At one end, a visual artist whose creativity has stirred waves from within and beyond the Marvel Comics universe. At the other end, a trio of talented rap zombies from out of Brooklyn. Together, both of these worlds collide to create a tremble for all to see on 3001: A Laced Odyssey, Flatbush Zombies’ debut album.
Released on Friday (March 11) via Glorious Dead Recordings, the debut is a first for everyone involved, from Meech, Juice and Erick Arc Elliot of the Zombies, to the man behind 3001’s stunning artwork, David Nakayama. As he’s illustrated plenty of cover work for Marvel Comics, including issues for X-Men and Big Hero 6, among plenty of others, the San Francisco-based cover illustrator and concept artist made his first foray into album sleeve design for the Zombies’ newest LP.
Talking to REVOLT, Nakayama explains what it was like stepping into (Flatbush) Zombieland.
Initial layout sketches
1. Having done work with Disney/Marvel, Big Hero 6 and more, how did you get involved with Flatbush Zombies?
The social media hustle is a big part of being a freelancer these days, so I try to maintain an online presence and keep up-to-date portfolios at places like DeviantArt, Behance, etc for potential clients. That's where the best jobs come from, including this one.
In this case it was the Zombies' manager, Mr. Josh Dick, who found me online and asked if I had any availability to do some cover art. Sounded like fun, so I was happy to sign on.
2. What was the vision behind the artwork? What exactly were the Zombies looking for?
The Zombies are artists and comic book fans, and they had a clear, detailed vision of what they wanted right up front, including the general content and art style. We had a great call to get things started where they described this psychedelic, surreal scene with a city under siege, a big evil eye up top, and their heroic avatars on the scene to save the day.
The city's just packed with tons of little visual gags, which they described for me, and they each had want lists with a bunch of notes and helpful reference images for what they imagined their particular characters to look like.
3. Explain the process that went behind creating the cover art?
My job was to take the hundred or so ideas I had in front of me and somehow get them all into the same composition in a cool way. When you do it right, packing in everything plus the kitchen sink can make for a really striking image. There're just so many fun details for the viewer to absorb, y'know? It rewards you for looking closely. George Perez was a master at it, and I did my version of it here.
4. How does your art design process usually work?
Typically, I like to provide around 4-8 'thumbnail' sketches to kick things off. Just quick ideas of what the composition might look like if we did, say, a close-up vs. zoomed-out full figures.
Once the client picks the design they like, I bring it into Manga Studio and rough in basic forms like anatomy and costumes, fleshing things out and solving all the drawing issues before I commit to any details. When that's tight enough, I create a final line art layer in black digital ink.
Moving over to Photoshop, I go through several rounds of coloring and fx layers to get the look I'm after, which in this case is a modern comic style illustration with bright neon colors.
5. How would you describe the finished product?
Jam-packed! It's full of fun character details and visual gags, with intentionally psychedelic, eye-popping color. We wanted it to be fresh and different from everything else around it, and I like to think we succeeded! Fans seem to dig it.
Check out more from David Nakayama and his long list of published artworks here.
Flatbush Zombies' 3001: A Laced Odyssey is available now on iTunes.