Friday, 14 December 2012

IDW Covers: The Colonized #1

The Colonized #1 of 4
by Chris Ryall & Drew Moss, covers by Dave Sim
IDW, $3.99
On Sale: April 2013

Where there's aliens, there's zombies! The Colonized explores the arrival of these strangely interwoven threats in a secluded separatist town in Montana. In the Carbon Falls Collective, Huxley Robertson is dealing with the passing of his father and pushing against old guard objections as he attempts to push the separatist camp into becoming a fully sustainable green town. As if circumstances weren't volatile enough, a craft full of alien explorers inadvertently re-animates the town's dead! Throw a rogue ATF agent into the mix, on the hunt for the town's weapons cache, and let's just say this is a bad time for the otherwise sleepy Carbon Falls Collective to be cut off from the outside world. A potent mix of horror, drama, and black humor. 

Exploring the idea of ultimate outsiders like aliens landing in a separatist community and then having both besieged by zombies sounded like ripe territory for commentary-free chaos and some thrilling Drew Moss artwork, but then when Dave Sim miraculously signed on to do covers, it made it all coalesce into something even bigger and better.

Chris said that he was doing a creator-owned 4-issue mini-series called THE COLONIZED and was I interested in doing the covers? He described Drew Moss' designs as "a kind of '50s Wally Wood sci-fi aesthetic... in brief, aliens and zombies and militia men... I always like something that can be a good representation of the series, since the image often has to function as both an ad for the series and also the eventual trade paperback design... I envision a big, bold 1950s blocky "IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE!" sort of treatment that clues people in to the tone of this (it's largely played straight, not for laughs). And he offered me 50% of my cover rate if I would draw the logo.

I told him I couldn't DRAW the logo for that -- I'm not Don Simpson, I have no idea how to make all the outlines the same width in 100% accurate perspective -- but I could DESIGN a logo for that. So, I decided to pitch my "comic store display" concept: you only see the top third of the book on the rack and it's all just a big mass of coloured lettering unless it says BATMAN or SPIDER-MAN -- everything else is just "Look At My Big Colour NOUN" "No Look At My Big Colour NOUN!" So why not just have an interesting complete image visible in the top third with just the edge of the logo showing. The logo's a third of the way down the cover so the cover goes IMAGE LOGO IMAGE. It's a theory. Chris is editor-in-chief and its his book. He'll tell me. Pencilled and inked it on tracing paper and then shot it down on the photocopier to comic cover size, pasted it up, copied it again and faxed it to Marci (who deserves a raise by the way: I'm sure her job description said nothing about shlepping faxes around the office from technophobe Luddite  Canadians) and Chris liked it! Easiest money I ever made in the comic field! Now I just had to wait for THE COLONIZED reference to come in the mail on disk. All I needed was one good, grabby wide-angled image that would fit OVER the logo.
Chris sent me the scripts for #1 and #2, Drew's character designs and the pencilled and inked first 9 pages of #1. I focused on the latter (not wanting to ruin the story for myself by reading that far ahead on the script). Page 3 was what I was looking for: the scene where the aliens "abduct" a "corpse". The two-panel transition where the spotlight tractor beam crosses the Cemetery ironwork, the UFO hovering over the tombstones and the spotlight/tractor beam lighting up the scene. I added in the actual zombie rising up in the tractor beam. That did it for the strong "upper third" visual. For the "lower two thirds" visual I decided to make use of the "double size" length of the aliens arms to really make the eye travel by using three of the arms as parallel constructs and further emphasizing it with the zombie's arms stretching out like Boris Karloff in FRANKENSTEIN along the same parallel axis.

I was thinking "Neal Adams stylized realism/photorealism" but as usually happens with me, as soon as I had the aliens pencilled -- which is what I started with -- I went "They look like Joe Kubert aliens". Whatever artist I first see that tends to be how I end up drawing it. I decided to put a fourth alien in the extreme foreground to counterbalance the "left right" dominance of the parallel line construction. The one alien is pointing and looking up at HIM and HE'S looking up at me, going "Joe Kubert aliens? JOE KUBERT aliens?"

The zombie took a long time and many takes and I couldn't figure out why. I was still trying too hard to make it look like Neal and thinking I was being pulled back to Joe. No, the zombie needed Wrightson/Ingels.  All zombies need Wrightson/Ingels. Don't try to fight it. I'd know better for the cover of #2.


Dominick Grace said...

That's a GREAT cover!

mateor said...

Jesus, the IDW people are getting their money's worth, that's for sure.

I don't really go to funnybook shops, but the two covers I have seen (this and the Mar's Att-acks) have been absolutely spectacular.

I could see a side career as a Mainstream cover artist, if Dave wanted. I can't imagine anyone would be unhappy to have this on their books.