Johnny Saturn Cover Production
Part 1 by Scott Story
Hello! My name is Scott Story, and I’m an author and artist from the Midwest. I’m probably best known as the artist and co-writer of Johnny Saturn, but you might have seen my work in any number of indie comics over the years. I’ve been involved in this crazy field since 1995.
My first demonstration for this new column is how I created the cover for my third graphic novel, Johnny Saturn: Intelligent Redesign.
This type of step-by-step demonstration is probably nothing new to you. I’ve read and learned from these things by countless artists over the years, and I’ve always come away with at least a new insight into a process we all know so well. Every project kicks off a little differently, but I think this one still exemplifies a lot of what I do.
It was important to me that each character had an iconic pose. Each of their attitudes and props (or lack thereof) says a lot about who they are and where they are in their personal story arcs. The future reader doesn’t know who they are, likely, but there are a lot of subliminal clues for them to pick up on first sight. That’s a big subject of its own, and I’ll get into those considerations in future articles.
I penciled all three of my characters in an over-sized sketchbook. Normally I would have done this on 11″ x 17″ 2-ply Bristol board, but this time it was my sketchbook. I drew each character separately instead of composing and overlapping them into a final composition because I also wanted to use each of the three for some additional art, in this case bookmarks.
If they were overlapped, then pulling them out of the picture would be more difficult, and I would have to go back and add the missing details. I’ve done that many times, and any reasonably experienced Photoshop artist can do it, but why make it harder on myself than need be? Using art once is fine, using art twice is great, and using art again and again is a real time saver! I also used this cover for my stand-up banner display for when I do conventions or other appearances.
Since cover art is always worth the extra effort, I got the proportions for each character from pose-able 1/6 scale figures. I believe these figures are called Art S. Bucks, and while still available they have gotten pretty pricey. I could have free-handed everything, and usually would have, but I was on a schedule and needed to get the work out there. As you will see, I’m all for using props and aids when it comes to making the end product better!
These three are pre-existing characters, so it was important to make sure each was pictured accurately. That sounds a little silly at first–does the latest Spiderman artist need references on his costume? Most likely not. My characters, however, have complex uniforms that they update and change on a regular basis. Tara, the android girl in this trio, changes outfits for every appearance! (Sometimes it’s a real strain coming up with new costumes for her! She’s been a nurse, a flapper, and many more.)
As for the props, I could have made them up, or drawn them from memory, or used pose-able 3D props (more on this in the future!), but instead I went old-school. The skull is made of resin, and he lives above my art table on a shelf with some of my other regular reference items. This skull is life-sized, has a workable jaw and a removable skull cap.
The military survival knife is something that I found in the garage when I was growing up. I have no idea how old it really is, but I’ve had it for nearly forty years. I got the sabre around that time as well, but it was a gift from my mother. The photo of the Spear of Destiny was a little more tricky, because I had to fit my drawing to the spear’s orientation, not the other way around.
Speaking orientation, I had to photograph each prop at the correct angle. That was tricky with the sword. Nowadays, it’s so easy to snap a picture with your phone, and then email it to your graphics computer!