Valiant Entertainment does nothing by half measures, so it’s no surprise that when they were thinking about a new look for their relaunch of four classic Valiant series from the 1990s, they went with a top designer: Rian Hughes, whose credits include not only design work for corporate clients such as Virgin Airways and Penguin Books but also comics design and illustration; he drew a number of series for 2000AD and designed the UK edition of Love and Rockets, among other projects.
We talked to Hughes about his redesign of the Valiant logo and cover elements for this year’s new series. Hughes also talks about some of the other covers he has designed, including Iron Man and Howard Chaykin’s Challengers of the Unknown. And font freaks (you know who you are!), check the end of the interview for a special challenge!
Robot 6: What is your association with Valiant Comics—did you read them in the 1990s? If so, when did you start reading–what “era” seems the most important to you?
Rian Hughes: I confess I didn’t pick up many comics at all in the ’90s, as I was going through a period where comics simply weren’t one of my main interests. I’d become a bit burned out working on 2000AD for several years, and was pursuing work in mainstream illustration, advertising and graphic design, so the ’90s are a bit of a blank for me. I’d follow the work of fellow Brits who happened to be friends and acquaintances—Morrison, Milligan, Moore and co—but outside of that, a lot passed me by. Which is no reflection on Valiant, of course!
Marvel released the trade dress for their new line of graphic novels yesterday, and I have to say, as someone who seldom reads superhero comics, they tempt me in a way that DC’s New 52 line does not. The covers are simple and show off the characters without a lot of clutter, explosions, or excessive detail. I feel like these are books that someone who has never read comics before could pick up and read without having to look stuff up on Wikipedia.
I went back and looked at the New 52 first-issue covers to figure out what was turning me off about them. Some, like the Flash, Batwing, and Voodoo covers, do a nice job of showing what the comic is about, but others read as an impenetrable mass of lines and colors. I know this is largely a matter of taste, but as someone who reads a lot of manga and indie graphic novels, I find the art in many superhero comics difficult to “read” visually, because of the huge amount of detail and the lack of differentiation between subject and background.