Ward Sutton’s mashup-happy new Village Voice cover. (Ward Sutton/Village Voice)

The Village Voice is hitting the stands with its long-planned ”Comics Issue,” and the cover — by ever-talented Ward Sutton — is a glorious menagerie of mashups inspired by “cartooning greats.”

“I was thrilled when the Voice asked me to do the cover for their comics issue,” Sutton tells Comic Riffs, noting that the concept evolved over many months.

“It started with the Village Voice art director, John Dixon, suggesting some kind of play on the famous M.C. Escher drawing of the hands-drawing-hands,” Sutton tells us. “From there, I suggested an idea of different characters drawing each other in that Escher manner — filling a page on a drawing board with all sorts of familiar and obscure characters.”

That precise concept didn’t pan out, but it did lead to drawing iconic characters in the style of some top cartoonists as homage.

“Our main hope for this was for it to be a celebration of cartooning,” Sutton tells ‘Riffs. “I wanted to create juxtapositions of artists and characters that would hopefully surprise and delight the viewer, while also being recognizable — at least by comics fans. And I also wanted to create mash-ups that would be fun to draw and see realized for myself.”

Add to the graphic recipe several other design elements, and the result is a visual feast for fans — which is especially striking just two years after the Village Voice Media chain, citing budget issues, suspended publication of its alt-cartoons. (Just last week, we interviewed Dan Perkins — aka Tom Tomorrow — who reminded us he lost more than a dozen Voice-chain clients in 2009.)

The Voice's comics issue even includes an article on why comics is such a relatively low-paying field; Sutton notes to Comic Riffs that he was indeed paid for his Voice work.

Says Sutton of the homage: “It was really a joy to combine all these things.”

To avoid spoiler-age, Comic Riffs will give you room to pick out the 14 “main allusions” depicted by Sutton with seven mash-up characters. To see a list of all of them, just click through below.

The main allusions depicted are:

1. Wonder Woman in the style of Lynda Barry.

2. Charlie Brown in the style of Jack Kirby.

3. The Thing in the style of Stephen Hillenburg’s SpongeBob SquarePants.

4. Dilbert in the style of Charles Burns.

5. Olive Oyl in the style of R. Crumb.

6. Archie in the style of Peter Bagge.

7. Dagwood in the style of Chris Ware.

The Voice says it worked with 30 contributing artists for its comics issue, including John Kovaleski, Lalo Alcaraz and Cojo. To view a slide show of the “complete profile,” you can click here — or to flip through the issue, you can click here.