Thursday, February 18, 2010

COVER CHALLENGE 02 _ Hellblazer

A little whiles back, I shared my thoughts and samples on what I might do if I were given the chance to design covers for a book like DMZ.

In this post, I thought I'd share some roughs I did around the same time if I had to re-imagine covers for the Vertigo book Hellblazer.

Hellblazer features English occult investigator/ magician John Constantine, a character created by Alan Moore in his seminal 80s horror comic Swamp Thing. He's a blonde former punk rocker in a raincoat whose look was supposedly initially modeled after Sting.

The series is the longest-running Vertigo comic and has had storied runs by such creators as Jamie Delano, Garth Ennis and Mike Carey, Sean Phillips, Lee Bermejo, and, more recently, Peter Milligan, Jason Aaron, Sean Murphy, and Giuseppe Camuncoli.

Covers, by the likes of Dave McKean (who designed the first run of the series' covers), Tim Bradstreet (who designed the most), and Glenn Fabry tend to use photo reference or elements, are highly rendered, and are generally muddy or muted in their palette.

The reason I was inspired to try this image is that, although I was never a fan of the book, it became clearer that a long run of covers simply depicting Constantine looking too-cool at the reader did nothing to convince me that there was anything of interest going on behind the cover. Hellblazer has a devout following and these covers are the Vertigo version of simply having a superhero strike a dramatic pose on every cover they appear on. There is no narrative.

So, I gave myself three challenges:
- Look back to the original run of covers and try to emulate how they evoked a sense of the occult in new and unusual ways
- Develop a narrative that suited what I knew of the characters and employed a fairly well-known occult landmark
- Wipe that smarmy grin off of our hero's face. If he's so darn cool, then how exciting it would be to make him suffer!

For the purposes of the illustration, I concocted a story in which all of the spirits that follow John want to finally reach their resting place and use and abuse Constantine to do so. The Tulip Staircase in Greenwich is a beautiful and eerie structure featured in a classic ghost photo that always freaked me out. Combining the two, I developed the visual metaphor of Constantine literally vomiting this stairway to heaven.

Here you have a digital collage I did for layout.

And an illustration in progress. I don't consider this art to be final but I do think it hits on all of the goals I set for myself (in addition to an acid green I hoped would cleanse the muddy palette and jump off of the stands).


  1. Very nice stuff, man! I'd hire you, if I was a publisher.