Monday, August 23, 2010

Choosing a Cover

Just in time for when BATMAN: BRAVE AND THE BOLD #20 hits stores, artist ROBERT POPE returned to tell me a little bit about how he illustrates the cover. Here's what I learned. 

Robert also drew the story inside the comic which was written by talented Bob Greenberger. This makes it easier from him when designing a cover since he already knows what all the characters, settings, and props that are in the story look like since he's already drawn them. First Robert begins with the plot of the story. In this story the world's greatest escape artist, Mister Miracle goes missing and Big Barda enlists Batman to help her find him. He could have chosen to pick a single exciting scene to put on the cover, but wanted to do something different. In this case he wanted to choose an image that suggested what the plot of the story was about, but without giving anything away including who the villains might be. 

Then Robert set about coming up with a few thumbnail sketches [small rough drawings that give an idea of what the finished artwork will look like, but without concern for detail and clean lines. These are made mostly to get a sense of the composition--how all the elements of the drawing are arranged in the drawing. The name "thumbnail" comes from the fact that these drawings are often tiny--about the size of an adult thumbnail.] of ideas he has for what images might look good on the cover. 

Take a look at the thumbnails below. You can make them larger by clicking on them. Which of them do you think would make the best cover? Think about what made you decide on your choice. What was it about the covers you didn't choose that made you not pick them? These are the decisions that the editor makes when Robert sends in his thumbnails for the cover. The editor will take a look at all of them, and then decide which one would work best for that story. Sometimes they will choose one but ask for small changes, such as the size of the characters, or maybe reversing where they are in the image, or maybe a prop will be added, or taken away. 

You'll notice in each of the thumbnails that there is a lot of empty space at the top of each image. Almost a third of each cover image is empty space. The reason for this is that that's where the big title logo of the comic book goes (in this case: Batman: The Brave and the Bold) along with the DC Comics logo, the information which tells you which issue number this is, how much it costs, maybe some descriptive slogans of what's inside. Robert also makes sure to leave a space for the UPC codes (the white box with the stripes and numbers that gets scanned at a cash register) or to make sure that it won't cover anything essential in the artwork. You can actually see the rectangle for the UPC codes sketched into some of the thumbnails below. 

Now, the editor has chosen the image he wants for the cover. Robert then works from his original thumbnail and creates a larger image with more detail and nice clean pencil lines. Before you continue, did you choose which thumbnail you thought should be the cover? If you did, then keep reading because the finished pencils for the cover image are shown below.

Robert's pencils are then sent to the inker (in this case the phenomenal Scott McRae) who adds blacks as well as texture and shape depending on the thickness of the line he uses. You can compare Robert's pencils above to his pencils with Scott's inks over them below. Then the colorist adds the color to the image.

All it needs now is to have all of the lettering and UPC codes added to it and it is finished. You can see what the final cover looks like by visiting a comic book store near you on Wednesday, August 25, 2010.

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