Cover theory or A tale of two Joe’s

I loath drawing covers.

When you are making a story and working on story pages, the key is thought and hard work.  There are a tool box full of techniques you can use to punch up the page and it is simply a matter of using your brain and figuring out the best ones to use and where.  I’m not shy about long hours or hard work so when it comes to a story page I know it is just a matter of time before it looks great.

(some of those techniques are here)

A cover is a different matter.   The cover is one image, your tool box of techniques is that of a fine art painter…meaning much fewer tools.  You have which shapes bring to mind which feelings, which colors bring to mind which moods, a few composition tricks and that’s about it.  Maybe there are one or two more but pretty much that’s it. The cover relies far more on simple inspiration…you either get a great idea or you don’t.  What’s worse is, the great ideas come in bunches, meaning you’ll have jack squat and then all of a sudden have to choose between four good ones.

The whole problem is a matter of training I suppose.  Illustration can be viewed like running…to the average person you are either fast or you ain’t.  But when you are competing on a high level you understand that if you have trained for long distance running it’s pretty tough to win a sprint.

I suppose if you work for Marvel or DC this isn’t much of a problem…you just draw six characters running forward in battle mode ( i.e. you steal the cover from secret wars no.1) , but I ain’t made at ’em…if people are stupid enough to keep shelling out good money for uninspired dreck…why should they give a damn?  Having said that, some guys over there are absolutely great at covers…I am not. I have done some great covers but when you look at the ratio of ideas I threw out to covers I used…this is clearly not my strong suit.

 The next issue will feature Voodoo Joe…and so it kinda demands he be on the cover. Which sucks because he has a long narrow head and leaves  little to no options as far as interesting composition.

which brings us to my first idea…and I kinda like it.

Joe is there…it’s got some tension in the composition ( the sweet spot of the cover would be the teeth and the pliers, the implied lines lead the eye there)…he’s doing something horrible, seems like a home run.  The only thing I don’t like is the kids arms aren’t in the image.  Clearly they are just hanging down or something which technically is fine ( as in they aren’t too big or too small or bent the wrong way) but ..wouldn’t he be struggling?  I guess this would be okay…but it bothers me that he’s just sort of limp.

SO…you play around a little more hoping to either solve the problem or come up with something better.

A couple of these are decent enough ideas, the fetus using the pliers is good but there defiantly needs to be an object on the left to keep the eye centered or the implied lines will lead the eye right past the sweet spot…and what would that object be?  A cereal box maybe…i dunno.  The sketch with Joe using the pliers with the fetus looking on is good, but on a 6×10 cover the main action might be too small to really grab you.  BUT  i do like how the kid is twisting away…that…might be the key to the first idea, which bring us to this sketch…

You’re probably having trouble looking at this mess and separating what it would look like with his arm up as opposed to down and his arm twisting away as opposed to limp…or his arm up and the other twisting ect….I however…have trained my brain to be able to view this and only focus on what I want to see one possibility at a time even thought there are three different arms.  How did I train my brain to do this?  through years of Pavlovian punishment…I.E. redrawing it three times or having my brain filter things out at will.

But eventually you do have to redraw the bastard and see what really is what. Which brings us to the point I’m at now.

 It’s a tough call…The kid being in a full nelson while getting pliers jammed in his mouth solves the “why isn’t he struggling”  problem, but so does the twisting away.  I think Joe’s grip on the head is more convincing in the right hand side sketch,but I am concerned that people will view it as Joe catching the kid on the dead run instead of this being a long, painful drawn out scene.  I’m not sold on Joe’s grip on the pliers on either of them but that’s just a matter of precision in the final illustration.  I’m Not really satisfied with the size of the pliers either. I would like them more prominent/bigger but the bigger they are the more of the kids face will be obscured, and there’s always the risk of them looking too cartoony if they are too big, like bugs bunny Acme  pliers or something.  Joe himself is funny but in order for the story to work people need to know he is in fact dangerous…he’s not Wyle E. Coyote

And of course with that much of Joe’s fact covered up it may be confusing to non Arsenic Lullaby fans…it’s too good to scrape though…probably will do this cover as an alternative cover and the fetus using the pliers cover as the main one.

That’s all one big giant MAYBE at this stage…you never know if while working on these a better idea might pop into your head.  “but…if you get a better idea then all the work and thought you put into these will basically be wasted time”

yep…they would become work I won’t get paid for…do about 20 hours of that a week.

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