I got my hands on a copy of IDW’s “Marvel Covers: The Modern Era Artist’s Edition” this week.
The following are eight interesting things I spotted while reading through the book, which prints full color scans of original art at its original page size.
Welcome to the worlds of original art and comic book production.
Return to Sender
1) In the mid-90s, Michael Golden had a rubber stamp dictating where his original art should be returned. Since he inked it himself, I suppose he’s right. I wonder if this worked or if it helped in any way.
The New Mutants and Rob Liefeld
2) Speaking of inkers, Todd McFarlane inked Rob Liefeld’s earliest “New Mutants” covers. They came out beautifully. Judging from the penciled notes at the bottom of this cover, I’m guessing they weren’t sure initially if McFarlane or Scott Williams was going to handle this cover. Williams did ink Liefeld’s “What If?” cover, but that’s about it.
3) The cover to “New Mutants” #100 includes this note in the UPC box from Rob Liefeld to editor Bob Harras:
“Bob — I’d like to lay down a background full of 100’s much like Spider-Man #300 w/the Todd McFar. cover. Maybe a red cover, purple? Yellow? Please call me on this one!”
He got what he asked for:
A later second printing had gold lettering on a white background.
Details, Details, Details
4) As big as the arts boards are, never underestimate how small artists are drawing. This is particularly true in the modern landscape where artists add so much “detail”. The Art Adams pages are mind-blowing in that way.
I grabbed my stylus and tried to draw along some of the lines from this particularly busy Nick Bradshaw cover, and quickly gave up. It looks too tedious. And that’s why artists are lucky to get a page a day done. I know not all artists are as crazy as this sample, but there’s still a lot of lines in your average comic page. No wonder why artists like drawing big splashy pages. Even when those have lots of crosshatching or feathering or detailed linework, it still looks simpler (from the artist’s point of view) than drawing six or nine different panels’ worth of images.
5) Speaking of detail, just look at all the work all those webs and spiders must have been for Todd McFarlane on the cover of “Spider-Man” #1. Each of these images covers about four square inches of the page.
The Sadness of Yellowed Glue and Ink
6) Glue is a horrible thing to happen to original art. Anytime something is stuck onto the art board — whether for an art correction or a logo placement — there’s the strong possibility that it will turn yellow in 10 or 20 years. Even stuck-on dotted patterns have that problem, as in this cover from Art Adams’ New Fantastic Four storyline.
7) Along those same lines, beware of certain marker types that fade over time. This page from “X-Force” #1 makes it clear where Rob Liefeld inked the page with fade-proof India ink, and where he used a marker of some sort that wasn’t so permanent. It almost looks like gold ink, and almost works to help separate the foreground from the background elements. That’s just dumb luck, not a plan, though.
Liefeld is not alone on this, by the way. It’s a problem for lots of original art. Often, those markers and pens make production of the comic easier. Here, Liefeld used it to draw all the straight skinny lines for the background of the image. It was probably easier to handle for him than whatever ink nib he was using at the time, in particular because the line weight would remain the same every time.
The Ultimate in Comics Costume Realism
8) I’m in the camp of those who turn a blind eye to the impossibility of superhero costumes, unless it goes too far. I don’t need to see all the seams and the bunching and the zippers and whatnot. It can work for some artists — Bryan Hitch on “The Ultimates,” for example — but too often comes across as an apology for the “silliness” of superhero comics.
That said, Lee Bermejo goes so far in the opposite direction from what I like that he sold me on it. Here he draws a Spider-Man where you see everything. You get the bunching up of the costume at his joints, his shirt pulling up out of his tights, the mask barely hitting the rest of the costume. You even see the zipper on the inside of his boot.
It’s a crazy image for that super-realistic look, but I love it. Here’s the whole thing, where you can see more of the crazy details. (The original page is not that yellow. Please pardon the bad lighting on this picture.)
Marvel Covers: The Modern Era Artist’s Edition
…is available today. I believe you can order it through your local retailer now, and you can also order direct from IDW. I’ll have a full review of it next week.
You may consider this, in the meantime, a tease:
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