Cover Me

I dig comics. Lately, I’ve been looking at my collection and what’s coming down the pike and I’ve noticed a trend in covers.

Comic book covers are one of the most important factors in selling a book. Creators and companies want the cover to capture the imagination and generate interest. It can be quirky or action oriented… simple or complicated. However, above all it has to have a hook.

My problem with a couple of recent covers I’ve seen on the internets is the cover doesn’t invoke a response of wanting to buy the book. For example, the Marvel Comics produced Three Musketeers comic clearly is aping images of Robert Plant and Jimmy Page circa Led Zepplin 1969, Lemmy from Motorhead minus the hideous wart on his face (although I will concede it may be John Bonham) and possibly a modified John Paul Jones front and center.

Why does the artist clearly pull the image from such well-known figures in music history? He didn’t just use the images as photo reference the way Alex Ross uses photo references. It’s a great example of the “art of swiping.”

My question is… does this sell the comic?

Lately, swiping is getting a lot of comic book artists in trouble. JG Jones recently did a cover for Wizard magazine which was clearly a swipe from professional wrestlers photos. I don’t even watch professional wrestling anymore and I’m barely acquainted with the superstars of today, but Superman was clearly John Cena. Others did more detective work and found the Batman reference and I’m not sure if the Wonder Woman reference was ever found.

Greg Land is another example of an artist who clearly uses light boarding techniques for his figures. He uses photos more as a reference than other artists, but I know he’s been caught swiping plenty of times. At least Alex Ross takes his own pictures for his references and isn’t lightboarding so much as painting his own personal photo references. Norman McKay from Kingdom Come was “played” by his father. I actually saw Ross’ father at a convention and he is Norman McKay. There was zero changing of the “model.”

It makes me appreciate the talents of artists I do admire who have a style all their own. Comic book pencillers such as Mike Grell, Jim Lee, Michael Turner, George Perez and others.