One thing comics have that books, movies and cartoons don't are those beautiful, well-designed, monthly covers.
Each week, dozens of new, colorful comics line the shelves of stores, their covers serving as both a marketing tool and a showcase for talented artists.
Today, Newsarama kicks off a series we're calling "Cover Story," where we find out more about how these artists put together their monthly masterpieces.
It's only fitting that we start the series by talking with an Eisner award-winning artist: Gabriel Bá. The Brazilian artist has already gotten critical acclaim for his work on The Umbrella Academy and Casanova, and now he's launched a new Vertigo comic with his talented twin brother, Fabio Moon, called Daytripper.
Set in the pair's native Brazil, the comic takes readers on a trip each issue to one day in the life of the main character, an aspiring novelist named Brás. Through an unexpected twist that develops as the comic continues, Daytripper's story speaks volumes about the importance of even the smallest moments in life.
Newsarama talked with Bá about one of the more unique covers coming out in February, Daytripper #3, and why he chose such an unusual design and color palette for the cover.Newsarama: Gabriel, how have you been challenged by doing covers for the Daytripper series?
Bá: I have said before that I don't think I'm a good cover artist. I really struggle with them. Said that, the whole process of getting the right look for the covers of this book took us almost 6 months, but now that 6 of them are ready, looking to the whole thing, I'm really happy to what I've done. It was totally worth all the different versions and all the rejections I got from Vertigo. When you get it too easy, you don't push hard enough and I had to push the hardest to get these covers right.
Nrama: Was it difficult to convey on the covers what's happening in the series, without revealing the twist?
Bá: Well, the "twist" of the series is one of the things that holds every chapter together, but it is just another way that we can point the reader's attention to what we really want to tell on this series. On the covers, I try to put the overall feeling of each issue and elements that better portray each story. The twist, actually, will never feature on the cover image. The cover needs to bring the readers into the book, make them open the comic. The twist will keep them coming back.
Nrama: Do the covers have an ongoing theme behind them that link them visually? Are you going for a certain tone for all of them?
Bá: From the very beginning, I wanted all the covers to work together. If you put all of them side by side, you will be able to tell they are connected. If you see just one of them on the stands, you will know that's a Daytripper cover from afar. The story is very deep and sweet, sometimes intense, others very dark, but ultimately it's quite beautiful. So I needed the covers to be beautiful as well.It's very likely that we'll have Brás on all of them, also to help us point out what stage of his life we're telling on each chapter. That and the fact that he is the main character. People who never read the book need to open it and immediately know he's the man of the story, so having him on the cover helps that on a certain level.
I also have chosen a limited palette of colors and I will work with different combinations of them on each cover, but put together they will work in balance.
Nrama: Let's talk about this cover for Issue #3. What was the initial idea behind the design?
Bá: This issue tells a very heavy story of loss, and that's what I wanted on the cover. Opposed to the two first ones that are very happy and full of colors, because we were still dealing with a word full of possibilities, this cover needed something different. The colors are more intense, stronger, and the images are darker.I try never to include things on the cover that will spoil the story inside of it, so I focused on putting only Brás there, even if we have other characters that play a very significant role in this issue. Nrama: The top of the page feels very different from the bottom. Why was that something you chose to do on this cover?
Bá: One may notice that all the covers have two sets of images. One main one and the other, more on the background, done with washes. This is a kind of formula I came up with so I could have more information on the cover as well as play with shapes, composition and the white space of the image. To be honest, the white space is very important on these covers (maybe on all my covers). It totally helps pointing the eyes of the readers to where I want them to look.
Brás is really confused, lost, his world is upside down. Everything else in his life is a blur; nothing is certain. That is what I'm telling on this cover.
Nrama: Did you sketch it a few times to get the right look? How did it change and evolve as you worked on it?Bá: I did several sketches of different versions of this cover. I liked the image of Brás' empty living room and I wanted to dialogue with images from inside the book, but not just duplicate something Fábio had done. I tried to work with shapes of whit, strong colors and dark ones to create this scene, with his living room and the balcony. It could be a very dramatic image, but not a lot more than that. It was just a "design cover", like some of the ones I did for Casanova. So, I did that already elsewhere and I knew it was kind of a cheat, so I had to try harder. Also, neither Fábio nor the Vertigo people bought my initial ideas for this cover. The key element to get this cover right was the rain. It has a very dramatic function on the story, so I had to use it on the cover. There are few things as cool as a reflection on a puddle of water. Anything looks cool and classy and kind of magic. So once I got that shape on the ground, I nailed the cover. And that was still on a little sketch. Making the bigger version was kind of easy after that. Nrama: Do you ever use references? Did you use any references for this cover?
Bá: I like to use reference on my work because it enriches the artwork. On Daytripper, we have been using a little bit more, since we have been showing real places in Brazil that the foreign public may certainly not know. We need reference on our side on this comic, but the composition is the key on the covers. The reference will only help on the details.So there's an art gallery that appears in the story that actually exists, and I wanted to make it look right, but on the pages Fábio had already transformed it on something cooler that would work better for the story, so I respected both Fábio's choices and the actual place on my image. You don't see much, but it's important to know the world you're drawing, even if you will hide most of it.
Nrama: What medium did you use? Are there any details you can share about how you completed the look of the cover?
Bá: I really wanted these covers to look different from the others I've done. I didn't want it to look like Casanova or Umbrella. Actually, I didn't want them to look like any other comic book cover out there.
My ideas of design, composition and color were the guides to try to achieve something different.I also wanted to play with watercolors, 'cause I thought it would fit the tone of the story. And watercolors are awesome when well done. Unfortunately, I don't master watercolors as well as I needed for the right look I wanted, and the last thing I would do was a badly rendered image because I suck at one technique.
So I work on washes in tones of grey and I apply the color later on the computer.I really like the results I'm getting and the only way of having a better-looking image would be to do it in actual watercolors. One day.
Nrama: What do you think worked well on this cover?Bá: I think it is really striking. The colors are shining. It is very mysterious and I love that. It's a beautiful image and although it doesn't tell what's in the book, it really draws people to wanting to read.
Nrama: Are you happy with the way it turned out?
Bá: I couldn't be happier.
Nrama: Anything else you want to share about the way this cover was put together, or the way it turned out?
Bá: The only other thing worth mentioning is that after this cover, I have to try even harder to make the next ones cooler than this one. It's a great challenge so far.