WC11: The Art of the Cover

Sat, April 23rd, 2011 at 11:03am PDT | Updated: April 23rd, 2011 at 1:01pm

Comic Books
Dave Sikula, Contributing Writer

Frank Quitely's cover to "Batman & Robin" #1

Moderated by Mark Evanier, the Art of the Cover panel at WonderCon 2011 began with Adam Hughes, Amy Reeder, and Frank Quitely present, to be joined as the afternoon went on by Francis Manapul and Bill Sienkiewicz. "The idea behind this panel," Evanier began, "is that covers are becoming a different form of art than they once were in comics." From there, he gave a brief history of comic book covers and their changing role over the decades.

Evanier kicked things off by asking a general question of the panelists: "How do each of you feel about being thought of as a cover artist?"

Hughes said, "Any kind of love, I will take. It is a weird sort of strange bastardized niche industry, being a cover artist. I oftentimes feel like one of those French World War I generals, [sitting] in a chateau sipping some sort of fabulous Burgundy, going, 'Today, the men died wonderfully.' There are people killing themselves for the interiors. I feel like I'm killing myself for a cover, but I'm producing one piece of art, and they're producing 22 pages of art. I feel bad about that until I try to do interiors, and I go, 'Well, this is super-duper hard work! I'm going to go back to that little niche I've carved for myself.'"

Reeder responded, saying she didn't consider herself a cover artist, having provided the interior art for any comic she's illustrated the covers for, save for her current gig covering "Supergirl."

"We call that a show-off," Hughes joked.The exchange sparked laughter from the crowd, including Reeder, who shot back, "I thought that was called 'accuracy.'"

Quitely picked up the "only a cover artist" thread by mentioning that he didn't "actually mind," but he doesn't "think of myself as a cover artist in the same way as Adam or Brian Bolland. There are people who are known for outstanding covers. I divide my time between both.” He said that he's been devoted more to covers recently because of his back problems. “I was just avoiding deadlines, really."

Evanier asked the audience if they were more likely to pick up a comic -- or even just look through it if not necessarily buy it -- just because one of the panelists had done a cover for it. When a majority raised their hands, he turned to the panel to tell them they have "a sales value." "That's the reason, right there, that [the companies have them do covers]."

Evanier then asked the converse question. "Last year, an artist approached me to write a comic book. He said, 'One of the conditions I'm making is that I want to do the covers myself. I hate having someone else do the cover on my book. I think that's like saying I'm a second-class artist."

Hughes responded first, saying, "Well, considering the fact that the people [who] do the interiors get royalties, but the cover artists don't, he should just be kind of happy that if they put some kind of ringer of your book to help sales, you get to laugh all the way to the bank,” adding that a cover's job—and thus a cover artist's job—was to bring attention to a book on the rack. “Cover artists are sort of like carnival barkers. We just kinda stand there and say, 'Come on in! We've got a lady with a beard! We have a boy with three goat heads. You gotta check out this thing we're selling!'"

Evanier asked, "If you're doing a cover, to what extent do you think, 'I'm gonna draw my Wonder Woman,' or 'I'm gonna draw the company's Wonder Woman,' or 'I'm gonna draw the Wonder Woman the guy who's drawn the book has drawn?'"

"Y'know, I don't even think about what they're doing on the inside,” Hughes replied. “I don't think about what the company's doing. I don't think that nowadays, there's even a 'company style.' Like in the good old days, they'd say, 'Hey, this is Marvel; you gotta draw like Jack Kirby;' 'Hey, it's DC, you gotta follow the Garcia-Lopez style guide.'"

Evanier asked Hughes, "On some of the books you've done, DC has been kind of using you to redesign the character, so they can point it out to other artists [and say], 'See, that's what she's supposed to look like' -- it's usually 'her' in this case. Do you feel that they're not saying, 'Everyone draw like Jack Kirby,' but they're saying, 'Everybody draw more like Adam Hughes?'"

