A select few Vertigo series have been awarded the honor of having their covers collected. All of them have the dual distinction of having been very successful (during their initial run and in collected form) as well as featuring especially striking cover images.
Dustcovers: The Collected Sandman Covers contains all of Dave McKean’s Sandman cover images (individual issues and collections), as well as related pinup and trading card art, with commentary by McKean and Sandman writer Neil Gaiman. McKean also includes interior art from the collections, photographic studies, and other incidental artwork. And he designed and illustrated the book itself. So it’s very much an “artist’s book,” as opposed to a cover gallery–the only one of the three that fully has that tone. There were many cover images I didn’t remember at all. I was sure I had never seen the covers to issues #2-7 (the first seven were all portraits). But it turns out the covers are in the trade: the reproduction was so murky that I barely noticed them before. In collected form the “Worlds’ End” covers were only a small cover gallery in the front of the trade, so it’s nice to see them at full size. And McKean couldn’t resist improving a couple of them, early computer graphics experiments that he wasn’t completely happy with at the time. There are several things like that throughout the collection, which kept sending me off to check the original covers. The commentaries by McKean and Gaiman are brief but interesting: lots of information about how the images were made, who did the modelling, etc. My only complaint is that after the first story arc they largely stopped putting the comments on the page opposite the cover. Most of them are at the beginning of the arc, causing the reader to flip back and forth. The book is slightly oversize, large enough to print a cover at full size plus a border around it on all sides. It’s absolutely gorgeous, easily recommended to fans of McKean’s art.
Preacher: Dead or Alive – Covers by Glenn Fabry reproduces all of the Preacher covers (including the one-shots, miniseries and trade paperback collections), with the initial pencil sketches, plus commentary by Fabry and writer Garth Ennis. These are very striking images, so I remembered most of them (I read the whole series in collected form, but the covers were always included at full size). Nonetheless there were several that I had completely forgotten. Some of them could have gone very differently, had one of the other cover proposals been chosen. Fabry’s commentary is notable for its relentless self-criticism. He’s justifiably proud of his work, but he really hates a few of these cover paintings. And even the successful ones sometimes have details that he wishes he could fix (e.g. an arm or a hand). I was surprised to discover that he wasn’t satisfied with his portrayal of Tulip until late in the series run. The format and presentation of this collection are in tune with the blue-collar feel of the series. The book is standard trade paperback size, and the commentaries are brief and direct (as well as often humorous, despite the sometimes bizarre and gruesome subject matter of the images).
Fables: Covers by James Jean is a stunning oversize hardback book, definitely the most deluxe presentation of any of the Vertigo cover collections. All of the covers are accompanied by preliminary sketches and a quote from the comic or the script describing the visual reference behind the cover image. Jean only discusses the composition process for the eleven wraparound covers created for the Fables collections, so in that sense there is less insight into the process than the other cover books. Fables writer Bill Willingham contributed an Afterward, but did not participate in the commentary, unlike the previous collections. I had assumed that this collection was complete, but it was assembled after issue #75 (and 1001 Nights of Snowfall, the last cover image in the book). At the time Jean had not announced his departure, and went on to create covers for issues #76 – 81. I predict a “Revised Edition” at some future date. It’s also notable that Vertigo stopped commissioning the wraparound covers after the “The Good Prince” collection, which strikes me as an odd economy for a series which has been a consistent seller in collected form. Jean’s covers were used for the following two paperbacks, but they were re-purposed single issue covers, which is common Vertigo practice. One other small detail: since this is a James Jean collection, the issue #11 cover (painted by Aron Wiesenfeld) is not included.