Duncan Fegredo has been known to post all kinds of process art on Twitter while he's been working on various Hellboy projects: thumbnails, layouts, sketches, pencils, inks, gray washes (and sometimes he compiles them at Storify). Knowing that he's a serial documentarian of every stage of an image, I asked if there were any previous stages to his variant cover for Kick-Ass 3 #2. This cover is the first fruits of Fegredo's partnership with Mark Millar, as they gear up to creating their new series MPH for Image Comics. Of course, Fegredo answered my question with a virtual folder full of art, showing just how much work the artist (and his editor, and his colorist) put into producing one iconic image.
Fegredo: "Amidst much ongoing talk of MPH, Mark asked if I could turn around a Kick-Ass 3 variant by the end of what was already a short week. This was whilst I was finishing the last few Hellboy: The Midnight Circus pages, so not the best timing! The brief could not have been briefer, "It should feature Kick Ass!" was pretty much it. So here's my initial and only sketch, Kick-Ass playing with action figures of himself and a bad guy. Kick-Ass literally playing with himself if I need make it any plainer!"
"I also mocked up the cover and included some lighting guides."
"The sketch went down pretty well but editor Jenny Lee offered great feedback that I kicked myself for not thinking of in the first place, instead of piles of broken generic bad guys I should include Justice Forever. She even added the best gag involving the swapping of heads... the other involved canine crotch biting, you have to make a choice sometimes and I decided that head swapping was making me wince less… Of course, once I started scribbling in all of Justice Forever I realised why I hadn't thought of it, my brain was actually attempting to protect me! Brain zero, Jenny Lee leads, by a head."
"So, all our cast is in place on an increasingly decrepit sheet of paper, Mark approves and I move on to inks. The sketch is scanned, cleaned up and converted to blue line which is accordingly printed out onto art board so that inking can begin. First, the linework, not just tracing but editing and improving as I go."
"Linework complete I spot the blacks with a brush, trying to keep it loose so that it isn't dead on the page ... and lo, here is the finished artwork …"
"Okay, clearly, it's not finished, it needs a spot or two of colour, so step up and take a bow, Peter Doherty. You'll have seen him prettying up Frank Quitely's beautiful work on Jupiter's Legacy, and I'm happy to say he'll be doing the same on MPH. Pete starts by blocking in the major mass, or Kick Mass as we may call him. Or not."
"Originally we thought to leave the background white but it looked a little unfocussed, a little too stark. Pete suggested lowering the value of the background and we agreed a halo of light around the KA and MF action figures would give focus and depth. Here is Peter's test background and a quickly roughed in shadow to root our cast to the ground."
"The background is lightened a little and Peter refines the floor shadows."
"All it needs now is the logo placed and boom, here it is as you first saw it!"