"I hope that's not true, because I'm not being compensated,” Hughes said. “That's a big compliment, because when you do a cover, when you're working on Superman, something you have to keep in mind is, you are one of 47 artists producing Superman that month. As long as he's got the black hair and the spit curl and the cape and the red, yellow and blue costume, you've nailed Superman. But it's really kind of a cool thing if the version you do of the character grabs the public's attention so much that the editor goes, 'Hey, the people are responding very well to Frank's version of Superman or Adam's version of Wonder Woman. Hey, you younger artists, you wacky kids that don't really know quite where you're going with your style quite yet or how you're gonna get this character. Why don't you do that, because that seems to be hitting the public in a positive way?' So, yes, it's good."

Adam Hughes's variant cover to "Wonder Woman" #600

Evanier then asked Reeder which role she preferred -- doing covers without doing interiors, or vice versa. "I guess I'd rather do both," Reeder responded. She added, though, that she liked having an alternate interpretation of a character that a cover artist can provide. "A lot of the time, the cover artists are -- not in my case, but like in Adam's -- more detailed; it almost makes you feel like you can picture them in real life, and that's very exciting. You almost forward that on the art you see in the interior, which is pretty exciting.

Reeder confessed that she is relatively new to comics even as a reader, having only begun reading manga toward the end of her college years and tuning into Western comics when she started with DC, and noted that from that perspective have a different artist on covers can be jarring. "As an outsider, I think that it does limit bringing people into comics. That's the one thing that's hard for me, so I'm just one of those people who prefer to do it all, and that would include covers.

"I can see both sides is all I'm saying," Reeder continued, "since I'm very, very keen on getting new readers in—especially female ones; not that has to do with this—[and] for people who are outside of comics, that's very, very jarring for them; when they open up a book, and it's not the same on the inside. I don't know if I should be saying that on a cover panel. I'm sorry, guys!"

Evanier assured her "you can say anything you want on this panel."

She replied in a mock-serious tone: "Controversy! That's why it's great!"

Evanier then began a new topic, saying, "I was in comics a long before you read them, and back then there was this frightening attitude in the companies that "Supergirl looks this way. She only looks this way,' until they made a conscious decision to change the character. You don't have that kind of rigidity anymore. If they went back to that, could you function in that environment?"

Reeder said that she "would not function in that environment, because there are certain designs that I'm not happy with.” “I feel like, as far as commercial art goes, comics are probably where we get to do what we want [more than in] any other business. They just let us do our own interpretations,” she said. “That's a good thing, but I'm just thinking more like with Batwoman, for instance, where J.H. Williams established a very specific look for her. When I draw her, I literally want them to see the same person. It's gonna be in my own style, but I want the exact same features he uses, because I don't want them to be lost at all in the story."

Evanier then moved on to ask Francis Manapul, who had joined the panel, how he felt about drawing only interiors and not the covers of books.

"I feel perfectly fine about that," Manapul answered. "You just kind of have to throw your ego out the door, 'cause I certainly know that if Frank or Adam or Jim Lee would draw a cover for a book, it's gonna be better. My main focus is just telling stories. If I get to do the covers, that's great. When I do get to do the covers, I love for it to relate to what's going on in the interior, but a lot of the time you have to create a cover without knowing what the story's about, which is fun to do sometimes, but is really limiting."

This prompted Evanier to ask the panel how often they drew covers without knowing the story inside.

"Probably 100% of the time,” Manapul said. “I've done covers for books that I've had no idea what the story's about. You're just like, 'Hey, well, what is the story about?' 'We don't know yet, it's not written.' 'Well, give me the broad strokes.'”

Francis Manapul's "Flash" #1 cover

Evanier turned this around, noting, "In the '60s, it was common, especially at DC, for an editor to sit down with a cover artist and design a cover, then hand it to the writer and say, 'Write a script based on this cover.'" He asked the panel whether their covers had ever influenced the stories within.

