Tour of Duty 9 - Painting Sgt. Rock

Tour of Duty 9 - Painting Sgt. Rock

Hello my friends,

In last week’s Hellion For Hire – Tour Of Duty – we focused on how I went about illustrating the covers to Sgt. Rock – The Lost Battalion.

Now let us explore the painting stage of the covers by two incredibly talented individuals utilizing completely different techniques. Thus, let us jump to it while visiting with Mark Sparacio and Hi-Fi Colour Design’s Brian Miller and painting the covers of war.

Sgt. Rock The Lost Battalion Day One Cover

By Billy Tucci and Mark Sparacio

For the cover to Sgt. Rock – The Lost Battalion, Day One editor Mike Marts and I felt we needed a very powerful and bold approach that emphasizes the issues theme “Fire.” We needed to look no further than to the brushes and pallet of my good buddy, (and watercolor-artist extraordinaire) Mark Sparacio.

For over twenty years, Mark’s professional approach to painting is that of the classic illustrators of last century. He painstakingly transfers my original pencils (image 3) to a Strathmore 500 series 3-ply 100 % rag, acid free illustration paper.

Then the maestro gets to work with his Holbein watercolors and Windsor and Newton series 7 paintbrushes (ranging in size from 000 to 5 – depending on the size of the areas and detail needed) to bring my gritty graphite drawing “to life!”

Never one to miss a deadline (which is a badge of honor to him) Mark’s the type of artist who will literally stay awake for a 24 to 48 hours straight until he is satisfied with the final result of his paintings. For the Sgt. Rock announcement at last year’s Baltimore Comic Con, Mark banged out a painting in record time. It was also the image used in the solicitations for Day One but now it is my great pleasure unveil the final product to Newsarama (see image 1)! We rushed Mark on the promo cover for the announcement, and though it’s a great painting, (see image 2) we all felt that Rock wasn’t quite shaggy or “hardcore enough” for the final cover. So the man went back in and putting on his best Joe Kubert hat, transferred the painting into an unbelievable stunner and one that I believe truly captured the essence of our hero!

Now if you look at my original pencils (image 3) and you’ll notice some mistakes I made in regards to Rock’s equipment. Through more and more research on the dogface of WW2, I’ve found out that I mistakenly used the wrong chin-strap couplings, grenade and jacket in the initial illustration. So I had Crusade’s production manager and assistant editor Mike Renzine, do a little Photoshop magic for the final product off of Mark’s painting. Mike erased and touched up the chest pocket -- thus turning the M1943 jacket to a more appropriate M1941 and changed the coupling. He then went in and changed the color of Rock’s shirt and helmet. When I first started the project, I didn’t know the differences in the color of WW2 and post war clothing and equipment, so I gave Mark the wrong reference. We also dirtied his teeth a bit and removed the First Sergeant diamond from his helmet chevrons. Though I’ve found out this past week that Rock was at times portrayed as a 1SG, we’re keeping him in the more traditional role of Master Sergeant for Lost Battalion. So image 1 is the final cover painting that will hit the comic racks the first week of November 2008!

Sgt. Rock The Lost Battalion Day One Cover

By Billy Tucci and Brian Miller

As I stated last week, to me, the best and most memorable images in the history of comic books have graced the covers of Our Army At War, GI Combat and Sgt. Rock. So we’ve got some very big shoes to fill. I also once again exclaimed that Joe Kubert and Russ Heath are my favorite comic artists, so I wanted to pay homage to them with the cover to Day Two (image 4).

Again, each issue works around an element of existence, which then serves as the theme of the book. For Day Two we went with “Rain.” Thus the cover color approach needed to be a bit more somber and reserved overall and that task (and my endless gratitude and annoying notes) was assigned to the wonderfully affable and talented Brian Miller. Digital coloring really exploded onto the comics scene in the early nineties and thankfully, Brian was on the forefront of that “invasion”. As we all can attest, computer coloring can be both a blessing and a curse. In the wrong hands, it can easily be abused with over-rendering and poor pallet choice, but I had nothing to fear as Brian and the Hi-Fi Colour crew are masters of their domain.

Brian approached “Rain” very carefully (and as he admitted, “perhaps too cautiously”) and we had some very nice and detailed discussions on how to go about it. He didn’t want to over-power my original illustration and wanted to capture the solemn attitude of a weary citizen soldier. One of the obvious pluses to painting digitally is that one can simply play with the color hues, saturations and levels. With pen and tablet in hand, Brian indefatigably went through several versions of the cover last weekend, as it was due Monday morning (see images 5 and 6) and finally completed final artwork (Image 7) in time for the ads.

I especially love wisps of chill exuding from Rock’s mouth (which is also my personal affirmation to www.townhall.com’s Daniel Crandall) and the droplet being red – it really adds so much to the final piece as it is the foreboding herald of a coming “rain of ruin” for Easy Company.

This cover will be reflective of Brian’s interior coloring over my pencils. Due to the amount of detail and shading I’m putting in (and thanks to modern technology) we’ll be going straight from my pencils to colors. It’ll give the book a very pure “watercolor” effect.

One last note. Brian Miller’s personal creative motto is “Have no fear of perfection, you'll never reach it," by Salvador Dali. It’s a perfect sentiment for a true warrior artist who’s just right for Sgt. Rock and I cannot wait to share Brian’s interior coloring of the Normandy Invasion with you in a week or two!

Well, I’ve got to get back to the drawing board now, so that’s it for this week’s Hellion For Hire – Tour of Duty! I want to thank both Mark and Brian for working with me on the covers for Sgt. Rock – The Lost Battalion. These illustrators are at the top of their fields and to work with them is a complete joy – this really is a dream project for me, and I cannot be happier!

Next week, I’ll be at the Diamond Retailer summit in Las Vegas. I’ll be signing free Sgt. Rock – The Lost Battalion prints for retailers and will speak at the DC presentation Tuesday evening. I’ll also bring the original art for the first two issues and my photos from Normandy and the Vosges mountains. So hopefully, I’ll see you all retailers there.

Nous Restons Ici!

Billy Tucci

Related articles:

Tour of Duty 8

Tour of Duty 7

Twitter activity