I think one can safely say that the comic cover makes the book in most cases. My creative process is a little weird and largely intuitive; I can sit down and decide to create a comic cover, and usually start laying out the first image that pops into my head. That intuition is not always accurate the first time around.
I've got this pesky, jealous muse, you see. Since 2010, A Deviant Mind has been acclaimed as one of the best CGI comics at Drunk Duck--heck, anywhere--and yet, at the Drunk Duck Awards, I rarely get more than a nomination. That burns a little bit, see, so I keep trying to outdo myself. And the Muse--oh, my, that pesky Muse--she's known to come poke at me with a stick, regardless of how much time I spent on the original cover, no matter how close we are to deadline. But when it's done, I know it, and we're both happy. 🙂
This really got rolling in January, 2012 when I had an idea in my head to put Tara through some changes and try to do something with Princess Najimi, a new character I had introduced in A Deviant Mind #7. The original cover at top, left, was what I had intended to use for that story. But it still didn't click.
I like a cover to reflect what's actually going on in the story, either symbolically or literally. I got stuck on this story, and went to have an online chat with my friend James Dyar, creator of the webcomic Grin-n-Spirit, to brainstorm and kick up some ideas, because he's known to be a master of randomity--what he refers to as Brownian Motion--where one mad plotline leads to another. And boy, did he have some ideas. I had to say, "Whoa, wait a minute, slow down," and finally I gave up and said, "I'm going to the post office, Jim. Back in half an hour. Keep typing."
By the time I got back, we had a funeral wake, a half dozen rival factions, an irate royalty with a small army, an immortal Volbkhelian, a group of bounty hunters, and a military gun show--the now-immortal Damery Weapons Show, sponsored by Veterans of Galactic Wars--rolling all over the place, and I had to figure out what to do with it. That brainstorming session turned into not one but three issues of the most outstanding good fun collaborations I have ever had in my life.
As we were riding out the wave of madness and randomity during the telling of this story, Jim and I got to be really good friends. An odd side effect of this collaboration was that some of the chaos in our own personal lives resolved itself, and we can call this collaboration a win. It was also during that time that I challenged myself to write a really outstanding story, inspired in part by the old Saturday morning cartoon show, Battle of the Planets, casting five young people as G-Force, consisting of Mark, Jason, Princess, Keyop, and Tiny.
I always loved that show, but it always made me wonder about Princess' backstory. What on earth would a Princess be doing running around with a bunch of boys? I spun the premise into my own series, and as a result, Princess Najimi, a foul-mouthed, bird-flipping, pain-in-the-neck, Astral psychic who also happened to be a Deviant, was born. Take THAT, backstory.
In the meantime my Muse pondered on what sort of cover we would use to cap off this story that makes Najimi a permanent part of the cast. I swear to all the Gods, I have remade this cover three times! The first one was scrapped because I thought it foreshadowed too much, with Asuka on the cover before anyone has had a chance to get HER backstory, and the original storyline really whitewashed everything Najimi had been through. The second cover for this issue, while mostly accurate, looks really very much like a cheap 1980s comic cover. It was while I was creating my sales banners for IndyPlanet that the Muse poked me in the ear with a Wet Willie and said, "You know what?!? Compared to this banner, your cover for that issue really sucks. Why don't you use those elements in the cover?"
I said, "Huh!! You're right." And I pondered the problem. I recycled a page from A Deviant Mind #5. The Muse was pleased. And the new cover kicks butt.