THE HAIR OF MIRANDA MERCURY
Behind-the-scenes with inker extraordinaire Marc Deering, who among other great things, is the man chiefly responsible for the overall look and feel of Miranda Mercury’s hair. This is something we’ve gotten a ton of compliments about, and from the very beginning, getting it right was always important to us, so I asked Marc to write up some of his motivations and techniques that go into giving M one of her strongest visual features. Following that is a quick collage of some of my favorite images of Miranda and her awesome hair. Break it down for ‘em, Marc…
Let me tell you a story—
Way back when in 2003-2004 sometime, I was a regular Wednesday-goer at my LCS (local comic shop) Amazing Fantasy Comics and Collectibles. The owner knew I worked in comics, though nowhere near as much as I do now. So one day he says to me, “I know you work in comics, and based on some of my customer’s requests, there’s a real need for an African-American heroine. There are plenty out there but none with any real staying power. The kinds of characters that can hold their own book for a long period of time.”
I say, “Okay. I’ll give it some thought.”
Fast-forward to 2006 and I get contacted out of the blue, by Lee Ferguson. It was a strange day because I woke up to a few e-mails and some PM’s through a website that we both frequented. I’d known of Lee for a few years already, but never had any contact with him. Until that day. He tells me he needs an inker for a creator-owned book he’s working on, and would I be interested. I had had my ups and downs in comics, especially creator-owned, and I was like “Sure, why not? I don’t have anything else going on.” So we got together and started exchanging e-mails, which quickly got VERY long, and went on for pages and pages. He was/is like my brother from another mother. That’s how much we have in common.
But it was exactly what my LCS owner had been looking for…
So I started playing with this character with my brush and pens. Then came the hair. She has it pulled back in a ponytail, so as to keep it out of the way while “adventuring”. And I decide to take it one step further—let’s make her hair a little “nappy” as they say. My wife is African-American, and I’m sure a few of you readers know exactly what I mean, but it was important to me to get the look and feel of her hair just right. Ponytail and all.
So many times in comics, characters of color are given what you might call a “black-out” feature (NO pun intended) on their hair. Usually because the people drawing them have no idea how to draw their hair, so they give it a basic shape and just fill it in black. I wanted to give it the feel and texture that’s appropriate, and even without the actual colors being laid in digitally, for you to instantly recognize that she is African-American.
To get more technical with it, it’s really just me and a .13 or .25 Rotring Rapidiograph pen scribbling her hair on there, making sure of light sources, etc., but that’s about it. And sometimes, it can take an infinite amount of patience to get it all done, but I hope everyone agrees that it’s worth it in the end.
JUDGE THIS BOOK
The Many Adventures of Miranda Mercury has appropriately had many different covers during its lengthy production cycle. The image that appears on the published version of the hardcover is actually an interior page which occurs at a pivotal point during the book, and we decided that it offered a more editorial/interesting piece of artwork that sidesteps the usual “main characters starting coolly at camera” thing so common in…well, everything really. And we’ve done that ourselves a time or two, so hopefully this will be a breath of fresh air and stand out a little more on the various stands and bookshelves. Though the glorious spot varnish should help with that too.
But since we’re on the verge of a wider release—thought it might be fun to pull the curtain back a bit and show everyone some of the things that almost made the final cut.
Let’s start off with some of the initial sketches and layouts that Lee cooked up when we were trying to decide exactly which direction to go. One theme you’ll notice in almost all of these are the wraparound covers, which I freely admit to being fairly obsessed with. Ultimately, what we used almost counts as one but if we have the opportunity to continue, it’s a pretty safe bet you’ll see more of them in the future.
This is what we settled on for awhile and it was the image that went out with the initial solicitations. Think it blends a few of the stronger elements from a couple of the initial layouts, but the more Lee looked at it, the more he disliked it and so we and Archaia started to discuss other options the closer we got to finalizing everything.
Our first instinct was to repurpose this nice image of Miranda and Jack which we did for promotional purposes, but it didn’t work when mocked up and it was already on the front casewrap of the book. After a few days of discussion, Scott Newman, who is Archaia’s production man extraordinaire, suggested the current version and Lee absolutely loved it on sight. I needed some convincing but seeing the whole thing all done up with the spot varnish and finishing touches makes me a true believer. Yet another remainder that I’m not always (or even often) right and it was a great call.
For a while, the series was going to release as three oversized issues and so because of our previously mentioned fascination with wraparounds, we thought doing a triptych cover would be a lot of fun. Don’t know if Lee agrees, but I love the artwork on this piece, even though it uses preliminary designs for Vega and James that ended up tweaked in the final version.