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Exclusive: Francesco Francavilla on 18 of his coolest comic book covers

Contributed by
Jul 19, 2018

With a tip of my hat to the legendary Jim Steranko and the inimitable Alex Ross, nobody conveys comic book cool more than the Eisner Award-winning super artist Francesco Francavilla.

Any serious fan of the art form can be instantly humbled by the unbridled talent on display in his enviable cover work and interior art. Simmering with neo-noir intensity and presented in bold saturated hues of blood red, midnight blue, and sunset orange, the Italian sensation injects a haunting combination of raw talent and rare instincts into anything he sets his fertile mind to.

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Whether working far beyond the witching hour listening to favorite horror and sci-fi soundtracks, envisioning Marvel superheroes in the Winter Olympics, or crafting a gritty series showcasing a Marlboro-smoking Dark Knight circa 1972, Francavilla's ferocious creative energy extends to every shadowy corner of pop culture.

His evocative covers for titles like Afterlife With Archie, Black Mirror, Monsters Unleashed, All-Star Batman, The Spirit, and his creator-owned The Black Beetle are marvels to behold and carry a deep love of old-fashioned horror movies, classic monsters, and hard-boiled Golden Age pulp heroes.

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Francavilla might not be attending this year's San Diego Comic-Con, but we've got the next best thing! SYFY WIRE picked out a stimulating selection of the modern master's comic covers from his dizzying array of artwork and asked him to offer his memories and thoughts on each one.

Here are 18 of Francavilla's most iconic conjurations over the past decade, accompanied by insightful comments on their composition and design in his own words. Ingest them all, then tell us which of Francavilla's finest you love most.

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The Spriit #1 Var Cover (Dynamite Comics)

"My first official comic cover for Will Eisner's legendary creation, although not my first Spirit cover (I did one a couple of years earlier for Baltimore Comicon program book - that cover color scheme was re-used for this cover). I didn't know much about Matt Wagner's plot when asked to do this, except that — contrary to what happened in the previous Spirit series which was set in modern times — this mini would be set in the '40s/'50s so I went all pulp/noir on it. Gotta love those big fedoras!"

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All-Star Batman #8 Var Cover (DC Comics)

"With the Mad Hatter involved, we decided to go with an Alice in Wonderland theme so I used both the mirrors and the card sign elements. Plus I got the chance to draw as many bat-villains looming over Batman as I could: some are covered by the logo but I was able to fit in seven of them! Arkham Asylum-level villain crowd!"

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Afterlife with Archie #10 Reg Cover (Archie Comics)

"I've always been a fan of minimalist covers (did one for Marvel's Silver Surfer, which is still one of the favorite things I've ever drawn) so when I got the synopsis for #10 of Roberto's (Aguirre-Sacas) and my own creation, I decided to go silhouette for vampire Josie not only because I was trying to disguise what she would become in the book, but it worked well in giving the kind of rock poster the PussyCats would have. Cover was such a hit that Mondo choose to make it a large 18x24" screen print for my art show at their gallery in Austin, TX."

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Guardians of the Galaxy #8 Reg Cover (Marvel)

"Speaking of music posters or album covers, I wanted to get that approach for my second and last issue of GotG (got to draw a two-issue story with dear friend Brian Michael Bendis) showing off the team looking down at the reader. I don't use pink often (I'm more known for my house TM red/orange) but I really wanted to make this bold and stand out on the shelf and the color choice worked aces with this layout."

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The Black Beetle (DHP #11) (Dark Horse Comics)

"My first official cover for my own baby, The Black Beetle! Before DHP (Dark Horse Presents), Black Beetle had appeared as a limited ashcan I was taking to shows to promote my creation. Eventually Mike Richardson saw the character on my blog (Pulp Sunday) and asked me to bring BB to DH in the pages of DH Presents. Totally floored by the offer: this was the anthology where series like Hellboy and Sin City had started, and I couldn't be happier to see my creation getting its adventure in the comic world started in that same anthology book. For this cover I tried to play my adventure pulp cards to the best level: laser guns, jet-packed Nazis, my hero featured twice, and all looming over Colt City, BB's own turf. Still very fond of this cover that started it all."

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Detective Comics #874 Reg Cover (DC Comics)

"I LOVED working so much with Scott Snyder and Jock on Batman: The Black Mirror story, still one of my favorite books and experience in comics I've had so far. This was not the first cover I drew for #874. The very first cover I did for it was deemed to be a bit too unconventional for Batman books: it had Bat reflected on a spider's multiple eyes - a super close-up of the arachnid's pupils. So when that didn't go through editorial, I went back to the drawing board and came up with a more classic shot of Batman (the one you see here on the cover) still related to the story inside the issue. This was also my first full illustrated Batman issue (in the previous ones my story was a running back-up of eight pages per issue). This cover was also printed as big 18x24" poster for the Mondo gallery show."

