Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Flight Kickstarter: A Deep Dive into the Cover of Issue 153

Sean Michael Robinson:

Well howdy!

This will be a brief one, as I don't want to step on the big news of this week, which is , Paul Manafort and George Papadopoulos notwithstanding, the FLIGHT Kickstarter launch, sometime this week! Possibly even today, so keep your eyes peeled.

With that momentous occasion in mind, I'd like to take a closer look at the cover to the third issue of Flight, issue 153, which will be (as far as I know) the one and only bonus print for the campaign.

First off, like all of the Flight covers, it's a gorgeous illustration of carnage and mayhem, or at least, the aftermath of such. Cerebus holds his blood-covered sword aloft, calling for insurrection and revolution against the Cirinists who he believes have killed Jaka. Meanwhile, a snowstorm has broken out, covering the area with flurries.

It's the direct action and, yeah, violence that the audience had been clamoring for for many years, delivered dramatically and swiftly at the lowest point of energy that the book had as of yet. After more than a dozen issues sitting around waiting to die, Cerebus was finally on the move.

The execution of this illustration, as are most of the painted covers from Church & State II on,  is truly extraordinary, with a level of rendering and sophistication of color rarely seen in comics at all.

Maybe it seems a bit incongruous given the subject matter, but this particular cover gives me slight hints of classic Christmas card illustration, with the careful tonal balance, warm wood colors, careful observance of light sources, and flurries of snow.

Look at the lovely way the shadow on Missy's face is indicated by hatching following the curve of her form and the direction of the arm thrust, but is then also reinforced with a slightly darker earth color as well.

Notice the snow-softened balcony edge, touched up with China White.

The really lively animation effect at work here is do in no small part to the contrast between the extremely expressive figures, and the complicated rendering. Notice here the same trick is at work with the edge of the figure's shirt, the curve into darkness depicted by Dave's tapered hatching, and picked up and reinforced by slight darkening of the color. The shadows are also cooler in tone, helping set them back a bit more visually as well.

Also notice the expert "pushing back" of the building portions seen through the glass. After the hatching was already in place for the building, Gerhard lightened it, presumably with a layer of opaque white, or possibly with another watercolor more opaque than the transparent Windsor Newton inks he used for most of these covers.

I've mentioned Don Bluth's studio and Dragon's Lair before as a visual reference to this era of Cerebus, and I think this image and it's Mort Drucker-isms are a pretty good argument for it.

Lastly, it might seem like a small thing to those of you who have never done it yourelf, but the snow here is also really incredible use of the "poor man's airbrush", i.e. the toothbrush. A perfect density and ratio of tiny spatters to big drops, clearly evoking the storm while lending the entire image an organic patina, an authenticity of texture that leeches into the rest of the image.

Want a print of your own? Want to be the first to pledge? Watch A Moment of Cerebus for the Kickstarter announcement, coming soon!

UPDATE: Kickstarter Now Live!


Travis Pelkie said...

Well, this was interesting...

Jeff said...

Years ago, I gave Margaret a copy of issue #153 that had a misprinted cover. Now I wish I still had it.


Steve said...

The time Dave and Ger were putting into the cover art was far beyond what the Marvel/DC artists would take, it seems to me.

But the covers also look so wonderful because of the quality printing from Prenney. I believe by this time in the series they were using a 2-color sheet fed press (rather than a web press like the Big Two) which allowed for greater quality control in registration and image clarity.

Margaret sent me a pic of the issue Jeff mentions, and as an old pressman I can tell that two of the colors (black and cyan, say) are out of registration with the other two (yellow and magenta), classic symptom of a first pass to second pass miss-feed on the press.

And I'm still looking for a copy of issue #7 that's missing the cyan impression...


Jeff said...

Hi, Steve! You should do a weekly column here about the printing aspects and issues of Cerebus. Like Sean's column.

Jeff said...

er, issues of printing Cerebus, that is.

Steve said...

The occasional column has occurred to me, Jeff.

I'd especially like to get in touch with Mr. Prenney (can't remember his first name) and see what memories of printing presses I can get him to recall.

Tim did run a scan I'd sent him several years ago of a way out of registration #23.

Hmmm comic metaphysics at work: the #23 post was ... (wait for it).. almost exactly ywo years ago, November 10th.

But I work typically at least 50 hours a week, I'm on call for emergency cases (ophthalmic surgeries only) 150 to 200 hours a month - and I have a family that I already allow this computer to take me away from far too often.

So, it's gonna have to stay the occasional foray into scans / info for Tim and comments on other posts.

BTW, I seem to remember a comment of yours, visiting Las Vegas, NM - if you're ever up to Albuquerque, let's get together and visit, 'ol chum!