STEP 1: Concept Thumbnails
Before a comic cover can be born, the approved artist has to show some kind of "proof of concept" to the creative team involved with the comic series. When exclusive retailer variants are created, the chosen artist has to run that art by the retailer before it can go to the comic creative team for approval. In the case of Nocterra #1, I only submitted a couple of ideas, which both can be seen here:
Like most thumbnails, my roughs for Nocterra were very simple, loose sketches of what the comic cover could potentially look like. In this case, "Option A" was chosen. I'm glad because that one was my favorite.
STEP 2: PENCILS
With the cover design decided, it's now time to get that pencil moving and draw a full, 11x17 cover on comic art board. Here are a few shots of me trying to get my pencils solid enough to move on to the next step:
|Here is focus on loosely laying out the central figure--Val.|
|Next, I added a foreground framing element (monsters called "shades") as well as some background shade monsters. This step is about overall composition.|
|Finally, I began tweaking the smaller details and re-drew the anatomy of the characters until I felt confident enough in the basic layout to move forward.|
Now, normally I pencil much, much tighter than this. I tend not to leave loose lines or stray markings that the inker will have to interpret with cleaner lines. I even pencil all of the desired hatching and feathering that I'd like to see in the inked art (not to say I don't welcome an inker's additions to form, lighting and weight, but I try to make their job as easy as possible). I've found that penciling tightly helps save the inker some time and helps us give the colorist more time to work his or her magic down the line. However, with this cover, I decided early on that I was going to be a lazy penciler and just ink it myself. So very little pencil details were needed!
Bad decision? Who knows? I'll let YOU be the judge!
STEP 3: INKS
Look. I'm typically not an inker, but for this one, I wanted to throw my hat into the inking ring. Nowadays, inkers use scans of the pencils and print out a version (sometimes called blue-lines) to ink over. That way, there is still an original, untouched pencil version of the cover out there, and the inker can ink over a copy with less pressure of potentially messing up the only original pencils that exist. However, I inked directly over my loose, original pencils for Nocterra. Here are some shots of my inking process:
|I started with the large areas of heavy black...|
|...and worked my way to the mid-ground elements...|
|....and then some background elements.|
|Finally, I started zeroing in on the smaller details that would bring all 3 of those previous planes together.|
|Lastly, I scanned the competed inks and digitally erased any small imperfections like eraser shavings or unintentional ink marks.|
STEP 4: Colors!
Juan Fernandez is a profound and successful colorist for DC, Marvel, Zenoscope, Image and many other companies, but more importantly, he's a cool collaboration partner, and he agreed to color Nocterra's cover early on. I sent him the digital file of the inks and he went to work with the mystical and mysterious process of coloring a comic cover! I've never been a part of that process (other than making a few requests here and there), but I believe there are plenty of videos, tutorials and resources online to see just what goes into the intricate process of digitally painting comics. Here, I'll just show you the finished result of Juan's genius:
|Eric Henson's Nocterra #1 cover art w/colors by Juan Fernandez|
STEP 5: Final Submission
And finally, with colors completed, we sent the cover art back to the publisher & creative team behind the series (in this case, Image Comics), and awaited their approval, disapproval or edits/notes.
The publishing team finalized the cover, made sure the image was formatted correctly for print, artistically placed all of the cover font on the image, and then sent the cover art back to the artist & retailer to see the fruit of all that labor!
STEP 6: The Final Reveal!
And there you have it! The final version of the cover:
|Nocterra #1 (Surprise Comics Variant): Art by Eric Henson w/colors by Juan Fernandez|
Thanks for checking out this behind-the-scenes look at the process! Please check out Nocterra #1 and order a copy of my exclusive variant cover HERE: https://surprisecomics.com/collections/nocterra/products/nocterra-1-surprise-comics-exclusive-cover-by-eric-henson