Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Greg Staples - Hail to the Chief!

Every now and then a cover comes along that makes you gasp, and the cover of Prog 1690 by the amazing Greg Staples did just that! I gasped partly because of how drokking amazing the image is and partly because, after turning the job down so many times, Dredd as Chief Judge is surely something that none of us ever thought we'd ever see!

Staples is an absolute legend who has had a meteoric rise to fame since his first 2000AD cover for the Dredd tale Babes in Arms way back in 1992. Now every cover he does is an 'event' cover and this is certianly no different!

So, here we have the breathtaking inks for the cover of Prog 1690...
And once again the beautiful coloured version...

As well as these, I wanted to show some more of Greg's wonderful work from years gone by, starting with one my my favourite covers ever, the cover of Megazine 2.44 featuring a host of shitbags and events from Dredd's previous adventures...

Another favourite cover of mine is this Frazetta style masterpiece from Megazine 3.63...
And another cover we thought we'd never see - Dredd bonking from Megazine 3.69, Grud on a Greenie!
Another favourite of mine is this festive offering from Christmas 2008, poor Santa...
And a no nonsense gunshark blowing you away cover from 2000AD Prog 1153 proving (yet again) that Greg is the king of cool covers!
As well as painting Dredd, Greg is playing Dredd in the amazing looking fan film Judge Minty. Here's a superb photo of Greg in the role of Dredd...
Everything we've seen of this project to date looks drokking amazing and it's fantastic that one of 2000AD's most respected artists is playing it's greatest character! I can't wait to see it!

Remember you can see more of Greg's sublime work elsewhere in this blog and on his swanky NEW website here. Thanks to Greg for sending the images, they're amazing!

In honour of this amazing cover, I thought it might be fun to have a look at the Chief Judges been and gone to see what could be in store for Dredd should he do the unthinkable and take the role...

The Father of Justice by Carlos Ezquerra

The first Chief Judge was, of course, the great Eustice Fargo, Dredd's clone father and visionary pioneer of the Judicial System of Megacity-One. Fargo created a formidable police force built on impeccable standards of discipline and conduct, including enforced celibacy. Unfortunately, Fargo himself broke this rule and was so ashamed, he attempted to shoot himself, resulting in terrible mental and physical damage. He was put into suspended animation until science was able to cure his terrible wounds only to have his body was stolen by renegade judges who fled to the Cursed Earth.

Years later, during the Origins saga, Dredd recovered Fargo's ravaged, still-sleeping body from the desolate wasteland. He was revived but unfortunately died soon afterwards, though not before telling Dredd that the Justice System had grown to be immoral, begging Dredd to change it from the inside...

Fargo on his deathbed by Carlos Ezquerra

Last words: "My flesh, my Blood... It's not too late! Fix it. Joe! You - You and Rico - You can do it..."

Chief Judge Soloman by Mick McMahon

After Fargo's attempted suicide, the ever so wise and astute Hollins Soloman took over. Soloman's first act as Chief Judge was to fake Fargo's death, making the father of justice a martyr for the fledgling judicial system and gaining public support for the judges' cause. Hollins lasted for six years in the role but endless bickering with congress soon made him weary of the post and he resigned. During his tenure, he sanctioned the freezing of Fargo's deteriorating body until science was advanced enough to cure him, and also denied Morton Judds' ambitious cloning program, making a powerful enemy who would threaten the city years later...

Clarence Goodman by Brian Bolland

Soloman was succeeded by Clarence Goodman, the city's longest ever serving Chief Judge. Goodman, and his newly formed council of five, were instrumental in moulding the course of history during significant political and geographical upheaval in the United States. Such events include the Atom War of 2070, the formation of the three American Megacities, sanctioning human cloning from esteemed judicial stock, averting a civil war with Texas, the first robot war of Megacity One and the 2T(fru)T outbreak in MegaCity Two.

Goodman was a popular figure and a staunch supporter of Dredd. Sadly, after more than forty years in office, he was brutally murdered on the orders of the notorious Judge Cal.
The assassination of Goodman by Mick McMahon

Final Words: "Put away those knives. You're breaking the law!"

