When I browse the shelves of a comic book store, looking for something new and different to read, I scan them fast. My eyes only stop moving when they hit a cover so beautifully illustrated that I just have to grab the book and look inside. I’m not talking about any kind of beautiful; what leaps off the shelf at me is the kind of atmospheric artwork that looks like traditional painting. When I see that, I immediately flip the book open. And, 9 times out of 10, my heart sinks. Because what’s inside isn’t more pages of that fully-painted art. Instead, it’s the conventional inked lines we’re used to. Great work, often rendered beautifully by very talented artists. But it’s not like the painting on the cover.
There have been exceptions: Early Dave McKean (Violent Cases, Arkham Asylum). Some of Simon Bisley’s work. The stunning Spawn: Architects of Fear (artwork by Aleksei Briclot). But aside from these few, it’s hard to think of examples of books where the actual pages live up to the promise of that gorgeously rendered cover art. So that became my goal: To make a graphic novel that grabs you with the cover, then matches - or surpasses - that quality of artwork with every one of its 124 pages.
At some point, as I laboured like a madman, I began to realise why there are so few fully-painted graphic novels; they take forever to do! The average comic book artist can pencil 1 or 2 pages of high quality art per day, which they usually hand off to an inker to complete. Depending on the complexity of the pages, painting can take much, much longer. So if you ever decide to make a graphic novel, and are tempted to render every page in that same lavish, painterly cover-art style…My advice is ‘Don’t’. Be kind to yourself and pencil it instead.
But, since I went ahead and tried to make each page as visually appealing as the cover, maybe you can tell me: Have I succeeded…?