Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Entry 148: Astonishing X-Men #51

Marvel has been teasing this for months now, but now the cat is finally out of the bag!

Northstar is getting married to his boyfriend, Kyle!

The news was actually announced on the daytime talk show The View!

First: I want to say that I've actually known for a while now that the announcement was going to happen on The View, and that Whoopi Goldberg was going to be the one talking about it. When I learned that, it made me giddy. That's GUINAN from STAR TREK!... The idea of Guin-- I mean Whoopi Goldberg showing the viewers of The View my artwork is surreal to me. It's absurd! I just saw the clip and it is still really strange to me.

Now, I know that the big story here is the fact that this is a gay wedding, and I was happy and honored to be the artist doing this cover. (I'm, of course, totally in favor of equal rights for gays.) But for me the real thrill was that I was getting to do a superhero comic wedding cover!

I've talked a little in past entries about the kinds of covers you typically see on superhero comics, specifically X-Men comics. But the superhero comic wedding cover is a rare and unique tradition. The first one I think of is John Romita Sr's cover to Amazing Spider-Man with Peter Parker and Mary Jane getting married. I think there have been a few Superman/ Lois Lane wedding covers, and there was the X-Men Cyclops/ Jean Grey wedding cover. The list goes on, but not for very long. The comic book wedding cover is not a common kind of comic book cover. It was exciting to me to make a contribution to this cover genre.

The wedding cover does come with some real limitations. It's a wedding. Weddings look a certain way. Most of these covers have essentially the same thing going on. I know of two Superman/ Lois wedding covers that have them flying away after they get married. It's a nice solution to getting away from the wedding setup, but that's like doing the wedding cover without the wedding. Romita Sr's solution for his Spiderman wedding cover was to have a Spider-Man mask shaped like a big heart. That's great. Because of that heart mask, it's probably the most iconic wedding cover there is.

For my wedding cover, I tried to solve the problem of the wedding set up by setting the wedding in Central Park. This whole run of Astonishing X-Men issues has been set in New York City so using the park worked. My thought was to give it as much depth and dynamics as I could. So many of these wedding covers come off as flat. Maybe it's because the wedding set-up doesn't inspire much in the way of dynamics. My solution may not be as bold as combining the iconography of Spider-Man's mask with a heart, but what are ya gonna do?

I did do a color sketch for this image, because it was important to me that the lighting and atmosphere work a certain way.
Thinking of that Spider-Man heart brings me to another factor of these kinds of covers: The comic book wedding cover is cheesy, especially a superhero wedding cover. These are people who do nothing but fight one another taking a moment to be happy about the love between two people. They're smiling, they're feeling the love, and they are doing it in tights... and in some cases, thong body suits. It's silly, right?

I tried at first to get away from the cheesy-ness of the wedding cover. In one of my sketches I had all the super people wearing suits and dresses, you know, what a sane person wears to a wedding. I was trying to be real about it. How would this really look. When I was told by the editor that they wanted them in costumes I had to let go of my need to be "real". They were going to be wearing costumes. I had to stop running from the cheesy-ness and I'm so glad I did. I realized that the cheesy silliness of these covers is what I like about them. The fact is these characters wear costumes a lot of the time. Wearing a costume to them, in their world, just isn't a silly thing to do. If I lifted these characters from whatever they're doing at any given time they would probably be wearing costumes. Turns out a lot of these characters are currently students at the Jean Grey X-Men school and would be wearing their school uniform. So that's how I thought of it, like I was just showing them as they are. The superhero world looks silly in a wedding scenario because it's not what superheros were built for, but that's the fun of it. 

In the end, I can't say what I've accomplished in this image, but I can say what my goals were. I wanted to make a memorable comic book wedding cover, I wanted to have some respect for superhero comics and homosexuality, and I wanted it to be joyous. I enjoyed drawing it. I think I was smiling almost the whole time I drew it.

Blogged  and blogged


  1. As i said in other post, i love the cover!!!!

    your art is so beautiful. That storm, iconic (i´m sure she is making the weather perfect for the happy couple). The smile on northstar show complete happiness.

    Congrats in a perfect (the perfect) superhero comic wedding cover

    1. Thanks so much. You're comments mean a lot to me. Interesting that you pick out Storm. I realize she probably gets invited to all the outdoor parties and events.

