Shatter Special No. 1, 1985, Image Comics, Cover by Mike Saenz.
The POP Retro Cover Of The Week continues its celebration and examination of iconic comic covers from the 1960s through the 2000s, this week returning to 1985, when digital technology first touched the comics industry. Appropriately, First Comics was the first publisher to attempt, as the cover banner proclaimed: THE FIRST COMPUTERIZED COMIC! to be digitally illustrated and lettered.
For Shatter Special #1, artist Mike Saenz used a mouse to painstakingly illustrate the cover and interior art on an Apple Macintosh Plus, using MacPaint software, with all art data stored on floppys. Another limitation was the square size of the 9-inch built-in monitor, which didn't allow the entire comic page to be viewed at once. Apple donated a Laserwriter to allow Saenz to use sharp Adobe Postscript fonts, and to make the illustrated graphics smoother and less pixelated. However, the memory, software, and processing power to properly digitally color comics was still years away, so the art was then printed out, handcolored, and photographed in the traditional method for color separations and printing.
As a graphic design professional myself who worked with those early Apple computers, I can too easily imagine and greatly appreciate how much time and patience it required to draw anything with that first gen, clunky mouse. Straight or diagonal lines were a breeze, but curved, organic shapes were especially difficult, as they had to be drawn freehand. Command-Z was your best friend.
Saenz’ cover art is highly detailed, with lots of typeset fonts overlaid and blending together for texture, scenic decoration, and atmosphere. His futuristic skyline and vehicles may be heavily influenced by the Blade Runner movie of a few years previous, but they are beautifully illustrated nonetheless.
Add the appropriately bitmappy SHATTER title logo that looked like it had been corrupted by a computer virus, and this POP Retro Cover Of The Week, while not memorably iconic in appearance, was an important milestone because of what it represented: a huge leap in technology.
Next week: A cover from the image-over-substance, cross-hatchy Nineties!