Whether it’s “Quantum & Woody” or “Justice League Dark,” Ryan Sook is known for his iconic and stylistic covers, and this year, he leant his artistic cover skill to “Hit,” the newest BOOM! Studios miniseries by Bryce Carlson and Vanesa R. Del Ray.
“Hit” focuses on Harvey Slater, a Los Angeles cop in the ’50s working as a sanctioned hit man for the police department, and the deep trouble he gets into when his ex-partner winds up dead. Things got worse as the noir-inspired series progressed, and for the final issue, Sook designed a cover featuring Slater walking away from a pile of devastation, beat up and bloody, but ultimately victorious.
With the final issue on the stands now, Sook spoke with CBR News about creating the cover for “Hit” #4. From his initial trio of thumbnail possibilities all the way through to the finished product, the artist explains how he, Carlson and editorial settled on the final image, what changes were made along the way and what had to be conveyed by the image greeting readers on the stands.
CBR News: Starting at the beginning, how did you work with the creative team to nail down the cover? How much story information do you get at that point?
Ryan Sook: As I recall, Bryce, who wrote the book, had a fairly clear idea of what he wanted for the cover. That is what the first thumbnail image is based on. I then read the script for the issue and gave some options based on Bryce’s concept, as well as scenes from the script. I had a full script, so I had a pretty good idea of what material there was to work with. As with most of the “Hit” scripts, the difficulty was not coming up with something good to work with — it was whittling down the options to just a few that might work as a cover.
So you work up thumbnail cover options and then send those to Bryce and editorial to figure out the final image.
Yes. I don’t always do multiple options, but again, there was so much material to work with. With so many options, my approach was to give a few choices to the guys at BOOM! and let them make a final decision as to what they wanted on the cover. The modifications from the initial sketch were discussed then, and I began on the final image.
What were the important elements you wanted to convey about the story in the cover?
For this cover, the idea was to give a sort of finality to the story while simultaneously defining our main character, Slater, as a man that would come out on top at all costs. We wanted this image to show that the corrupt of Los Angeles would be stacked up in heaps alongside the wreckage of days gone by, and that the just would have to get their hands dirty to make it happen.
The hat in the thumbnail was taken out of the final version, and the badge was moved. What led to those changes?
That was a decision made by editorial. Though the badge is still in his hand, it is bloody and now gives us the impression that he may not only be walking away from a shootout, but maybe from the force as well. Not sure about the hat, but I think it was because without it, we get a better look at the man.
Once you figure out the composition and positioning, how long does it take to finish the pencil stage?
Usually, a day or two affords me enough time to get the pencils right. As I recall, with this image, I had a really good idea of what I wanted, so I began inking while the pencils were still fairly loose, as shown here. I probably spent a day pencilling it before moving on to ink. I always do the line art on the boards. I still love the process of laying ink on the paper with a brush and a pen!
And here’s the final colored piece, as well as the cover image now in stores. Do you have a rule of thumb when it comes to leaving enough room for the logo and trade dress or does it shift depending on the project?
It shifts. I always try to do a design that will work with existing trade dress. That was the case here. Though I have to give credit where credit is due — whoever centered the logo and enlarged it for the final print image did that after the artwork was completed, and I thought it was a great move!
Check out Ryan Sook’s cover to “Hit” #4 from Bryce Carlson, Vanesa R. Del Rey and BOOM! Studios, on stands this week!