At its best, comic book cover art gets you to buy a comic you would otherwise pass by. At its worst, the art is ridiculed and overshadows the content of the comic itself. But good or bad, how often does one mention cover art in a comic book review? Even the best designed cover may get a quick mention, but rarely is cover art extensively evaluated. When the series itself is under-appreciated, the cover art is even less likely to be discussed. One artist worthy of more recognition is David Yardin, who is doing standout work on the Marvel series X-Factor. The Peter David penned series about mutant private eye Madrox and company has remained under the radar since its relaunch in 2005, which is unfortunate since it is consistently one of Marvel's best books. It is hard to imagine that any title could survive for that long at Marvel without Captain, Amazing, or Wolverine in the name but the book has a lot going for it. From the stable character roster, humorous yet moving stories form David, and frequently excellent interior artists, the series also has David Yardin creating amazing cover artwork for the book, especially in the last year. Considering that a vast majority of cover work these days consists of barely informative character pin-ups, Yardin's work on X-Factor remains a standout on the stands, especially surrounded by the less than distinguishable x-titles. Here are some of our favorite X-Factor covers, followed by a few words from the artist himself on his process and experience working on X-Factor.
Yardin's first contribution to the series as cover artist was issue #40. A memorable turning point in the series, Madrox, seen with his priest dupe Maddox, is about to be confronted by a now much older Layla Miller. Yardin shows Jamie at his lowest point in the series, and doesn't hold back in displaying that vulnerability. The mixture of anguish and surprise on the face of Madrox is particularly well done, and can be further appreciated when viewed in black and white. You don't know it till you've read the book, but Layla, seen here on the cover, is most definitely the savior of Jamie as she brings him into light from the shadows.
What a fantastic way to show that Spidey is going to make a cameo in the book. We still have star Madrox on the cover, stopped in his tracks by an incriminating spotlight. This cover quickly reveals that Spider-Man will show up, and Madrox may be in trouble. I'm sold.
It's obvious to anyone familiar with the character of Rahne that Yardin has the character pegged. A conflicted soul convinced she is going to hell for her sins, this cover beautifully depicts the inner turmoil the character faces, and faces alone despite the willing support of her surrounding teammates. The splash of blood and the horror movie like tagline are perfect touches for the twist you know is coming.
Marvel's Point One initiative is meant to entice new readers by offering standalone issues as introductions to the titles. It makes sense for this issue to have a heroic portrait of our team, and Yardin appropriately focuses on featuring the core of characters and not the long ongoing plot lines. Simplicity at its best, and inviting to readers looking for a jumping on point.
This cover is my favorite of Yardin's X-Factor work thus far. In addition to the striking imagery, it is a great example of how Yardin uses color effectively. Is that blood dripping from Madrox's face? Sweat? Maybe both? That ambiguity comes from the sparsity in the color pallet. That combined with the use of negative space, your eyes go straight to those pupils surrounded by red. As a reader, seeing that fear and exhaustion makes me anxious to find out what has put Jamie in this state of shock.
Not every cover that grabs you has to be dramatic. One of X-Factor's many strengths is the title's ability to balance frequent humor amongst operatic tragedy. Would you believe that this is about Rahne's teammates trying to save her from a deep depression? You don't need to know why these ladies are taking a road trip, but it looks like a damn good time, and that's something that a lot of superhero books don't show often enough.
This was one cover that made me sit up and take notice. Often when cover art focuses on design elements, indications of the story within are sacrificed. That is not the case here, as the Mondrian inspired windows offer glimpses of intrigue into the book's multiple story lines. It is a cover that encourages further study, and maybe an unplanned purchase as well.
This cover for the Layla centric story implies that we may learn a bit more about her mysterious powers. Can she see into the future? Or does she travel through dimensions, time, and space? With multiple shadows of herself running in different directions, the answer may be all of the above. Even without knowing, readers will be intrigued by the possibilities.
Peter David always introduces the comics with a recap page, but he doesn't often hint at upcoming stories. That makes it all the more noticeable when he and editors says that something big is on the horizon. When Marvel released this cover artwork for X-Factor #243, we saw that the big storyline would involve Havok, Polaris, and her father Magneto. Things are not looking up for the mysterious couple, and judging by the sinister shadowed father figure in the background, Magneto is the likely cause of Polaris' strife. The issue came out this week, so you don't have to wait to find out more!