A hidden panel by Mick McMahon from the amazing collection of Rufus Dayglo

Most infamous of all chief judges was the deranged Judge Cal, who tyrannical reign saw some of the cities' darkest days. Head of the SJS, Cal assumed the position of Chief Judge by framing Dredd for murder and ordering the assassination of Chief Judge Goodman. Once in power, he used hypnosis to brainwash the judges to carry out his orders before terrorising the city with his ever more insane schemes. These included making his goldfish Deputy Chief Judge, building a huge wall to keep citizens trapped within the city, hiring an alien race of mercenaries known as the Kleggs to help in his oppression of the citizens before finally sentencing the entire city to death. Dredd, with the help of a rag tag bunch of Judges, Judge Tutors and an Undercity dweller known as Fergee, eventually overthrew the maniacal dictator.
"Bloop!" Deputy Chief Judge Fish by Brian Bolland

Last words: "I only have to command and our fall will stop! Observe mortals! Observe my powers! STOP!"

Judge Griffin by Brian Bolland

Following Cal's reign, the shamed judges begged Dredd to be Chief Judge. Dredd flatly refused, claiming his place was on the streets. Instead he suggested that Judge Griffin, former principal of the Accademy of Law, take the role. Griffin's time as chief was fairly short, but extremely eventful. Following the Blockmania epidemic he was captured by invading Sov forces and brainwashed to be used as a propeganda tool for the invading Soviet army during the Apocalypse War. Dredd himself infiltrated the Sov base and assassinated his former mentor.

Last Words: "I-I've betrayed my city! I deserve to die!"

After the dust had settled on the Apocalypse War, head of the SJS Hilda Margaret McGruder was the figurehead of the Justice System. A strong and capable leader, she began the difficult task of rebuilding the decimated city. Four years into the job, McGruder hesitated to stop the muderous actions of an evil, very powerful psychic from the Radlands of Ji. This cost the lives of many citizens and judges for which McGruder blamed herself. Unwilling to carry on as Chief Judge, McGruder turned her back on the city and took the long walk into the Cursed Earth...
McGruder by Cam Kennedy

Last Words #1 "It'll be good to see some action again. Still, I'm going miss it!"

Chief Judge Thomas Silver by Cliff Robinson

Before leaving, McGruder appointed the esteemed Judge Thomas Silver onto the council of five and it's members quickly appointed him Chief Judge. A right wing hardliner, Silver ruled with a rod of iron, focusing particular attention on crushing the growing democracy movement. This included putting Dredd in charge of subverting the Democratic March of 2109. Dredd's questionable actions that day left a bitter taste in his mouth that would eventually grow to significant doubts in the Justice system that he'd held so dear. Dredd's misgivings finally consumed him when a young boy was murdered by a man who had been mentally damaged as a result of the brutality shown at the march. Dredd took the long walk, turning his back on a system he no longer believed in.

One of Dredd's final acts before leaving the city was to fail a young cadet known as Kraken in his final assessment. Kraken was a clone of Judge Fargo who had been part of a twisted cult known as the Judda, led by the evil Morton Judd. Silver ordered a cover up Dredd's departure and repealed his judgement of Kraken. He made the young judge to take the mantle of Dredd, fearing that the Justice Dept would lose respect if the citizens knew Dredd had gone.

Years of twisting and indoctrination of Kraken's psyche had left his mind vulnerable and open to suggestion. This was exploited when the great city was attacked by the powerful, supernatural Sisters of Death, who made the young judge a puppet to their evil schemes. Kraken was made to help the sisters form a psychic bride to the MegaCity and also release the four dark judges, bringing on the tragedy known as Necropolis.

Sensing that his city was in great danger, Dredd returned to see if he could help. On the way, he met a mad old crone who turned out to be none other than former Chief Judge McGruder. Together they saved the city and in the absence of Chief Judge, McGruder reclaimed the role.

This lady's not for turning! McGruder by Carlos Ezquerra

However, some weeks later, the reanimated corpse of former Chief Judge Silver returned to the city and challenged McGruder to the position of Chief Judge. He told Dredd how he had been killed again and again by Judge Death and had fled when the crisis was averted. Dredd convicted Silver of gross dereliction of duty and sentenced him to death, finally putting to rest one of MegaCity-One's most deeply flawed chief judges.

