TOM STRONG COVER DESIGNS
Tom Strong is a character with a decidedly pulp background, combining elements of Tarzan, Doc Savage, Tom Swift and other pulpish characters, but of course with plenty of modern touches. When Alan and I first discussed the cover possibilities, he suggested we look at old pulp covers, as well as action-adventure and science fiction covers from all eras. With that in mind, we tried to give each issue a completely different style, while staying in those parameters. This was not a new idea in comics: Will Eisner's Spirit, and early issues of Mad Magazine come to mind as other examples, but it definitely added to the design challenge. Instead of just having one familiar logo and layout, with different art and colors each time, we were trying for a new look each issue (though there were some repeats).
Issue one got off to a great start with this dynamic Alex Ross painting that could have graced a Doc Savage cover in the 1940s. In my design I followed that lead, looking at the type on such covers for ideas. The logo was suggested by Alex, but I pushed it to the maximum possible boldness.
Issue 2 went in a very different direction, to alert readers to what we were doing. This is meant to look like an amalgam of POPULAR SCIENCE and PEOPLE magazines. Penciller Chris Sprouse laid it out, penciled the figures and car, and designed the spider-like boxes, which colorist and computer whiz Angus McKie made into 3-D models that he could fill the background with, after he had computer inked and colored the main art with the kind of slick look we were after.
Issue 3 took us into a futuristic computer world melded with ancient Aztecs, which artist Chris Sprouse pits Tom against in the picture. I designed the frame area, using a mix of computer symbols and Aztec art. Personally, I like the Progress Bar for the conquest of Earth.
We're firmly back in the pulp era for issue 6, with this great art by Dave Gibbons, which he began on paper and finished and colored on the computer. I gave him the title for the playing card, which he placed into his art. The logo and design were inspired by The Shadow, another great pulp era icon.
Artist Alan Weiss did a terrific job bringing Tom and his sidekick King Solomon into the western heroic era of Tom Mix, Gene Autrey and The Lone Ranger. The story inside had a science-fictional twist, but only Tom's gun gives a hint of that here. Often I created the cover copy (the words on the cover), but Alan Moore contributed the top line for this one that will provide an extra laugh after you read the issue.
Issue 13 was one of many direct comics pastiches we did, this one inspired by MARVEL FAMILY #1 from 1945. I had fun recreating Tom's logo and all the cover type in the style of the original, seen below. Artist Chris Sprouse did a great job of capturing the feel of the original while remaining true to his own vision of the characters.
Issue 14 is another comics pastiche, this one of the EC Science Fiction comics of the 1950s. Artist Tom McWeeney went all out in this EC homage that I'm sure would have landed him a job at the company back when, alongside artists like Wally Wood and Frank Frazetta. I enjoyed creating the logo in the style of EC's WEIRD SCIENCE.
Another fun comics pastiche of FANTASTIC FOUR #26's cover by Jack Kirby, one of artist Chris Sprouse's favorites, and the second of three Kirbyesque covers on the series. Hey, if you're going to steal, you might as well steal from the best. As usual I had too much fun recreating the cover lettering, probably by Artie Simek, as seen in the original below.
Issue 28 is a chilling extreme close-up that takes a few moments to figure out, but when you do it's a grabber. Chris Sprouse came up with this idea, and I tried to place it in the realm of science fiction with a nod to the classic Isaac Asimov novel I, ROBOT, which had similar themes to the story by Brian K. Vaughan.
All text and images ©Todd Klein, except as noted. All rights reserved.
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