I really enjoy going to Josh Middleton's blog and reading his posts. In particular his 'behind the scenes' entries are really informative both on technique and upcoming story spoilers.
His latest post ( http://joshuamiddleton.blogspot.com/2009/03/behind-scenes-sg-45.html ) is great. The above image is the colored thumb nail sketch that DC approved for Supergirl #45.
Now for Supergirl fans, this image is a great spoiler for the upcoming year. DC has only solicited up to issue #42, so we are getting a glimpse 3 months farther into the future. This is September's cover.
I sort of thought by then that Kara would be basically Earth-based and Alura would not be such a close figure in her life. Looks like I'm wrong. There is Kara standing next to Alura who is holding up Reactron's mask. So it seems that he isn't going to be captured any time soon.
The rest of the blog entry really provides an in-depth look at Middleton's work flow.
For me, the biggest creative problem would be going from the blank page to a concept. So I really enjoyed seeing the picture above, the thumbnail concepts he came up with for the cover including the eventual approved one.
One thing I have always wondered is just how much information the cover artist knows before starting the design. Here is what Middleton says.
With Supergirl, I get a basic description of the major events in the issue, and the editors and writer might suggest a few cover ideas. Based on that information, I work out some very basic thumbnail sketches of possible compositions. This time around it was suggested that I do a Hamlet-type thing with Alura and Reactron's helmet. If I know enough about the story, I might go my own way and come up with something entirely different than what was suggested, especially if I have the luxury of reading the actual script. That rarely happens with the tight deadlines of a monthly book, so I usually have to trust the information I am given. There is sometimes a little back-and-forth about details- for example, on this cover I wanted to be sure I understood the relationship between Alura and Supergirl, and their individual motivations, so I had to ask a few questions to get some background on the characters. Once I understand where the characters are coming from, I can hopefully capture a little more subtlety in their expressions and body language.
In this case, I find it great that an 'alas poor Yorick' concept was decided on, even if Alura is not Reactron's friend, nor is Reactron a 'man of infinite jest'.
I am sort of drawn to the second row left thumb nail. There is something sinister about that image of Alura sitting in a coquettish pose holding a "skull."
We then see a bunch of 'work in progress' pics going from blue pencil sketch layout ...
To close up blue pencil rendering ...
I love Alura's expression ... sort of a subdued calculating malevolence.
To then completed inks. There are more pics on his blog including a close of Supergirl, looking at her mother with a concerned expression.