|Judge Dredd Year One #1 (IDW, March 2013)|
Variant cover by Dave Sim
The biggest thing in my mind was, "Don't make it look American." There is a definite "look" to British adventure comics that's different from American comics. My thought was that the book will sell what it sells in North America -- you probably can't affect the sales. BUT! If you don't respect the history of the character you CAN kill sales in the UK. So, I started with Neal Adams as my model for design -- all those great Superman family covers he did back in the 60s and 70s. What would make someone pick up the comic and buy it? What's a great visual teaser? But I jumped from that to: does this look like a cover that Fleetway would publish? pretty much right away. Where's the meeting place between Neal Adams design and Fleetway execution? Fortunately I had Brian Bolland's model sheet for the character, so that kept Fleetway front of mind as I was tight pencilling. I had the big blocky lettering of the JUDGE DREDD YEAR ONE logo and I thought, well, start with that. That's really the point: how are you going to top JUDGE DREDD YEAR ONE? You can't so don't even try. The idea was that this school for delinquent boys is the source of these catastrophic events and its Dredd's first case. That's another problem. Because of Diamond's lead time, you really only have an outline for a story that hasn't been written or drawn yet. So all you can do is get the idea across in an iconic way, so it doesn't VIOLATE what ultimately gets written and drawn. I had the name of the school, so I decided to put it on a sign. Then came the concept of Dredd basically trapped inside his first case -- literally inside the lettering -- with the threat roaming free outside the lettering.
I originally thought, "Well, Dredd has easily the most complicated costume of any costumed character, so there's no way I will be able to do that costume accurately in these tiny little spaces." I was going to do the drawings twice up and have the IDW production department reduce them and place them. "Dave Sim work-made-for-hire cover: some assembly required". But then it came time and I thought, "Hell, if Brian Bolland can do it, I can do it." So there I was with a fresh Hunt 102 and my magnifying glass. I didn't letter "JUDGE" on his badge, but I think I did pretty good.
I also have this theory that we need to do covers that are interesting in their top third in particular since that's all that you're going to see on display in a comic store. Hopefully a nice big "JUDGE" and a Judge Dredd silhouette in the top panel -- and the badge -- gets the idea across.
I have a soft spot for Dredd since he and Cerebus both debuted the same year: 1977.