Avengers: The Initiative #20, final cover
When Marvel released their previously-held-back solicitations for the Dark Reign event,
one of the newly revealed covers featured a striking image of Janet Van
Dyne sitting with an emotional Hank Pym curled up on her lap.
SPOILER WARNING FOR SECRET INVASION
The image reflects the status of the two heroes at the end of Secret Invasion, as Wasp was killed in the battle while Hank Pym was returned to earth after being replaced temporarily on earth by a Skrull.
In other words, it's not a good time to be Hank Pym.
Drawn and colored by Mark Brooks, the Wasp/Yellow Jacket cover will appear on Avengers: The Initiative #20, which is scheduled to go on sale on January 2nd and is co-written by Dan Slott and Christos Gage with pencils by Steve Kurth.
While Brooks is the current penciler on the soon-to-end Ultimate X-Men,
Marvel fans are aware that he's also a frequent cover artist for the
publisher as well. Newsarama talked to Brooks about the process for
developing his cover images, how he approached this cover in
particular, and what wrestling has to do with it.
Newsarama: There are many striking covers every month, but this
one really stuck out as capturing the emotion of Janet's death. When
did you find out about that cover, and did you know right away what the
subject matter was going to be?
Mark Brooks: Yeah. I knew about it awhile ago. They didn't know
right away that the covers were going to be held back from
solicitations. So all those covers you saw with the new January and
February solicitations were all finished for those solicitations when
they were supposed to appear. Then I think they held the covers back
because they could contain potential spoilers. And mine, in particular
NRAMA: So you found out that Wasp was going to be dying? And that was the genesis of this cover?
MB: I did find out, although I wasn't sure of the details. I'm
in the habit at Marvel of not asking too many questions. I'm a big
Marvel reader. I read so many Marvel books that if I ask too much, then
my books aren't as interesting anymore.
NRAMA: Can you walk us through the process for doing covers? And this cover in particular?
MB: Well, most books where I'm doing the cover, I'll get the
synopsis of what the story's about, and I'll sit down and think of some
ideas. But with Dan Slott, he's really good about giving a lot of ideas
about what he'd like. Now, he's not the kind of guy who is married to
whatever he says. It's not like, "draw this exactly as I say!" He just
comes up with some ideas that he thinks are cool and I kind of run with
it. Sometimes I'll stick very closely to what his idea was, but
sometimes I'll just take chords from his idea and combine it with my
But with this one, he'd said that he would like Wasp sitting on the
cover somewhere looking vacant, and Yellow Jacket curled up in her lap.
Very visual. But that's really all he said. And I decided that this
should be a very straight-forward, stoic kind of image. I decided to
leave it without a background, because I thought this should just have
the white background so you really focus on just the characters.
NRAMA: The image is very emotional, but Wasp is wearing no emotion. Is there a reason for that?
MB: Yeah, she's supposed to look vacant. You'll have to read the
issue to see why. There's a reason Hank looks so much more miserable
and she looks like she's just kind of there.
NRAMA: So it's more than just a visual representation of her being dead?
MB: Right. There's a point to it.
NRAMA: You provided us the images showing the stages of how you
developed this cover. Can you walk us through these images and tell us
what they are?
MB: Sure. Normally, I'll just start off with a preliminary
design. It's usually just a sketch so that I can see the layout. I did
start out with a preliminary design for this. It's pretty basic. It's
just to get an idea of the positioning of the figures and things like
that. I really wasn't focusing on getting their faces exactly right. I
just wanted to make sure I had the design right. That's the stage that
I shoot over to Marvel for approval. I sent that over, and Marvel
Brooks' preliminary cover for Initiative #20, based on Slott's description
After that was the photo reference, and I know a lot of comics fans are
also wrestling fans, so this is kind of interesting. There's a couple
who lives across the street from us that my wife and I have become
friends with. It wasn't until the third time we hung out that I found
out she was one of the Nitro Girls. She's a mom now, and her and her
husband are friends with us. She kind of has that Wasp look, with dark
hair and dark eyes. So I asked her if she would mind sitting in as the
Wasp for some reference photos, just so I could get the facial shot. So
she did. And she was actually kind of geeked to pose for the cover. So
she sat in for me. And I even had her husband curl up in her lap, just
so I could get placement correct.
Photo reference Brooks used, featuring Melissa Peterson, aka WCE Nitro Girl Spice, and her husband Jim
From there, I tightened up the preliminary image, and that was
basically the pencils. And I took that right to ink and then to colors.
So the interesting fact about that cover is that Spice from the Nitro
Girls was the reference for Wasp.
Brooks' pencils for the cover
Brooks' inked pencils for the cover
NRAMA: When you know that you're going to be the one coloring
your own image, do you pencil it differently? Is it a little bit
MB: Oh, it's a totally different approach. If I know I'm color,
I can leave a lot of stuff out in the inks that I know I'm going to be
adding in the colors. I know what I want when I'm working with another
inker or a colorist, so I'm a little more detailed because I want to
make sure they know what I mean. But when I color myself, I can leave
things out because I know that I can add them later.
NRAMA: This has a fairly simple color scheme. Was that also on purpose?
MB: Yeah. I knew what costumes they wanted for the two
characters. It's the same costume she wore in Secret Invasion and the
one she'll have on in the issue. So I wanted to make sure there was
continuity there. But I also like the whole black and yellow thing that
the two of them have. So I think it makes it a much more striking
cover. If you start adding different colors to it and things like that,
it can become too complicated to the eye. I wanted it to be very
simple. I wanted the only reds in the entire piece to be their flesh
tones. I think it really draws your eye up to her face.
NRAMA: We know you've got a few more issues of Ultimate X-Men on your horizon, right? To finish up, is there anything else you want to tell your fans about your upcoming projects?
MB: I'm working on Ultimate X-Men #100 right now. It's
the big 100th issue, so that's a lot of fun because there's a few extra
pages. It's a really cool issue; you'll see. It's the final issue of
the series, before Ultimate X-Men ends. As much fun as it is to
be there at the beginning of a series, I have to say that I love ending
a series. I think it's fun because you get to tie up all the loose ends
and get to touch on a lot of cool plot points. And I've never gotten to
work on a 100th issue before, so that's really cool.
After that, we'll have to wait to see.
Marvel's Dark Reign Coverage