Monday, August 03, 2009

The Evolution of the 3-2-3 Detective Agency Cover

in The Disappearance of Dave Warthog
By Fiona Robinson

One of my favorite books on the Fall 2009 Amulet list is 3-2-3. I have talked about evolution Michael Buckley's NERDS in dept and will soon be posting about Lauren Myracles Luv Ya Bunches but right now its time to take a look at the evolution of the 3-2-3 cover design.

First a little bit about the book
Fast-paced, full-color, and divided into short, easy-to-read chapters, this is a wonderful graphic novel for younger readers, offering a seamless transition between picture books and novels.

On the 3:23 Express to Whiska City, five unlikely friends meet and decide to form a detective agency. There is Jenny the wise donkey, Roger the gourmet dung beetle, Priscilla the theatrical penguin, Slingshot the hyperactive sloth, and Bluebell, the shy but brave rat. With little training but a lot of pluck, they set up shop in Whiska City and soon tackle their first mystery: a rash of disappearances linked to a pink poodle’s beauty salon.

A funny, clever detective story for young graphic novel fans!.

On one of Fiona's many enjoyable visits to our offices she dropped off these 2 pulp comics, AMAZING STORIES. Which I took some direct and indirect influence from. The trick was to introduce the characters in a pulp comic setting while remaining true to the Fiona's voice.
Here are three of our first attempts.

We all loved the humor an wit of Fiona's characters along the spine but how to make the type work was still and issue.

In all three of the above the title type was a problem. No matter what we tried the design forced us to put the copy in a box which just didn't seem to work. Also, it became repetitive to show all five characters along the spine and in the main image. There were to many parts, to many things going on. Below is an attempt at simplifying the above ideas.

This direction seem to click at the time. We liked it enough to present it and the other ideas at our weekly cover meeting for discussion. The conversation in the meeting turned to a confusion over why the monkey was hypnotized and whether this was the image that was best for the book. We also talked about what was more important, introducing the characters or telling the audience that this is a pulp mystery graphic novel. At the moment we were displaying all these ideas yet nothing was working 100%. So we were sent back to the drawing board.

Almost a month went by before I was able to take another go at rethinking the design Luckily we were ahead on this book so I had time to waste. But more importantly time to step back and take another look from a far.

Knowing what we needed to be on the cover helped going forward.
1. Introduce the characters
2. Pulp comic design influence
3. Simple design/Iconic Image
4. Communicating that the book is a mystery.
5. Setting up a design for a possible series if needed.

On a rainy Thursday afternoon Fiona and I sat down in my dark office and I sketched this up while listening to Fiona's ideas.

We wanted to somehow keep the circle character drawings from the first cover comps. Can any one say BACK COVER?!

Fiona's Final cover art

Back cover hand drawn text

Paperback textBack cover hand drawn text

Hardcover text

Back cover text plus illustration

A needed graphic element hinting at a mystery and an important plot point.Final cover design.

Final Paperback design
Final Hardcover with Flaps design

About the author
Fiona Robinson is the author-illustrator of The Useful Moose: A Truthful, Moose-full Tale. Publishers Weekly praised her “flair for humor tinged with heart.” Her work has been honored by the Royal Academy of Arts and been featured in many gallery shows. She lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York.

Available in two editions:
Paperback, and hardcover with jacket

80 pages, full color, 6 3⁄4 x 9 3⁄8"
PAPERBACK ISBN: 978-0-8109-7094-6
HARDCOVER ISBN: 978-0-8109-8489-9
US $9.95 CAN $12.95 PB
US $17.95 CAN $23.50 HC

1 comment:

Mary Uhles said...

hey, I Just found your blog through a post on Victoria Jamieson's blog. Really enjoyed reading about the process of this cover and your bulletin board feature. Great blog! I'll have to keep checking back.