Thursday, 31 March 2011

SHAKARA!!!


Shakara, by Robbie Morrison and Henry Flint, made his audacious d├ębut in Prog 2002 in a riotous strip which saw the destruction of Planet Earth on page one, shortly followed by the unceremonious squishing of the last human being by page three! The story focuses on an almost indestructible being who is a tool of wrathful vengeance for an extinct race. Below are some of Henry Flint's terrifying original designs for the principal character...



The series began deceptively simply; each week we'd be introduced to an immoral, hideous yet amazingly designed race of aliens who would be killed by the laser blades and shurikens of our eponymous hero. However, as the series progressed and the first book came to a close, we were given hints that Shakara's killing sprees were linked and part of a much bigger plan...

The first ever Shakara cover was this beauty for Prog 1277 by friend of the blog, the amazing Clint Langley. Here we see Shakara facing off against the evil Investigator Sneer...


This was followed two progs later by Henry's first Shakara cover, possibly giving us a hint of the galaxy spanning adventures that were to follow.


The first book was collected as a hardback TPB, the cover of which is shown below...

And the printed version...


Book 2 of the saga, Shakara - The Assassin, began with Shakara's execution of the kindly but strangely repentant Dr Lara Procopio, before introducing us to a doomed group of bounty hunters and killers, hired by Shakara's enemies to bring him down. This arc also showed us Shakara's more defiant side as he repeatedly rebelled against the voices that controlled him...

This series spawned a single cover, the inks for which can be seen below:


And here's the coloured version:

The success of Shakara obviously caught the eye of Droid Life creator Cat Sullivan who treat us to this classic in Prog 1455:

Shakara - The Defiant, the third book in the series, introduced us to the evil Cinnebar Brenneka, the villain of the piece who was responsible for the rise and fall of the Shakaran race. We also meet Dr Eva Procopio, the daughter of Shakara's first victim in book 2, who swears vengeance on her mother's killer. You can see how Henry designed the look of Eva below...




In this book we discover the shocking truth about Eva's mother, she was responsible for the virus that had wiped out the Shakaran race, hence her guilt and acceptance of her fate at the beginning of the previous book. During this part of the saga, Shakara defies his masters and saves the life of young Eva, before showing her the crimes of her mother.

Two big names gave us covers for this arc, firstly 2000AD stalwart and Legends creator Nick Percival, gave us this absolute beauty:

Followed by this amazing cover by none other than Brendan McArthy, wow...


Though it appeared differently when published...

Shakara - The Destroyer, Book 4 in the series, saw Brennaka make his move against Shakara and begin to make a weapon to destroy the entire galaxy. During this book, we saw Eva and Shakara's relationship begin to develop, only to be cruelly cut short when Shakara was seemingly killed...

Below we have the inks and final cover for Prog 1657 based on Mick McMahon's classic Cursed Earth cover of Prog 85.


The final, epic book of the series, Shakara - Avenger, saw the regeneration of Shakara and followed his thrilling race against time to stop Brenakka from destroying the universe, before the black plague finally killed him. This world devastating romp was an absolute 2000AD classic with both writer and artist at the very top of their game.

The saga began with another Clint Langley classic, his first fully painted cover for over ten years!

And was shortly followed by this brilliant Neil Roberts illustration - I love it!

For the final two covers, it was up to Shakara creator Henry Flint to close the book on his fantastic offspring. The first showed Shakara destroying the entire star fleet of his enemies by simply driving a planet at them...





And, almost in total contrast to the madness of the previous cover, we have the work of genius that is the Vitruvian Man-like plans for the Shakaran's instrument of vengeance - firstly the rough...

Followed by the amazing final version - just look at that beautiful 2000AD logo, perfect...


Shakara has been a phenomenal series, easily one of the best in recent years. It has quite rightly drawn parallels with classics such as Nemesis and is a fine example of the new golden age of 2000AD. The plaudits often go to Henry Flint for his stunning, mind bending artwork but a special mention must surely go to writer Robbie Morrison, who has given a master class in storytelling here. Let's hope Rebellion plan a huge phone-book sized trade paperback featuring all five books!

Thanks to all artists who have sent images for this post.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Cliff Robinson - Hot Potato!

Has Dredd had his chips? Has he finally met his mash? Erm... Spud on a Greenie! Ah, I'd love the job as cheesy tag line maker at the Nerve Centre!

Behold, the god-like Cliff Robinson's fantastic cover for Prog 1726 which features the welcome return of the Couch Potatoes. Another crazy Mega-City fad, the couch potatoes were lovable humanoid/vegetable lifeforms that sat in front of the Tri-D, repeating common phrases to it's owner - think of a Little Britain fan and you'll get the idea. The creatures were outlawed by the Justice Department when it transpired that they were super-evolving and feeding on their owners!

Below we see Cliff's initial sketch which already features an insane amount of detail and the very tightest of pencils...


Obviously unhappy with Dredd's head, Cliff draws a new one, making Dredd look a bit grumpier which isn't surprising as he now has a potato tuba tugging at this lip and up his nose, yuck!


The sketch is further tightened up, with changes made along the way such as the position of Dredd's hand to make the scene of Dredd being attacked by a giant potato even more dramatic! Note the shoulder pad and eagle, it'd appear that Cliff has stock elements which he can Photoshop onto his sketch before inking the image proper...

