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Exclusive: Comics artist Jock unveils secrets behind 12 of his most memorable covers

Contributed by
Dec 12, 2018

Following in the glittered footsteps of other one-named celebrities such as Prince, Bono, and Elvis, superstar comic book artist Jock is already a familiar creator whose bold, unsettling linework has graced the pages of acclaimed titles like The Losers, Wytches, All-Star Batman, Scalped, Dark Nights: Metal, and many more.

December 12 marks the debut of his and Scott Snyder's nightmarish The Batman Who Laughs #1, and to help celebrate the occasion, SYFY WIRE would like to toast the unique artistry of Jock by presenting 12 provocative covers alongside his personal comments on their individual composition and design.

Jock, the pseudonym for British artist Mark Simpson, has also ventured outside the comics realm and conjured up key art, concept design, and marketing images for Hollywood films like Iron Man 3, The Dark Knight Trilogy, Dredd, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and Ex Machina.

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Often surreal and impressionistic, other times cold and confrontational, Jock's striking showpieces are always pushing the infinite boundaries of contemporary art in any medium or message he delivers.

Ingest the excellence of Jock in this fiercely original gathering of a dozen of his finest cover pieces, plus a bonus choice detailing his leering art for The Batman Who Laughs below, then just try and pick your favorites out of this impressive array of art.

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Detective Comics #880 (2011)

Jock: The cover that will likely be on my gravestone. I had no idea at the time that it was particularly strong. In fact, I sent it to artist friend Lee Garbett and asked if it was too ‘boring’…. I was concerned that it was just a straightforward head shot. Was it too safe? Maybe I should crop in on his eye or change up the composition? “No, you’re fine” was Lee’s reply. I then sent it to my Bat editor Mike Marts. "How’s this looking Mike?” “Like the greatest cover I’ve ever seen.” "Oh."

This thing has been reprinted on cups, shoes, swimsuits, tee shirts, hoodies, hats, socks, ties, posters, stickers, flags, blankets, belts, you name it... and I’ve seen countless tattoos, literally hundreds, including two entire back pieces. The original issue is worth a lot of money now too, just on the strength of the cover art rather than it being a relaunch issue or a #1, which is gratifying.

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Green Arrow: Year One #3 (2007)

I loved working on Green Arrow Year One. Coming off The Losers, it was our chance to do our kind of action story, but set within the DCU. All we had to do was make sure Ollie ended up in his costume on top of a building in Star City on the very last page. Everything else was fair game. This is actually a crop of the original cover; the piece had the full explosion and Ollie up in the top corner getting blown out of the page. I can’t remember whether it was my or editorial’s idea to zoom in a little more and focus on the figure.

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All-Star Batman #6 (2017)

One of my favorite Bat covers. The original sketch was drawn years ago and was actually rejected at the time in favor of another design. Working on "Ends of the Earth" with Scott, I dusted it off to use again. I love covers that sell the image on just atmosphere rather than subject matter, and even though Batman is front and center here, I think it’s the winter feel that is the strongest thing here.

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Swamp Thing #21 (2013)

The only Swamp Thing cover I’ve drawn. I did draw an issue of interiors with writer Josh Dysart, which has never been reprinted - I tried all kinds of collage and paint in that issue, and this cover definitely has a richer feel to it which Swamp Thing can support. Not one of my favorites, I have to say, but I’ve long given up second-guessing my work as people often say they like this one. Graphitti Design put out a T-shirt with it, too.

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Scalped #59 (2012)

My favorite Scalped cover. I really didn’t know if they’d let me get away with this design, as it’s essentially just a huge swathe of orange texture. But this was the penultimate issue to the 60-issue run, so I guess by this point anything was fair game. Looking closer, though, there are two tiny figures to the right of the burning casino, so there is context to the minimal design. Thanks go to my editor Will Dennis for trusting me with this one — I love it when I get to push things on covers, and this could have easily been cast aside for something more obvious.

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Dark Nights: Metal #1 (2018)

I’m not a typical superhero artist — there are so many guys that can do things with those characters that I could never do, but when Mark Chiarello told me about the Metal brief I jumped at the chance. I imagined the cover as a '70s Black Metal album. Just dark and imposing.;

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Daredevil: Reborn #3 (2011)

I still like this piece. I’m massively critical of my own work, but this stands up for me. I enjoyed painting the figure and getting the right level of musculature and anatomy. And the pink was an accident that stuck - I think I may have inverted an originally blue background and liked it. So it stayed.

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Wytches #3 (2014)

Wytches is a very special series for me. Scott [Snyder] writes perhaps his most personal stuff in it, and the fact it’s been so well received is so great. This was a variant version of the issue #3 cover, produced for the Image Expo. Similarly to the Scalped cover above, I love how much of it is basically just texture, and I like the heavily silhouetted figure, but it feels like there’s still some depth to the form. I love when you can use a lot of black, but it doesn’t simplify it, it strengthens and anchors the form of a figure.

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Detective Comics #871 (2010)

The first issue of Black Mirror, and again, I thought this was weak when I sent it in. My editor reassured me, but I wasn't that satisfied with it. But time has a way of working things out, and now this is the Bat image associated most with Black Mirror, so I’m fond of it. My first time working with Scott and the book was a joy to draw - the whole team was fantastic and the fact that it’s stayed on the shelves all these years is rewarding. DC is releasing an Absolute Edition early next year, but I think they’re (wisely) using the Detective #880 image of the Joker as the main cover.

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Thunderbolts #127 (2009)

One of my few Marvel covers. I still like this, too. I wanted something striking, simple, and to let the gnarliness of Venom himself be the focus. And the spittle. Lots of spit and way too many highlights. Actually, forget Venom, this cover is all about the spit.

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2000 AD - Free Comic Book Day (2012)

A later 2000 AD cover. This was originally just Dredd but I was asked to add the extra two characters - Ichabod Crane and Zombo. I like using silhouettes a lot, but looking back I think this cover could be better… I like the small sharp area of red highlight on Dredd’s helmet, though. And the bilious green is a bold choice!

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The Losers #20 (2005)

The Losers covers were so enjoyable… I was originally not signed on to draw them - DC had other ideas, but our editor Will Dennis was having trouble locking someone down. I asked if I could have a go and sent in six sketches. Will luckily loved them and five of those original ideas ended up as final covers for the series. This is a simple idea, but effective. I reworked it for a trade paperback with the American flag, too.

When I was visiting Warner Brothers during the production of the movie adaptation, the head of advertising told me they stole this concept for an Ocean's 12 poster... lifted the concept wholesale and adapted it for that movie. I always wonder how much comics influence other media and the wider world, and I guess on that day I got a pretty straight answer.

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Bonus: The Batman Who Laughs #1 (2018)

The Batman Who Laughs - this was a promo image announcing the series but is also serving as the first cover. This was actually the very first drawing I did of the character. It’s a great opportunity for us to tell a bookend story to The Black Mirror - the same creative team together again and a main recurring character, but also it serves as a springboard for some huge plans Scott has for the DCU over the next couple years.

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