By Seth Kushner
When I was compiling and creating my photocomics for my first self-published anthology, FORCE FIELD FOTOCOMIX VOL.01, I knew I had to have a striking cover. I got to thinking about doing an homage to things I like, but filtering it through my own aesthetic, of course.
I keep a folder on my Macbook desktop titled, “Inspiration.” It’s filled with jpegs of imagery that excites me. I began looking through it, as I occasionally do. Past the Kirby Fantastic Four photo collages, inventive Marcos Martin Spider-Man and Daredevil pages and David Aja Hawkeye pages, and right after the Jim Steranko Outland layouts, I came upon this image:
[Marvel Summer Special: Blade Runner, cover art by Jim Steranko]
I’ve long loved the work of legendary artist Jim Steranko and I often find myself thinking about his cover to the Marvel Comics adaptation of Blade Runner and specifically how effective and eye-catching his use of three different colored, overlapping Harrison Fords are used to convey motion/action. I decided I would riff off of that and replace the gun from Steranko’s drawing with an old Super-8 movie camera to represent the connection to film and photography and the past.
Next, I decided I wanted to play with the sexiness and style of Roger Vadim’s sci-fi camp film, Barbarella. Which meant I next needed to find my Jane Fonda. Enter, the lovely and talented Zoe Sloane. I first came in contacted with the actress/model through my friend Chris Miskiewicz when I was casting for a not-yet-produced photocomic. I’ve kept Zoe in mind, wanting to work with her and I knew she would be perfect for this shoot.
[Jane Fonda as Barbarella and stylist Belinda Martin’s take on 60s Italian sci-fi]
I was determined to make a very well produced cover, akin to that of a high-end fashion magazine. That meant I needed a team. The first person I contacted was stylist Belinda Martin, who I’ve worked with on several advertising shoots and who I knew would be excited by my concept. I sent Belinda some stills from Barbarella and asked if she thought she could create some sort of similar look for our model. She replied telling me she had a great idea and she wanted to custom make something.
Belinda brought on make-up artist Stephanie Wise and hair stylist Lindsay Interrante, both of whom completely understood the 60s era sci-fi vibe I was going for in the styling.
[Stylist Belinda Martin readies actress/model Zoe Sloane for the shoot]
We shot at Zoe’s apartment. Stephanie and Lindsay took turns primping Zoe, while I set up my strobe lighting. I decided to use a clean and open lighting style for this, knowing I was going to be adding some effects in post. Belinda came prepared with a bevy of wardrobe choices and we ended up using three different options, but for the cover shot, we went with Belinda’s custom-made creation, which I felt had the right balance of elegance, sexiness and retro sci-fi style.
[Zoe and I aim cameras at each other during the shoot]
I walked Zoe through the three shots many times, each time trying a different variation. The old movie camera weighs a ton, but Zoe was a trooper taking aim with it over and over.
Finally, with the shoot completed, I moved onto post-production. I edited through all the photos and chose my favorite three shots and retouched them in Photoshop and laid them out together in the Steranko-like sequence I’ve so long admired.
[The three individual shots of Zoe layered together, as seen before final Photoshop effects]
The last step was to add a strong color tone to the three Zoes. I had the concept to use a Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black color motif, as a playful acknowledgement of the fact I was designing this for print, which uses CMYK colors, (rather than RGB) after doing so much of my work for the web these past few years.
Then, I dropped in the FORCE FIELD FOTOCOMIX logo I’d recently designed, along with a preview image of some of the material contained in the book, with the buzz words, “horror,” “romance” and “mystery.” I used white as the background color because I felt all the elements would visually jump off a sea of white and I’ve long noticed that magazine and comic cover that are primarily white have a way of standing out on the shelves.
FORCE FIELD FOTOCOMIX VOL.01 is available for purchase at my Etsy shop, as well as at Jim Hanley’s Comics and Forbidden Planet in NYC and at Escape Pod Comics in Huntington, NY. Also, catch me at ZineFeast at SUNY Purchase on May 5th, where I’ll have copies for purchase.