"Sometimes you get those happy accidents, "Manapul said. "those accidents usually happen only when you've been working on a book for a long time. You see where the story's going, you throw something in, and you realize, 'Hey, Writer-I'm-working-with, that actually works -- could you just slide it in?'"

Evanier turned to Quitely and asked if, when he was doing covers only, he felt like he was being touted as the guy replacing the guy inside, or if he minded someone doing covers on the books he drew.

Evanier asked Quitely his earlier question about whether he feels obligated to draw a specific version of a character when providing covers. "Sometimes yes, sometimes no,” Quitely said. “I did a 'Madame Xanadu' cover, and I didn't know Madame Xanadu before that, so it was totally based on the interior artwork, even to the point where I used sort of an angular look. I did a cover for 'All-Star Batman and Robin,' which [had] had Jim Lee covers. I just did my own thing, because it's [the] kind of book where they invite cover artists to do their own thing anyway."

At this point, Bill Sienkiewicz arrived to applause and Evanier quickly brought him up to speed. "Bill, the question on the floor is how do you feel about doing the cover and not the inside?"

"I suppose I'm guilty of some of that," Sienkiewicz said. "I have no problem. I love doing covers for books that I'm not inside, because, in a way, it's taking a really great story idea that might be wonderful, and being able to distill it down into one image, if possible.

"It's not contractual, but it's sort of understood with all the editors I've worked with that, if I'm gonna do the insides, I've got the cover," Sienkiewicz continued. "The only times that really hasn't happened is if they ask me to do it with somebody who's already slated to do the cover. It's happened a couple of times with Kevin Nowlan, and one or two other times, but it's pretty rare. I like to be able to do the whole thing.”

Evanier repeated his question about which version of the character to use on the cover: his own, the "company" version or something more representative the artist who did the interior.

Sienkiewicz said that he usually does not try to match the interior artist. “It's almost like a level of respect for that person's vision. I'll read the script -- they'll always send me the script. Like doing the covers for Kevin Smith's 'Widening Gyre.'' There's an artist who's already doing the interiors, and when they have me doing the covers, sometimes I don't even get a chance to see the interiors. But I do get all the scripts from Kevin, so I'm reading what he's written. In a way, I kind of like doing it that way, rather than seeing what has been done, because I get influenced by what Kevin writes, and I can give it my own spin, so I'm not influenced by somebody else's interpretation. It's the old being thrilled by what the writer has set down, and that's what jazzes me up as a partner in that."

Evanier asked, "So, as you're reading the script, you suddenly come to page 14: 'That's my cover scene!'"

Sienkiewicz said that this is sometimes the case, but “there have been other times where I'll be reading through it and say 'That's great,' and I'll continue reading, and 'There's another one that would make a great cover,'” leading to create several thumbnail cover sketches. In the case of “Widening Gyre,” he continued, “I did a cover for number one, with Batman and Poison Ivy, and I think the Demon was on the cover, facing them from behind. [Editor] Mark Chiarello called me up and said, 'We want to use that for the paperback version, so can you come up with another image?'”

Did Hughes "drop the ball?"

Evanier joked that providing multiple cover sketches all but guarantees the artist's least favorite will be chosen. "Oh, absolutely,” Sienkiewicz said. “I think that's a state law, actually. The one good thing about that is that I have made wagers with other creators. I'll say, 'This is the one they're gonna pick, I know.' And I've won a couple of bets that way. And I used to be a gambling man, so it actually works out."

Hughes added, "I did a cover once on my 'Catwoman' cover run. It was when Catwoman had her baby, and they had an issue where she was had her—"

"Her kitten," Sienkiewicz interjected.

