Tom Fowler’s Cover Process on A ONCE CROWDED SKY

With the release of his first novel, A Once Crowded Sky, author Tom King shared with us the cover process for the book. All the artwork was done by artist Tom Fowler, and we might have even had something to do with it. Now we’ll turn it over to Tom:

1. Weekly Sketch-Up piece: While visiting iFanboy a few years ago I saw the gorgeous piece by Tom Fowler, an artist I hadn’t yet heard of. At the time I was experimenting with names for the novel, and I copied this piece into Powerpoint and put up possible titles over the art. A Once Crowded Sky, a line taken from a moment in the book, seemed to fit this art eerily well. I sent the sketch and the title to the brilliant Cliff Chiang (my original artist on the book), and said I wanted the cover to look like this. When Cliff had to drop out for Wonder Woman, he put me in touch with Fowler.

2. Sketch designs: I told Fowler I wanted the cover lay-out to resemble his sketch except perhaps overlooking a city rather than a farm, and, of course, instead of Superman he should draw in a character from the novel, Ultimate, The Man With The Metal Face. Fowler came up with the idea to have the city be on fire, a representation of a growing threat found in the book. Fowler then submitted these possible sketches to Simon & Schuster for the cover. Editorial there chose the one that closely resembled his original Sketch-Up piece.

3. Preliminary cover painting: Fowler painted this preliminary design and submitted it to editorial for comment.

4. Preliminary cover with lettering: Editorial responded with this possible cover, which they Photoshopped a bit, changing both the city and Ultimate’s size and costume (you can see Ultimate’s boots have been basically finger-painted in).

5. Final cover painting: Rather than have the piece warped by Photoshop, Fowler repainted it with the new specifications, adding details to the clouds and costume. Here, the cover transcends commerical design and becomes art. I particularly love the tilt in the head he added, which, to my eye, adds some ambiguity to the piece: is our hero about to walk away or about to fall?

6. Final cover with lettering: Simon & Schuster added the final lettering and changed some of the coloring, then they sent me copies of my book with this amazing cover. Then I freaked out.

We want to thank Tom for sharing. You can pick up A Once Crowded Sky right now, because it’s out today.


  1. I love this process stuff. I actually met Tom King at an iFanboy event last year, and he was a super nice guy. I’ve been dying to read this book since he told me about it – can’t wait to grab it!

  2. Very cool! I would love to see more about this.

  3. great stuff. I love seeing book cover much goes into it. Need to check this book out as well.

  4. I got a great sketch from Tom at the con in Montreal, the man has chops!

  5. Was reading this in the store yesterday, and had to pick it up. It’s very, very good – it would be easy to bungle up the mishmash of comic pages and traditional prose, but King and Fowler pull it off. I can’t recommend it enough.

  6. Great look at the process. Great cover. And I love the title as well — evokes quite a feeling. Now I wanna know more about this novel… which I hadn’t even heard about until now…

  7. That Superman image at the top makes me feel like a 10 year old kid again. Love the simplicity.