Comics

How-To-Draw Variants: Teaching Titles

Writer-artist Chip Zdarsky breaks down the special variant series!

Image for How-To-Draw Variants: Teaching Titles

Evoking what was once a standard of comics past, a collection of How-To-Draw variant covers will be available across 20 different issues this October—including BLACK PANTHER #166, CAPTAIN MARVEL #125, ALL-NEW GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY #11, DAREDEVIL #27, and GWENPOOL #21!

Via the artistic tutelage of Chip Zdarsky (writer of PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN, STAR-LORD, and HOWARD THE DUCK), readers will get a step-by-step guide to illustrating their favorite characters. How “expert” that artistic tutelage will be…is less certain.

We sat down with Chip and Editor Nick Lowe to chat about how these covers came to life.

Marvel.com: Nick, when was the first time you ever came across a how-to-draw featurette in a comic—and what did it mean to you? And then how did this project come about?

Nick Lowe: The book How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way was huge for me back in middle school and high school—and still is today. Let’s be honest: John Buscema is one of the most underrated artists in comic history. He could draw anything and you’d hear these amazing stories about him, but you see how he approached the work and it’s just stunning.

We generally do Sketch Variant covers for our big launches and when PETER PARKER: THE SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN came around, it hit me that we could do something a little different…especially with someone as truly bizarre as Chip, our writer. So I emailed Chip and before I knew it he sent in the hilarious How-To-Draw Spider-Man cover. [Editor-in-Chief] Axel Alonso saw it and loved it and he had the idea to roll it out into all these variants.

Marvel.com: Chip, what did you think when they approached you about this?

Chip Zdarsky: Well, like Nick says, we were gearing up for issue one of Peter Parker and, you know, launching a Spider-Man book is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I told Nick that I’d love to do one of the variant covers.

Marvel.com: Nick, what made Chip the go-to man for these covers? What are his strengths with this kind of work?

Nick Lowe: He’s a very troubled individual, so I knew I could exploit those troubles here. His strengths certainly aren’t art, that’s for sure, but I guess he’s pretty funny.

Marvel.com: Chip, there’s got to be more to this story. What do you remember about the Spidey editorial team’s reaction to your interest in doing a variant for the book?

Chip Zdarsky:  Never heard back. Which, you know, stung, since they had 80-90 variants for issue one. But, I forgave Nick, ‘cause he’s a really busy guy, spending most of his day telling me “no” to my story ideas. So it probably slipped his mind to tell me “no” for my variant.

Then, just before they were sending the covers to the printer, Nick contacted me. He said they were doing one of the blank sketch variants, but that I could maybe write a fun little thing on the back cover before they sent it to the printer. Was it out of pity for me? Probably. Would I exploit that pity? Yeah. Yeah, I would.

So I sent him a How-To-Draw guide for Spidey instead. It seemed to fit in with the theme of the blank covers. Nick loved it and told me I’m his favorite person at Marvel; more than Mark Waid, Dan Slott, his assistant editors Alison and Devin, etc., which was really nice to hear.

So, the Spider-Man cover came out, and people seemed to like it! I figured at that point Marvel would greenlight a How-To-Draw movie and I’d be set for life. But instead, I got a text message from Axel Alonso, Editor-in-Chief—I call those Axts—telling me that I was now drawing twenty of those covers.

Marvel.com: Nick, do you have a favorite cover?

Nick Lowe:  I love the Lockjaw one a lot. I love the DAREDEVIL one, too. But they’re all so great.

Marvel.com: Chip, do you have a personal favorite?

Chip Zdarsky: I’m pretty happy with the DAREDEVIL one, which has made its way online already. But so far my favorite is the PUNISHER one, ’cause it’s really tricky to capture the soul of a killing machine. But I think I succeeded.

Marvel.com: How long did a typical cover take you to create from beginning to end?

Chip Zdarsky: In a lot of ways, my entire life has been leading to this job, so I would say each one takes a lifetime. Or, like, half an hour. Depending on how you look at it.

Marvel.com: Nick, any chance that something like this could be expanded upon in the future?

Nick Lowe: I sure hope so! I think they’re so fun and I can’t wait for a generation of burgeoning artists to be led down the wrong path! These are the complete inversion of my beloved How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way!

Marvel.com: We’ll give the last words on these variants to the writer-artist—Chip, given a hypothetical chance to do more of these, which other characters would you love to do?

Chip Zdarsky: [Redacted], I guess.

Marvel.com: *sigh*

Keep an eye out for Chip Zdarsky’s How-To-Draw variant covers in stores this October!