I worked on a cover for Backbone Entertainment's comic book called Death Jr. a while back, but I wasn't able to post up my progress while working on it. I just recently got the go ahead to blog it up from Backbone's PR since the book just came out this past Wednesday! It's the cover to DJ's collected second arc as written by Gary Whitta with interior art drawn by Ted Naifeh.
Work's been really busy for me lately and I had actually totally forgotten about the cover. I had no real idea when the release date of the book was going to be. Imagine my surprise as I was just doing the usual comic book run at Dr. Comics and Mr. Games, when out from the corner of my eye I notice something familiar on the shelf... It was my cover!
This is my first cover for a comic book so I was absolutely floored to see it on the comic book shelf! The feeling was surreal... I can't describe it! I picked it up and was just staring at it all during lunch. My first cover! In my hands! Printed! On an Image comic! Wow. I couldn't believe it!
Anyway enough blubbering and senseless prattling ! I'm here to post up some pictures on the process it took me to get that sucker done! This will be a 2 part post. This first bit will be all about pre-production: when I'm trying to figure out the look of the characters and the layout of the cover.
I initially did a bunch of sketches, mainly to get the feel of the characters and what Death Jr. would look like. I remember going through alot of drawings trying to figure him out. Did I want him cute? What kind of shape was his head? How did I want to draw him? What pose was he going to be in?
I knew I wanted DJ to be in an action pose, being very much the hero. To me, his character, while like-able, was someone that could easily be overshadowed by other characters, like Pandora. I always felt that Death Jr. played Mickey mouse to Pandora's Donald duck. So this time, I wanted to give DJ the spotlight.
Next up on the design task was the rest of the scooby gang (sorry watching too much Buffy!) Surprisingly, they weren't as painful of an experience. Maybe I was a little bit more comfortable and less apprehensive with drawing them once I had kind of figured out the look for DJ.
On a long side note: I was really nervous about drawing this cover because A) It was my first one and B) Well, because I was kinda following after the first volumes' cover artist. Which uh, was by a guy named Mike Mignola! Holy Polaris, Batman! Trust me, it was super sweaty palms all around while I was drawing it! My palms are sweating now as I'm typing about it! And! AND! As if that wasn't enough to make me feel insecure, they put the wrong cover image of the Death Jr. Vol. 2 trade on the Image comics website (and in Previews too, I believe!). And guess who that drawing was actually by? Oh just some dude named Jeff Matsuda! You know the guy who did the designs for the recent TMNT movie. You know, the dude who designed the new Batman Adventures stuff. Yeah. That dude. Saints preserve us! But wait it gets better! The reason I had gotten the cover job was actually because the original guy slated to do it was swamped with work. And that guy was this guy named Steve Purcell. You know? The guy that did Sam and Max? Oh yeah. That guy. Hera help me! It's a waterfall in my palms now! (side note to the side note: cool! Jeff Matsuda chose the same 'blog-skin' that I did! ...Oooookay...)
Okay anyway, enough with the ventage (What can I say? All the Buffy and Angel DVD sets were for 20 bucks at Best Buy! I can't stop it from seeping in every now and then!). With the DJ gang designs out of the way, I started drawing the bad guys of the book. Fitting them into the appropriate style and looking at Mr. Naifeh's drawings to get a basis for the characters.
Then, I went on to some thumbnails as to how I'd like to compose this 2 page spread. Lemme tell ya, the 2 page spread, while they may be the COOL-est thing for readers to see? They can be pretty difficult to plan out! Here's the sketch that got me started:I chose the smaller one to the bottom right as my composition, and started to lay it out on a slightly bigger sized area (half an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper). The idea would be DJ and Pandora are on the front page fighting off a horde of somethings away from their friends. But unbeknownst (always wanted to say that) to them they are all being flanked by the main bad guys on the back cover. I a bit stumped at who I could draw as the 'somethings' that DJ and Pandora were fighting. I had no ideas who they could be...
I had only read the first 2 issues of the collection, and the third one was still in production. As far as the first 2 books were concerned there weren't any big fights or any distinctive mass of bad guys that I could really draw. Luckily, the third script had just come in and I was privy to some juicy plot points. And lo and behold, I had the best subject matter for DJ to slice and dice: zombies (well kinda)!
I got the pieces all in place, but there were still some things about it that I wasn't too keen on. The enemies in the back cover page, for example, or DJ's pose. I had some friends take a look at it and just give me some feed back and came up with this sketch:
DJ's foot position was changed, and I also changed the pose of the big guy in the suit and the guard hat. I figured I needed to break that composition of the swoop that made up the large black shape that held the cover together. I didn't like how DJ's foot ended up though, and the break-out shape still wasn't quite there. So this came about:
I was pretty happy with how this turned out, and I was really itchin' to finally draw this cover up. My friend Rocky had commented DJ's foot and Pandora's hair were too close together in composition. It'd be nicer to have them further apart and let that space breathe. He had a point, but I really wanted to get out of the thumbnail stage SO bad, I went ahead and blew it up at Kinko's to prep it up for the blue line pencil stage. I figured the remaining issues were something I could fix in the drawing stage or in Photoshop.
And that's it for part one! It makes me cringe to see all this pre-production stuff posted up here, but hey, warts and all only on this blog, right?! Next post will be about the drawing process and the finishes! Tune in for the next exciting installment! God Bless!