October Cover Story

Designing the October cover image leads us to a classic children's book and a superhero cartoonist.

Sometimes the cover story traces a direct line between two points, an easy connection between concept and completion.

Not so for October.

The job started out easy enough — in fact, the cover was done in two days. But then editor Linda Baker shifted gears, and what had been the cover story — The New Philanthropy — moved inside, and the food waste feature became the cover story.

I was back to an empty page.

Linda very much wanted the cover headline to be “Wasted.”

So I batted out a few thoughts that were singularly and collectively unimpressive.

Octfoodwaste lineup 

 Ramona 300Linda herself had a vision of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona, who in one classic story takes bites of apples and casually tosses them aside. She really liked Ramona’s devil-may-care attitude, and wanted a design that was similarly lighthearted and funny.

I worried that juxtaposing the word “Wasted” with an image of someone snacking on piles of food would signal “stoners.” I also didn’t want to literally make reference to Ramona, having just illustrated a cover in homage to Saul Steinberg two months earlier.

We hammered out what the image should be — a young man blithely gorging on food and tossing half-eaten morsels into a compost bucket. That compost bucket would be key, communicating unequivocally that the story was about wasted food —not wasted people.


But I’m no cartoonist. The solution was to hire — a super hero comic book artist (who also happens to be my brother-in-law).

mark gilliansuperhero 

That would be Mark Conahan, who draws a comic series called Hopeless Old Men On Skateboards. He is shown above modeling one of the costumes from his daughter Gillian’s book, The Hero’s Closet: Sewing for Cosplay and Costuming. 

 MCcomic lineup

Mark made a few rapid sketches, and we were able to refine the image and its content quickly. Would that it were always so easy!

Oct MC sketches lineup


Joan McGuire

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