Livin’ the dream

Claysburg artist designs new cover of 'G.I. Joe' comic

Courtesy photo Claysburg artist Gus Mauk drew this cover for the upcoming issue of “G.I. Joe” to commemorate the second anniversary of Comics Vault in Altoona.

Gus Mauk has been drawing since he was old enough to hold a pencil. Over the years the Claysburg man, 38, has honed his skills and even expanded the hobby into what he describes as like “a second full-time job” doing three or four commissions a week.

But recently, Mauk was afforded a unique opportunity. He got to design the cover for the upcoming issue of the long-running comic book line “G.I. Joe.”

“I’ve always wanted to do covers,” Mauk said. “I was like, real happy — it was hard not telling people.”

He explained that though the art on the inside of a comic is interesting it was the intricate cover designs that have always captured his attention. Luckily for him, his friend Neil Carney owns Comics Vault in Altoona and through that friendship the opportunity to design the “G.I. Joe” cover came about.

Carney said he wanted to do something special in honor of the second anniversary of the Comics Vault and he wanted to feature a local artist while commemorating the occasion.

“There’s no point in owning a business in the community without supporting the local guys,” Carney said.

So, he called IDW Publishing, the company that prints “G.I. Joe,” and explained that he wanted to do something special for his second anniversary and use Mauk as the artist. Because his account with Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc., the comic book distribution service for retailers in the United States, is in good standing IDW was immediately receptive to the idea and told Carney to have Mauk get something together and send it over. That was the third week in June.

Carney said if IDW wouldn’t have agreed to use Mauk he would have dropped the idea.

“There’s way more of an emotional impact because I had my friend do it,” Carney explained.

Mauk said he felt nervous at first when he got the news that he was going to get to do the cover. But once the concept was decided upon the project became easier.

During the design phase Mauk and Carney spent a good deal of time together trying to figure out what and who they wanted to feature on the cover. Mauk said he was leaning toward either using one of the most popular characters, the good-guy ninja “Snake Eyes” or the supreme leader of the terrorist antagonist of the series “Cobra Commander.”

After finding an image of a character holding a miniature globe in their hand Mauk and Carney knew what they wanted to do. Mauk created the image of “Cobra Commander” with the world in one hand and a king cobra in the other.

Carney said IDW liked the concept “right off the bat.” Before either of them knew it the final version of the cover needed to be sent over. However, Mauk said he didn’t feel comfortable doing the coloring of the image so he just worked on the sketch and agreed to have an IDW colorist finish it.

After finishing the sketch in pencil he then “inked” it. This is the process of going back over the drawing with a pen in order to define the lines and prepare the image for coloring.

According to Mauk, the inking was the hardest part of the entire endeavor. Carney commented that it’s the most technical Mauk has ever gotten with a piece he’s done.

The issue of “G.I. Joe” is set to hit shelves Sept. 12 if everything goes right with the printing, according to Carney. There will be two versions of the comic available at Comics Vault, the black and white variant that Mauk did and the full-color version. Mauk will then be at the store from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 15 to do a signing event for free.

“The book and Gus being here to sign it is like the jewel in the anniversary,” Carney said.

Normally a special edition like this would cost around $10 but because of the occasion Carney said he’d be selling it for the cover price of around $4. Additionally, because of the anniversary and because Sept. 15 is “Batman Day” Carney commissioned Mauk to do a couple of prints. The first 50 people through the door that day will receive these prints that will also be signed by Mauk.