Action Figures: Covering The Cover

When I made the decision to self-publish Action Figures, it was a foregone conclusion that my buddy Tricia Lupien would be my cover artist.

Aside from being a good friend for (yow, feelin’ old here) 18 years, Tricia is a talented artist, a geek girl before geek girls were cool, and someone who deserves a co-creator credit for this project. The majority of the characters in the story are my creation, but two basic concepts popped out of her head many years ago while we were, for pointless fun, creating goofy superheroes. Out of that session, two names stuck with me: Psyche and, no kidding, Captain Trenchcoat.

(An aside: this same fit of insanity also produced such oddball characters as Disaster-Man and William Wail-Ass, the World’s Mightiest Scotsman — who, FYI, gets a mention in the novel).

I won’t go into the convoluted mental process that led to those early concepts becoming actual characters nearly two decades later, I just wanted to provide a little background. As Bill Cosby once said, I told you that story so I can tell you this one.

The point is, Tricia absolutely deserved the opportunity to create the cover. I’d be King Jackass if I did not ask her. Fortunately for me, she agreed and set to work.

The logo, previously unveiled here, was the first thing to become reality. Seems like a minor thing to get jazzed over, but it was one of those “Holy crap, this is really happening” moments.

The first cover rough showed up a week later. I’d pitched to Tricia the idea of the main character, Carrie, standing in front of her high school locker, in which hanged her superhero outfit. I thought it would hit two of the story’s main elements nicely.

Here is the first rough, based on that concept:

Action Figures front cover – first draft

Pretty good for a first shot! We chatted a bit about how to punch it up a little, to more clearly illustrate the superhero element, and decided to add a glow effect around Carrie’s hands (hinting at her super-power), adjust the image to expose more of the locker, change how the costume was hanging so it was more visible, and add some newspaper clippings with convenient and obvious headlines — fairly simple changes.

Before those were implemented, Tricia produced a line drawing of Carrie herself, giving me my first look at her as something other than an image in my head:

Carrie, solidified.
Carrie, solidified.

Yes, she is a foosball player in this rendition, but that’s why it’s called a “work in progress.”

The important part is it captured how I wanted Carrie to look: like your basic all-American girl.

The first color draft came next, and wow, amazing what color adds to the overall product!

Action Figures - in color! (A Quinn-Martin Production)
Action Figures – in color! (A Quinn-Martin Production)

You can also see that Carrie has been made more prominent to fill up more of the space, which was an excellent call on Tricia’s part, that the costume is definitely more noticeable, and that a placeholder glow effect has been added to Carrie’s left hand (which, you’ll notice in the first rough, was down). Improvements all around!

The penultimate version added some details to the locker (newspaper clippings), filled in the background color, finished off the super-suit hanging against the door, and punched up the hand glow.

More is more!
More is more!

At this point, there was nothing left to do but some fine-tuning. Tricia punched up the newspaper clippings a bit to make them more visible, added an impressionist version of Bruce Springsteen’s Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. album cover (Carrie is a big fan of The Boss), and added the last of the text.

And so, without more ado, here it is: the full and finished cover for Action Figures – Issues One: Secret Origins!

The final cover, along with the spine text!
The final cover, along with the spine text!

But wait, there’s more! I also received the back cover, and here is a section featuring Carrie’s friends/teammates. What’s really cool about the character designs is how perfectly Tricia portrayed them based on my rather general descriptions. This is, verbatim, what I sent her for descriptions:

Carrie herself I imagine as an all-American girl, blonde and blue-eyed, pretty but not glam. She’s 15 years old, and I’d like her to look real-world 15 and not Hollywood 15 (meaning early 20s). [The others are] Matt Steiger (Captain Trenchcoat), a boy with messy black hair and a perpetual smirk; Sara Danvers (Psyche), a pale girl with long, unruly dark hair…she doesn’t look goth so much as she looks badly anemic and sorely in need of some conditioner; Stuart Lumley (Superbeast), a throwback metalhead with long brown hair and an “I’m kind of awesome” attitude; and Missy Hamill (Kunoichi), an unstoppably spunky and energetic half-Japanese girl. All of them are 15.

So here’s the whole team:

Artwork from the back cover.
Artwork from the back cover.

The best part of this entire process reaching its conclusion?

The book will be ready for sale next week!

That’s right, all I have to do is upload the PDF of the full, finished cover art once I get it from Tricia, and Action Figures – Issue One: Secret Origins will be available for sale as a paperback novel and as an e-book from Amazon,com! Believe me, you’ll know when it’s officially on sale.


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