One of the highlights of the January solicitations is the first issue of Scalped, the new Vertigo crime drama by Jason Aaron (The Other Side) and R.M. Guéra (Heavy Metal), with covers by one of my favorite artists, Jock.
Best known for his collaboration with writer Andy Diggle on Vertigo’s The Losers, Jock is an Eisner Award-nominated cover artist whose vibrant illustrations have fronted that series, as well as Batman, Nightwing, Catwoman, Detective Comics, Rush City and others.
His upcoming projects include Faker with Mike Carey, and Green Arrow: Year One with Diggle.
Scalped #1 is one of my favorite Jock covers to date. It’s not as dynamic as his work on Rush City, or as “designerly” as some of his work on The Losers. But it exudes attitude and quickly establishes the mood and setting for the story. It’s stunning.
Being a process junkie, I asked Jock to walks us through the creation of the cover, from concept to final product. Here’s what he had to say about Scalped #1:
Jock: Time was of the essence with this image: We already had a promo piece produced for the official announcement at Wizard World Chicago, and there was the chance of that image being used on the cover of Issue 1 if it was strong enough.
However, we all felt something better was needed so I turned in some new sketches as quickly as possible.
The second was a strong design, but too incidental. It gave no sense of the feel of the series: a crime/gangster story set on a Native American reservation.
The third worked okay, too — I liked the strong up-shot of the lead character, and the bottom space allowed for whatever elements we needed to see to suggest the story well.
All three were given a preliminary nod from Karen Berger, the executive editor of Vertigo, so it was time to thrash out the details and hone in on particular elements with my editor, Will Dennis.
We both favoured idea #2 for its bold design. I love strong, simple designs, and this often leads to me heavily shadowing figures to bring strong slabs of black to play around with, as I’ve done here. But there was a danger of losing the character if we went too far in that direction. I tried to resolve this by adding other elements into the backgrounds …
Right back when I first started coming up with sketches for Scalped, I bought a huge reference book on Native American culture … to get ideas for iconic elements that we could use on the covers. Among objects that came to mind were things like headdresses and tomahawks. Will suggested a headdress on Dash, which was the perfect idea. Even though the character doesn’t wear one in the issue, it puts across a very strong and bold sense of the series. With this in mind I removed the existing background “wallpaper” elements and gave dash a huge headdress.
I drew up the black and white version:
A couple of stages from along the way:
A nearly finished version had a sepia/sand colour background, but it was decided the harsher white would help the image pop.
Footnote: I also designed the logo for Scalped. Here’s a few dry runs and then final logo, roughly placed on the solicitation art: