell since my last Chicago convention a few years ago.

Fletcher Chu-Fong is DC Comics’ Director of Events, which means he’s usually one of the key people in charge of DC’s presence at major events like C2E2 and other major conventions. I hadn’t seen Fletcher in a couple of years since I’d last been to a major show, and it was good to see him in what seems like his native habitat – the DC Comics booth!

It’s always great seeing the very funny Kenneth Hite, writer, game designer and raconteur. Joined by Hal, our friends Sarah and Ken (dubbed Ken2 for the evening) and Kenneth’s friends Matt and Cam,  made our traditional pilgrimage with him to Giordano’s – home of the best pizza on Earth. On a previous outing we had laughed ourselves silly trading off creative epiphanies in the character of a cigar-chomping amalgam of Silver Age DC Editor in Chief Carmine Infantino,  Jack Kirby, and Martin Short’s Irving Cohen.  We also were inspired by a large planter that vaguely resembled the crystal ship from Superman: The Movie to develop Flor-El, the Last Plant of Krypton who essentially was Swamp Thing in a cape. His Clark Kent persona wasn’t terribly convincing…

Twin Cities local writer and artist Zander Cannon stopped by my table to say hello. I never found enough time to complete my own tour of Artist’s Alley and to find Zander’s table. Maybe I’ll have better luck at MCBA Springcon this weekend!

I didn’t even know Len Wein was at the show until I saw his signature on a copy of the Program Book I was autographing for a fan. Happily I ran into him on Sunday at the DC Booth as he was literally on his way out of the convention to head to the airport.

Legendary artist George Perez walked past my table on Sunday and I managed to flag him down to introduce myself and say hello. I’ve been a fan of George’s artwork for as long as I can remember, but my admiration for his masterful work with massive crowd scenes has only increased since landing a gig as the artist of a monthly team book, and I told him so! He seemed amused and was very gracious.

I had wanted to say hello to editor Thomas Brennan from Marvel but was never able to find him any of the times I managed to swing through the Marvel booth! I had drawn an Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes story for him and was expecting to do more, and I always like to say hello to people I’m working with whenever I can. Oh, well, maybe next time.


Signings and Sketches and Panels, Oh My!

I got the opportunity to do some fun sketches for fans while sitting in Artists’ Alley. Here are a few:

I spent an hour on Saturday and Sunday signing and sketching at the DC Comics Booth, where it was fun to have a chance to meet fans in a slightly higher-profile setting! When signing at the DC Comics booth, an artist is sort of obliged to do free sketches. Now these aren’t meant to be sketches on par with the ones I’m charging for back at my table in Artists Alley. These are quick head sketches, drawn quickly and in sharpie, usually on DC branded comic book backing boards they provide you with. Throw out every bit of drawing technique you might have about sketching basic shapes and tightening up with detail as you go! Here’s a sharpie… GO! And you’re trying to chat with people and be charming and funny while trying not to put down a single line on their drawing you don’t like and wish you could erase or otherwise change. They don’t tell you that you’ll need these skills when you’re starting out. So practice your speed drawing accuracy, kids!

I was also asked to participate in the DC Comics for Kids panel on Sunday along with Art Baltazar, Franco and Jim Chadwick.  The audience was mostly young kids and their parents, so there wasn’t going to be a discussion about what a kids book is as opposed to an all-ages title, or why DC Comics chooses to produce the all-ages titles they do, and why they package and market them the way they do. Instead it it was trying to answer questions about whether we might be seeing more super-pets in upcoming issues. But that was fine. I’m always happy to see kids reading comics and it’s great seeing the love and enthusiasm for these characters continuing into the next generation. The whole panel was sort of flying by the seat of our pants, but it’s always fun to talk about a project you’re working on. Here’s a video of the Young Justice highlights from the panel:



Finally Sunday evening rolled in. I packed up, moved out, and posed for another photo with the big foam C2E2 sign. I think I felt about how I look here:

Oh! And ran into Paul Guinan and Anina Bennet (Boilerplate) when leaving! I hadn’t seen them in years, and therefore had to pose for a silly photo. It’s just what you do in that situation. Unfortunately, I do not have a copy of said photo, so you will have to utilize your imagination if you want to see how awesome we looked. 

Rain spoiled Hal’s and my last chance to go walking and find an interesting place to eat, and so we stayed in and enjoyed mediocre delivery food and a slow internet connection from our luxurious hotel room. The next morning was rainy and windy. We had trouble getting stuff out to car but eventually got on road. Drove the 8 hours back to Minneapolis. That’s right, I drove the whole way. I’ll be happy to not drive again for a good long while after that.

C2E2 overall was fun and I would call it a success. I am definitely looking forward to returning next year! And I hope to see more of you there!


You can see all of my planned 2012 appearances on my (appropriately enough) Appearances Page.

Do you want to see me at your convention? Let me know! Send me an e-mail.

Creating a Cover: Justice League Adventures #25 & #26

This time for Creating a Cover we’re going back to a two-part story from Justice League Adventures #25 and #26. The story had Superman, Wonder Woman, the Martian Manhunter and Batman transported to the alien world of Rann where they have an adventure with space-faring hero Adam Strange as a guest star, and I got to draw a recap of his origin which was a lot of fun.

So let’s look at this issue-by-issue. I knew the first part of the story included a scene where Adam Strange comes to the aid of the League members when they are under attack by an alien T-Rex like creature. (It could shoot beams out of its eyes, too. I know, I know…)

JL Adv #25 - sketch a

JL Adv #25 - sketch a

JL Adv #25 - sketch b

JL Adv #25 - sketch b

Sketch A: This was my first design. I liked the Adam Strange figure and the alien T-Rex, but there wasn’t much room for including more members of the League, which I was guessing DC would want.

