A couple people asked me about the original art for my G.I.Joe Special Missions #3 cover. So I thought I’d post some process pics.
The Untold Tales series of covers I’ve done for G.I.Joe Special Missions have been inspired by popular comics genres of the past. Issue one was romance:
Issue two was crime (note the Charles Biro-style signature):
For the third issue, I wanted to try something sci-fi/horror related. I’m a big fan of Ogden Whitney (learn more about him on ComicsComics). He did a lot of work for American Comics Group in the 50s and 60s. His mature style was very clean and a little stiff and generic. It’s reminiscent of clip art. This style worked great in a variety of genre stories. Besides Herbie and a bunch of great romance stories, he did a lot of work on ACG’s sci-fi/horror titles like Forbidden Worlds and Journey Into the Unknown. These comics, combined with Whitney’s clean, restrained style were much different in tone than horror comics like EC-published or even the monster stories of pre-superhero Marvel. They were a little more like twilight zone.
I thought combining G.I.Joe figures with G.I.Joe cartoon characters could create an uncanny sensation. I wasn’t aware of any previous G.I.Joe comics that incorporated the toys in a literal way so that aspect of the idea also appealed to me.
After pitching the concept, I did a couple of sketches:
I’ve become more interested in comic book grids in the last few years. I drew this cover around the same time as the Vanilla Ice pinup I made for Ed Piskor’s Hip Hop Family Tree. And I like the idea of the 9 panel grid as a design element.
After some editorial feedback, I add titles and crop the chosen sketch to fit the cover trim:
I can’t find any pencils for this cover…I guess I went from sketch approval to line art/black-and-white. One of the challenges of this step was choosing which figures to use. This was part of creating the color composition and also trying to pick iconic figures. My friend has a bunch of G.I.Joe figures, so I went through them and laid out different combinations. I was disappointed not to use Wild Bill in the final version. That figure looks nuts.
So here is the original art scan. One of the best parts of working on these covers was that the editor, John Barber, allowed me to hand-letter them.
After approval of the line art, I added color, which I think has become a more important part of comics illustration than it used to be - in the sense that it’s what people see first (especially if its viewed as a thumbnail online) and it can absolutely ruin a good drawing or make average artwork look much better. The blue header block is a nod to Ace Double Sci-Fi paperback design.
If you’re into original art, my first G.I.Joe Special Missions cover is currently on auction on comiclink. There’s a large scan of it here (if you’re not into original comic art, but your friend is, please pass along this link).