The making of a comic book cover

To launch my new website and blog, I’ll be posting a few articles exploring my design process. Let me know if you’d like to see more of this kind of thing!

In the image above you can see the technique and creative process I used to construct one of my covers for IDW’s Transformers: All Hail Megatron.

I started with a basic sketch to put what was in my head on paper. [spoilers] This issue (AHM#9) featured the return of Autobot leader Optimus Prime, so I wanted something that would depict the return of the heroic leader. One of the overriding themes of All Hail Megatron was the concept of leadership; both different styles of leading and characters’ reactions to lack of, failure of, or objectionable leadership. To hint at this I used a propaganda style on many of the covers.

You can see this kind of defiant hero pose in these WWII propaganda posters:


Once I had the concept down on paper I began constructing the basic shapes of Optimus Prime in Adobe Illustrator. You can see that his stance and details evolved from the sketch.

Once I had the basic shapes and silhouette I pasted it into Photoshop and added the basic lighting and more detail. I reworked some of the shapes to better suit the composition of the page. One of the ideas I was keen to use was to have Prime blocking part of the title of the comic “All Hail Megatron” - an act of defiance against Megatron. (A second title was ultimately added in editing to make sure the comic’s title was clearly legible.)

The final step was to apply shading and textures which were sourced from scans of spray paint textures. I wanted the rough texture because it was closer to the style of many of the mid-century posters which were often airbrushed. You can get a sense of the texture in the detail shown below:

I made a late decision to turn his head to face away from the viewer because I felt he appeared stronger this way. Each artist has a different approach to drawing the characters. To illustrate my version of Optimus Prime I referenced Primes drawn by regular Transformers artists E.J Su and Guido Guidi but stylized the features and proportions to suit the style of the cover.

This cover for All Hail Megatron #9 was included in Comic Book Resources (CBR’s) 50 best covers of 2009