Nick Cardy is one of best DC cover artists of all time. From Aquaman to The Brave & the Bold and Superman, his work is noted for the power of its composition and the emotional depth of his characters.
He only did one cover for the short-lived The Secret Six, but in my mind it is one of the best of the Sixties.
Normally, I source pieces from Heritage Auctions or other places on the web, but this cover eluded me. And I really wanted to work on it, so I had no choice but to remove the colour through various methods in Photoshop, and then retouch what was left into something approaching the original art. I’ve documented the process below.
Even so, what you’re left with is only the impression of a printing process instead of the brush and pen strokes of the original art. Hopefully, a high-res scan of the source will show up one day.
All images are larger than presented. Save them to your device to view them at full size.
An uncorrected very-high-res scan of the comic cover to capture the details of individual lines and halftone ink dots.
A detail of the uncorrected scan at actual size.
By manipulating the scan in Photoshop, most of the colour has been removed. The logos and type (the trade dress) will be handled separately in Illustrator and Photoshop.
This is a before-after comparison (move the slider left and right) in close-up between the cover scan and colour removal. In certain places we’re still left with halftone dots. For the linework, the printing plates of the Sixties made a physical impression in the paper and you can see the ink has been pushed out to the edges of the black lines here, leaving the centres not fully covered. It would not be very noticeable in print due to smaller size, lower contrast and colour behind it.
Converted to greyscale, the scan is further manipulated in Photoshop. Then the halftone dots which remain are hand retouched out, and the hollow linework is painted in to restore an appearance closer to the original.
The reconstructed logos are Illustrator vector art, and the balloon lettering was taken into Photoshop for clean-up.
Reconstructed colour of the published colour.
Using Gaspar Saladino’s alternate logo.
The black & white version of the published house ad promoting Secret Six No. 2. Lettered and layed out by Gaspar Saladino.
The colour version of the published house ad promoting Secret Six No. 2.
The block lettering and logos were reconstructed as vector art for this new version of the b&w house ad.