The old saying goes that you should never judge a book by its cover, but that only extends as far as prose. In the world of comics, covers are an integral element of the final product. They are essentially a trailer, providing readers a sense of what a story will contain. That extends beyond characters and plot, capturing elements of tone and style as well. In a visual medium like comics, the cover provides readers with their very first response to a story they haven’t begun to read. It lays the groundwork for the experience beyond its opening flap. All of this is to underline just how impressive the cover work produced by artist Nick Derington has been across the past few years.
The work of a cover artist is both unique and integral to the experience of reading a comic. Unlike work on interior panels, cover artists are given only a single page without any dividers to make an impression. They have to build a connection between one static image and the active connections to occur within. If the cover artist is not working on the interiors of the issue, they have an additional hurdle of making sure their creation is in sync with the work inside. It’s a whole lot of difficult work, to say the very least.
In just a few years, Derington has risen to prominence in mainstream comics, with work at both Marvel and DC Comics in 2018. His breakout success came with the launch of Young Animal, where he provided both promotional materials and all artwork for the flagship (and only uncancelled) series Doom Patrol. He has received further notice for work on the covers of the much-lauded Mister Miracle and a variety of other projects, including the cover of Mighty Thor: At The Gate of Valhalla this week. While Derington’s career seems to be growing by the year, he has already staked out a place as one of the best comics cover artists working today.
Part of this success comes from Derington’s style. His clean lines, soft characters, and clear layouts all make his cover exceedingly easy on the eyes. While the content found in comics like Doom Patrol or Mister Miracle may be challenging, even on their covers, the style itself makes grappling with them easier. Readers are treated to a clear vision of the worlds and ideas contained in these stories, aided in their reading process and understanding exactly what it is they should take away.
When looking at a family friendly title like Mighty Thor: At The Gates of Valhalla, it’s easy to see how the admiring framework for Jane Foster’s statue would be loved by readers both young and old. The character is canonized in the moment with an iconic interpretation of her form between the many artists to depict her in Marvel Comics. There are also threads leading back to the nature of war memorials and famous superhero tributes like Superman’s statue following his death. That weight remains in a moment that can still be read as joyful. Even in a terrifying moment, like the one depicted with Negative Man below, the art serves to invite readers in without diminishing the pain of the character or bodily horror on the page, a truly impressive feat.
That is possible because Derington has already distinguished himself as someone with a refined and assured style. Whether you’re unpacking his covers or interior work, it’s impossible to find a line that is out of place or tangent that appeared accidentally. This applies to his layouts as well, something that simply cannot be undervalued in the construction of a comics cover. The placement of figures, their size, and negative space can be deconstructed to show exactly how the eye is guided led into a cover and what that says about the comic inside. Form and function are both satisfied with stirring results in each new piece from Derington.
While it is possible to imagine Derington growing and experimenting in the years to come (decades, if the world of comics is lucky), what he is creating today does not call for refinement. He has captured a corner of comics that is entirely Nick Derington and can now choose to explore new avenues or styles based on what is already established. Looking at what he is doing today it’s not difficult to imagine years of new stories and covers constructing a body of work that will allow him to assume the sort of heralded place currently held by greats like Frank Quitely.
These elements of style and skill are what make Nick Derington such a flexible cover artist. It goes without saying that his work on Doom Patrol accurately depicts what is inside of each issue. His work on the series has been every bit defining as that of collaborator Gerard Way on the individual pages. Yet when you extrapolate this to series on which he only contributes covers, his work in this realm of comics becomes truly impressive.1comments
Reviewing covers for the widely acclaimed Mister Miracle reveal an understanding of the core themes of the series. The isolation found in covers where Miracle is bound on stage or standing amidst explosions reconstruct the tone of the series beautifully. The presentation of key antagonists like Darkseid and the Female Furies distinguish them by their overwhelming presence or frenetic energy within the series, respectively. There is perhaps no better example than Mister Miracle #5 which encapsulates the tranquility of Miracle and Barda’s journey together throughout the issue. Derington and Mister Miracle artist Mitch Gerads possess very different styles and approaches to comics storytelling, but Derington’s covers still encapsulate what makes the series so popular.
While it’s still fair to say that Nick Derington has a lot of career ahead of him, it’s also fair to say that he has distinguished himself as one of the best cover artists of 2018. When walking into a comic book shop, there are few artists who can consistently draw your eye in the same fashion as Derington. He manages to walk the fine line of a cover artists, presenting both his own unique perspective on a title and marrying it to the greater work. This is undoubtedly central to his quick rise in popularity and, hopefully, and indicator for many future successes on cover and any other aspect of comics that intrigues him.