Monday, January 19, 2015

Severed Heads & Due Diligence

January 19, 205
   We've got a controversial cover coming up in our March issue. It all started last summer. The Top Secret Writer has been working on a giant book (for Crown in New York) about the Apaches for over a year and one of the brutal, but fascinating, episodes in the Apache Wars—that looks like it won't make it into the final version of Paul Andrew Hutton's anxiously awaited book—is the bloody General Crook campaign known as "The Severed Heads Campaign," when Crook and the U.S. Army paid bounties on the heads of Apaches.

A Mickey Free study I painted several years ago which I dusted off to take another run at

   After some consultation with our editors and spit balling at our weekly Design Review meetings every Tuesday, we decided to go straight at the controversy and not, ahem, duck it. I started sketches last November.

Daily Whip Out: "Mickey Free With The Head of Pedro"

   And this is how Dan The Man Harshberger utilized this art:

Dan The Man's Cover Version #1

   This cover was completed before I left for Thailand, last December 21st, but one of our editors in particular, our esteemed book editor, Stuart Rosebrook, was dead set against it. He felt it looked like an old EC Comics cover (the legendary, over-the-top 1950s horror-slasher comic books investigated and ultimately banned by Congress). Stuart was especially appalled about the American flag being presented as supporting beheadings and thought it was the wrong image to put out during these sensitive times (ISIS, indeed!). So, heeding his concerns I did another cover, toning back and underplaying the American flag:

Dan The Man's second cover version

   When I got back from Thailand last week—and, it must be said, after I read about the Charlie Hebdo massacre—I went into the conference room and took one look at that cover and decided I had to take another run at it. "Go to the net," my old tennis-playing mentor told me, "or, stay behind the baseline, just don't get caught in the middle." I felt like we were smack-dab-in-the-middle. I had pulled in my horns and "disguised the flag" or, at least had knocked it back to be more safe. This presented a more pressing problem because this issue began uploading last Thursday, with a knock-dead deadline of Monday afternoon (today). Our production manager, Robert Ray, gave me the weekend to make it right. I worked Thursday and Friday on getting the details right, including, having Kathy photograph me with some of my props to hopefully give me a little more visual authenticity to paint by.

BBB Assumes The Position (with Kathy's wig mount!)

   I also took a couple more runs at the face to get a more Mickster-like visage:

And I did even more due diligence sketches for the Severed Heads cover concept

Daily Whip Outs: "Cover heads for Mickey Free"

   It went very slowly, as I tubed a couple more, very large attempts. Finally, this morning, I got up at 5 a.m., built a fire in the studio stove and did one more sketch with a note to myself:

Daily Whip Out: "One last sketch hoping to get it right"

  At nine I walked up to Bev's house and postponed a long, overdue haircut, then ran back and worked on finishing by ten. This is the view of the painting at nine this morning:

Daily Whip Out: "Mickey Takes Shape"

   But the gunbelt and Mick's hand and the severed head took painfully long to render. Finally, at 10:45 I drove the image up to the True West World Headquarters so Robert Ray could shoot the painting and Dropbox it down to Dan in Phoenix for him to drop into the design.

Robert Ray shoots my artwork and Dropboxes the puppy into the Cloud.

Stay Tuned: I'll post the final cover tomorrow.

"Drawings are handmade, the living sign of an ornery human intention, rearing up against a piety."
—Adam Gopnik, eloquently writing about the Paris cartoonists and their "joy of ignobility" in The New Yorker