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In designing a super-hero from scratch, I try to keep two essential guidelines in mind. Firstly, the costume must communicate everything you need to know about the character and his/her special abilities at a glance, and secondly, it needs to feel iconic. Superheroes, after all, are SUPER they've got god-like abilities and tend to embody some big concept or another (be it an elemental force, animal savagery, patriotism, death, etc.,) so the clothes really must convey the notion of being bigger-than-life.
In the case of "Tech Angel” here, I've created an interesting thematic mash-up by combining techy shapes and hard-energy holography with angelic wings and an all-white palette.
For me, this hits exactly the right notes for a super-heroine: sleek and sexy, but also very strong and appropriately geared for combat. I leave the shoulders, upper chest, and face bare to help draw the focus upward, which will help later during the coloring phase.
For any comic page, editors expect to see and sign off on layouts before an artist commits to final pencils. With a cover, you'll often provide several options and the editor will either choose a favorite or provide notes for a second go-around. Layouts should be simple gestural drawings around 2-3 inches tall, and the idea is to communicate pose and a general story – and that's it. Shading and detail would be a waste of time at this point and detract from the primary goal (Fig.01).
I'm treating this cover like a #1 issue, and because we're meeting this character for the first time, a portrait type of composition makes the most sense. I try out various ideas exploring warrior and angel poses, and, ultimately, my editor and I settle on #2. It's a sexy side/back shot, which will definitely help attract eyeballs on a crowded comic stand, and we get a nice close-up look at distinctive costume details like her wings and sword.
An intense light source (from heaven or a Tron-like computer environment perhaps?) fills out the background.
Incidentally, note that on each of these layouts I've taken into account where the logo will go. Never forget about the logo – treat it like part of the composition.
In the past, I used to begin each full-sized penciled piece by projecting the layout onto a blank page taped to the wall. Now that seems like a waste of time and overly-precious as well. Try to avoid crutches like these.
Rather, begin with loosely-drawn lines focusing only on recapturing the proportions and energy of the original layout. I look back and forth between sketch and full-sized image constantly to make sure the bouncy, organic quality remains intact. At some point during the process, I decide that the sword has better balance as a dual-blade, and I spend some time figuring out a convincing pose for her hand (Fig.02).