Saturday, December 31, 2011

Once more, it's your chance to rip me a new one.

Well, last week I wanted to show that I'm not above criticism, and boy did you let me have it; from insightful comments, down to the really nit-picky. And to be honest, I couldn't argue with most of them. Like I've said many times, I'm not a perfect artist. The logo treatment on the Punisher cover was my fault. I got fixated on the idea without thinking about where the logo was going to land. Also, Electra's anatomy was a bit off. However, the good thing about comic book covers is you always have a chance to get it right the next month. Speaking of which, here's the only one that's out this week from yours truly, but before anyone lays into me about how Mars isn't interacting with the ground or Spaceman, I didn't want it to. It's more of a graphic element. That's why there's no shadow. I was going more for 60's weirdness (like Richard Powers) than illustration reality. Most, if not all the Spaceman covers will be a bit off in this way. It's a unique book after all, and I just want something that jumps off the stands.

Cover "Fails" from 12/31/11

 This really isn't a bad cover except for the "dreary" sky, which feels too over saturated and makes it hard to read the shadowed figure. My main beef is with the logo. It's just awful. It's got this torn-paper look that all the Image artists were using behind their signatures in the 90's, which would be okay if they hadn't raised it and made it look all metallic. Also, the type itself is just lousy.
Here's how I imagine the discussion for this cover going....
Editor: Ok, we need a new Red Sonja cover, what ideas do we have people?
Artist: Umm, how about Red Sonja just showing us her ass while holding a sword?
Editor: GREAT CEASAR'S GHOST! That's BRILLIANT! How about she's surrounded by some evil vikings too? 
Artist: How about instead, we put the moon behind her. But we make sure the light from it doesn't affect her what so ever?
Editor: Well, I guess. As long as we see her ass really well. 
Artist: I'm on it chief.
 And speaking of moons, here's another one where the obvious light source is completely ignored. Think about how dramatic this cover could have been if the artist was brave enough to add some shadow to the main figure. Instead, we get an awkward and stiff pose.
 Once again, not a bad cover. So why is it on here? Well, it's the gun's bi-pod. One, it's attached to the scope, which is probably the worst place to attach one. Second, because of that, it only clears the bottom of the stock by a few inches. Seriously people, Google is AMAZING!!! It's got all the information you need on just about any subject you can think of.
 This is here because the ground does not match up with the background. Not only that, but if your style is even slightly cartoony, maybe a photo background is NOT the best course of action. I mean, it's not like there is that much background to put in any way. Hell, by being lazy, you just made the cover worse.

 I get it. The artist loves the Pulp Fiction poster. We all do. But there are two things that make this cover come up on my radar. One, the background. It feels like she's just floating on a concrete slab in a tranquil blue/green neutral zone. And two, she's laying on a bunch of blank pieces of paper. Did the artist run out of time? Shouldn't there be something on them? Like photos of potential victims? Or documents? Hell, anything at all would do. But no, we just get blank sheets of paper.
*EDIT* Well, let it never be said I'm not above admitting I made a mistake. Here's the actual printed cover with pictures in place of blank pieces of paper. To be fair, they didn't post that the cover posted for Previews was not the final cover. Well, it happens. My apologies to the artist.
 Okay, here we get another pin-up cover, *sigh*. Besides the girl in the front, whom I'm assuming is Power Girl of the Fairy Realm because of those costume colors and giant balloon titties, the main reason for calling out this cover is the chick behind her. Now let me get this straight. She has fabric that hangs BELOW her ass? Maybe in this fantasy world, the middle part of the back of one's legs is what really drives men mad with lust, and she being a modest girl likes to keep that shit locked up tight, as to not be considered a whore. Got it. Also, once again, a poor use of a photo background for the lazy artist.
And finally, I'm just going to leave this here. Enjoy.

