A Guest Post by Philipp Lenssen – www.coverbrowser.com/design
7 Designs From the World of Comic Books
Here are some interesting covers from the wild world of comic book art which may inspire design ideas!
This is a cover from the species “painted covers.” Far from being extinct, this species grows more and more popular on the US comic book market. Typically, the interior of the comic book will be drawn by someone else, and the cover is more lavish just to attract readers. This particular cover from the series Battle of the Planets is done by Alex Ross, who also created the poster to the 2002 Academy Awards ceremony. Alex Ross, who uses actors and photos to achieve some of his realistic work, is not loved by everyone; master storyteller & artist Alex Toth once called him an “idiot savant,” saying the art of those working too close from photographs is “lifeless.”
Batman: Black and White was an anthology showcasing different artists drawing short stories. The cover, by Alex Toth — who we got to meet above — is ultra simplistic. From an overflow of colors to shades of gray.
Many comic book heroes grow more mature over time. The cover designs often go along with them. Some people welcome these changes, while others believe that some of the silliness and fun that appeals to kids is lost. The above one is from a series called Decalogue which ran in the Daredevil books,
written by none less than Kevin Smith of Clerks fame written by Brian Bendis.
This is one of the many covers of the series Tintin, hugely popular in Europe and other parts of the world. Artist Hergé from Belgium was a storyteller whose artwork was highly detailed but always serving to get the story across. His style is called ligne claire, or “clean line”, because there is not a lot of cross-hatching or other elements to add shade and volume to the pictures. But notice above how the characters are simple, but the background and scenery is far more detailed. Comic book scholar Scott McCloud in his groundbreaking analysis Understanding Comics argues that simpler character designs help the reader with identification; the complex background, on the other hand, represents the often dangerous and mystic outer world. Ever wondered why kids get so easily hypnotized by the TV when there’s a cartoon showing? This may be part of the reason.
This stylized action cover by Hiroaki Samura is from Blade of the Immortal. We roughly associate art work like this with the Japanese Manga style. But Manga art, while sharing common traits, comes in different flavors. One of these flavors is the so-called “superdeformed” style of drawings, with extra-cute characters having unproportionally large heads, with smaller bodies. What’s interesting to note is that while these figures may be more unrealistic by an objective definition, they may (as with ligne claire style, discussed above) help identification as they may be closer to the representation of “self” which the psyche creates: in our self-concept, we have a disproportionally stronger focus on the head, the hands, and the feet.
Artist Dave McKean, who illustrated the cover to The Dreaming as shown above, combines painted elements with photographs into dream-like collage works. He is often shown on covers of the Vertigo imprint of publisher DC (who otherwise also publishes more mainstream titles like Batman).
This comic book shipped in vastly oversized, thick paper format. Schizo by artist Ivan Brunetti is the half-joking, half-serious and always nihilist autobiographical account of a man fed up with live and his own unimportance. Every line of his retro, highly abstract drawings works as cartoon as well as ironic reflection on cartoons. Alternative publisher Fantagraphics, who has this title in their array, is the number one publisher if you want to not just entertain, but also enlighten yourself by digesting comic books.
To see all kinds of different covers, you can also visit www.CoverBrowser.com, where I’ve put up over 100,000 covers of all kinds so far. There’s everything from trash to pulp to cheesiness, from comic books to magazine and book covers, and hopefully there are a couple of inspirational gems for you as well!