Saturday, 2 October 2010

Super Squirrel Undefeated!

Carlos Ezquerra (or Charlie Squirrel as he is affectionately known) is the undisputed king of the 2000AD cover! He has created a staggering 91 covers for the Prog alone (his nearest rivals are Cliff Robinson with 81 and Ian Gibson with 53) and countless others for Megazines, annuals and other fine 2000AD publications.

Fans around the world were shocked earlier this year when the man who created legends such as Judge Dredd, Johnny Alpha and Major Eazy announced he'd undergone surgery for lung cancer. Having had one lung removed, Carlos informed us that he was beginning chemotherapy treatment.

Enter superfan Mark 'Legendary Shark' Howard who had the brilliant idea of enlisting fans and professionals to take part in a 'Secret Project' to make Carlos a get well soon comic to help keep those thrill suckers at bay. Industry giants old and new such as John Wagner, Cliff Robinson, Andy Diggle, D'Isreali, Boo Cook, Neil Roberts, Mark Harrison, Mick Collins, Leigh Gallagher, David Lloyd, Henry Flint, Al Ewing, Alex Ronald, Barrie Mitchell and many,many more contributed to make an incredible, and very moving, tribute to a man who has touched the lives of thousands.

Enter star artdroid of the future Kevin Levell... A real rising star (please check out his blog and website and don't forget the fantastic Fractal Friction webcomic of which Kev is a regular artist,) who was put on cover duties after the project's editor hit a snag. Mark said "The cover was created by Kev Levell at very short notice after the original artist fell through. He also designed a logo for my local printer's motorcycle club as part of a deal I got for cheap printing. All hail Sir Kev!"

Kev takes up the story, stating that he wasn't over the moon with his work "It was a bit of a rush job and all I can see are the things it could have been!" The man is obviously mad, the image is absolutely excellent. He continues: "Here is the main image Mark sent me and pretty much the template for the cover, Mark asked that I use an appropriate logo and had a few key things he was trying to achieve but that was it really."

The reference picture as sent by the Legendary Mark Howard

From that jpg, Kev came up with those great sketches below. "These are very rough sketches, trying to vary it enough from the reference and get to something that conveyed the 'Supersquirrel' idea. I think the Moustache had to be there!"

Just some regular sketches of a squirrel with a moustache

Here's the pencils for the cover which Kev had designed with a portrait design in mind "I'd assumed we were doing a regular format comic, and my idea was to wrap the tail around to the back cover... but when Mark approved the pencils, he mentioned that the format would now be landscape, I think it was simply to fit more in, and if you've seen 'SuperSquirrel Undefeated' I think you can imagine why he had to do that."
Charlie Squirrel pencils

Next follows Kev's beautiful inks, "I normally scan my pencils, turn the line blue in Photoshop and print them out on appropriate paper, be it Bristol board or just bog standard sketchbook paper, something that will take the ink well though. I inked this using a Pentel Chinese brush pen, a recent acquisition that seems to make me ink a bit quicker... and time was of the essence!"Those gorgeous inks...

Ever the perfectionist, Kev begins to put flat colour down on the image. "'I've scanned the inks in, tidied them up where necessary and laid flat colour down... here I've already started to digitally paint the squirrel, but it's looking a bit flat to me..."
Still not satisfied, Kev continues "I've added a bit more depth to the squirrel, but it still needs something... More often than not, I try to keep the background colouring on a different layer, so I can easily add over-layed textures without having to cut out the figure/s."
To accentuate the subject a bit more, Kev uses a favourite trick of his: "I very often find that a secondary light source can help pull a character off the page, that's mainly what I have done here before I add some final textures to the whole thing to take away as much of the 'Photoshopped' feel as I can. I actually add the textures as active layers earlier in the process, and turn them on and off as I get a better idea of how the overall thing will look and I can still edit the rendering if I'm not happy."
A secondary light source is added to lift the squirrel a bit...

And the final image with additional textures and tweaks! I'm sure you'll agree that Kev has done a sterling job and has done both Mark, and more importantly, Carlos proud.
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's erm... Supersquirrel!

I am absolutely certain that we will one day see Kev's name in the credit's box in 2000AD and for me it can't come soon enough, his work is excellent. Oh, and if you were wondering about that motorcycle club logo, wonder no more...

I was honoured to be asked to contribute to the project and, as stated at the beginning of this post, thought a fitting tribute would come from highlighting the sheer volume of covers Mr Squirrel has given us. It took a whole day to do, but was well worth the effort!

My sorry attempt...

When Carlos received his copy he sent this wonderful message to all who had contributed, sniff!:

So, want to get your hands on a copy of 'Supersquirrel Undefeated?'

Quite rightly, Carlos owns the only unwatermarked copy of the comic but you can download it from or

Naturally the comic is free but anyone who enjoys it is urged to donate to a cancer charity, for example

"Aw maaaan, I love Carlos, I wish I'd gotten involved!"

Never fear! Due to the secrecy and tight deadline of the first volume, the makers of the comic know that many people who would have liked to have contributed may have missed out. So, a second volume is planned. Full details are available from the following link: The Not-So-Secret Project.

Thanks to Kev and Mark for allowing me to do this blog post, you both should be ridiculously proud of yourselves, you lovely people!

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