Hughes continued, "It's okay. She got rid of the baby; it's all okay now. She gave it to Batman, and he put it on eBay. But while she had this baby, there was in issue where a couple of guys break into her house, like 'Don't Be Afraid of the Dark.' I handed in two cover sketches, and one was a joke sketch. The real sketch was Selina in the corner of the baby's room, crouched on the floor, dressed in mom clothes, with a kitchen knife. I was going to have, like 'Sugar and Spike' and 'Angel and the Ape' painted on the walls. It was gonna be so much fun. As a gag, I sent in a little doodle of Selina standing in her bathrobe, holding a wooden spoon, and the baby's in a stroller, and she's got her hair pulled up, with chopsticks in it, a total 'Lone Wolf and Cub' image, and the editor was like, 'Oh, we gotta do the "Lone Wolf and Cub" cover!' And I said, 'That's not the real sketch!' He said, 'No, no, no, you gotta do it! This is awesome!' And I was like, '…all right…' I heard from my boss, Mark Chiarello, that when that issue hit the stands, Dan Didio went, 'Wow, Adam really dropped the ball this month, didn't he?"

Evanier then presented five covers from each artist, chosen by a friend at random, a selection that he hoped would include at least one they really hated, so the artists could say what they did or didn't like.

The cover selection started with Hughes's cover to "Rose and Thorn" #4. "I remember DC exploding when I handed in this cover," Hughes said. "They were really unhappy with this one. My wife and I call it "The Pimplicker.'” He explained that the image reflects the more savage Rose personality exploding from her more timid persona to exact vengeance on a greasy landlord. "I thought, 'Well, the job of a comic book cover is to get people to notice, and I haven't seen a lot of covers where the heroine is licking the bad guy.' Well, not since the golden days of 'Archie,' perhaps," Hughes laughed. "I remember I handed in the sketch, and they said, 'No, you can't do this. We can't do this' Gail, bless her heart, stepped in and said, 'No, this actually encapsulates the character in a single image; we have to use it.' And the way most authority figures get when they're backed up against the wall, DC said 'Oh, okay; well, as long as the tongue is touching.' People would come up to me and they'd hand it to me like it was dirty underwear [sotto voce]: 'Please sign this.' It was nice to do a piece of artwork where people reacted in a way other than 'Oh, that's sexy.'

“DC didn't go out of business, western civilization still stands, and Gail was happy with it, so I call this one a win."

Evanier remarked that he didn't like the logo, to which Hughes replied, "I think the logo works fine. I have a problem with when they have a decent logo, and then they throw in a title for the issue and it's in a jarringly different font. All of a sudden, you're going, there's the DC logo, and there's the credits, and in another completely different font, there's "Panic!" I like this logo 'cause you can read it from a distance. I hate it when you have a comic book logo and you have to kind of squint and turn your head like a dog, 'What is it? Oh, it says "Spider-Man!"'"

The next cover was Hughes's work for "Star Wars: Boba Fett – Overkill." "Any time you can sort of exorcise the demons from your childhood on a comic book cover, it's absolutely great. When you work on something you enjoyed as a child as a grownup, you get to go, 'Well, this isn't as much fun as when I was ten; this is actually work.'"

Next up was "Power Girl" #2, which Hughes said was a product of deadline crunch. "”I knew I couldn't do something very good in the time I had allotted, so I thought, 'What can I do that's visually arresting and eye-catching?' So I decided, 'She's standing in the shadow of the logo,'” Hughes explained. “It's one of those things where I thought I'd do something where the 'exposure's' not quite right; that the part of her that's in shadow is properly exposed, but the rest is washed out. I thought that since she has a white costume, I could go ahead and do that. This is an interesting thing [where] I want to go slap the monkeys in production at DC -- and I love them, but they are monkeys -- because I designed a cover that actually had the logo down in front of the crown of her head; she was actually literally beneath the logo and it's casting a shadow on her face and the upper part of her torso, and the production guys were, 'Well, obviously Adam didn't mean to put the logo like that -- it's touching her head!' So they moved it up there, and they put 'Flawless' on there, which is kind of ironic, and I went, 'You ruined it!'"