The Undead Silver by Carlos Ezquerra

Last Words: "No! Not... Please, don't kill me...! Pleassse!"

McGruder's second tenure as chief judge ran anything but smoothly, her erratic behaviour and deteriorating mental health resulting in several clashes with Dredd. Most notably, her unwavering support of the controversial Mechanismo project, where the streets would be partly policed by robotic judges, caused irreparable damage to her and Dredd's strained relationship. This culminated in Dredd's spectacular arrest for perjury and criminal damage as he had played an instrumental part in the destruction of a rogue Mechanismo unit.

In a petulant act of malice, McGruder chose to take Dredd to the prison planet of Titan herself, following a trip to a recently discovered planet known as Hestia. In her absence, McGruder left the ambitious head of Tek Division and the Mechanismo project Judge Greel in charge of the city. During the disastrous off-world trip, one of the robotic judges attempted to assassinate McGruder, and though never proven, it was widely believed that Greel had something to do with the plot. He was ignobly demoted to traffic controller where he could do no further harm...

Following the events on Hestia, McGruder finally accepted that her judgement was flawed and resigned. This time she declined to take the long walk, instead choosing to embark on a lecture tour to promote her book, McGruder - The Downing Street... oops, I mean McGruder - The Justice Years. Several years later, suffering heavily from dementia, Dredd took McGruder into the Cursed Earth on one final mission, choosing to give her a heroes death just minutes before her scheduled trip to the euthanasium.

Death of a Legend by Peter Doherty

Last Words#2 "They were -cough- going to... going to kill us you know..."

The resignation of McGruder led to the judicial election of 2116, where, in the absence of a Council of Five (McGruder had dissolved it), four hundred senior judges would vote for the next Chief Judge. To the surprise of many, Dredd himself stood for election, as did Judges Hershey and Volt among others. However, it transpired that Dredd's involvement in the election was a simply ruse to expose a corrupt SJS judge who was using his position to discredit the other judges running for office.

Once the perpetrator was apprehended, Dredd contined to stand for office, though was soundly beaten in the vote by Judge Hadrian Volt who got 208 votes as compared to Dredd's 130. Dredd knew he wouldn't win, and had voted for Volt himself, believing him to be the right man for the job. Of his defeat, Dredd said "I've put too many noses out of joint in my time to win a popularity contest."
Generally, Volt was an excellent chief judge who made a variety of sound, sweeping reforms. He re-established the council of five and introduced a Deputy Chief Judge role to the department to ensure that there was a mechanism to legally remove any chief judge who was deemed unfit to rule. In previous years, the image of the Justice Deparment had been severely tarnished following catastrophies such as the reign of Cal, the judges actions during the Necropolis crisis and the farcical rule McGruder. To reconcile this, a degree of political power was shifted back to an elected body of citizens as well as the opportunity for citizens to elect a major. Volt's tenure lasted for five years but was tragically cut short when he commited suicide at the conclusion of the second robot war as he blamed himself for not averting the crisis.

(Justice Dept. Approved) Last Words: "It's customary to knock!"
Actual Last Words "Yes. Thank you. Keep me informed."

Hershey by Brian Bolland

Volt was succeeded by Judge Barbara Hershey who had been Deputy Chief Judge, and she was soon voted into office. A respected judge from an early age, Hershey had spent many years serving on the council of five and was known to be level headed, if a little left wing. Her period in office lasted nine years but she was eventually voted out for supporting Dredd's infamous Anti-Mutant Laws.

Last Words "Goodbye. Good luck."

The ever popular Dan Francisco by Rufus Dayglo

Hershey was replaced by Judge Dan Francisco, a popular Street Judge and star of reality Tri-Vid show, The Streets of Dan Francisco. Francisco was backed by a manipulative cabal of senior judges who used the star's popularity to remove Hershey from office and repeal the unpopular mutant laws. During his campaign, Francisco was almost fatally wounded by a group of mutant terrorists (who themeslves had been manipulated by an anti-mutant group), giving the popular candidate yet more support and ensuring he won the election by a landslide.

