Ghost Rider #15 Cover
In print design, more so than in most other design areas, differentiation is the key to success. As one industry veteran advised me early in my career, "If a potential buyer is scanning a rack of hundreds of titles, our job is to interrupt that flow. If we can get a customer to pick our product out of the rack, 9 times out of 10, we'll make the sale". So a lot of my job at Marvel involved finding ways to "break the flow".
Coming from a design background and having a familiarity with printing technology, I was able to gain a key insight about our product packaging. By the early '90s comics were experiencing a boom that placed their unit sales on a par with popular paperback bestsellers. If the volumes were the same and the print technology was the same, why couldn't comics use all the various enhanced forms of printing that book publishers used to draw attention to their product?
We first experimented with "fifth color" inks on Marve's HULK title and received tremendous reader feedback. So working with our production department, we contacted our printer and asked what other special treatments we could use. A sample of glow in the dark ink immediately caught my eye and I thought it would be perfect for our GHOST RIDER title. The character had enjoyed unexpected popularity thanks to a relaunch and we were looking to keep that momentum going in the second year of publication. An audacious repackaging could be just the trick to spike reader and press interest. The next step was to work with editor Bobbie Chase and artist Mark Texiera to create the perfect accompanying illustration. I knew from discussions with the production department that we could cover a significant area of the cover with glow in the dark and I wanted to make sure we didn't undersell the effect. The cover illustration was unusual for the time since action scenes were prevalent and tight closeups of characters were not in vogue. But the illustration proved to be the perfect piece for enhancement by this new print technology.
I remember receiving advanced copies of the cover at a retailer trade show. We had to rig an impromptu viewing booth that involved piping, drape, cardboard boxes and a flashlight. But retailers were blown away by the cover and most promised to increase their orders significantly after viewing the effect. GHOST RIDER #15 sold out almost immediately when it was published and we had to go back to press for several extra printings. In total the book sold over 500,000 units, increasing the popularity of an already hot character and paving the way for more enhanced cover and new print technologies.