Martian Prey

Martian Prey!
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"For what it's worth, nobody really thinks they were from Mars. That was just a convenient stopping point. So they could prepare."

The war is over. The world's a mess. Cities are littered with the bodies of the dead, with debris from broken buildings, with alien death machines that nobody understands.
Lucas Davenport used to be a U.S. Marshal, but now he's just a lawman trying to give aid where he can, trying to help people. The United States still exists... but it's hurt, and it's going to take a long time to heal. Lucas just wants to do what he's able, and to get back to his family.
But where some people see chaos and misery, there are those who see an opportunity, a chance to take advantage of the tragedy to help themselves. Among the survivors, there are scavengers and opportunists. Lucas's badge may not have much meaning any more, but he can't just let people suffer, or let crimes go unpunished.
Worse, there are rumors going around that the war isn't over. That the aliens are still out there, preparing for a second wave. If true, what hope is there for anyone?
And after all that, if he finally does get home... what will he find? And will he be ready for it?

April 1, 2018

Explaining the Joke Ruins the Joke
by Roswell Camp

This is another of the not-very-funny April Fools' covers, for which I apologize. It's got all of the necessary ingredients — Lucas facing the aftermath of an Martian invasion is all kinds of wrong — but I didn't work on it hard enough. Or maybe I tried too hard, but in the wrong direction. It's difficult to say which was the problem [1].
The way it is now, with Lucas doing... something — I never specify exactly what — in the aftermath of the War of the Worlds -style invasion is okay, but it's not especially amusing [2]. It's not funny. It's just sort of... there. That makes it boring. That makes it not very good [3].
I could have taken it in a completely different direction, and actually had Lucas fight the aliens. Or I could have gone for an off-the-wall zany, with Lucas "Flash" Davenport teaming up with Cadet Nancy to defeat the evil Prince Marcada of Mars and Dr. Lambart's killer robots [4]. Something that I could do that includes the word "Behold!" on the front cover in Jack Kirby style. That would have been better.
But no, I just sort of... didn't think much about this one, and it shows. I was lazy, and it shows [15]. At least, about the synopsis.
The design is maybe my favorite for the year, because it's so utterly different from all the other covers I've done — and yet, it's instantly accessable. The cover's divided between the giant Martian war machine robot on the top and the imperiled city below. So that's nice. The design implies speed, or motion, and the font is one of those sort of high-tech "feel" typefaces, so everything's all futuristic. All of that works [6].
And the colors are simple. Here's another aside: one of the big things I learned this year was about simplicity of color, which is probably a very early lesson for artists. While most of the other covers have a simplicity of design, it's not something I consciously did with the colors until I started having problems with this year's crop. Basically, everything except Elder Prey was a mess of colors that weren't working.
But Elder Prey has a kind of green overall "theme" going for it, and I figured I should try that on the others. So I went through and simplified all the other color schemes, and they all worked. Except for Satanic Prey, which still sort of doesn't [8].
This cover gets yellow, and literally no other covers for the design elements. The author, co-author, header and footer, publisher, and publisher logo are all in yellow, and the title is in negative space on a yellow background [7]. Literally no other colors are used. Aside from Generic Prey, I've never done anything so color-consistent that worked as well.
That's just my opinion, but... well, I'm looking back over the older covers right now and a lot of them are sort of a mess that way. Again, Sacred Prey and Lettuce Prey stand out as the worst of the worst, but that's just what they are. So... yeah. Sorry about those. Again.

Footnotes

1. There's not much difference between doing a bad job on the right thing and doing a good job on the wrong thing. I think this is more of the former — I had a good idea, and muffed it in the execution.

2. People who remember War of the Worlds nowadays probably remember either the classic 1953 movie or the more recent Tom Cruise version [9]. This book is probably more like the original book. If you haven't read that book, it's terrifying and extremely depressing. The movies play out more like disaster movies, while the book is straight-up horror for most of its length. Everything that happens is bad, and it keeps getting worse. It has the "And then all the aliens died" ending, which all the versions share, but most of the book is so bleak and hopeless that it's hard to think about it in comic terms [10].

3. At least, with respect to these covers. You can write boring things well, and even make them gripping. Maybe I'll do Boring Prey for a later cover, with Lucas trying to keep sane when absolutely nothing is happening... [11]

4. All of those names are taken from the now-defunct "radio show" Two-Minute Danger Theater. Specifically, from the Blast-Off Patrol! sections. Track it down on Google or somesuch. Extremely amusing, if you can find it [12].

5. I'm going back over these notes and thinking to myself, Jeez, lighten up a bit. These are just joke covers. It's not a huge failure or anything. I still feel bad. Maybe it's because I'm from Minnesota, and apologizing is a way of life.

6. It also looks really, really familiar and I don't know why. If anyone knows what this design resembles — if it resembles anything at all — please let me know. I feel I'm subconsciously copying something I saw, but for the life of me I have no idea what.

7. I use negative space on only one other cover: Solar Prey. I mean, I sort of use it for Cosmic Prey, but that's more of a glow around a black object, rather than an absence of object. It's also a very weak cover, probably in my bottom five of all time [13].

8. One thing I did learn from Satanic Prey was that when the entire cover has a yellow-orange cast to it, giving white text a slightly blueish tint makes it look super white, almost like it's glowing. It also helps it stand out from the white bits in the background. I also ended up changing it so it's not like that any more. I was probably wrong, but it is what it is.

9. There's also the first-run-syndication TV show from the late 80s, which is loosely based on the 1953 movie. I'm... not counting that.

10. Spoiler: towards the end, the narrator is so depressed by what's happened that he just leaves his shelter and gives himself up to one of the aliens, fully expecting — even wanting — to simply be killed on the spot. He's totally given up. That doesn't happen in either movie [14].

11. Maybe something based on a Kevin Smith work? He's talked about that kind of thing before. In fact, the tagline for Mallrats was, "They're not there to work. They're not there to shop. They're just there." I could maybe do something with that... [15]

12. Or just go here: Two-Minute Danger Theater! Warning: the site hasn't been updated since 2009, and I don't know if all the resources are there.

13. The first year was solid, except for Patriotic Prey. The second year had three good ones, and three bad, and was probably the worst year. The third year had four good entries and two bad. They generally get better. Honestly, this year's might be the best yet for sheer design aspects. Not so much for the synopses, but they're also not the worst for that [16].

14. In the Tom Cruise version, the hero does give himself up to the aliens at one point... but he brings along a belt of grenades and they bring the alien down! That's... that's really not the same thing.

15. Prey and Silent Bob? Nah. Gotta think a lot harder than that...

16. Pretty sure year two was the worst for the synopses, followed by year three. And it's all on me. Sadness.