Ink on bristol board, 13 × 19.

Mondo Gallery in Austin, Texas is hosting a show that honors EC Comics and Tales from the Crypt. “It Didn’t Rot Our Brains” runs from October 25 through November 23 and I’m happy to be included among the many artists. Although I’ve always been a fan of the Crypt Keeper (who is rumored to be based on a RISD professor) I went the sci-fi route and did a tribute to Wallace Wood, one of my favorite comic book artists. I like to think that, like him, I take draftsmanship seriously (and little else).

I inked this cover myself since it was for a show and they needed it quickly (my Dad, Joe Rivera, usually inks my work). That being the case, I “penciled” it digitally in Photoshop and printed it out in blue-line, then went straight to inking. I used a Winsor & Newton Series 7 #6 brush for everything but the lettering, which was penned with a Speedball B-6 nib. Holbein Drawing Ink is my ammunition of choice, which provides a rich black and dries to a waterproof finish.

blue-line print of digital “pencils”

Pictured above is a darkened version of what I actually inked over. Converting to blue-line is easy with an adjustment layer in Photoshop set to “Colorize” — this turns every layer below to the same hue, which can be then be adjusted according to taste. Below is a screenshot of my typical setting: Hue – 196, Saturation – 100, and Lightness +94.

HSB adjustment layer

Prior to that is the rough sketch stage where my primary concern is composition and legibility. I always distribute the main elements to separate layers so I can nudge them into position, or scale them if need be. This is also where I lay in a perspective template that helps keep all the technical aspects aligned. Since this was a tribute cover (with the full support of the Bill Gaines estate) I used the trade dress from an actual Wood cover to frame my own work. Their only request was that I use an issue number that wasn’t already taken.

digital sketch with trade dress

Since this was not for publication (and only pays if it sells), the approval process was pretty lax — and so I dashed off a few rough layouts with quick descriptions of what was going on. Of course, now that I did them, it makes me want to draw an entire series.

The whole process, start to finish, took 30 hours, half of that being inking. Because of the tight schedule, I didn’t have time to color the original, but I still hope to color it digitally at some point. Of course, if the art doesn’t sell, I’ll just get it back and finish it up with watercolor and touches of gouache.

In space, no one can hear you sigh.
The New Year isn’t looking so good for our commander.