Cover "wins" from 12/31/11

 I talked about this cover before on twitter, but thought I'd make it official on this blog to show my appreciation of a job well done. It's just a fine illustration, with depth, mood, and atmosphere. Sometimes I squint my eyes to see if I can still make out shapes in an illustration. This one still reads, even with my eyes almost closed.
 Montage covers are tough. All these separate elements fighting for your attention. Also, choosing which elements will be small, medium, and large, and in what layered order, so as to be less confusing to the eye. Really, the last thing you want is for the viewer to think one of the characters is a giant. This artist was pretty successful. The way the art is colored also helps set the priorities for what order the elements are stacked. My only beef is the arrow placement and the fact that the big-headed girl seems to be looking right at it. It's a bit distracting.
 I really like this for many reasons. It's got great graphic design. It's tell's a story. The color is brilliant in the way it shifts. Also, the fact that it's still readable even with everything that's going on. Finally, playing with the Flash logo works well with the design.
 Man, Ryan Sook is an amazing artist. Anybody who can ape guys like Adam Hughes so well it's sometimes hard to tell the difference has my begrudging respect. But lately, he's been kinda doing his own thing, and I for one, am digging the hell out of the results. This cover... the red out of the green just pops against the white background.
 Speaking of guys who started out aping other artists...Landronn started out as a Kirby mimic, then a Moebius mimic (actually, he still is, but he's doing such a great job at it on those new Incal books it's hard to complain), but lately on the covers he's been doing for DC, his style is really starting to come out. I mean, this cover is just so well done. There's so much to look at, but it never loses focus on what's important, that being Jonah Hex.
And finally, I gotta give some love to my old studio mate, Tony Harris. Simple, easily readable silhouette, interesting graphic element behind him, and action inside. I also dig the color choices and how they shift. Overall, simple, but effective.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

New feature!!!

Well, let it be said that I'm not free from criticism. But it feels weird critiquing my own work. So from now on, I'll post here any of my covers that are out that week and I'll leave it up to any of you arm chair critics out there to rip me a new one. 
Is her neck too long? Is she not pretty enough? Let me know in comments.

So there it is for another week. Happy Holidays everybody.

Cover "Fails" from 12/24/11

Well, I'm catching some flak on the inter-tubes for my demeanor in my critiques of these covers. I guess they are butt hurt that I'm not super sweet in my delivery of bad news.  Well, get over it. Let me tell you story: I was 14 and just done a three page penciling sample that I was going to send to Marvel. But first, I had the chance to go to my first comic-book convention. Dick Giordano was a guest. Now, I hated DC comics at the time (I was a Marvel zombie then) but I figured I'd give this old man a thrill to behold my awesome talent. And when he would ultimately offer me a job on the spot (I was a bit idiotic back then/now) I would politely turn him down because Marvel was surely gonna hire me. Well, guess what, Dick ripped me a new asshole. He didn't spare any of my 14 year old feelings. And for a 2 weeks after, I couldn't walk right. But guess what? After that, everything he said made perfect sense and I forgot the harsh nature of the delivery. In other words, I got over it. And it made me a better artist. 
That said, I will try to hold my sarcastic nature back as much as I can for all you sensitive types. But I'm sure you'll find something to bitch about regardless.
 We start this week off with this one. The artist at least does things right by having the foreground characters in shadow to give it depth, but the coloring utterly destroys this cover. And all those special effects makes it almost unreadable. Its kind of a mess.

 Let's see here. The colorist put the sun behind the characters, and shades them like it's not. Except for the red sky, all the color is kind of bland.
I'm only gonna talk about a few things that are structural in nature on this cover. One, the guy on the left looks like he's missing an arm. Two, the highlight on the dude's leg just right of the main guy reads as a space between his legs because it's almost the same color as the BG. So it makes one leg look like it's half the size of the other. Third, the main dudes cod piece looks like a limp dick. Or maybe it's erect. Depending on how you see things I guess (maybe I have the problem in the first place). Fourth, the girl is holding the gun so weird. It's so easy to go out, buy a toy gun, hold it in your hand for ref while drawing this kind of stuff. And finally, I say it all the time, but form follows function. If you're gonna have a strap (or 4 on one leg) on a costume, have it strapping something down. Also, does it make sense to have a traditional ammo clip on a laser? These are just pet peeves of mine.

