This spring, the House of Ideas will become a Zoo of Ideas…. literally. Beginning in February, the New York-based comic publisher will be publishing many of its ongoing series with special variant covers featuring its popular characters anthromorphized into various animals. We’re not talking Spider-Ham or the time Loki changed Thor into a frog, but a near complete transformation of the Marvel heroes into a plethora of animals for this unique series of themed variant covers. According to Marvel Senior Editor Steve Wacker, it all started thanks to some babies. Let him explain.
“Skottie Young (along with his cover editor George Beliard) did the outstanding and uber-popular Marvel Young covers last year and got a massive reaction, so we had strong evidence that readers were responding to these big cover initiatives,” says Wacker, who organized these animal variants. “Animals just seemed like a good next step, so I pitched it in a meeting and it took off thanks to nothing better being suggested (Thanks, Tom Brevoort!). Next thing I knew I had a bunch of extra work…”
When it came time to doling out the cover assignments and figuring out the animals to draw, Wacker said in all “but a couple cases” he left the animal choices up to the artist.
“The most difficult part of that is reminding all comics artists that they can’t just draw cats,” said Wacker, who owns a dog named Krypto Charlie,” since apparently everyone in comics but me is a huge cat fan.”
One of the first covers revealed was Daredevil artist Chris Samnee’s variant cover for the upcoming Daredevil #1 featuring the Man without Fear as a Mouse without Fear despite standing in a bed of mousetraps. Samnee said the decision to depict Matt Murdock as a mouse was his idea, and he and Wacker batted around several ideas before settling on the scene in question.
“Mark suggested a radar-sense landscape and I even tooled around with the idea of having mouse versions of Foggy and Kirsten on there,” says the artist. “In the end though a shot of li'l mouse Daredevil in peril, much like his human counterpart finds himself in on the bulk of my covers, won out. “
Initially Samnee was only slotted to do just this one cute animal variant cover, but after finding the experience so enjoyable Samnee petitioned Wacker for a chance asked if he could do more. The Senior Editor sent him a list of potential titles needing variant covers, and Samnee asked – and was given – the chance to do them all. The Missouri-based artist did nine animal variant covers in total, from the aforementioned Daredevil but also Silver Surfer, All-New X-Men, Savage Wolverine, Avengers World, Guardians of the Galaxy, New Warriors, Indestructible Hulk and The Punisher.
Before coming to Marvel Samnee worked in a variety of comic styles and genres, but with his recent work he’s known to most exclusively for his superhero work .Given how enthusiastically and creatively he took to this unique variant cover theme, Newsarama asked if he’d be up to do more – and Samnee surprised us.
“I almost feel like this is my niche, y'know?” Samnee reveals. “Superhero comics are my bread and butter but if that work all but dried up I could easily see myself being happy drawing this sort funny animal stuff for a good, long while. And seeing as how this style is really just a slightly tighter version of how I tend to draw for my wife and daughters it just feels really natural. It also tends to be a nice palette cleanser in between some of the heavier, moodier scenes I'm drawing in Daredevil these days.”
At current count there are 33 animal variant covers planned for Marvel comics in the next few months, with Marvel stalwarts Samnee, Mike Del Mundo, Paco Medina and Humberto Ramos being joined by new faces like Mouse Guard artist David Petersen, Katie Cook and noted cat painter Jenny Parks.
“Steve actually found me (somehow) in the sea of people that is Comic-Con International: San Diego,” said Parks, who did variants for Superior Spider-Man, Thor God Of Thunder and Wolverine & The X-Men. “I had a booth there selling prints of my work, which includes a poster of the Avengers, Spider-Man, and other superheroes as cats. He came up to me, introduced himself, and asked if I'd be interested in doing some variant covers for Marvel. I was completely stunned, but I'm pretty sure there was no hesitation when I said ‘Absolutely!’ I love the idea of the animal variants, and it has been a joy working on them. I also enjoy seeing what the other artists have been coming up with. They're all amazing!”
Katie Cook has done work for Marvel in the past, but as of late she’s been busy writing and drawing various My Little Pony comics for IDW. Of the eight variants she did this unique themed event for Marvel, the Deadpool cover stands out as her favorite.
“They've been SO MUCH FUN to draw,” explains Cook. “I've been stuck in My Little Pony writing mode for so long, it's nice to draw something that's so kooky and fun. Totally up my alley!”
Wacker says of all of the animal variant covers he commissioned for this stream of variant covers, it’s Cook’s variant for the upcoming Moon Knight series that caught him by surprise the most.
“Katie Cook’s hippo Moon Knight is beyond hysterical and betrays everything that Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire are doing on the book,” Wacker says. “You’ll be begging for more Hippo Moon Knight! I promise.”
You’d think with nearly three dozen covers done that it wouldn’t scratched Wacker’s itch for superhero/animal mash-ups, but he said there is one he didn’t get to do.
“I really wanted Shark Waid,” states the editor,” but it remains a dream unrealized.”