Comic book writer Mark Evanier commenced the hour of “Cover Story” by relating that in the industry’s early days, 95% of a comic book’s selling potential was reliant on the cover art. Part of the reason for this was because comics used to be sold on newsstands. He related that, at that time, the stories were written based on the cover; however, after comics moved off the newsstands and into the local comic book shop, and a non-return policy was put into place, the emphasis on cover art changed. Now, the story influences the cover; however, the cover is drawn and completed months before the interiors are realized.
Joining Evanier Sunday afternoon at the WonderCon panel were Paolo Rivera (Daredevil, The Valiant), Annie Wu (Black Canary, Hawkeye), and Bill Sienkiewicz (Stray Toasters, Elektra: Assassin) to discuss their creative process and experience as cover artists. Evanier started out by asking the panelists to discuss their challenges with doing only the cover to completing both the covers and interiors. Wu stated she would prefer to do the interiors and cover, but her time availability is often a deciding factor of whether she’ll be able to do both. She added that, sometimes, she does like to create a variant cover if the character interests her. When she is only doing the cover, she designs her cover based on the writer’s synopsis of the story for that issue; however, when the character is brand new, the design is more difficult, because of the minimum amount of source materials (for example, sketches or previous issues and covers). Wu said, in those instances, she tries to capture the atmosphere of the story. Typically, a cover artist does not have interiors to reference because PREVIEWS needs the cover art done months ahead of the interiors being completed.
Rivera said that mood and costume match-up are crucial components to create covers. Like Wu, he feels that if he is doing the interiors, he wants to be doing the cover, as well. That said, he does love doing variant covers. He corroborated with Wu that PREVEIWS schedules covers months in advance. Typically, he doesn’t have a script to work from. After he works up some sketches, he will send 2 or 3 to his editor.
Sienkiewicz said that when he is doing his interiors, he will find his cover within the interiors. He remembers seeing a Curt Swan Superman cover in which the superhero was pushed into a wall. He said it was a teaser image for people to pick up the comic book, but not actually in the issue. He said the one axiom of cover artists is that the one cover you like the least, that’s the one the editor will pick for realization. Rivera and Wu readily agreed.
Evanier asked the panelists if they worked on paper or in digital format. Rivera said he sketches digitally and submits a few of those sketches to the editor. Once a drawing is selected, he prints out the sketch, blue lines it, and completes it traditionally (on paper). His father inks his covers and has caught some of his errors. Wu stated that she does all of her work in the digital format. Sienkiewicz revealed that for a year he loved the digital format but eventually it came to feel antiseptic. He realized that he missed working with paints and its smells. Now, he only uses digital for tweaking the image when he is finalizing the cover.
For the last half of the hour, the panelists shifted to front row seats while Evanier projected cover art of each panelist on the big screen, so he could ask each artist about their covers. Evanier started with Wu by showing Batgirl Beyond #18. Wu said she completed this cover just before going fully digital. She did her own colors and she said the final cover colors were faithful to her vision. With Black Canary #1, Wu requested DC to change the logo and they did change it to the flat logo that is seen on the final cover. Wu said that with Archie #4, she had to conceptualize a modern version of Veronica, while Ms. Marvel #3 was a variant cover that she loved creating. The last cover Evanier showed was Wu’s Uncanny Avengers #4. Wu explained the Gustav Klimt-inspired cover was a challenge, because she needed to mimic the style and include a duck; Wu said that drawing animals is difficult for her. This was an all-digital cover.
Evanier then spotlighted Rivera’s covers. In Daredevil #3, Rivera completed the pencils and colors while his father did the inks. He said the cover was not a favorite for the fans. Rivera said that The Iliad #3 was a fun cover for him that was completely painted. For the next cover, the idea came immediately. Rivera admits it was a stupid idea, but he loved how Indestructible Hulk #9 turned out. He tried many different colors but red popped. Evanier asked if he knew that the bottom banner was going to be red, and Rivers said he didn’t. For Hawkeye #10, Rivera said this was a fun one, because he liked the old Iron Man suit. He said he was aware that the white light would be the dominant feature of the cover when asked. The last cover was Hellboy #1. Rivera said that the editor wanted a Norman Rockwell-style cover. He didn’t have a lot of time, but he is so glad he did it. He revealed that the Life magazine references a scene in the interior issue.
Regrettably, the hour was almost up, so Evanier had to rush through Sienkiewicz’s covers. With Elektra: Assassin #1, Sienkiewicz said the satirical tone of the series influenced the cover. He thought it was the height of ridiculous – big gun and heels – but not now. Today, he sees it as charming and quaint. Evanier interjected that this cover marked a break from the Jack Kirby influence to become more stylized. Sienkiewicz related that he received a lot of negative press, which helped, then he added that he would rather have people either love or hate his work; he doesn’t want people to be apathetic about his art. With The Shadow #4, he incorporated collage techniques for creating the cover, and with Nick Fury vs. S.H.I.E.L.D. #2, Sienkiewicz said his interest in fashion influenced this cover. The last two covers that Evanier showed for Sienkiewicz were Gotham by Midnight #7 and #11. Both showcased his experimental spirit. And, way too soon, the hour was up.
Image Credits: Panelist photo by Michele Brittany. Elektra: Assassin #1 by Bill Sienkiewicz.