The “Blackest Night” tie-in "Catwoman" #83, published a year after the ongoing series officially ended, came next. Hughes was excited to return to the character, but "it would be great if you could see my damn zombie.” “I've never got to draw a zombie! I'm 42 years old, and I've never gotten to draw a zombie. I got to draw it in October of 2009, and I've got zombie movies on TV, and the leaves are falling; it's the best month to be working on this cover, and then, of course, they cover it up with this kind of candy-wrapper 'Blackest Night' logo, and I was like, 'Oh fail!"

After noting that nevertheless “it was a lot of fun,” Hughes got into more technical detail. “I have a problem a lot of times [in that] I like to go really dark with my covers, and not in a sort of thematic way. On a DC Comics cover, we have what's called an 'ink threshold:' how much ink you can have. Everyone knows comic books are printed with cyan, magenta, and yellow, and black [inks], and you can have percentages of them adding up to the number 280, and I'm always banging up my head on 300; 'I'm up to 320,' and the guys in production say, 'You are killing us.' The printers in Canada are cursing my name. On this one, we were really concerned it was gonna go really dark, and I was like, 'I really kinda like her popping out of the darkness and the zombie barely being there.' But DC production really helped, because with that logo over his head, he's really barely there."

Hughes said joked that the next cover, "Justice League of America" #6, "completely sucks; it's got a word balloon." After a burst of laughter, he went on, "There was this period where DC Comics kept calling me up and said, 'We want you to do variant covers. I don't know whether to feel honored doing a variant cover, or whether it's like, 'Well, you're not good enough to do the real cover.' They said, 'Could you just do us a Black Canary cover?'” He said by this time he had built a good relationship with the publisher. “DC Comics really trusts me at this point, 'cause they know [if] they say, 'Look, just hand in a cover. We know you're not going to hand in a cover of Catwoman blowing Robin or something.' I'll do that the day I quit, actually. They said, 'Can you do a Black Canary cover for "Justice League?" I said, 'Okay. What would you like on this?' 'Do whatever you want; you'll do a swell job; just go ahead and do it.'”

Hughes confessed that he feels his weakness is in action scenes for covers. “When I do action, it looks like somebody going [wimpy voice], 'Ow! Quit it! Batman, get off!' So I'm a big fan of what I call the pregnant moment; the moment right before something happens, or the moment right after something happens.”

Moving on to Amy Reeder, the first cover was that for "Madam Xanadu" #1 "I like it. Thank goodness," the artist said.

Evanier offered, "I don't like where they put the 'Free preview of 'Air' lettering."

"Yeah, they used my design as an opportunity to stick in more things, I guess, but it's okay,” Reeder agreed. “I think I'm a nobody, so I don't mind that they stick things like that on my covers so far. I liked this a lot. At the beginning of 'Madame Xanadu,' I had a lot of time to think things through and make some plans and do some designs and stuff. Michael Kaluta had originally introduced Madame Xanadu in the '70s, and he's definitely very art nouveau-inspired, and so I started to get a bunch of [Alphonse] Mucha illustrations, and luckily ended up coming up with some kind of tarot card motif, so I could use that in the story.” Reeder noted that the four corners represent “different places and times” of Madame Xanadu's life. “I like spending a lot of time on covers, and this one I got to ink and color, which is rare for me. I get a huge, huge rush out of that; I'm always happy when I'm doing everything."

The third "Madame Xanadu" trade came up next, which Reeder liked, as well. "Interestingly, it doesn't really have much to do with the story, 'cause it's some flashback cover, but I think [DC editor] Shelly Vaughn just really liked it. It's more designy -- both of those are kind of designy, and I don't consider myself good at design, so it's kinda cool.” She said that the top image was inspired by a certain Icelandic singer. “I was really, really obsessed with Björk in college. Back then, I could only do photo-realism; just copying photos; I didn't know how to draw stuff out of my own head, so I used to draw a lot of Björk faces, and I knew all her photos. There's two photos that are, like, close-ups of her face that I'm basing this off of."

