The Sun Makers

21 March 2012

Sometimes stories for which a lot of photos exist can be as hard to devise covers for as those for which very few images are available, as you're almost overwhelmed with choices. It's not the number of photos that matters so much as their content and quality. Just a few well-posed (ideally dramatic), clear shots can enable an eye-catching composition. Sadly, 'The Sun Makers' is not one of those. I'm struggling a little with 'The Android Invasion', but at least there I have a few iconic shots of Kraals to consider; for this story there's so little to work with.

One problem, in my eyes, is that it's one of the great mis-named stories of the series. The fact that the Company has made Pluto habitable with some artificial suns is just about the least relevant plot point to the themes of this story, yet the title kind of demands the cover image relates to this aspect. One can ignore this, as Andrew Skilleter did for his Target book jacket, but then what are the alternatives? There are no monsters to dominate the image, and the set design is hardly inspiring (the magnified computer circuits are interesting, but even less relevant than a sun).

And then there's the fact that there are precisely zero photos of the story's main villains. Oh hang on, there are a couple of rehearsal shots with Henry Woolf out of costume, so they're not much use. All we have is lots of set shots (where are they when it's a set design you actually want to see?) and a few black-and-white photos from one setup in episode four. All of which is not an attempt to excuse a poor cover but perhaps an explanation of why you're unlikely to see anything unexpected.

So given all the above, it's not surprising that the finished article relied heavily on screengrabs (even Lee Binding had to do that for the official cover). I was initially resigned to using a similar shot for the Collector as Lee did, thinking he was only seen behind the desk in his office, but a scan through the DVD revealed a scene where he visits the correction centre which provided a clearer shot of him in his wheelchair. As ever screengrabs take a lot of cleaning up to remove noise and some edging artefacts, but I grab them at double size so I can do some fine finger painting that then sharpens as I reduce the image to fit the cover. Given the background was going to be a bit tangential, I wanted to include Gatherer Hade as well as the Collector (also because I don't think I've ever seen a cover with him on). Unfortunately the best full- or mid-length shot I could find was on film, so rather soft even after cleaning up, but I matched this with a close-up from a videoed studio scene to maximise facial detail.

The Doctor is actually a mix of three images. Two are the same - a scan from DWM and a grab from the DVD's photo gallery of him and Cordo - which I combined in a 50-50 mix to retain the detail of the former with the smoothness and colour of the latter. In this image Cordo is in front of the Doctor's right shoulder (on our left), but fortunately a similar shot in the photo gallery has him in a different position, so I used this to patch in the shoulder. After the usual adjusting of light and colour balance, I also worked carefully on the Doctor's face to remove the awkward shadow that fell across his left cheek.

Finally, for the background NASA provided a good sun image, which I backed with some Glitterato stars. I drew the sun symbol (the Company's logo?) in Illustrator. I felt the sun worked best centred horizontally, but that left a bit of a gap behind the Doctor's head, so I added in Pluto using LunarCell. I guess the relative sizes are wrong, and there should be nine suns around Pluto, but it conveys the idea.

Download the final SUN MAKERS cover here

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