Francisco's injuries were severe and, when his body had rejected a set of prosthetic lungs, power passed to Deputy Chief Judge Martin Sinfield. A corrupt, petty and power-hungry individual, Sinfield ensured that Dredd and those closest to him were exiled to the Cursed Earth and that Hershey was posted off-planet. Then, during a hospital visit, Sinfield drugged Francisco with the powerful mind control drug SLD 88, advising him to resign and pass power to himself.
Boooo! The power crazed Martin Sinfield by Colin MacNeil

Last Words "I hope you're happy Dredd! You got what you wanted! You're the real criminal! You're to blame for all this! One day they'll get wise to you! They'll see you for what you are!"

From his remote posting in the Cursed Earth, Dredd continually clashed with the new chief judge, eventually challenging his authority and running against him in a recall election. However, during the build up to an election, Sinfield's transgressions were discovered and he was sentenced to twenty years hard labour on Titan.

Francisco was returned to office and he insisted that Dredd joined the Council of Five, leading to yet another fascinating development in the life of MegaCity One's premier judge! How long will Francisco last? Will Dredd be instrumental in his downfall as he has been with so many others in the role?

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Clint Langley - From Hell!

Yikes! What a gruesome cover from the master of the digital paintbrush, Clint Langley. However, this was a quite a departure from some of Clint's more recent covers so I asked him why he'd chosen a different style. He said "The Red Seas cover was a chance for me to get back to drawing. I've been producing heaps recently but have probably gone 10 years without picking up a pencil, which has something to do with it!"

I'm sure you'll agree from those perfect inks below that Clint hasn't lost any of his drawing skill...
Clint begins to add colour and texture...
Then it all goes mental! Absolutely amazing stuff, after seeing Clint on robots for so long it's nice to see a good old fashioned monster and a heap of blood and guts!
As ever, thanks again to Clint for supplying the fantastic images, be sure to check out his NEW venture with some guy called Pat Mills at It's very interesting, Dinosty is up there and I urge all Slaine fans to check out the poster for 'Wardog'...

Monday, 28 June 2010

Neil "The Dressing Gown" Roberts - British Gangster!

"Shut it you slaaags and listen! There's a new guvnor on the manor and his name is Neil 'The Dressing Gown' Roberts. When he's not out choking spivs with his dressing gown cord or shooting mobsters with his plastic gun, he's knocking out a decent blog, ain't he?"

"The filth have released these terrifying pictures of him. As you can see he's a master of disguise, going from catalogue model to champion gurner in seconds..."
"The rozzers also found these scribblings below, the word on the street is that he was using these to plan something big..."
"Scotland yard have released this terrifying photofit, speculation as to the identities of the figure in the middle and his associates is rife, though it's as easy as ABC to work out that these are going to be trouble in future..."
You can check out more, including interesting facts regarding the background of the central figure and this Roberts character, at

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Ben Willsher - Top Dog!

Another winning cover from Ben Willsher, this time for the mouth-watering epic that is ‘The Life and Death of Johnny Alpha.’ As long term readers of 2000AD know, back in 1990, following months of speculation that a major 2000AD character was going to die, Johnny was heroically killed in prog 687.

Johnny was killed in an Alan Grant penned story “The Final Solution” which saw the mutants of the UK offered a life of paradise in another dimension through a portal at Stonehenge. The offer was made by the Evil Lord Sagan, who we find out was the illegitimate son of Nelson Bunker Kreelman, which makes him Johnny’s step brother.

Of course, the paradise the muties were promised was a lie, and they were expelled to a hellish barren dimension dominated by a “big flying monster.” Johnny was thrown through the portal and faced off against the flying beast using powerful alpha rays from his eyes to read the monster’s mind. This came at a terrible price as the beast burned out Johnny’s eyes, blinding him and leaving him in agony.

However, this meeting of minds showed Johnny that the beast was a construct of Ly-ran sorcery and that a blood sacrifice could defeat the beast and open a portal back to earth, allowing the mutants to escape. And so it was that Johnny faced the monster a second time, sacrificing himself so the mutants got home… or did he?

