Hyperanalyzing a Les Godillots cover

How to Force a Reader’s Eye Into a Cover

Les Godillots by Marko and Olier, Book 1 cover

I was taken by the first few pages of “Les Godillots,” a French album available digitally on the Izneo digital comics platform.  The preview covering the first few pages of the first album opens on a very cinematic flashback to a scene set in World War I.  The artist and colorist, Marko, tells a mostly silent story of two soldiers wandering through a war-torn environment with their horse.  Gunfire breaks out and the men jump into foxholes, one more successfully than the other.

It’s only a three page sequence, but I saw so much in it that I wanted to lay out why I thought it worked so well as a tip to future artists who may still be learning some of the nuts and bolts of their craft.  There’s a lot of fundamentals to Marko’s craft here that are worth pointing out.

Before we get to that, though, we’re going to start this week with the cover. There’s a compositional thing with it that works very well. It features three characters: two soldiers and a younger civilian boy reading a book, reading/walking away as if there’s no war surrounding him.

Marko forces your eye into those three characters in a few of different ways.

cover dead center

  • He places them in the middle of the cover.  Draw straight lines from corner to corner of this image and the dead center part of it will be on the larger soldier’s belly button, which also feels like it’s the center point between the three characters.  Generally speaking, compositions drawn on the bullseye aren’t as interesting as ones drawn more using the Rule of Thirds (which we’ll get to later).  But it can work, particularly in conjunction with other design tools.  Now, when you draw the lines on the cover like this, you see something more interesting.  The two soldiers are on one axis, while the boy walking away from them is on another perpendicular one. It keeps everything from being bunched up in one place and draws your eye into an action on the cover.

 

Cover circle design

  • The characters in the middle of the cover are circled by debris.  It’s like the artist is drawing a giant circle around the three and shouting to the reader, “Look at these guys inside the circle!”  OK, it’s more like a horseshoe, but the title at the top finishes it off closely enough.
  • Along similar lines, there’s a vignette.  You usually think of a vignette as the darker corners of a photograph, caused by the light hitting the center of the sensor or film at its brightest, often with dark corners where the light doesn’t read the square film plan through a circular lens opening.  This is the reverse of that – it’s a brightness vignette.  Conveniently, it leaves a spot for the title at the top of the cover, but it also forms a large white circles around the characters Marko wants you to look at.  It’s like he’s drawing a big white circle around the characters to highlight them to you.
  • There’s strong color contrast.  The soldiers’ uniforms are a brighter blue compared to the browns and whites that surround them.  Even the reading boy has a bright red sash around his waist to set him apart, in addition to the blue pants and the blue shadows on his shirt.  The brown ground is darkest underneath the characters and then fades out to white around them.

 

Cover, follow the eyes for interest

 

  • More subtlely, the characters’ eyes guide your eyes. The soldiers are both looking off to the right. Their heads are turned in different directions, but follow their eyes and you’ll see they’re both looking the same way, in general.  There’s something off-screen to the right of interest.  Aren’t you curious?  Is it the same place the boy is walking off towards?  Interestingly, their bodies are all pointed in different directions, too, even if they’re all looking the same direction.

 

Cover triangle

  • There’s a whole triangular thing going on here with the three characters.   The soldiers stand together on one side of the triangle, and the boy makes the third point.   Wrap this all up inside a circle of debris, and you have shapes within shapes and an interesting pattern, visually. (If we learned nothing from The Might Be Giants, it’s that “Triangle wins.” Triangle man, in fact, beats Person Man.)
  • The characters have interesting poses.  None are facing straight on.  None are looking straight ahead.  None are symmetrical, where the arms or legs on both sides of the bodies are doing the same thing. The two soldiers, in fact, are slightly twisted.  The smaller one is looking back over his shoulder, while the larger one has one arm forward and one arm back, one up and one down. Nobody’s shoulders are square to the reader.

 

Cover rule of thirds

  • Never forget the Rule of Thirds.  It applies here, too.  Draw those lines over this image and you’ll see that the three characters are basically all in the center square, but the larger one’s had is on the top line, the reading boy’s body is on the lower right cross point. And the smaller soldier lines up on the left third vertical line.
  • The cover treatment is a considered part of this design.  Marko purposely puts all the action on the lower two-thirds of the cover, and leaves a large negative space centered at the top of the title and credits to go.  Considering where the title goes on the cover is just as important as leaving blank space in panels on the interior pages for the letterer to put the dialogue balloons.

As good as the cover is in its composition and its art, “Les Godillots” only gets better when you open up the book and see what the first action sequences do.  We’re going to talk about layers, dimension, and movement for those pages. Stay tuned….

 

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9 Ways to Force Your Reader's Eye Into the Cover

2 Comments

  • Colin Taylor September 1, 2016 at 4:36 pm

    You kinda allude to this but don’t express it explicitly so I will just for extra (unnecessary emphasis). You mention the circle of debris but look at the individual items within that circle (horseshoe) all drawing the eye into the figures in its centre. It really is quite superb as you say.

    Reply
    • Augie September 1, 2016 at 4:42 pm

      Good catch! And, yeah, that’s bad editing on my part. An earlier draft had a bit about how things are radiating out from the center of the image. When I went to do the overdrawing to support it, it wasn’t working. I took it out to be safe, but parts of it remained, because it’s still mostly true. So thanks for underlining it for me (and everyone else who passes through here.)

      Reply

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