Marathon tells the epic tale of the original long distance runner. In 490 BC, an Athenian messenger named Eucles ran twenty-seven miles from Sparta to Athens, and in so doing preserved ancient Greek civilization from subjugation to the Persian Empire.
That's a very broad overview of the book but it's representative of the first step for creating any cover. Know your book! When I sat down to do the cover, I understood that our protagonist needed to be featured prominently in a direct and compelling way that also illustrated the books high intensity and relentless, grueling action. The thumbnails (images 1-6 below) reflect the various solutions I came up with to try and deliver that message.
With thumbnails, you can nail it within your first few drawings but often times innovation comes from going beyond those immediate solutions and challenging your creativity. My initial tactic was to use some of the dramatic moments leading up to the war at Marathon where Eucles both physically and spiritually leads the Athenian army into battle. Writer Boaz Yakin was correct in pointing out that this only represented a small part of the story and asked to see some cover treatments where Eucles was not in armor. The third page of thumbnails and beyond reflect this change. I then tried showing Eucles dressed in just a loin cloth either running towards the vast Persian army or racing it's fleet back to Athens (image 4). The pitfall with the latter idea was it could be misconstrued that the lone runner was running away from the Persian army. That wouldn't be heroic and it wouldn't be appropriate to the story. The last act of Marathon is spent following Eucles and a band of soldiers as they struggle to outrace a secondary invading fleet heading directly to Athens' shores. My solution to this was to eliminate the Persian force and return to just Eucles and the Greek army. After a few variations with this, the team at First Second and Boaz all agreed that the best solution was the first thumbnail in image 6.
The next step is to pencil a full size version of the cover (image 7). Once I had approval on this, I was cleared to go ahead with the inks (image 8). Inking Marathon was done using a high contrast print of the pencils as my starting point. I then added ink washes and line work to finish the image (image 9). When I colored the cover, I tinted the inks with the same pantone as was used in the interior pages to ensure a consistent look between the full color cover and the monochromatic interior pages. After a few failed attempts (not shown), I settled on two color treatments; one with a full color background (image 9) and the other with an intense red background (image 10). At this stage there was no consensus on which. Colleen AF Venable, First Second's designer, created two versions (images 11 and 12). I had an idea for what I would like to see for the logo for the red cover and Colleen intuited that perfectly! That is why I think the red cover with white logo was met with such unanimous praise and agreement.
The final cover (top) shows Colleen's brilliant final type treatment for the logo. The whole thing comes together wonderfully and delivers the key epic story elements and emotional intensity that is the heart of Marathon.
Marathon by Boaz Yakin and Joe Infurnari hits bookstores and comic shops early June 2012.
This post was originally presented at Trip City.