Twenty year later and Strontium Dog creators John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra are giving us their version of events. Did Johnny die at all? Over the next few weeks we will find out what really happened!

To celebrate the start of the series, we have a terrifying cover by current favourite Ben Willsher who has been kind enough to offer commentary on this and his fantastic Megazine cover.

Below we have the roughs, Ben said “Tharg came up with the concept of a 'dead' Johnny Alpha cover. He wanted a head and shoulders shot of the former Master John Bunker in full Stronty armour, but with a skull lurking beneath the helmet. I did these two VERY rough concept pieces (which were little more than thumbnails) one with glowing eyes, and one with merely hollow sockets. The Mighty One favoured the glowing eyes.

Next the chilling inks, “Normally I do the black and white art in a fairly traditional manner, and pencil it and then ink it fully. However, I wanted to tackle this piece more as a painting; so the inked art was drawn more loosely and I left large blank spaces so that I could use the colour to build up these areas.”
And finally the horrific coloured piece “When I came to colour the piece I released that some of the looser art didn't work, especially around the gun (the trigger being completely out of perspective,) shoulder pad and arms; and these areas needed to be reworked quite heavily. For the finished look I wanted the whole image to have the feel of Hell and atrophy, so instead of solid colour I used a lot of brush work and texting to achieve the finished effect.”
I’m sure you’ll agree the effort was well worth it. Surely this is a contender for cover of the year? For the sake of completeness, below we have Simon Parr’s teaser poster for ‘The Life and Death of Johnny Alpha’ too, cracking stuff!
Speaking of cracking, here is Ben’s iconic, hard-hitting cover for Megazine 299. "
Here is the first concept rough that I sent to Matt. As you can see, it has the 2000Ad banner at the top; however, it was always mooted that it might be for the Megazine. So it is merely used as a generic placeholder graphic, as the Meg and Twothou use about the same dimensions.

Also note that this initial concept has a blood smear on the 'camera lens', and not a spurt of blood. I wasn't sure of the 'blood policy' on covers, so it was always made to be an element of the graphic that we could easily lose. Matt in his wisdom suggested its removal, and instead came up with the idea of smashing the 'lens'. A brilliant idea on his part, as I think it now really sells the imagine of Dredd coming at you with some force."

"The next stage is the Black and White art, which then becomes the template for me to start colouring and adding the effects, such as..."

"The cracking glass."
An absolutely superb cover, I'm sure we'll see this image used a lot in the future! Many thanks to Ben for once again taking the time to send his work and give us a fascinating peek into the creative process. Remember to visit his site at

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Steve Yeowell - Random Lobster!

Poor Jack Dancer, he's been dangling in front of that giant lobster since Prog 1623, that's forty five weeks ago now! This is, of course, another brilliant Red Seas cover by the series' celebrated artsit Steve Yeowell.

Steve's delicate penmanship was first seen in 2000AD way back in Prog 535, on a little known strip called Zenith. Grant Morrison, the writer of Zenith, had worked with Yeowell on Marvel's Zoids comics and invited him to be the artist on his story of the egotistical British superhero. It's worth noting that only three progs after his momentous start on Zenith, Yeowell also provides the art for a Future Shock written by Neil Gaiman! Not a bad introduction, eh?

Steve has worked on a large number of strips for 2000AD, including big hitters such as Judge Dredd, Sinister Dexter and Nikolai Dante as well as being the main or sole artist for several titles such as the afore mentioned Zenith, Detinator X, Manic 5, Pussyfoot 5, A Life Less Ordinary, Devlin Waugh: Chasing Herod and most recently, the Red Seas.

The Red Seas is a swashbuckling adventure which mainly follows the adventures of 18th century pirate, Jack Dancer and his crew. First published in Prog 1313, many readers, myself included, assumed that Tharg was jumping on the forthcoming Pirates of the Caribbean bandwagon. Naturally the mighty one soon proved us wrong as the tale quickly developed into a complex, dimension spanning, time travelling epic featuring themes and characters from writer Ian Edginton's vast universe and beyond.

