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cover art, and the bias of the buyer

Ben Templesmith is ridiculously talented. He’s one half of the duo that created Thirty Days of Night. The concept behind the comic book was clever; the series sold well enough that Ben unfortunately ended up drawing vampires for some derivative semi-sequels that ran that clever concept straight into the ground.

Those days are happily over, as Ben has not only diversified but also gotten Brain Wood-level prolific: he’s scripting and drawing Hatter M and Wormwood, and collaborating with Warren Ellis on the you-must-buy-this Fell series. Now comes word that he’ll be doing covers for Wasteland. On the subject of high-profile artists doing cover art (but not the pages inside), Ben’s got this to say:

I think I’m a bit of a cover nazi. I like the guy doing interiors doing covers, with a few exceptions…like McKean for Sandman etc and Fabry for Preacher. But they had a plan, were consistent, and knew what they were doing wasn’t just to boost sales.

James Jean‘s work on Fables belongs in that category, in my opinion. I own the cover collections from both McKean and Fabry – the work is that good.

I agree with what Templesmith is saying, but I’ll be honest that the quote made me think of the reactions some clients have when the realize they’ll be working with me instead of, say, Veen or JJG or Peter. “I want what’s inside to match what’s on the cover!” It hasn’t happened more than once or twice since I started, but it does happen. I can shrug it off and work through it (I can be very convincing), but it has led me to think about why it happens.

It seems there’s a trap that lies at the heart of raising your own profile in this business – people end up wanting to work with you. Not your firm, not your associates – you. As I’ve transitioned to leading engagements and raising my own profile, I’m realizing I’m in a position to deal with this state of affairs by encouraging clients to check out the really good work being done by the people they don’t know.

To be honest, I think that’s the choice being made by the Templesmiths, Fabrys, McKeans and Jeans of the world – they’re able to draw the attention of readers to writers and artists they might not otherwise discover. It’s not a craven cash-in, or a dishonest way to elevate sales. It’s kind of a creative public service.

Categories: comics, work
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