Sunday, October 7, 2018


Recently I was commissioned to do four covers for a ten issue prequel comic book for Call of Duty: Black Ops 4.  This mini series provides a bit of exposition for each of the main characters in the popular shooter franchise. 

This issue is about Prophet's attempt to save a malfunctioning robot from a heavily fortified scrapyard.  Prophet is a man with augmented cybernetic limbs that is conflicted by his own human weakness and the desire to be more robotic.  The brief I received asked for sketches depicting Prophet doing battle with the Robot "Reaper" though I was given the freedom to explore other narrative options. 

After reading the provided synopsis and comic book pages I worked up a number of sketches.  More often than not I begin roughing out ideas quickly on my galaxy note 8 while watching tv, before bed or while out with family.  I've comfortably worked this way to develop concepts and compositions for years with the galaxy note phones.
Sketches worth exploring further were transferred to photoshop where I worked out more of the composition, value structure and color palette.  Working out all of these aspects of an illustration as soon as possible saves time and alleviates the risk of mistakes or revisions later on when I could be painting. 
Below are the three options sent to my Art Director for approval by Activision.  When I settle in to produce cover sketches I always try to make each option a unique narrative moment with a different palette per sketch.  This way I don't feel like I'm just repeating the same composition from 3 angles.  For sketch A the concept the client wanted to see was provided.  Sketches B and C gave more specific character moments as described in the synopsis.  

For sketch B, I thought it would be interesting to show the cybernetic soldier, Prophet standing on a mound above Reaper, pondering his own robotic evolution and when he'll transcend his physical body.  In this moment he is yearning to be more than what he is.  He is touching the robot tenderly despite the fact that this superior being is literally and figuratively trapped and enslaved.

Sketch C is a direct scene from the synopsis. Prophet being spotted as he reaches Reaper and attempts to interface with the robot.

Ultimately sketch A was chosen and I began gathering as much reference as I could for the job.  Activision was kind enough to supply me with high resolution files of concept art, weapons and nearly three hundred high res model reference photos of an actor wearing a fabricated Prophet costume sans cybernetic implants.  The costume reference was great for some character details and lighting inspiration.

All my reference gathering and compositing now complete, I began work on the final drawing for the cover.  There was still an extensive amount of hardware and costuming detail to work out based on the provided concept art.  The 3D robot model provided invaluable lighting information but not much else. Below is my first pass at the line drawing.  After finishing this I was informed that the character model for Reaper had been changed to a more robust gulf war inspired tank look and I was asked to tone down the more scifi elements of Prophet’s arms.  So other than the light and shadow information I gained, none of that 3d model could be used for the sake of accuracy.  

With the deadline looming, I quickly revised the drawing with the newly provided concept art reference and resubmitted for approval.  After the line drawing was approved I began work on the cover from background to foreground until complete.

The cover was quickly approved and work began on the next issue.  Special thanks to my Art Director Scott Allie for the opportunity.