Exclusive: Stray: Issue One Cover Reveal And Finished Artwork

By: Mandy J Watson
Posted: 18 June 2014
Category: Features
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Stray is a new comics series that has been in development thanks to the help of Kickstarter backers and an enthusiastic comics community. The first issue was recently revealed digitally to backers and brainwavez.org has an exclusive reveal of the other cover art that nobody knew had been completed, as well as a showcase of some of the first issue's inks and colours to whet your appetite.

Stray is a new creator-owned four-issue comic series by Vito Delsante (words and lettering) in the US and Sean Isaakse (art) in South Africa, which I briefly mentioned in a comics-news roundup in April. It's the story of a child superhero, the Rottweiler, who eventually hangs up his spandex and joins the real world as Rodney Weller but then is brought back into crime fighting as an adult in order to solve the murder of his mentor.

The first issue was successfully funded via a Kickstarter campaign that was run in October last year and generated US$11 000 to cover the production costs. Over the next few months the team kept backers updated with sneak peeks, teasers, and progress reports, as well as the pitfalls and publishing setbacks, with honesty and sincerity that kept everyone enthused and supportive. Fans following the team on social media were also treated to work-in-progress teasers but the best nuggets were communicated only to backers, who were told to keep them under wraps.

Exclusive: Stray: Issue One Cover Reveal - art by Stephane Roux

The first issue was pretty much done by the end of March, bar a bit of extra production, but backers had to wait a bit before they could get their hands on it. Then, on Monday this week, came the big announcement - the special-edition issues were ready as PDFs, and backers could download their copies, of which there are two versions: the Original Cut edition for low-level backers, featuring special Kickstarter-only cover art by Stéphane Roux (pictured above), and the Director's Cut edition for higher-level backers (many of whom will also see issue one in print soon), which features both the exclusive cover and a page-by-page commentary by Delsante and Izaakse that discusses the creation process of both the art and the story, as well as drops info nuggets and Easter egg info for an extra, fascinating peek behind the scenes.

While the cover depicted above is only available to Kickstarter backers the general public will be able to buy the issue, featuring the same contents as the Original Cut edition, with a different cover, by New York-based artist Khary Randolph, who has worked for both DC and Marvel. Thanks to the Stray team brainwavez.org is officially able to debut the gritty art right here:

Exclusive: Stray: Issue One Cover Reveal - art by Khary Randolph

That's not all. Bar a few public teasers here and there only backers have seen the interior art - both 10 pages of the black-and-white inks as a backer perk and then the final pages in the PDFs on Monday - but the team has allowed brainwavez.org to show a few pages publicly, which should get you excited for the full issue.

For the three pages below, run your mouse over the image to compare the inks with the final production.

Exclusive: Stray: Issue One Page 5

Above: Stray: Issue One Page 5: An early fight scene.

The story is told in both the present, with flashbacks to fill in some of the character history. Each era has been coloured by a different artist: the flashbacks (which aren't depicted here) are by Ross A Campbell and the modern colours (these three images) are by Simon Gough.

You'll note Gough's beautiful addition of window reflections in the second panel, which don't destroy Izaakse's cityscape line work in the background. The page is an homage to Watchmen and the choreography of the fight was mapped out by Delsante.

Exclusive: Stray: Issue One Page 9

Above: Stray: Issue One Page 9: Parkside Lounge.

Parkside Lounge is a real location in Houston Street in New York. I chose this page specifically to highlight Izaakse's art in the first few panels, as well as what Gough did with it when he added colour, as I'm a fan of architectural art, but also note the colour work on the skin tones and Rodney's shirt.

This page is also a good example of how the team handles busier pages. The panels and dialogue flow expertly - you don't get lost and read them in the wrong order - and it's very clear, as you compare the black-and-white pages with the final pages, how well the lettering was worked out so it fits perfectly in gaps that you don't even realise are there.

Exclusive: Stray: Issue One Page 11

Above: Stray: Issue One Page 11: (Fictional) Parkside Lounge interior.

The creators say that this page is an homage to the Chuck Dixon/Scott McDaniel run of Nightwing as they consider Rodney to be their equivalent of Dick Grayson (The Batman's protégé, and the first Robin, who then struck out on his own as Nightwing).

The colour work to create the lighting here is particularly interesting as Rodney flips through the one-page panel.

The team is currently halfway through issue two and has been posting teasers on social media each week to keep people updated as to the progress. Upcoming issues will also feature cameos by high-tier backers in hero and villain roles, and I hope to write a bit more about that at a later stage as we've already seen some of the artwork for those characters and it's been quite exciting to see what has been happening.

Stray will be arriving in comic-book stores in January 2015 so there's still quite a wait for the general public. For backers who are anxious to see what happens after the climax of the first issue it's going to be an even more painful wait but I suspect it will be worth it.

Tags: #books, #comics

On The Internet
Sean Izaakse: DeviantArt, Comic Vine, Twitter
Ross A Campbell: Comic Book DB, DeviantArt, Twitter

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