Captain America #1 Cover (Variant). 2012.
Ink(ed by Joe Rivera) on Marvel board, 11 × 17.25″.
I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! I'm just now getting back from a week in St. Louis, which was preceded by a couple weeks in London, Dublin, and Leeds. Now it's time to get back to work, but I wanted to feature a cover that was released while I was abroad.
My editors wanted something resembling an old-school propaganda poster, which meant a little more Photoshopping than usual. These inks are by my Dad, Joe Rivera, but the only pure black that shows up in the final is in the border. The inks are still an important step, however, since the crisp delineation facilitates the selection process. It took extra time to remove some of the outlines, but the style just didn't look right without flat color.
Since we do the pencils and inks separately, I tried to save him some time by doing technical elements — borders, lettering, stars, etc. — all in Photoshop. The image above is what he printed out and inked over. I added the title because it didn't feel complete without it, but that's something that Marvel always does in-house. I just swiped the logo from the reference they sent.
As you can see in the penciled version, the shells colliding with Cap's shield were originally much smaller. At first, I had intended to have the onslaught include parts of the German war machine, which would smash and crumble into oblivion. But while they liked this idea, my editors also wanted it to be the modern version of Cap, who happened to be debuting in this issue, a new #1 that's part of a line-wide relaunch called Marvel Now.
I got hung up on the anachronism of a modern Cap fighting WWII-era Germany and was at a loss for brief spell. Fortunately for me, my editor, Tom Brevoort, suggested the shells-as-metaphor solution which worked perfectly for the tone of the piece (and was a lot easier to draw). Pictured above is the digital composite that I penciled over, complete with perspective grid.
This year, I started expanding the digital canvas of my cover files to include room for inspiration. Previously, each project warranted a folder on my desktop filled with random jpegs of reference that had to be opened individually. Now, each layout file contains all the images I need, each on its own layer, and grouped into a folder that can be easily hidden. Most of the posters above were found on-line, while the Cap art and style guides (by John Romita, Jr. and John Cassaday) were provided by Marvel.
Finally, just a quick note on digital coloring: I have an assistant who "flats" the artwork, meaning all the major shapes are separated into different colors, making them easy to be selected. Once I receive this prepped file, I go through each shape, playing with the color until I strike some kind of harmony. Having established characters like Captain America make some of the choices pretty easy, but subtle shifts can make a world of difference. I find that much of my decision making takes place with the white objects in a composition. Once those are established, everything else seems to fall into place.
The finishing touch is a filter over the entire image that adds "color noise" to the flat hues. It's one of the simplest filters (Filter Gallery: Texture: Grain) but I find that it activates the color in the same way that I would layer pigments with real paint.