Cover "wins" from 12/24/11

 We start this off with this Batman cover. I remember walking into a store this week and no matter where I was in the store, this cover kept jumping out at me. That green just popped! Which ultimately is what a good cover is supposed to do. My only thought would have been to make one of the robots bigger in the foreground at the bottom to give it more depth. Bottom line. Great job.

 This just feels like a serious book cover. I like how the gun/logo cuts the design in half. My only suggestion would picked a different hue for the map at the bottom so it reads a little better as a separate element. But that's just nit picking it.
 Whats not to like about this cover? Its fun, graphic and well done. The only thing I would have added would be a kid in the window with a shocked look on his face. Or a nude woman, haha. But then, as some of you guys out there already know, I'm an idiot.
This technically isn't a comic book cover, but it showed up in the listing website I look at to see all these covers. So it's in here because Jusko rocked this illustration. I really love the subtle use of colors. And the design a zig zag pattern to move your from the woods to the tiger, to her arm, down her leg then over to the cub reaching down and over to the title is really nice.
 Reflections are really hard to pull off correctly. Especially when you have equally important elements under the glass. Massimo Carnevale is just the kind of bad ass artist who can pull this off with ease.

I almost didn't put this here. It's the kind of cover I like. But I was sure it was ripped off from Katsuhiro Otomo's Akira. But after looking through the books, I realized I was mistaken. So my apologies for thinking there was something wrong with this nice cover.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Cover "Fails" from 12/17/11

 I start this off this week with this one because I actually like it. Except for one thing, the artist (I assume) knows NOTHING about how to use a bow and arrow.
 And speaking of archery. Here's another example of how NOT to pull a bow back. I dare anybody to try it at home. But let move on to the real problem with this cover. It's so bland. Everything is the same value. And the design lacks drama. I did what I could to add a little bit by enlarging the foreground figure and adding dramatic lighting. It took all of 2 minutes. Shame the colorist couldn't be bothered to do the same.
 Tangents and piss poor coloring rules this cover. I dare anyone to find me a light source on this one. It's all over the place. But what is certain, the colorlist LOVES the airbrush fade paint bucket in PS. At least the artist didn't go for the gratuitous crotch shot. Not sure why the artist included a big pole behind her to create that tangent with her leg and then drawing her arm at a 90 degree angle. Strange.
Another tangent. I get the artist did it to show that she's not a giant flying over the main character. But there are other ways to show that she's closer to us than the purple guy. How about some other details like wrecked cars and debris that her legs can overlap? You don't have to go crazy with it, just around the small figure. But still keeping the main design clean so she still pops.
So much wrong with this cover, Bad coloring, yet ANOTHER bad archery example, the foreground guy looks like he's eating the horse's head, and his arm. Ohhhh, the arm. Milton Caniff would ALWAYS draw beyond the panel to make sure what IS in the panel makes sense. Listen to Milt kids. He was a genius.
 This is one here because of the horrible logo treatment. The Air Vixens logo cuts the illustration in half at a bad spot that makes it look like the knocked out characters are in another panel. But I guess if they had moved it up then it would have covered over some boobies. And as we all know, boobies sells covers.
 I guess we're supposed to know who the character is. Also, I think there's a face in the BG but can't be sure. But I'm sure the logo with take care of it. So it was pointless to add the face in the first place.

 And finally, another example of everything element fight for my attention at equal measure. Feels like an interior panel, not a cover.
*note* this isn't the final shipping cover. The black blob wasn't the artist's doing. Here's the final.

Well, that's another week down. If I hurt someone's feeling. Get over it. The great thing about comics is you get a chance to do it better next month.

