Getting Sketchy with Dave Johnson

Wed, June 14th, 2006 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Andrew Wickliffe, Guest Contributor

Dave Johnson is probably recognizable to most comic readers as either the artist on "Superman: Red Son" or the cover artist on "100 Bullets." Johnson doesn't just do covers, though. In addition to creating an iPod cover, he's done design work for television and film. He just completed art director and character design work for the Cartoon Network series "Big Ten" and has won an Emmy for his work on "Batman Beyond."

Johnson's contributed a number of covers to Boom! Studios titles -- from "Giant Monster" to "Cthulu Tales" -- and this August, Boom! is releasing the "Dave Johnson Full-Color Sketchbook 2006." Johnson will be filling the 48 page book with a lot of weird, crazy and amazing artwork (as anyone who saw his last sketchbook can attest).

CBR News caught up with Johnson in between sketches for a quick chat about the book.

Looking through your last sketchbook, I noticed a lot of different subjects. What's your favorite subject? Sexy zombies?

Not really sure. Ugly things next to pretty things I guess. Space Monkeys are always a favorite of mine.

Your covers seem heavy on graphic design, but there was a lot of other stuff in that sketchbook (and in this new one, I presume). What all do you do and what do you like the most?

I'm all over the place. I get bored easily, so I'm always trying new things. Unfortunately, I feel it keeps me from being more popular with the mainstream fans. But to answer your question, I guess drawing goofy stuff that nobody wants. That's fun for me.

What's the process behind your covers?

Basically, I try to find a way to do the cover like I would do a real book cover. Meaning, I try to do something different that a normal comic book cover. But sometimes it's what's needed. Like some of the "Captain America" covers. I was trying to channel Kirby and Steranko. I also try to use a technique that is applied to billboards. It's the 10-second rule, meaning that someone scanning a rack of comics has so many comics staring back at him that the simpler, bolder cover will hopefully stand out over the hyper rendered/hyper colored cover.

The comic book cover has changed a lot in the last ten years, going from a "trailer" for the issue to a poster for it. I'm thinking "Ultimate Spider-Man" as the best example of this change. Do you, as a cover artist, have any thoughts about it?

Yeah, that's been a real problem. The real reason some of that is happening is that Marvel realized it could double up on the usage of a cover if it didn't have story content. It's harder to put a story specific piece of art on a lunch box or bed sheet than a picture of Spidey swinging through the city. And does the artist get any kick back for this usage? Hell no. DC comics are a lot better. Plus the fact that Mark Chiarello is the cover editor there, and he's just an awesome guy.

What's your favorite media to work in?

Well, lately, it's the computer. I just wish I was better at it. What I love more than anything is the history feature. I can screw up all I want and still go back and fix it. Changing a painting is such a hassle, for me, I'd rather stick needles in my eyes.

What's your favorite item that can be found in this new sketchbook?

Well, there are some cool painted sketches. Some animation design stuff. I really tried to fill up the book with as much stuff as I could to give the buyer his money's worth.

 
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