In The Life After, the Oni Press series by writer Joshua Hale Fialkov and artist Gabo, things can get a little complicated -- not only in the story, which involves religion, purgatory and even a dead Earnest Hemingway, but also in the construction of each issue. After all, this is a comic whose debut featured a 50-panel two-page spread.
But what does it take to create a cover for the series? Glad you asked! We're pleased Gabo has shared with ROBOT 6 his cover process for The Life After #9, which goes on sale in April (in more immediately news, Jan. 28 sees the release of a direct market-only $9.99 trade paperback).
Check out Gabo's step-by-step process and commentary below:
Step 1 – Sketches: The process typically begins when [Oni Press'] Ari Yarwood and James Lucas Jones remind me that a cover is due the following week, and so I rush to the kitchen and start drinking coffee straight from the pot. Often Ari, James and Josh [Hale Fialkov] will chime in with ideas on what they'd like to see on the cover, and more often than not the ideas vibe with what's going on in the issue. For Issue 9 we really wanted to include Essie and The Consultant duking it out, for obvious reasons you'll come to discover once y'all get your hands on the issue! I usually do anywhere from two to four super rough sketches of ideas that we've all come up with. I like to add the logo of the book on top so they can get a better feel for how the art will sit under or on top of it. For the sketch on the right, I had suggested that the background should be tessellated rabbits in full gallop, M.C. Escher-style.
Step 2 – Sketch Revisions: The gang decides that the sketch on the right is perfect, but they ask that Essie is a little more combative. I had originally imagined her dominating The Consultant to the point where Essie is able to break her and turn her into a battle horse of sorts, but that was me getting ahead of myself. A battle is what we want, so a battle is what I sketched out. And they approved!
Step 3 – Pencils A: I very often do all my pencil work digitally. It saves me time and a metric butt-ton of erasers. I try to keep the trade dress on while I'm working on the pencils so I can see how the piece can play and react with the title. I positioned Essie just right so that the credits read LE FIALKOV.
Step 3 – Pencils B: The tessellation was probably the most nerve wracking and wrecking, mind-numbing thing I've had to do on this project to date! I used Adobe Flash to work on it; the line tool let me bend the lines and keep everything super clean. After many hours spent trying to figure out a pattern that worked, I settled with what you see below. Not quite a complete tessellation, but enough to make yer eyes go crossed!
Step 3 – Pencils C: I export the rabbits and import them into Photoshop, where I have to duplicate the pattern once more to cover the entire cover, I won't go into how grueling that was—let's just say I didn't do a perfect job of matching things up, tessellation is tough.
Step 3 – Pencils D: Realizing that keeping the rabbits flat as they were is going to make the cover look odd, I decide to add a bit of perspective to them, as though Essie and The Consultant are duking it out on some sort of rabbit pattern carpet in some magical rabbit room. Happy with the results, I print out the pencils on an 11x17 paper and proceed to ink the piece by hand!