Hughes interrupted. "I'll tell you why this cover is so stinkin' awesome is, we were talking earlier about how comics aren't sold where they used to be sold, on the spinner racks with the logo at the top? One of the things that's beautiful about this -- other than the color theory, which I'm in love with -- is the fact that the logo is not in the top of the piece. This is a very bold, daring cover that says, 'We don't need that anymore. You don't have to have the logo be the upper quadrant of the piece.' This is an amazing cover that says, 'The logo can be anywhere,' because when people look at it, they're looking at it for the first time, in its entirety."

An obviously touched Reeder thanked Hughes, and went on to discuss "Madame Xanadu" #22. "This one didn't turn out the way I wanted it to, but it's all right. My original vision for it was to be almost like there was a greenish screen over them, and then to have the magnifying glass normally colored, because it's in front of that, and to have the footsteps that were red by contrast. And also to have the "X' logo washed out and kind of a spherizing effect on it, which I guess it sort of did. But, honestly, I guess that when you do that to an 'X,' it just basically stays the same. So that was my opinion, that it didn't really -- I felt like the cover sketch was cooler than the final version. But it's all right, I got to introduce a little cape effect."

Sienkiewicz asked, "With the covers, do you find there are times when you like the sketch better than the finish?"

"Yeah. A lot,” Reeder said. “Especially if I do a color sketch, 'cause it's usually because I have a big concept going on, and I don't end up coloring it anyway. It's hard to communicate it, so sometimes I'll color all the sketch and either I won't do it or [the colorist] will do it so literally that [I feel like] 'I was gonna make it more complex than that," That's the longest part of my process, and he can't be expected to take, like, three days to color a cover."

Reeder was more pleased with "Supergirl" #61. "I had to redo this cover, because DC changed the characters that were going to be in this issue. We were trying to come up with things [because] they wanted me to do more action. I wasn't doing enough action, so I just went totally, all the way,' throwback' -- oh, and by the way, this is copying Frank Quitely. I'm sure you were inspired by other things, too, but I really liked how you were doing that in both 'Batman and Robin' and 'Shimura,' and it made me think about it a little more.” She said, though, “I hate 'Bam' on the bottom. It was terribly done; I'm really bad at type, but I work from the bottom right to the top left of pages because I'm a lefty and I smear and stuff, so the 'Pow' was better, because I had more time to think about it and wanted to not do badly again."

Next, "Supergirl" #55: "This was the first 'Supergirl' cover I did, and I'm really, really proud of it. I lucked out, I guess, on these [cover examples], 'cause there's definitely things I'm not proud of,” Reeder said. She added that DC gave her some liberties with the new Bizarro Supergirl, including the gawkiness and cracked porcelain skin. “What I really like best about it is that I have all these opposing forces going on, because Supergirl's hair's blowing up, Bizarrogirl's hair's down; Supergirl's eyelashes at the top are really big, and Bizarro has a lot of black in the opposite corner of her eye; and their capes are doing opposing things. That was, like, almost accidental. Usually when I do really good things, they're accidental."

Moving on to Manapul, the first cover was from "Adventure Comics" #2, which he said called back to earlier discussion about a cover inspiring the story. "When we were working on this issue, the script hadn't been written yet. Geoff [Johns] had [asked me] 'We're gonna have a picnic, right?' So I thought it would be kinda neat to have Krypto literally lifting up the bench as they're having dinner. And what ended up happening was that it was worked into the scene. It was supposed to be, I guess, just a normal picnic on the ground, but it ended up being floating up in the sky. I really like the way it turned out."

Evanier said he thought it "would be a much better cover without the line at the bottom. It detracts from the whole simplicity of the cover."

Manapul agreed. "Yeah, I think the point of the cover is to have the negative space, and while I understand why it's there; it is distracting, but I can kinda live with that, I guess."

