SDCC ’14: Cover Story: The Art of the Cover – panel recap

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By Matthew Jent

Oh, gang. What a fun panel.

Moderated by legend-in-his-own-time Mark Evanier, “Cover Story: The Art of the Cover” took five artists, gave them five of their own covers apiece, and had them talk about them. The covers had been chosen ahead of time, without the artists’ knowledge, and Mark hoped at least one of the choices would be a cover the artist didn’t like.

“Even if we take some potshots at your covers — it’s coming from a place of affection. Even Rembrandt had a worst painting.”

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The Cover Story panel: Evanier, Conner, Staples, Brooks, Lee, Sakai.

We’d be here foreverlong if we went cover-by-cover, so let’s just hit some highlights.

Amanda Conner.

“Jack Kirby hated doing covers,” Mark explained. “He never knew when to do them. Before the comic, he didn’t know what the most exciting scene would be. During the comic, he didn’t want to interrupt his flow. When he was done, he wasn’t emotionally invested in that issue anymore.”

“I agree with Jack,” Amanda said. “I prefer sequential storytelling. I like Norman Rockwell — when you can look at a piece of art and tell lots of things are going on in it.”

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Barbie #42. Marvel Comics. Art by Amanda Conner.

“Okay — this was before I got into storytelling. Boy, they made me make her way too skinny.”

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JSA Classified #4. DC Comics. Art by Amanda Conner.

“Y’know — geez, lookit her boobs! I wanted to pull a moment of time out to focus on the cover, a moment that happens in between panels. So you don’t see this in the book, but it still moves the story along. Paul Mounts colored it — I put the stars in the background, but he did the burst. If I trust him and leave the background blank, he goes in and does a nice design.”

This cover gave Mark the opportunity to tell a Wally Wood/Power Girl anecdote, with Amanda’s encouragement: “Wally said, ‘I’m going to make her boobs larger every issue until somebody stops me. I think they just took him off the book instead.”

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Zatanna #12. DC Comics. Art by Amanda Conner.

“Okay, I don’t always do big boobs, guys. This is another example of moments in time you don’t see often. Zatanna lives in San Francisco now, and I wondered, what does she do every morning, before she goes to fight things that want to destroy the universe? Probably the same things I do: get a cup of coffee, and a muffin, and read her iPad. Except, on the Golden Gate Bridge. My favorite thing is showing well-known superheroes doing an everyday thing that you and I do.”

Fiona Staples.

“Last night were the Eisner Awards, aka the Fiona Staples Show,” said Mark, by way of introduction. “The best thing about the Eisners is that whoop from the audience when they agree, yeah, that’s the one that deserves it.”

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Done to Death #1. Markosia Publishing. Art by Fiona Staples.

“This was my first issue of my first comic. It was an oil painting, before I did everything digitally. They cropped it, but — that would have been my call. It’s an awkward place to cut off the image, at a joint, at the neck.”

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Saga #18. Image Comics. Art by Fiona Staples.

“For Saga, the cover is part of the entire package. We don’t give away much story on our Saga covers. I usually do the cover before he scripts it — Brian told me, put Lying Cat on this one and make it dark. I had a feeling something bad was going to happen, so I gave Lying Cat a bloody mouth, like she’d taken a bite out of one of our heroes.”

Mark Brooks.

“For the last few years, I’ve been pretty exclusively a cover artist. It’s not really storytelling — I’m trying to sell the book. The cover has to be done the month before Previews hits — if we’re lucky, we have a short paragraph of what happens on the inside. The beauty of designing a character as a cover artist — I don’t have to worry about the interior artist who has to draw every angle of that character for 22 pages.”

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Amazing Fantasy #1. Marvel Comics. Art by Mark Brooks.

“My first for Marvel, ten years ago. It was introducing a new Spider-Girl. I really stunk at foreshortening, so her leg looks really weird. Joe Quesada designed the character, but I put in the pouches around her wrist — I still don’t know what purpose they would serve.” (An audience member shouts out — chaptstick!)

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Cable/Deadpool #14. Marvel Comics. Art by Mark Brooks.

“One of the few times Cable got one up on Deadpool. But to keep them in frame, I had to have him hold the gun by the trigger and almost let it fall down, over Deadpool’s head. To this day, I think it looks very weird.”

