Yesterday, Newsarama had an exclusive look at the 1-in-50 retail incentive cover of Top Cow’s April-shipping Magdalena #1, showcasing the beautiful, raw pencil work of cover artist Ryan Sook. The incentive cover actually shows an alternate version of the issue’s striking iconic image of Patience, the current Magdalena. The series continues the story of the Magdalena lineage, descendents of Mary Magdalene and Jesus Christ, who have served as the Catholic Church’s monster hunters for centuries.
Blog@ had the chance to talk with Sook, series writer Ron Marz, and legendary artist Walter Simonson, whose classic cover to Thor #337 played an important role in the development of the Magdalena #1 cover.
“The Magdalena story that Ryan and I did for in the First Born: Aftermath issue is one of my favorite jobs ever,” Marz said. “So when we started talking about a cover artist for the Magdalena series, Ryan was the obvious choice. He was the only choice, in fact. His style, his use of shadows and light, is just a perfect fit for what we’re doing with Magdalena visually. I feel really blessed – no pun intended – that Ryan is part of the team.”
Sook signed on to be the regular cover artist for the Magdalena series. But tackling the cover to issue #1 meant coming up with a truly memorable image, one that would be emblematic of the character and series as a whole.
“We wanted an iconic statement for the issue #1 cover, something that really sums up the character in the singular image. Ryan and I got talking about cover imagery, and covers that made an impression on us,” Marz said. “One of my favorite covers ever is Thor #337. In one simple image, it tells you this is not the same old Thor. It’s a stark, single figure against a white background. It hits you right between the eyes from across the room. That’s the same sensibility we wanted with the first Magdalena cover.”
The mention of the Thor #337 cover set Sook on the path that would culminate in him creating the powerful Magdalena image. Sook handled all aspects of the cover, from pencils to inks to color.
“Ron and I were kicking around ideas for just a really dramatic, iconic shot of Patience for issue #1, and he brought up that great Thor cover by Simonson, which is a comic book classic, and a favorite of both Ron and myself,” Sook remembered. “So with that image in mind, I had the thought of Patience sort of emerging from the dark with this burning spear, ready to drop all challengers. I hope we were able to combine the elements of that classic Simonson composition with the elemental characteristics of Magdalena. I hope it draws in readers to see what’s in store with this new series.”
Marz’s reaction to the initial sketches was enthusiastic, to say the least, and Top Cow Publisher Filip Sablik was equally positive. However, once Sook had fully penciled the approved sketch, he decided he could do better. The result was a slightly different pose for Patience, one that Sook felt was more dramatic and successful, which was then inked and colored. The initial pencil piece was salvaged as the incentive sketch cover.
“Filip suggested using it as a variant cover, because we both hated to have Ryan’s exquisite pencils go unseen. It’s also a nice insight into Ryan’s process, which is obviously pretty meticulous,” Marz said.
The finished cover captured has the iconic vibe the writer and artist were looking for. Putting the Thor #337 and Magdalena #1covers next to one another, the homage is not quite as obvious as, say, the often-referenced covers to Action Comics #1, or Fantastic Four #1. But that was never the point.
“The idea was to use what makes Thor #337 such a powerful image, and translate that to what works for Maggie,” Marz said. “Ryan brought the same feel, the same sense of power and sweeping motion. It’s a perfect cover, as far as I’m concerned.”
And what does Simonson himself think of perhaps his most recognized image serving as inspiration for another cover? “I’m very flattered that Ron and Ryan were inspired by my old Thor cover,” he said. “I think what pleases me most about Ryan’s drawing is that he was inspired by the Thor cover without trying to replicate it. He found something personal to do with the inspiration, taking his homage very much in his own direction … which is exactly how I think inspiration ought to work.”
Magdalena #1, published by Top Cow with a creative team of Ron Marz (writer), Nelson Blake II (pencils), Sal Regla (inks), Dave McCaig (color) and Ryan Sook (covers) will be in stores in April.