Sienkiewicz added, "There's a very sweet quality to the whole piece, [but] that typeface on the bottom totally destroys the ambience and the perspective of the piece. It really does; it's almost like it's from a different cover."

Manapul agreed. "You're going from a very farmland sort of thingy this futuristic type. Yeah, it sucks, but what are you gonna do?"

"The Shield" #3 came next. "This cover was kind of an experiment, really. I guess I like it; it's good, but I don't think it represents who I am as an artist,” Manapul said. “What happened was, I saw this guy who did a fantastic digital painting over one of my pencils, and I thought, 'This guy really made it work.' So I forwarded it to my editor, and he asked, 'Hey, would you like to do a cover like that?' I thought it'd be an opportunity for this guy to get his foot intro DC, so I said, 'Sure; let's do it.' I think it turned out really great. The digital painting is fantastic, but it's just not who I am as an artist.

“The concept, I felt, was pretty weak,” he continued, adding that he was instructed to draw the two characters posing. “It got the guy a job, which was great, but I'm not too fond of this cover at all. It's just not who I am."

Evanier thought it was "a good drawing with bad logos. There are all these different typefaces, and they're so close sometimes to the figures, especially at the bottom."

Manapul agreed that it "looks like a NASCAR jacket."

Next up was "The Flash" #2. "This one was fun, but what frustrated me the most -- going back to what Adam talking about color thresholds -- was the red, and Flash is red. It was really important that we got that right, and I don't feel like we quite got that here. Since I do watercolor graytones underneath the artwork, it's really important that the red that we choose doesn't make the artwork look muddy or make the tones disappear. I think with the color thresholds being where they're at, we used a red that was a little hotter than it should have been,” Manapul said. He said this was another cover for which he didn't know the story. “If you read the issue, he wasn't handcuffed, there were no cops going after him. But it was summertime, and he was fighting Captain Cold.” But, he continued, “they wanted the 'Wanted' thing on there, so I thought, 'Cool, maybe rather than showing him being captured, I show him getting away.' It doesn't have anything to do with the interior, but I thought it was telling a little story."

After this, "GI Joe: Dreadnoks Declassified" #3 appeared. "This was one of the first times I actually did watercolor work on a cover, and I had no control as to how it was being pulled off. I was not happy with this cover. When people ask me why I transitioned into doing watercolor, this was done at least a few years before that, and after it came out, I thought, 'Okay, clearly, you can't do [comic art] in watercolor and have it digitally colored, unless it's going to be printed just as it is. So this cover actually made me stop watercoloring my work until I thought digital coloring caught up, or we figured out a way to do it. It's still a work in progress.”

Manapul then discussed "Superboy" #5. "This, believe it or not, is the only cover I got to color myself. I drew all the figures separately and did all the color tones. It printed quite dark. I didn't know what the color thresholds would be, so it was pretty dark. On the computer, it looked okay. I was just trying to go for a really simple color theory; they're racing around the world, and I wanted each of the panels to represent a certain color. That way, when you see them swirling around the world in streaks, you can really identify which character is which. I tried to use as much traditional media as I could, so everything is in watercolor; the computer rendering is very minimal. What's kind of funny about this cover is, going back to that 'Adventure Comics' cover, since I had already colored and painted that sky with a separate layer, we actually reused it. So that sky is a recycled version of the 'Adventure Comics' sky, which I thought worked out well, and saved me 30 minutes."

Hughes interjected, "One of the things that makes this cover work so well is the fact that it's got fabulous color theory. As he said, he got to take it from start to finish, so this is one of the rare examples where the production monkeys -- who you've heard me talk about before -- did not screw him on this cover with the 'Superboy' logo. If you notice, the secondary color on the extruded part of the logo actually matches the Earth at the bottom. They looked at his cover and said, 'How can we make the logo' -- which is an intrusive thing on most covers -- 'How can we make it harmonious with the artist's concept of the color theory?' They unified it. Because on some of your other covers, they really had some garish colors on your logos. And this one is just, from top to bottom, a wonderfully unified piece."