Mark Evanier chimed in that, in earlier days, Marvel would have rejected this one because the figures obscured the title.

“That’s different now,” Brooks said. “I can pretty much cover up the entire title, as long as it’s with the main character of the book.”

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Deadpool #30. Marvel Comics. Art by Mark Brooks.

“In the original solicit, Deadpool was dressed like Jimi Hendrix. Marvel found out Hendrix’s estate is very litigious. I had to go in and take out the striped shirt, take off the wig, and flip it so he wasn’t playing left-handed.”

Jae Lee.

“I always think I enjoy covers, but I always regret doing them. I’m not a fan of showing these out of sequence, because I’m afraid the same re-used images are going to crop up. I won’t have a lot to say about these because they were all done in a mad rush to get into the solicitations.”

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Before Watchmen: Ozymandias #3. DC Comics. Art by Jae Lee.

“This was done for solicitation. It was an Ozymandias book, but the cover features the Comedian. Where this fight was happening, they were surrounded by falling action figures. I hadn’t finished it, so I cropped it and said, is this good enough for now? I said I would come back and finish it later. But I never finished it.”

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Batman/Superman #8. DC Comics. Art by Jae Lee.

“This was tough. It’s my second time drawing a car. I’ve been doing this 22 years and managed never to draw a car. I don’t know how to draw cars, so it has to be mangled. I don’t know how artists draw those things. The tires — I don’t know how you guys do it.”

“Also, Power Girl was much bigger than Superman, so we had to reduce her digitally. But then her head looked too big, so we had to reduce he head separately. It became a kind of Frankenstein project. I have a hard time looking at it.”

Amanda chimed in by saying she has no problem with cars, but hates drawing mangled wreckage.

“Oh, we should trade off,” Jae said.

Stan Sakai.

“I hate doing covers. I hate it with a passion. I have been doing covers with the same character for the past 30 years, so it’s difficult to think of a different situation for that character. The covers are done months ahead of time, and my writer, who is me, often has no idea what is going to happen in the interiors.”

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Usagi Yojimbo #46. Dark Horse Comics. Art by Stan Sakai.

“This was a commission — a guy commissioned me to do a kite festival. So it was four connected pages. We used it for two consecutive covers. The colorist is Tom Bluth, who is my colorist of choice. In Tom’s case, it’s always — do what you want, Tom. I give him very little direction. I’m surprised sometimes by his choices, but it’s always better than I would color things.”

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Adolescent Radioactive Blackbelt Hamsters #1. Eclipse. Art by Stan Sakai.

“Strictly a job for the money.”

“That’s funny,” Evanier added, “I worked for Eclipse  — I don’t remember there being any money.”

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Usagi Yojimbo #101. Dark Horse Comics. Art by Stan Sakai.

“In Usagi, there’s always a little skull when somebody dies, and a guy always writes in saying how many skulls I had in that issue. So for this cover I drew as many skulls as I could. But then the guy didn’t write in, and I was disappointed. There was no logo, but Usagi is iconic now — when people see Usagi, they know it’s a Usagi cover.”

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Donald Duck Adventures #32. Walt Disney Publications. Art by Stan Sakai.

“Aw, I hate working for Disney. They kept saying ‘do it on model,’ but they didn’t give me any models! I must have drawn this duck’s head 7 times. The problem was, I was following the European design, which I prefer, and it’s a little different there.”

Evanier closed the panel by thanking everyone for participating, and saying he hoped panels like these remind folks that there’s always a story and a person behind the design choices of covers.

“These panels remind people — someone actually designed that. It gives people an appreciation for the art of the cover.”

Comments

  1. It’s Tom Luth not Bluth

  2. Kate Willaert says:

    I wish someone recorded and archived all these con panels.

  3. Stan Sakai says:

    I apologize to the audience, other panelists, and the moderator. I was preoccupied as I had a family health crisis going on at that time, and kept checking my phone for updates. It was a fun panel and, no, I don’t hate drawing covers as much as I made it out to be.

  4. Douglass Abramson says:

    Mr. Sakai,

    I was sitting about ten feet from your place on the dias. You didn’t come across as being preoccupied, nor did it look like you were repeatedly checking your phone. I don’t think that you owe anyone there an apology.

  5. @kate – Same here!

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