Part of my Comic-Con Spotlight Panel slide show described how Abrams and I designed the cover for Mom's Cancer. One thing I learned about the publishing business was that, unlike almost every other book-related decision that involved only Editor Charlie and me, picking a cover involves everyone. Marketing, sales, management: covers (at least at Abrams) are chosen by a committee of people whose expertise and interests don't always overlap.
Here's Charlie's very first rough of how he thought the cover should look. He just printed a copy of one of my story's pages, blacked out the captions, added the title, and indicated how the colors might look. Charlie liked the "iconography" of this image--the sense the panels simultaneously communicated that this was a comic and at the same time suggested looking into Mom's life through a window. It really spoke to him.
I wasn't immediately sold. I understood why he liked it, but I wanted to build the cover around my drawing of Mom sitting in the chemo chair. That was the very first picture I sketched when I conceived the idea of telling our family's story as a comic and it meant a lot to me. If I recall correctly, members of the cover committee found it too bleak and busy. I reluctantly moved on.
Over the next several weeks, Charlie and I batted dozens of ideas back and forth--generally beginning with an overarching concept and then playing with color, font, layout, etc. to get different takes on the idea. One time it was "cartoon panels," another time "trees." These were all my brainstorms that Charlie was genuinely happy to consider and pass on if he liked them. The image below summarizes just a few of the variations we went through.
No one liked any of my alternatives as much as Charlie's concept; in the end, neither did I. The last one in the lower right corner was my last-ditch attempt to find a cover guaranteed to please my editor, who'd spent 12 years at DC Comics working with talent like Alex Ross, Roger Stern, Chip Kidd, etc. I don't recall Charlie sounding as amused as I'd hoped when I called him to discuss it, but the Comic-Con audience loved it:
Anyway, after weeks of sketching, drawing, coloring and e-mailing, we at last arrived at the cover we did. I was happy, my editor was happy, the committee was happy. Most of all, my most important and potentially harshest critic, Mom, was happy. And Charlie called it pretty much from the start. Also note that on his mock-up, Charlie inserted a little caption box reading "Eisner Award Winner" when at the time I had not yet won it. Right again. This was not my last opportunity to learn to trust his judgment.