A new book from Archaia parent company BOOM! will be coming out soon called Wild's End by writer Dan Abnett and artist I.N.J. Culbard. The elevator pitch is "Wind in the Willows meets War of the Worlds". So when the editor pool in the Archaia/Boom! offices asked if I'd be up for doing a cover, I said "Yes, please"...because how can you go wrong with talking animals in clothes? I'll be purposefully vague on the details of this book and the story, because I'll let BOOM!'s marketing make sure they control how that info is released. (more can be found in this interview on CBR) To the left you can see the final artwork, but in today's blogpost, I'll walk through the process of making the cover art.
I was given a script of the first issue and some character control art (shown here on the right). For the first script, I decided to focus on a moment towards the end of the issue, though I combined a few things all happening at once for the sake of trying to get a lot of story info into the cover. There are four characters in that scene: A dog, a fox, a Rabbit, and a Mink. In my original thumbnail I sent to BOOM! I'd omitted the mink for the sake for trying to fit everyone, but 1) this layout had some flaws which fixing would open some space and 2) the creators and editors really wanted the Mink in there.
I sketched out each character in poses I figured would work for the scene. With a few of them, I revised the poses and details by placing my original sketches on the lightbox and tracing over them on a new sheet of paper. I was going by descriptions given in the script for the character's personalities (often comparing them to past and present actors) as to how I'd present their body language and facial reactions. In this series of sketches, I also drew up a tavern for the background. I'm finding I feel more free doing these on separate sheets of paper rather than in a sketchbook...if a drawing isn't going well, I can scrap it easier than if it was in something bound together.
I scanned all the rough sketches and assembled a digital composite layout in Photoshop. By doing this, and having each character as a separate manipulate-able layer, it's easy to scoot all the parts of the composition around like an elaborate collage. The characters are all tinted different colors to help me see them better in this process...where one character ends and the next begins...or what negative spaces are formed between them. The yellow and orange borders are guides for what is the 'trim' and 'bleed', which are terms for where the page is cut (trim), and where you want to extend the artwork to so that if the trim is a bit off, there won't be a white edge showing with no artwork (bleed).
I printed the digital composite layout and then taped that printout onto the back of a sheet of Strathmore 300 series Bristol. Using my lightbox, I can see through the bristol and used my printout as a guide to ink from. I occasionally will still do a bit of penciling on the bristol surface when I feel my rough is too rough and needs a bit more tightening before I commit to ink. I used Copic Multiliners (0.7 & 0.35 nibs) to ink this piece. Even though the trees, stars, and shooting star/comet were all going to be a color in the final, I had to ink in the shapes solid black so I had something to work with in the coloring stage.
The first part of coloring (after scanning the inked piece and cleaning up the white/black levels) is called flatting. It's because the purpose is not to worry about rendered colors or shading, or even proper color choices. It's goal is to block in various color areas so they are easy to re-isolate when it is time to choose proper colors or render an area. Here are my color flats on the right. I went with pretty wacky colors as I filled in my various areas. For me, each color shown here is also different layer (labeled things like 'clothes 1', 'clothes 2', 'animals 1', 'details', 'sky', etc...). I also established the color holds for the stars, comet, and trees as well as a lightening of the linework for the background ground and tavern as it goes further back.
Using the character guide and picking a few colors of my own, I finished the piece and rendered in the shadows and highlights using the dodge and burn tools in Photoshop. To the left you can take another look at the finished cover.
Wild's End with my cover is due to come out September 10
And I'll offer up the original inks for sale in my online store later today.
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