That's all for our cover analysis. Follow the jump to read the Q&A with the artist himself!
ComicBookCandy: David, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions! You've made several tutorials on your drawing process for interiors (and coloring), but what makes doing covers different? How much does Peter David and editorial influence your design process?
David Yardin: Solicitation copy aside, covers are the first selling point of the book. They are the thing which must entice the reader to pick up the book off the shelf. They have to be eye catching, interesting or have some other hook which will make the potential buyer purchase the book. I always try and make my covers story related where possible, so I have to tell a story in one image without giving away too much of what is happening inside, but at the same time give enough story that there is that hook. There are so many new comics in stores each week that I also have to be aware of standing out on the shelves, so I have really been trying to push myself out of my comfort zone and try different things with the covers recently.
My editors and I have a lot of back and forth over the direction of the covers, especially since I need to get layout approvals from them before I can start on the final cover image, and they have the final say on what’s going to go on the cover. Sometimes they’ve even given me thumbnail layouts, and/or very specific briefs of what they’ve wanted, other times it’s been a lot looser ideas, or they’ve just given me the plot/script and let me come up with ideas. Direct contact between Peter David and myself has been to a much lesser extent. Obviously everything that I do on the covers is influenced by either Peter’s scripts or plots, but I don’t usually have direct contact with him while I’m working on the covers. It’s been nice to hear his thoughts and opinions when we have talked/emailed though. I remember the first time I got any direct feedback from him was at San Diego Comic-Con International 2009 (first time we met), he told me it was a nice touch me throwing Rictor’s arms around Shatterstar on the cover of issue #50.
David: I definitely appreciate story related covers. The generic superhero posed covers can be fun to do too, but they can often be misleading about the actual contents of the books, and sometimes seem like they are just an easy way for companies to generate images for licensing purposes… they come off as less sincere to me. It’s more challenging, and interesting, for me to boil down a story into one image.
CBC: Have you done the colors for all of your X-Factor covers?
David: No. I think the variant for issue #200 was the first to feature my own colours. I had been colouring some of my other Marvel covers prior to that, but I think that was my first X-Factor colour job. I also redesigned all the characters costumes at that time. I was almost taken off X-Factor covers at that time (that’s why I was only on the variant cover for #200), because my editor was considering a change in creative direction with the title’s re-numbering, but I ended up back doing the regular covers with #201. I didn’t start regularly colouring my X-Factor covers though until around #219. I’ve coloured every cover since then except for #241. With that one I was away interstate for my brother’s wedding, and didn’t have time, or the computer set up, to do the colours.
|X-Factor #200 Variant Cover, the first issue Yardin colored for the series|
David: I don’t recall saying my “least favourite” pieces were best received, but often times I’m surprised by how much reaction some pieces get. What I thought were my worst covers definitely got that kind of reaction from the fans, but then others which I laboured long hours over also got little fan fare. One of my favourites #228 took me 2.5 hours to pencil, ink, dry, scan, and colour, but I spent quite a bit more time working on several unsuccessful layouts for that cover. My favourite covers from my run so far are 208, 216, 221, 223, 224.1, 228, 229, 233, 235, 236. The ones which gave me the hardest time are usually the ones where I wasn’t given a very clear brief for, or I had several layouts shot down (that always takes the wind out of my creative sails). There’s been a few of those, but even with those I usually get something I’m fairly happy with done in time for catalogue.
CBC: As you've mentioned previously, you've done quite a few covers for X-Factor! Have you ever been approached to take on the interiors?
David: I’d really love to do the interiors for X-Factor, and I have discussed it with my editors, but unfortunately it’s not something that I think will happen in the foreseeable future; it comes down to sales figures, page rates, and budgets.
Well a fan can still hope. Thank you again to David Yardin for answering these questions, we look forward to seeing more of his work on X-Factor and other books to come. Check out David Yardin's Deviant Art page to see his work in progress and final pieces, along with tutorials for aspiring comic book artists.