Being a self-publisher, not only do I have to create, write and draw the story, but I have to design the entire book. Since I've been doing this for 11 years, it's so natural for me to think of the entire comic book from the beginning, starting with the actual stories to the covers and even the editorial content and 'special features' to include in every book I publish. First thing I think about is the actual story, but then I always have the look of the entire published book simmering in the back of my head.
As I mentioned in my previous posts (Pt. 1, Pt. 2, Pt. 3), one of the things I love about this Manga-ized version of El Muerto is the much more 'kid-friendly' aspect of the stories. The character designs, the 'shorthand' plots and dialogue, the more 'Saturday morning cartoon' tempo of the storytelling, etc., should also be reflected in the cover. The cover is, traditionally, the central image that represents a particular comic book, as far as the whole marketing/branding aspects.
First thing I needed for this new comic book project was a new logo for Manga Muerto. The two previous stories were printed in black & white publications, and the logo was basically the same one I used for the 'standard' EL MUERTO comic. This time I was printing the collection (2 reprints and one whole new story) in comic book form with color covers. I also realized that I would not only be re-introducing the character, but also introducing Manga Muerto to new readers. I wanted to re-launch the whole Manga Muerto brand with it's own logo.
2nd Manga Muerto appearance, from 2001 mini-comic
I ended up choosing a font I think reads clearly and, to me, has that certain 'J-Pop' simplicity and playfulness. I looked at other fonts that had a more stylized 'Japanese' look, but my ultimate goal with Manga Muerto is to not make a book that looks like it was literally brought over from Japan, but rather a comic that reflected my personal affection for English-adapted, childhood favorites like GIGANTOR and SPEED RACER. I think the somewhat 'cutesy' skull I added really solidified the look I was going for.
The color choices on the cover, white background with pink and baby blue elements, read to me like clean, J-Pop graphics. Something that would look like eye-candy to all readers. Certainly the younger readers this material would appeal to, and to folks with even a passing familiarity with the more colorful, cartoony manga/anime. Again, these are just my own observations of what I've seen, what I imagine people would associate with a book called MANGA MUERTO. That's what I love about design (and even storytelling): Point your viewer in the right direction (in this case, the whole Manga pop art element) and hopefully between the title of the book, the color image of El Muerto on the cover and the design choices I've made with text and graphics, the viewer will see the cover of MANGA MUERTO VOL. 1 and have some idea of what the contents of the book will be like.
For the back cover, I wanted to keep the same design elements:
This time I wanted to give more glimpses of the artwork contained in the actual comic. The three panels are taken from the actual stories (the third panel down is just the penciled thumbnail of a particular panel, once I ink it I will switch it out with the thumbnail sketch). I actually drew that image of Diego (Manga Diego, technically!) specifically for the back cover. One, I wanted an image to tie into the text to his left, and also I hadn't created any color images of Diego. The yellow and red T-shirt, by the way, is a direct swipe/homage to the one worn by Akira Fudo, the human counterpart to Devilman from the 1970s DEVILMAN anime!
This back cover had about 2 previous versions, but I cut down the text on the description of each panel. It's interesting because I sent a trusted friend a copy of the front cover and he mentioned that it may have been possible that there was too much text. I told him that all the text was conveying something about the contents. I felt that the viewer will first look at the title, then the full color Muerto/Skeletron image, then the pink boxes, then probably read the text. And this is all instantaneous. My cover for the previous EL MUERTO comic was a more full bleed 'impact' cover. And the cover for my other book due out shortly, MAN-SWAMP, had another full bleed image, with some classic, old-school comic book 'hype type'.
Just realized the similarity in that both characters are raising a hand to the viewer!
Every cover should reflect the actual comic book it's portraying, that's a given. What's interesting for me, as the creator of these books, is to see how each final version represents a total process: the creation of the character and the story, the mood and tone of the story, the presentation of the comic book. All these elements get reflected and summarized in the cover design. Least that's what goes through my mind in creating the whole comic book.