Joshua Middleton is an illustrator, comics artist, concept artist and art director who I first wrote about in 2006. At the time, he was primarily working in comics; since then, he has worked in film and television for clinents liks Universal, Lionsgate, Sony, Sony Pictures Animation and Warner Brothers; and as a cover artist for book publishers such as Scholastic, Abrams, Bloomsbury, Tor, Viking and Disney.
Middleton has also come full circle back to comic book publishing, becoming noted in particular for his striking cover art.
Comic book covers owe their lineage to the pulp magazine covers of the 1930s and 1940s. In those, flashy, often lurid images were used to grab your attention and get you to plop down your precious dime and pick up the magazine.
Comic book covers are basically in service of the same function: grab your attention and make you want to buy the publication. In pursuit of this, a lot of comics covers over the years have fallen into the least-common-denominator routine of being loud, brash and in-your-face. Not that there isn’t a place for that, but Middleton and some of his contemporaries have been raising the bar.
Middleton’s covers are attention grabbing to be sure, but also subtle in a way that is still unusual, with keen attention to nuanced shifts in color and value, and the use of fine, single-line weight outlines. The latter retain the graphic appeal of traditional comic art, but shift the line-to-color balance to bring the color forward, more in keeping with the styles of European and Japanese comics than mainstream American comics.
In particular, Middleton has been grabbing attention, both individually and on a larger scale, in his series of striking covers for DC Comics’ Supergirl.
Middleton brings some of that same nuanced sensibility to his book covers. Though usually more rendered than his comics covers, and often without outlines, these also pull back from over-rendering into a balance of shape and color that is particularly appealing.
Middleton’s current website serves as a blog, in which he features finished work as well as work in progress, various projects and comments on other topics. In the right-hand column you’ll find links with which you can sort for categories like “finished work” or “sketches”.