Phil Hester's Darkness Cover Process

Beginning in September, acclaimed writer Phi Hester gets back to his roots as an illustrator for "Bog," a new two-part story beginning in "The Darkness" #80. The story finds Darkness bearer Jackie Estacado traveling to swamp country on a crucial mission, one that is put in jeopardy by what Top Cow calls the bog's monstrous protector.

Hester was eager to reunite with frequent collaborator Ande Parks to tell his story, which Top Cow Publisher Filip Sablik says is close to the writer-artist's heart. "Phil has really revived and reinvigorated 'The Darkness' during his tenure as writer. He's taking Jackie places he's never been before and making him a much more fleshed out, three-dimensional character," Sablik told CBR.

"At some point in discussing future story lines with former editor Rob Levin, Phil mentioned had a secret 'swamp monster' story he'd been itching to tell and draw since he wrapped up his run on 'Swamp Thing' years ago. Phil has a great affinity for classic archetypes and stories and this one just seemed like too much fun to pass up. We found a way to incorporate it into Jackie's larger story and away we went!"

"Bog" will feature covers with new painted approach by Hester, who provided CBR with this exclusive artist's commentary on the process of creating the cover for "The Darkness" #80.


I think this whole cover concept started in Dallas two years ago at a live art event held during Wizardworld Texas. I drew an oversized Swamp Thing piece in charcoal and chalk, and the Top Cow guys saw that and wanted to somehow incorporate that look in a published cover. I did a bunch of 6x9 thumbnails trying to find a cover that would take advantage of the "fine art" treatment and make a compelling composition. This one proved to be the best of both worlds.


The "finished" product from me. 11x17 charcoal, graphite, graphite washes, and white chalk on rough bristol. This is almost exclusively how I drew all my figure work in college. I love this process. Now that comics reproduction has caught up to techniques like this, I may try to do more in this vein. The issue deals with a cursed swamp demon who haunts a part of the Everglades that happens to hold an ancient artifact Jackie needs to acquire. They fight, because it's comics, and Jackie finds himself being sucked into the monster's muck body.


Things get complicated. Poor Sonny (Gho of IFS) had to somehow make sense out of my messy, spontaneous charcoal drawing and figure out how to apply color in a way that didn't destroy all the choices I made in grey. We were struggling to find a painterly look with the colors when the painterly textures already existed in the black and white art.


Ultimately we decided to let Sonny cut loose and just use my drawing as a staging ground or template for his painting. Trying to preserve the sometimes delicate, sometimes wild aspect of the black and white drawing while composing a color piece that made sense was getting tough so we let the color take over.


Another tweak. Sometimes something that works in black and white doesn't read in color as well, so Sonny added the ripple effect to indicate Jackie being absorbed by the mud monster.

"The Darkness" #80 goes on sale in September from Top Cow and Image Comics.

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