Below we have the rough for this weeks cover followed by the half size print rough, check out the faultless composition, wow...
Next we have the pencils and those wonderful inks. I don't know about you but this cover freaks me out a little, crustaceans always look so dangerous, ugh!

And finally the coloured version (colours by Chris Blythe...)

Fantastic! So, lets have a look at some of Steve's wonderful Red Seas covers from Progs gone by and a brief, somewhat muddled recap of this complex story to date! Allow me to introduce the fearsome villain of the first Red Seas story, Doctor Orlando Ignatious Maximillian Herodetous Doyle (who also featured in England's Glory, the second book of Stickleback...)
Doyle was an evil necromancer, captain of 'The Black Galleon' and leader of an undead horde who planned to destroy the world using information stored in 'The Albrecht Tome', a lost chapter of a powerful religious book which had been unwittingly stolen by Jack and his crew. With a little help from Satan himself, Doyle undergoes a fearful transformation as shown on this great cover for Prog 1321...

And here are the dazzling colours by consistently excellent colourist Chris Blythe...

Doyle is thwarted by Satan who plans to use the Albrecht Tome himself to unmake creation, thankfully the devil himself is defeated by Dancer and his sorceress lover Isabella. Something which may well come back to haunt him...

The next two images feature the cover for 1460, boasting what I feel is the definitive Red Sea's cover - a cocky looking Jack quite literally up to his neck in trouble. This was the opening episode of "Underworld", a romp where Jack, accompanied by his crew and his half brother Alexander, journey beneath the Earth to find their missing father on the orders of Sir Isaac Newton.

Onto Prog 1602, the the first of two covers for the "Old Gods" story which saw Jack and his faithful crew in the service of George Washington to stop a horde of undead Vikings murdering civilians in America...
This led Jack to an hilarious meeting with some cantankerous old Norse gods and the acquisition of a host of mythical weapons powerful enough to stop the zombie Vikings and recurring bad guy Professor Toten. In the cover below (Prog 1609) we see Jack with the fabled Lightning Bow, given to him by the Demi-God Storr. By the end of this adventure, Jack and his crew decide that they will no longer run from their fate, choosing to face whatever dangers come their way head on...
Indeed danger soon finds Jack as he is summoned by a tempest to the Isle of Lost Souls by none other than Shakespeare's Prospero, who wishes to emphasise to Dancer his importance in forthcoming events. Prospero warns that Satan, still furious at his defeat by Dancer, has summoned the Cradle of Filth (a vast ark filled with all manner of dark creatures) to destroy Jack and his crew forever. Shortly after hearing this news, Jack and co are captured by Caliban and offered to the giant lobsters seen at the start of this article...

Meanwhile, Sir Isaac Newton calls together a meeting of the twelve members of the all-powerful Brotherhood of the Book - the guardians of the secret magical history of mankind. Made up of many characters from Edgington's universe (including Dr Doyle,) this otherworldly cabal protect their respective realities from all manner of arcane threats. Newton warns the group of Satan's plan to undo creation and remake it in his twisted image but they decide not to get involved. A furious Sir Isaac storms out, leaving the brotherhood forever...

The superb cover below, for Prog 1644, shows the great clock who's bell summons the Brotherhood to order.

Newton decides to find Jack but is himself kidnapped by the mad Baron of Vulgharia, a robot-making maniac who wishes to discover the secret of Newton's immortality. Sir Isaac discovers that the Baron is working with a resurrected Professor Toten and that there is a traitor within the Brotherhood of the Book. As Toten begins to torture poor Newton, Dancer's beautiful Arabian cousin Captain Sarita, descendant of the great adventurer Sinbad himself, saves the day. She reveals she was also summoned by Prospero and told to rescue Newton and Dancer.
Please note, colours for both the above covers are again by Chris Blythe.

So, that clumsily brings us up to date with the Red Seas and allows me to showcase some of Mr Yeowell's amazing covers. Thanks to Steve for sending them, and particularly for getting in touch with Chris to get the coloured version of this week's cover. I'm sure all who are reading this appreciate it as much as me!