One particularly insightful panel of Supanova Sydney 2013 was the “Cover Quality And More” seminar. Led by Mark Brookes (Amazing Spider-Man, Ultimate Spider-Man, Ultimate X-Men), David Yardin (X-Factor, Uncanny X-Men, Storm) and Jon Sommariva (Ozmosis Chills, Go Boy 7, Gemini, Free Realms), the gathering focused on the art of designing a comic book cover along with other aspects of illustrating comics.
A theme throughout the panel was that doing a cover is ideally one of the more enjoyable parts of illustrating a comic. The deadlines tend to be easier, there’s less of a work load and they always catch the viewer’s eye. As a result, Marvel tend to reward their artists by allowing them to design the covers as an incentive. There is a different way to draw a cover in comparison to drawing a story. Another important topic was drawing comics digitally. While Yardin said he prefers to do it the old fashioned way, Brooks stated he prefers to do so digitally. With this decision, Brooks gave an example to why he feels this way, stating if a hand is drawn perfectly but an arm is too short, on paper it’ll all have to be scratched. But in photoshop he can always use the laso tool to move the hand and then redo the arm.
Possibly the most important subject was Inkers in the comic industry, as they all felt an inker could make or break a comic’s artwork. Brooks may of put it best when he said “It’s amazing how many inkers make me look like a genius and it’s amazing how many make me look like a 2 year old…..I have a high respect for inkers but I want to murder half of them!” All three agreed that many people don’t understand the concept of inking enough, and it’s not fair to call an inker a tracer as it’s an art within itself. Sommariva described it as the pencilers and inkers are making a cake but the colorist puts the icing on the cake. He also said sometimes the icing can really suck but that was another conversation for another day.
Yardin reflected on a recent issue he did of Injustice: Gods Among Us (based on the hit video game) where he felt the Ink didn’t mesh well with the art and took a lot away from the story. He admitted the inker was found last minute and there was a clash of styles, but he was grateful it was released digitally before print as it gave him time to fix it. A strong emphasis was placed on the fact that a subtle line being simply a millimetre over can change the entire dynamic of an image. The value of an inker has declined as well, possibly due to budget cuts. It’s so bad these days that some pencilers will even just ink the art themselves. It’s a tough gig in comics right now. Mark Brooks even went so far as to joke that if an aspiring inker asks if he’d like them to ink his art, he’ll reply “I already got an inker, his name is Levels!” in reference to the “levels” tool in Photoshop.
The session concluded with each one describing their daily routine. Interestingly enough, both Brooks and Sommariva both use a time management technique called the “Pomodoro Method”. It works by working in 30 minute intervals, with a 5 minute break in between each half hour until they’ve worked for 8 hours. These breaks interrupt workflow and gets them more pumped to work as it helps maintain a high concentration level. Sommariva is so dedicated to this method that he has a sheet with tomatos on it (as Pomodoro means tomato in Italian) and crosses one off for every half hour he spends working.
The Cover Quality And More seminar was a very insightful panel. For more of these artist’s work you can check out Mark Brooks on Deviant Art, Jon Sommariva’s Official Website and David Yardin on Deviant Art as well.