Designer of mettle
Rian Hughes’ latest comic-book venture adds 1950s European styling to a very American hero Think about comics, and you’re probably visualising panels full of crosshatch-shaded, muscular people gritting their teeth and fighting evil.

Rian Hughes wanted his cover designs for the Iron Man arc Stark: Disassembled to be closer to classic Penguin paperback covers or jazz records than traditional comics. Iron Man is copyright Marvel Comics.

It doesn’t have to be this way, says star graphic artist Rian Hughes. He’s completing a series of five covers for an arc in the Iron Man series, Stark: Disassembled. The covers banish the biceps in favour of a more cerebral affair – literally. Each features an image of Iron Man’s helmet, inset with a picture describing the arc’s plot.

“I’ve taken an illustration that Salvador Larocca – who was the artist on the book – had already done,” Hughes explains. “It’s a silhouette of another picture he’d done of Iron Man. So I’ve taken two illustrations that he’d done from different contexts from his previous work, and then used them to mock it up.”

He adds: “Matt Fraction [the comic’s writer] wanted this clean, modern direction – something that wasn’t like a comic at all. He wanted it to be different – he wanted it to be unusual for an Iron Man comic, so his request to Marvel was get me involved.”

Apart from the placement of a prominent issue number and the use of upper- and lower-case lettering, Marvel – to his surprise and delight – left all Hughes’s ideas untouched.

Putting together a comic is highly collaborative, Hughes explains. His ideas went to Matt Fraction, Salvador Larocca and the publisher’s higher-ups. Once approved, it was up to Larocca to draw the final images according to Hughes’s specifications.

“Salvador completely grasped where I came from and ran with the ball. He did a fantastic job,” says Hughes. “I didn’t have to heavily art-direct him at all.”