First up, Steve gave me open permission to use any animals I wanted for Captain America, Thor, & the Hulk. He'd said I could even do all-mouse versions if I'd like, but I thought it would be more fun to go outside of the mouse world on this one...
I'd already decided on Cap being a bald eagle (patriotic symbolism and all) when Steve emailed me back (about some deadline detail stuff) offering up "Thor as an elk?"...once I saw that, I couldn't un-think of Elk-Thor. And the last was Hulk who I decided would be like a massive angry grizzly bear. I sketched each of the animals as avengers out on separate pieces of paper and modified their costumes (except Bear-Hulk) to fit the animal frames. The sketches were all assembled in photoshop into the layout you see to the right. I tinted each character so I could easily see where one character ended and the next began. The yellow and orange borders are guides for where the image cuts off, and the logo was a drop-in so that I didn't put anything too important there.
I printed out that digitally composited layout and taped it to the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series bristol. On a lightbox I was able to see through the bristol and use the printout as a guide for inking. I used Copic Multiliners (0.35 & 0.7 nibs) to ink this piece. There is a lot of varying textures in this piece...with a lot of repetition of form. These textures not only establish certain greys and materials, but also help differentiate the characters. The hair details on the bear are inked more heavy-handedly than on the elk. The shapes of the eagle's armor is different than the elk's armored leggings...etc.
The inks are scanned and I start dropping in flat colors. I tried to stick with established colors for these characters and/or their real animal counterparts. I could see already at this stage, I needed to focus on getting Eagle-Cap to come forward since he was getting lost in Bear-Hulk.
Rendering the characters using the dodge and burn tools, I pushed the texture and the shadows so the characters each could be read apart from one another.
Here is the final art again. This will be featured on the cover of Avengers #24 NOW. I do not yet have a in-store date, but keep checking with Marvel on Twitter for news.
MSU Comics Forum: February 22
Emerald City Comic Con: March 28-30
C2E2: April 25-27
Motor City Comic Con: May 16-18
Comicpalooza: May 23-25
Phoenix Comic Con: June 5-8
Heroes Con: June 20-22
San Diego Comic Con: July 23-27
Boston Comic Con: August 8-10
Baltimore Comic Con: Sept. 5-7
NY Comic Con: Oct. 9-12