Cover "wins" from 12/17/11

 Love the design, love the colors. Hell, what's not to love?
 A sweet example of an "X" design. I've said it before, Mignola has this shit down to a sweet science.
 This is here mainly to appreciate the fine painting skills of this artist. Great color work. Subtle.
 Speaking of subtle. Another great job. Nailed it. I wish I was better at the Art Nouveau but then I'd be in competition with Adam Hughes. And I'm crazy, not stupid. But this artist does a great job.
 J.H. Williams is the master of having a ton of shit going on in covers but yet he knows how to make each element readable. And the logo stands out yet is integrated into the art nicely.
 Hey, let's just have the character standing in the rain. And if you're Mr. Howard, you pick a great angle, you add a graphic BG element that could be building reflections or not. Either way, the sky reflection anchors the design. And the colorist does a great job with those sky color. I really FEEL the fatigue of the character after what I'm assuming was a hellacious night of ass kicking. But that's over now because the sun is coming up.
 Text with an illustration? Yes please. And I love how the yellow lettering divides the scenes and works as a bridge between red and green.
Speaking of yellow. Love the brightness of this Coker cover. It's got great drama.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Cover motifs that should be retired.

This will be a new section. Cover designs or motifs that are so over used that they should be retired or used sparingly. And every time one comes up I'll be talking about it here. This weeks entry: Hero on the corner of building shot. Bonus points if you include a gargoyle. I mean, if you're going to do this, be creative. Put a unique spin on a tired concept. Do it for the people!!! They deserve better.

Hell, I'm guilty of this too. Here's a cover I did back in the day. The editor was insistent on doing this motif. I argued but he won the battle. So in defiance, I had the character place his boot on the companies logo with the big thumbs down. Haha, the editor missed the subtext and he loved it. 
Here's a more recent example of heroes on building with gargoyle. So once again, I'm not immune to this motif but I at least tried to change it up a bit. 

Cover "Fails" from 12/10/11

 OK, this just screams to me that it belongs on this list. It's this style of artwork that is the worst thing to happen to comics, ever! It's so incestuous that it reminds me of a royal family from the 17th century. And what kills me is that it still has fans. There is so much great stuff out there and I imaging this artist and fans of this work turning their collective noses up at the works of Moebius, Toth, Toppi, Bernet or Kirby because their work isn't filled money shots every page. It makes me sad.
 This is on here because the execution of the idea that Batman is a string puppet fails. One reason, the hand shadow behind him will be obliterated by the logo, OOPS! Not to mention the shadow of the strings don't match the strings themselves. It feels like the artist had the idea of Batman as a puppet but realized the only way to pull it off was to have Batman small on the cover. And that would not do because the artist really wanted to draw Batman's very intense crotch! I mean, I love how his face is in shadow but his crotch has it's own light source. With all those lines converging to it, I'd say that ol' Bats is having quite a "pucker factor" moment going on down there.
 Beyond the horrible type treatment on the side, the over all composition of this is kind of "blah". But really kills me is the color. It's so milk toast! Light browns and baby blues, with some sedate purples just screams BORING!
 Speaking of color. I'm so confused by what the colorist was going for on this cover. Maybe I just don't get it. If somebody knows, feel free to tell me.
 And here's a case of tonal problems. The ax murder's (I assume he's a murder. Maybe he just hates this guy's strawberry jam collection) legs get lost against the background. Also, just a thought, having the wood floor slats going in perspective towards our hero is just one of those design things that are subtile but works.
 This cover is a case for a bit less is more. Just too much detail going on here. Compounded by the fact that the coloring is so dark. It starts to turn to mush. Not giving the reader's eye a starting place, or a break from everything going on here. All those clouds in the BG aren't THAT important. Take a page from Toth/Mignola and simplify some stuff in order to make other elements stand out.
 One of the main beefs I have with DC comics is color palettes some of their colorists insist on using. Weird blue-greens, purples, boring skin tones just don't seem real to me. I sometimes wonder if there is some kind of medical condition, like being color blind that effects some of these colorists that tricks them into thinking this style of coloring is great. It's one of the main reasons I taught myself to color my own stuff.
Wow! My brain just exploded!!!! If the title "Things to come" is telling me anything, it's that the interior pages that are to come will be awful. And filled with a guy rocking a sweet Ape-drape!

If I talked about your cover in this section and you're really angry about what I said. Just know it wasn't personal. I'm sure you're a fine person unlike myself. A sad, sad little man with a tiny dick.