How The First Edition's
Cover Art Happened
What follows will take you back in time to 1995, which is what my editors at Paradox Press / DC Comics and I began deciding what would be on the cover of the book that I had been drawing for the last four years.
Below you'll see the "house format" that Paradox Press had already adopted for its books when my graphic novel was ready to go into production. My job was to provide an image for the area in white.
My editors at Paradox Press had been willing to give me almost total creative autonomy in the creation of Stuck Rubber Baby 's story, characters, and dialogue. But designing the book's cover was to be a group decision between the editors (Andrew Helfer and Bronwyn Taggart), the book's designer (Robbin Brosterman), and the DC Comics publicity and marketing departments (represented by Martha Thomases and Karl Rutter).
I was invited to offer some ideas.
Looking for something that would be instantly gripping, I was initially attracted to an image drawn from the moment on page 178 when Toland falls back in shock onto a bed of autumn leaves (above left). Nobody else liked it, unfortunately. Several other of my proposed images were rejected, including the dopily melodramatic one (above right) that was created in a fit of giddy desperation. I can't help it; group creativity has always driven me up the wall!
Of my ideas that were vetoed, the one above is the one I continue to like the best. I like the counterpoint between Toland's melancholy meditations at Bluerabbit Lake, the invisible children frolicking on the water's surface, and the ominous ghost images of Klan Rallies in the sky. But other views took the cover art in a different direction -- one I came to like quite a bit on its own terms.
Decorating the book with an overhead view of Toland surrounded by a sea of faces was an idea suggested by Paradox Group Editor Andy Helfer. His germinal impulse was to literally depict Toland and Ginger's participation in the 1963 March on Washington, thus signaling the book's focus on the Civil Rights Movement. I balked at this idea because only a handful of the book's central characters attend that historic gathering in my story, which means a cover showing that scene would be filled with faces to which readers of the book would have no particular emotional connection.
After some thought, though, I suggested a variation on Andy's idea. The cover could feature a crowd scene imbued with the feeling of a political demonstration, but it would really be a kind of "cast photo" featuring almost everyone who takes part in Toland Polk's story. Andy was interested in that approach and suggested I do a sketch.
This was my sketch -- happily one that met with everyone's approval. Whew!
Material from Stuck Rubber Baby ©1995 by Howard Cruse
Previously unpublished sketches and visuals ©1998 by Howard Cruse
Stuck Rubber Baby is a trademark of Paradox Press