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Flash Gordon #1 Var Cover (Dynamite Comics)

"Another first issue cover, and since it's for a classic cult pulp character, I wanted to go with a wraparound cover paying tribute to two classic Flash Gordon illustrators: Alex Raymond and Al Williamson. The space rockets, the alien mushrooms, the laser gun, the giant spider, stars and planets, I put it all in."

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Star Wars: Shattered Empire #1 Var Cover (Marvel)

"Is there the Millennium Falcon in this story? Yes, there is. Can I draw the Millennium Falcon on this cover? Yes, I can. That pretty much sums this up. Spent 90% of the time drawing the Millennium Falcon in great details. You can't really see it at first, but if you zoom in enough you can even see Han and Chewbacca in the ship's cockpit."

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Man-Thing #1 Var Cover (Marvel)

"When it comes to giant monsters, usually Marvel knows I can deliver, so after assigning me a series of Kirby-Giant-Monsters inspired covers (you'll see some in this article), editors asked me if I wanted to draw a giant centipede-like monster fighting Man-Thing in the swamps. I usually am not super-fast at replying to emails, but in this case I think I might have set a new record."

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KISS #1 Var Cover (Dynamite Comics)

"I had previously tackled KISS on covers, and it was for Archie Meets KISS (my first cover work and collaboration with Archie Comics, and the covers that in a way led to my more realistic approach to Archie characters and eventually to the birth of Afterlife with Archie). With that mini I had four covers, so I used each KISS member for each cover. In this case, I only had one cover to do, so I decided to put all four on it, but in a dynamic way, hence the lightning shaped panels and the color switch between reds and blues. It made for an eye-catching cover."

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Monsters Unleashed #3 Var Cover (Marvel)

"LOVE drawing monsters! LOVE drawing period airplanes/cars! LOVE doing movie poster style illustrations including hand-lettering titles in! (in this case 'RETURN OF THE MARTIAN!') And LOVE King Kirby's creations and designs! Needless to say, the whole series of Monsters Unleashed covers I did were some of the most fun I've ever had."

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The Lone Ranger #4 Reg Cover (Dynamite Comics)

"The Lone Ranger is another favorite pulp character for me to draw. I was lucky enough to draw 30+ covers for The Lone Ranger comic series, a joy for this guy who grew up watching the old TV series and all the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone and Co. The title for this story was "Ambush," I believe, so I wanted to subtly illustrate that on the cover (and by 'subtly' I mean the guy ambushing Lone Ranger is not that obviously drawn, but blends with the trees and the surroundings). The orange white blue palette was the one I used most for The Lone Ranger covers (I always try to assign to each series its own distinctive colors)."

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The X-Files S10 #17 Reg Cover (IDW Publshing)

"I consider myself lucky to have had chance to work on comic series that were derived from or a continuation of my favorite TV shows, and Season 10 of The X-Files is one of them. I've drawn about 20 X-Files covers, but those that required more horror elements were the most fun to draw. I always liked when the TV show was doing horror episodes 'cause X-Files horror can get pretty creepy, so I definitely went for a creepy vibe/look for this one."

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Monsters Unleashed #1 Var Cover (Marvel)

"Another cover from my Monsters Unleashed series. This was the very first one (although I think the first Kirby-giant-monster cover I have ever done for Marvel was a variant featuring the HYPNO-CREATURE) and features MONSTROM! I'll never tire of drawing swamps, Spanish moss, giant monsters and hand-made titles and type!"

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Uncanny X-Men #1 Var Cover (Marvel)

"One of the earlier covers for Marvel and still one of my favorites. I remember being given the designs for Cyclops' costume and thinking how cool it was. Coloring everything but leaving the pattern on the suit in white almost gave it a glowing look (thanks also to the reflected light on Magneto's eye). This too was eventually picked to be a big 18x24" screen print poster for the Mondo gallery show."

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Vader Down #1 Var Cover (Marvel)

"Never pass a chance to draw starships, especially the really cool ones. I had earlier opportunity to draw the Millennium Falcon, so when I was asked to do this cover, I decided to have fun drawing the X-Wing. In this case I had a model of the ship on my shelf so I just propped it and used it as reference (references are important when you need to be accurate, especially on likenesses or models). Put Vader looming in the bg and blending with the deep space et voila, job is done!"

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Unholy Grail #1 Var Cover (Aftershock Comics)

"I really wanted to go all creepy for this cover (which is a dark take on the King Arthur myths) so decided to draw the witch in her lair. Parchments, potions, candles, skulls, and a witch that should raise the hair in the back of your neck when you see her. As you can tell, I love drawing horror imagery."

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Vampironica #1 Var Cover (Archie Comics)

"Thanks to Afterlife with Archie I've been able to draw plenty of cemeteries on covers, Coming from Italy, I grew up visiting those that are filled with statues and mausoleums and cypresses, so that's usually the look I go with when tackling a cemetery and this Vampironica cover is a perfect example. I wasn't still sure about the content for the book when I was asked to do this cover, so I went with Vampironica holding the skull of Jughead framed by Jughead's zombie head as well (a nod to Afterlife in which the two are frenemies)."