For something a little different, this week is a peek behind the scenes of a cover job I did for the now defunct MAD Kids magazine:
MAD art director Sam Viviano warned me that a cover job would be a little different, and he was not kidding. Often when doing feature stuff the editors give the artists a lot of leeway to have fun and add something to the proceedings. They are still very specific about certain things and definitely demand changes when needed, but covers are very different. These are highly scrutinized and the process is reviewed at each step much more closely and with more specific control than the typical inside job. That is no surprise… the cover is the face of the magazine and it’s importance cannot be overstated.
It is nothing unusual for a cover to get major changes to it at a late stage, or even for the art department to work on it after it’s done to make it work with all the text and design. It’s very thoroughly thought out and looked over, with the best results in mind.
On this cover job, the intention was to show Spidey having shot his web onto the MAD KIDs logo, but it won’t bear his weight and it’s breaking off. He’s about to fall. We needed to convey that visually. MAD also wanted me to use the yellow palette of the previous film’s movie posters for the city.
My first thought was to use the angle of the shot for a vertigo effect, even if it didn’t make sense that Spider-Man would be so high above the city. I wanted the sense of his impending fall. This was my first draft:
It was concluded that the logo was not looking like something separate enough to be swung from, and that the skyline needed to be below it for more of a horizontal shot. It was also pointed out that Spider-Man looked too “real” and they wanted more of the wacky, awkward Spidey I drew for the movie parodies. This was my revision:
After further review they liked the first Spidey better, but just wanted me to ‘cartoon it up’ a bit. I used a forced, fish-eye kind of perspective to give us both a skyline and a straight down shot. The cityscape/ logo was working so I did this new body to be used in place of the other:
With all that approved, I painted it. I made the mistake of thinking in terms of a real MAD cover and not of something fun for a kids magazine. I used a subdued palette for the Spidey costume (like the real movie colors) and more of a sepia tone yellow for the city. I also went with a yellow sky. Here’s what I came up with for the final:
Below is the final as printed. They ended up doing a lot of tweaking as you can see. They changed the logo, redid the sky to blue, boosted the brightness and saturation of both the city and Spidey.
I felt bad about that. Not because they changed my art but because I did not deliver a usable image. I was told they really liked the cover and these types of alterations are not unusual at all. As long as they are happy I guess I should be, but I hate it when someone on the client end has to spend time ‘fixing’ something they paid me to do right the first time. Oh well.
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