You’re looking at thumbnails –“thumbs” – for a variant Magdalena #1 cover. Now, I assume most people reading this blog would know that “thumbs,” or roughs, are small sketches. But I don’t want to assume everybody knows that.
These roughs are by my buddy Matthew Dow Smith. The variant will be available at the Albany Comic Con, the “hometown” convention for both me and Matt, which will take place April 25. The show site is here.
The guest list includes me and Matt, as well as a number of other Hudson Valley creators that have all been my friends for years: Terry Austin, Fred Hembeck, Todd Dezago and Joe Staton. Terry, Fred and Todd, along with Jim Starlin and Bernie Wrightson, were regulars are the weekly Woodstock volleyball matches I played in until our five-year Florida detour. Coming to the con from a bit farther afield are Lee Moder, my artistic partner on Dragon Prince and the work-in-progress Shinku, and Saurav Mohapatra, a writer I edited at Virgin Comics. Check out the entire guest list; it’s pretty impressive for a “local” one-day show.
I’ve always been an admirer of Matt’s artwork, including Hellboy and Starman contributions and DC’s Day of Judgment series with an up-and-coming writer named Geoff Johns. Matt was my first choice when we needed a fill-in issue of my samurai-themed comic The Path at CrossGen. I thought his use of spot blacks would make him a good fit with the kind of work Bart Sears was doing on the series. Matt turned in a great job on his issue, and when Bart left the series, Matt moved to Florida to take over the regular art duties. We produced some issues I’m quite fond of, but it was destined to be unfinished business. Not quite a year later, CrossGen blew apart and Matt moved back to the Albany vicinity. A few years later, I settled in the same vicinity.
Matt’s first Albany variant, which he penciled and inked, was the Witchblade #131 cover for last year’s autumn con. The show was held the day after Halloween, so the subject matter was a natural. This time around, the obvious choice for a variant was my Magdalena series, which will debut just prior to the con. Without a natural theme this time, we discussed utilizing a background of the Albany skyline, featuring distinctive towers and an egg-shaped performing arts center.
The towers feature in three of the four roughs from Matt’s first batch (above), including one I suggested featuring a trolley-car diner. Matt also included a shot of Magdalena perched atop a church cross, an iconic image that would also be a comfortable fit for Daredevil or maybe Spider-man.
After input from con organizer John Belskis and Top Cow’s Filip Sablik and Phil Smith, Matt produced a second set of roughs (below). The diner concept was refined to include a neon sign featuring the Top Cow logo, and a peek at a couple of patrons inside that might well be Sara Pezzini of Witchblade and Jackie Estacado of The Darkness. The towers remained a background element in two of the roughs, but the lower angle on diner concept forced a different background for that image. Matt also added a shot inspired by look of golden age comic covers.
So which one did we pick? Come back tomorrow to find out, and get a look at Matt’s finished pencils, which will be delivered to legendary X-Men inker Terry Austin for his distinctive contribution.