    2. Your welcome. To tell the truth, (even if i´m enjoing astonishing x-men current artist), i think you should be the one doing interiors. instead of Liu and Perkins the combo SHOULD be Liu and Weaver. Awesome and awesome is better than awesome and good.

  2. Good for you Dustin! The View is major eyeballs on your work. that is just great to see. And the work itself is beautiful. Keep it up! - Sean W

    1. Thanks, Sean. The View thing actually makes me think of when I drew the illustrations for Jodi Picoult's novel The Tenth Circle. It was a NYT best seller and was seen by way more people than ever see a comic book that I draw. But it was just a completely different audience. No one in the comics industry even knows about that book as far as I can tell... Actually, that's not true, Jodi wrote a run on Wonder Woman because of that book.

    2. 10th Circle was you?! Holy cow its all coming together. When I first started dating my wife, and told her where I worked - she was like "Oh I know comics, like in that Picoult book, right?"

      Glad we finally got to show this piece. Top notch.

    3. HA! You see? A lot of people saw that stuff.
      I realize this is the problem of doing my Blast From The Past posts in chronological order. I won't be talking about The Tenth Circle for like 5 more BFTP posts. Damn, I need to speed it up.
      Now you can give your wife Shield and tell her it's just like The Tenth Circle. It's the same guy.

  3. I think you accomplished your goals for this cover admirably. It's respectful but also playful and fun. It has a sense of realism while simultaneously being a fantasy and it all comes together in a natural way. And your tasteful judgement is suppressing my desire to make some kind of cheesy joke- proof that you are helping to make the world a better place.

    1. Thanks, man. And sorry about suppressing your cheesy joke desires.

  4. Hi, I´m a fan from Spain (esxcuse my misspellings).

    Since a few years your books has been published here and I want to ask you how you work with grey tones in your drawings; the way you think in the moment you are doing a drawing and the material(if you use copic markets or ink with water, etc).

    I´ll gratefull with any answer.

    Thanks, and I hope see more work from you in my language.

    1. Hello, my friend. Sorry for the delay in my responding. I really appreciate your contacting me. It's great to hear from someone liking my work in another country.
      To answer your question, I actually use a lot of different methods for getting gray tones. I guess the most common method I use is copic markers.
      I will occasionally use ink with water. I like that method when I want to capture something more organic like a kind of water color feel.
      Another method that I use a lot is a combination pencil and marker. After I've inked in all my blacks I use hb led and render in some values. Then I use a light gray copic or prisma marker and smooth out my pencil rendering. I've found this to be pretty satisfying and easy.
      And I also use photoshop for gray tones. Photoshop tones can look pretty close to copic markers.
      If you were curious about a specific piece of art I could tell you exactly what I used to make it.
      Thanks again.

  5. I can't help by notice some kind of resemblance between this cover and the one where Cyclops and Phoenix married. Couple in foreground, teammates spreading onto the backcover and some buildings giviong context to the setting on the background. Was it a conscious homage or it's just a coincidence?

  6. Did you contact me about this on tumblr as well? If that was you then I'll answer you here and not on tumblr. If it wasn't you, then I guess I'll be putting this same answer there.

    The similarity between my cover and the Scott and Jean cover are coincidental. I think the only time I looked back at it I looked at just the front. Looking back at it now, you're right , it is basically the same idea. Andy Kubert even went with everyone in suites and dresses, as I thought I would originally. It's not surprising that the images are similar. With it being a wrap around cover it would likely have the couple on the front and the bulk of the audience on the back.
    I had another sketch where I turned the camera around, as if the viewer was in the audience. It was different, but who wants to see the backs of everyone's head?

  7. Yeah! I made a post on tumblr about that, but it wasn't directed at you, it was just an observation (btw, that tumblog is

    I'm glad you answered here, because I was really intriged by this. And I'd love to see that sketch (the one from the audience POV)!

  8. Since we already know the happy couple (the "secret" marvel marriage), when will we see astonishing x-men 52 cover? we have 48, 49, 50, 51 and 53 but nothing of 52. The wait is killimg me!!!! (I suppose you will do it, since you did the other 5)

    1. Oh yeah. #52 is me.
      I normally wait to blog about anything till I see that Marvel has put it on line. So that's why I haven't put my cover for #52 on here yet. Why Marvel hasn't put it out for the world to see, I don't know. I don't think the cover depicts any spoilers. In my insecure mind it's because they are ashamed of it.