Process: Creation of a comic book cover

About five years hence, I drew a comic book.  My goal had been to write, draw, publish and sell my own comic book at Stumptown Comics Fest, which, sadly no longer exists (it was mismanaged, saw flagging attendance, and finally got absorbed into the Rose City Comic Con in 2014).  And, while I managed to draw an entire 24-page comic, have it inked by friend and master of brush and pen Tom Benham, and do most of the tinting and lettering, I was unhappy with the result.  The art was rushed and lacked polish, and a lot of the pages were poorly laid out.  I wasn’t proud of the final product, so it never went to the printers.

That said, I still think the story is good, and I’d like to have another go at it in the future.  The title, for those who don’t know, is Fury and the Demon, and it’s a supernatural detective story that incorporates elements of noir, horror, crime and the occult.  The story centers on disgraced-cop-turned-private-eye Samantha McGish, who finds herself on the run after getting in trouble with powerful members of the criminal underworld.  And despite all my misgivings about the art I created for the book, I was at least fairly satisfied with one part of it: the cover image.

Comic books generally feature their most dramatic, eye-catching moment on the cover.  The first issue of FatD ends with a guns-drawn showdown between Sam and some thugs on a causeway, at night, in the rain.  It was fun to draw and color, and I liked the way the art fit in with my title, indicia, and general cover layout.

Rough title designThe cover started with the title, which was a sketch I inked and scanned to use as a template for the vectors that would go over the cover art.  Naturally, I played with it way too much, and while I like the contrast between the shiny copper and purple lettering on the left and glowing red on the right, it’s all a little overdone.  (At one point, I also had green ivy behind Fury and bloody splatters behind Demon, which was even crazier.)  I plan to work using this as a starting point when I return to the book in the future, because I think the overall design is okay, and I especially like the antiquated ampersand.  (“Antiquated Ampersand” sounds the name for an Etsy site catering to steampunk cosplay, doesn’t it?).

Cover pencilsNext, the actual art.  Comics are done in a series of layers, if you can think of it that way: pencils, inks, colors, lettering.  When I drawn, I do a rough layout in non-photo blue first, then draw actual pencils over that.  So, technically, by the time the inking is done, it’s been drawn three times.  You can see why so many professionals enlist the skills of an inker; it’s tedious.  Plus, having someone else ink your work means a separate set of eyes reviews your pencils and can make corrections where you’ve over-darkened something, for instance.  A good inker knows where to follow the pencil lines exactly and when to embellish slightly.

After the original pencils are inked over, they can be scanned and tidied up in Photoshop.  Then … colors.  I did the colors for this in Painter using an old Wacom tablet.  If I was made of money, I’d have a $2,000 Cintiq tablet/display to scribble on, but alas, I’m not.  Still, it’s not too hard to learn how to watch the screen while you draw, and the simulated media results from natural drawing software are quite impressive.  Painting all the raindrops and spatters and concrete texture took forever, as you can imagine.

If I do this over again, I’ll go with a more dynamic pose; something more forward-facing, perhaps.  The character design has changed since I drew this, so she’ll look a little more angular.  Also, the spotlight effect of the streetlight Sam’s supposedly standing under doesn’t quite work, and the shadows are kind of unnatural.

Still, I consider this a good illustration of my artistic ability at the time.  I hope both my drafting and coloring skills have improved since then, and that I’ll have time in the near future to take another swing.

Below are snapshots from all steps in the process: pencils, color test, inks with titles, and final product.


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