Evanier noticed that the panel was running out of time and that they'd have to truncate Quitely and Sienkiewicz's cover selection.

Quitely's first cover was "American Virgin" #1. "This one I quite like. It wasn't originally meant to be the first cover. I did a bunch of cover roughs for the 'American Virgin' series. I came up with this idea that, on the first cover, he'd be fully clothed, and there'd be arms pulling at him. In the second issue, he was dressed for the African part of the adventure, with a lot of legs chasing him. In the third, there were fingers all up in his face, and in the fourth, he was in the mouth; so there was a kind of a progression towards what we have here. It was just one of those situations where Shelly Bond, the editor, really liked the progression. To be honest, I think it mostly came from the writer, [that they] really wanted to use the fourth in the series as the first cover because it's such an arresting image."

The famous "All-Star Superman" #1 cover came next. "This one I like less than the previous one. With all the 'All-Star Superman' covers, Grant [Morrison] had a really clear idea of what he wanted. He gave me a tiny thumbnail sketch for each cover I had to do, and with the first one, he told me the story of how he was at Comic Con and met this guy who was dressed like Superman and who really looked like Superman. The guy was hanging about outside and was totally relaxed. Grant thought, 'That's the way Superman would be. He's invulnerable; he's really good; he's at peace with himself; he's very relaxed.' So I actually drew this from the rough that Grant had done. As much as I like Jamie Grant's coloring, I actually wanted to color all the 'Superman' covers myself, but I didn't start coloring them until halfway through the run. It's a small point, but I would actually color it kind of differently.

“Just as an aside, I saw a funny thing online where Chip Kidd had been talking about how had put so much work into the logo to create a sense of movement, and he was waiting for this really dynamic cover. It was the worst thing that he could have had to work with, but it's okay."

"Batman and Robin" #7 appeared next. "I'm kind of okay with this one. It's not really my favorite. The 'Batman and Robin' covers were another case where I was actually working from Grant's cover design, so …"

Quitely had much stronger feelings about "Batman and Robin" #12. "I hate this one. It was one of those things where you love the cover rough, and when you draw it, it just looks goofy. It doesn't work; it doesn't work for me at all."

Finally, Quitely spoke about the recent "T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents" #1. "They asked me to base this one on an old Wally Wood cover; I can't remember which issue it was. The original had three characters, and I tried to do the same thing, but with four characters. I don't love that, but it's okay."

With only seconds to spare before the next panel moved in, Sienkiewicz sped through his covers, dismissing both "X-Men Unlimited" #43 and "Batman: The Widening Gyre” #2. For "Widening Gyre" #3, however, the artist said, "I was very happy with the legs. Actually, what I was really most proud of was the effect of luminosity that I was trying to capture; the halation of the lighting in the palm trees, which I sort of filled with the violets and the warmer colors. It sort of worked. This was actually drawn partly in pen and ink, then a little bit of airbrush, then colored in Photoshop."

An "X-Force" #10 variant came next. "This one was originally just black and white, and I took it into Photoshop, and just played with what's called 'curves' or 'levels.' Somebody said that if you put on 3D glasses, it actually works. I haven't tried it. Back to doing the whole 'demon bear' thing from 'New Mutants.' it was like combining a little Ralph Steadman and some insanity, and I thought, 'What could I do now that would work in that theme?' It's sort of revisiting something I'd already done, but trying to do it in a new way."

The final cover was for "Weird Western Tales" #71, which Sienkiewicz dismissed with an, "It's okay. We're done."

And on that note, with a hearty round of applause, the panel was indeed done.

TAGS:  wondercon2011, mark evanier, frank quitely, amy reeder, adam hughes, bill sienkiewicz, francis manapul

 
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