Sketch B: This take on the same scene featured all the Justice League characters clearly in a bad way, but I didn’t think it did as good of a job showing off our guest star Adam Strange.

JL Adv #25 - sketch c

JL Adv #25 - sketch c

JL Adv #25 - sketch d

JL Adv #25 - sketch d

Sketch C: One more perspective on the same basic scenario – this time an aerial view. I liked this one, as it showed all four involved Justice League members, clearly in jeopardy, and was a great beauty shot for guest star Adam Strange. This was probably my favorite of the four designs I submitted.

Sketch D: The one other idea I included was a throwback to the Silver-Age era that Adam Strange is associated with. It keeps the menace a mystery, but shows Adam Strange confidently pushing the League out of the way on the cover of their own book as he takes center stage to announce himself. I didn’t think they’d go for it, but it would have been fun to draw.

JL Adv #25 cover pencils

JL Adv #25 cover pencils

JL Adv #25 cover inks

JL Adv #25 cover inks

Pencils: As it turns out, they asked for the Adam Strange and T-Rex monster from Sketch A combined with the Justice League figures from Sketch B. I had to flip their orientation and re-arrange them a bit to get the composition to work, but it didn’t turn out too badly given it being a Frankenstein combo of two other ideas. I managed to get a bit of the Rann skyline in there to help establish this as an alien world as opposed to a pre-historic time period or something.

Inks: By Dan Davis.

JL Adv #25 cover color

JL Adv #25 cover color

JL Adv #25 cover final

JL Adv #25 cover final

Colors: The colors looked fine, although with a night-time sky it would have been nice of the skyline in the background would have looked like a night-time skyline.

Final: It amuses me that the dialog given to Adam Strange is so similar to what I’d suggested for Sketch D. It might have been a coincidence given that it’s pretty generic expository bombast! (THAT was a fun phrase to type!) I wish the dialog balloon didn’t cover part of Adam Strange’s body.

So issue 25 left each Justice League member in a cliffhanger situation, and I’d had the brainstorm of taking advantage of Adam Strange’s costume designs to use his chest straps to create a multi-frame cover design that would tease each of the cliffhangers that were to be resolved in the pages of Justice League Aventures #26.

JL Adv #26 - sketch a

JL Adv #26 - sketch a

Sketch A: This was one of my all-time favorite cover ideas, so I pitched hard for it. I did a full cover sketch and didn’t offer any other options (although I obviously would have provided more options if they’d been requested. It was sad watching this one slowly gun off the rails…

At the end of the previous issue, a weakened Superman was being threatened with an axe, Batman had just found a murder victim with a knife in his back, Martian Manhunter was threatened by a pack of the alien T-Rexes as seen on the previous cover, and Wonder Woman was tied to a rocket. All these scenarios were happening simultaneously, so I really liked this as a tease for the multiple resolutions. I loved the multi-frame thing with the red areas of Adam Strange’s costume between the white straps, and I highlighted the threatening element in white in each frame for extra visual interest.

JL Adv #26 - sketch b

JL Adv #26 - sketch b

Sketch B: My editor liked the Adam Strange design part, but wanted the Justice League members in more action-oriented situations. He asked to have the inset scenes changed to ones where Superman was battling an undersea creature, where Batman was being held at gunpoint, where Wonder Woman was fighting a giant robot, and the Martian Manhunter scene could stay the same.

Not only did I not like this as much conceptually, but these scenarios were challenging to depict in a very small, irregular area and keep the Justice League figures large enough to be prominent. Also, this drawing didn’t lend itself to highlighting the threatening elements in the same way, so I tried highlighting the League member’s eyes in white instead. The above layout is what I came up with. It was OK< but already I didn’t like this as much as the original.

JL Adv #26 cover pencils

JL Adv #26 cover pencils

JL Adv #26 cover inks

JL Adv #26 cover inks

Pencils: The pencils turned out OK, and I made sure the editor knew to pass the color sketch I had done along to the colorist for reference, as the color treatment was a big part of the whole concept.

Inks: The inks were again by Dan Davis.

JL Adv #26 cover color

JL Adv #26 cover color

Colors: For me this is where it started to fall apart. I don’t blame the colorist, I think this was a communication breakdown. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any input into the color on this title, so by the time I saw the color version of the art it was final and there was nothing to be done.

  • Rather than more stylized color, the art is the regular colors for the characters just tinted red, and there’s shading applied to the red on the Adam Strange figure which to me makes the inset art look like weird tattoos.
  • The area on Adam Strange’s belt that was intended as a highlight is colored like it’s surface detail, like an off-center belt buckle. It doesn’t look bad, it’s just wrong, and inconsistent with how the character looks elsewhere in the book.
  • The color on Adam Strange’s face doesn’t seem to have the same underlighting scheme the line-art does.
  • The biggest change is the addition of a space background. I think it changes the way the whole piece plays, and the sparse stars don’t read to me as a space background, the just look like hastily-added white dots.
JL Adv #26 cover final

JL Adv #26 cover final

Final: So there’s the final cover. It’s not a terrible cover, but it’s not what I’d intended. I think the “Strange Days!” text to the left of Adam Strange’s head makes the open space to the right seem oddly empty – it unbalances an otherwise symmetrical design. Ah, well. Rarely is a piece of art everything you want it to be, and the reader doesn’t know what you’d originally had in mind. Unless you do something silly like write blog entries where you do deeply into the behind the scenes process of how you design covers.