Much of the Marvel NOW! covers have a distinctly iconic bend: John Romita Jr. drawing a heroic Captain America; Mark Bagley taking on the Fantastic Four.The X-Men Legacy covers by Mike Del Mundo employ a much different tactic, opting for a more surreal, conceptual message than conventional superheroics — seemingly a direction right in line with what writer Simon Spurrier and interior artist Tan Eng Huat have planned for the series, which stars Professor Xavier's super-powerful son Legion. Newsarama talked with Del Mundo and series editor Daniel Ketchum about the distinctive X-Men Legacy covers, plus gained some insight on what the attention-getting images might mean for the inside of the book, and what else Del Mundo (who has recently illustrated interior pages for Uncanny X-Men) is currently working on. Newsarama: Mike, your covers for X-Men Legacy are clearly very distinct for a superhero book, and seemingly quite specific to the story. As a cover artist, how much insight do you typically have into stories? Are you looking at full scripts, or more of a general story outline?
Mike Del Mundo: It’s been a balance of both. That being said, whether it’s a detailed script or a basic outline, I get enough insight into what’s happening in each issue to help conceptualize the story for each cover. It's become somewhat of an instinct.
Nrama: That said, since we still don't know a whole lot about the story of X-Men Legacy at this point, how much is the tone and general "feel" of your covers inspired by the book itself, and how much is your own inspiration? Is there a balance there, however slight it might be?
Del Mundo: All the covers at this point, definitely involve the basic plot of the issue. One of the continuing themes of the book focuses on Legion’s character and the battle with his insanity.
I figured I'd make it a point to make the tone of the covers reflect that madness.Nrama: Daniel, obviously the X-Men Legacy covers are a bit more conceptual than typical superhero comic imagery — which sort of calls to mind the Bill Sienkiewicz art from Legion's first appearances. How closely does this reflect the actual content of the series? And is it a case where more distinct covers aren't only possible — Marvel probably would want a more standard look for say, Avengers — but also a strategic move, to help a book like Legacy stand out a bit more?
Daniel Ketchum: While the phrase "You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover" is often true, it doesn’t stop comic book readers and retailers from doing exactly that! The cover is arguably the most crucial tool in an editor's arsenal for representing and generating interest in any given issue.
We're hoping that taking this particular direction with the X-Men Legacy covers accomplishes that. The covers certainly reflect the content: the story told in Simon Spurrier's X-Men Legacy weaves in and out of Legion's mind — Legion, himself, plagued by a horde of monstrous personalities in his psyche — giving us license to play with some really fun, abstract imagery on the covers. And, as you've noted, this has the coincidental byproduct of setting this book apart from most other books on the shelf.Nrama: I talked to series writer Simon Spurrier a bit ago, and one thing we remarked on was how fun and classic the character design of Legion is. How fun is it for you to illustrate him, and his signature Eraserhead-esque hairdo?
Del Mundo: I relate to the 90's heavily, so it’s good to see a character that reflects that era and is still relevant. Reminds me of a mutant Kid 'n Play. I just have to make sure I keep his hair in check, for the composition but, yeah, it’s definitely fun and an added quirkiness to this insane book.
Nrama: The cover to #1 is definitely attention-getting, with Legion's face comprised of a pastiche of several different X-Men characters through the era. What can you share about how that cover came together?
Del Mundo: Well, it all started with a phone call from editor Daniel Ketchum. Basically, to make a long story short, he gave me the go ahead to go wild and off-kilter on these covers. I have to give credit to my brainstorm engineer Marco D’Alfonso who is also an amazing illustrator. I’ll usually come up with a general idea and we’ll bounce ideas back and forth until something great comes out of it.With this cover, I came up with an idea of using different paint style techniques (halftones, hatching, watercolor, cell shading etc) to separate different parts of his face and then it evolved into Marco’s idea of separating the faces with different tears of past popular X-titles which already displayed that range of rendering styles. Makes for an awesome homage to the greats too!!
Nrama: Daniel, for an editor, what can you share about the process of picking a cover artist (if it's not going to be the interior artist)? To that end, what made Mike the right choice for X-Men Legacy?
Ketchum: Covers can be like blank checks to an editor: Here’s an opportunity to create a cool, stand-alone piece of art with a terrific artist of your choice, and it doesn't have to abide by the same rules that govern a book's interiors.
I tend to think the best covers are those where the marriage of a cover artist and a concept is better than the sum of the parts. In the case of X-Men Legacy, I knew that I wanted to use the liberties a cover affords and go a little bit outside of the box: this new iteration of the title is not as traditional of a superhero book as its predecessors, and I wanted to represent that on the covers. It just so happened that Mike Del Mundo was working with me on a cover for Untold Tales of Punisher MAX #5 at the time I was looking to cast on X-Men Legacy, and the cover he delivered on my very rough brief really hit the nail on the head. And he’s done that every single time with these X-Men Legacy covers. I think not being confined by the rules that have come to define super hero comic book covers has really allowed Mike's strengths to shine and create some imaginative works of art. Truth be told, most of my job right now is just letting Mike do his thing and turn in some rockin' covers… which I'd like to think means I did my job as an editor right when I hired him!
Nrama: Mike, along with your cover work, you've also been working on interior art, including a recent issue of Uncanny X-Men. Are you looking to move more towards that direction in your career, or are you still primarily focused on covers? Or are you basically looking at doing what you can in both respects at this point?
Del Mundo: I definitely want to dabble in both! Let me at 'em! Interiors and covers, involve storytelling, which leads me to loving them equally. I do have to say, covers allow me more freedom to try different techniques, whether it’s a simple design or a fully painted piece. I’m still treading through those muddy waters with interiors but eventually I’ll find a way to add those elements cohesively to tell the story. That being said, I’m having a ball with these A Plus X interiors!
Nrama: You're always busy and you've done a lot of stuff for Marvel lately — what else are you working on currently?
Del Mundo: At the moment? I’m working on designs for Hasbro, album work for producer Marco Polo and I just finished up some artwork for Ghostface Killah (Wu-Tang Clan). Other then that, Marvel's been treating me well, so I’ve been pretty busy with that comic ish.More from Newsarama:
- Fatal Events: 10 Comic Book Crossover Character Deaths
- Spurrier NOW Juggles LEGION of Personalities in X-MEN LEGACY
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