Which brings us to the final inks which demonstrate, once again, that Cliff is the best in the business. It's a brilliant, brilliant cover.
Finally, the coloured image for this striking cover. I have to say, I love it, Cliff has once again got the balance of comedy and horror just right - those intrusive tentacles make me squirm and the creature itself manages to be both cute and scary, amazing!

Many thanks to Cliff for sending the images, he really is the king (Edward!) of the Dredd cover! Remember to visit his wonderful blog here!

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Henry Flint - Death Planet!


All hail King Henry Flint who has once again managed to adorn a page with a potent mixture of concentrated Thrill Power fused with equal touches of brilliance, genius and, of course, madness!

This weeks' cover, not surprisingly I suppose for Mr Flint, depicts a planet, yes, you read right, a freaking planet, being driven(!) by the wrathful, genetic embodiment of a long dead alien race, destroying the biggest amassed star fleet you could possibly imagine! A challenge like that would be enough to see many of Tharg's droids pop a rivet or two, whereas I'm sure Henry, who has given us zombies in codpieces, electric eel guns, Mr Meat Bingo, face-eating fruit and chainsaw motorbikes to name but a few of his creations, took it all in his stride.

Below are his roughs which I'm sure Tharg approved instantly...


Followed by the brain-melting inks below! One of the many high points of Shakara as a whole has been Henry's wonderful alien designs, from robotic dinosaurs to balloon dog headed monsters to teddy bear aliens to floating skulls, the series has seen some of the most imaginative creatures in 2000AD's rich history. What a treat to have so many of this cover in glorious High Res!


Below are the colours for the finished, but not actually the printed cover. Henry says "I sent 2000ad two coloured covers. This is the finished cover but they preferred the look of the first version which finally made the cover."

Unfortunately, Henry deleted his earlier version so check back next week when I should have a copy of it. Thank you so much to Henry for sending the wonderful images and text, please keep your eyes open later in the year for Henry's forthcoming art book entitled Broadcast: The TV Doodles of Henry Flint. The book features around 100 of Henry's wonderful illustrations and will have text by Slaughterman's Creed's Cy Dethan, you can read more about that here.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Liam Sharp - Definately PJ Maybe!

Wow! I am very, very happy to be showing a cover by the brilliant, brilliant, brilliant Liam Sharp! Liam began working for Tharg twenty four years ago, competently illustrating a pretty cool future shock in Prog 531. If you can track it down, check out his panel layouts, they're fantastic!

Amazingly, he also had a very cool Star Scan in the very same prog (shown below.) I suppose you could expect such impressive beginnings from someone who trained under the legendary Don Lawrence.


Just three progs later Liam got his first Dredd strip, a one parter called Bug. It was a horrid little tale that introduced us to a murderous adolescent by the name of Philip Janet Maybe - a killer with a very big future ahead of him...

However PJ wasn't the only one with exciting prospects and soon his talented co-creator was working for Marvel UK on the best selling Death's Head 2, before landing gigs for the big American companies on giants such as Batman, Spiderman and Spawn.

Thankfully for us, he's back to producing some absolutely awe inspiring artwork for the galaxy's greatest. He blew our collective socks off with his James Bond themed Judge Dredd strip in the Christmas Megazine which also treat us to this truly stunning pin up...


And so, onto this week's cover, which sees the return of Flesh by original creator Pat Mills and newly assembled artdroid James McKay. Liam is obviously happy to be chained back in his cubicle at the nerve centre, he says "I had a great time working on the Flesh cover. Tharg was very open to concepts and it was so nice to have a landscape format image to work on for a change, this being a wraparound. I honestly think this stands as my best cover to date - in no small part because of the time I spent on it (about four days.)"

Yup, you can certainly see the hours upon hours of work that's gone into it, it's simply breathtaking. The artist continues "Here are some images of my progress..."



With the design almost nailed, Liam continues "I've included an earlier version with much warmer colours and the main character's arm by his side. I went for the hot colours in the end as they had much more impact I think."



Check out those sizzling hotter colours!


"I also wanted it to be more than just an illustration - I wanted it to work as a design with the 2000ad logo. And for it to be epic, almost like a film poster. Flesh was a classic series from my youth, so that had its own bearing. I had a lot to live up to!"



So here's the final image in all it's Jurassic glory, I'm sure we'd all agree that Liam has certainly fulfilled his own brief as this image is about as cinematic and zarjaz as they come! Simply stunning!


No only have we been spoilt with Liam's work on the prog, for the last few weeks he's been treating us to a series of phenomenal ABC Warrior Star Scans. I've included them below, let's kick off with everybody's favourite 3A toy, the mighty Mongrol!



Followed by the brave and noble Hammerstein...



Onto my favourite warrior, the cool, cross-dressing assassin, Joe Pineapples...



And so to the fiery Steelhorn complete with his Vortex Hammer, brilliant!



Next, the mysterious master of Khaos, Deadlock!



And finally, the heroic new boy Zippo!



EDIT - And last in the series, Ro-Jaws. I love that duck! Hi-Res image when I can get it!
As well as sending some amazing images and fascinating commentary, Liam also sent this never-before-seen painting of Slaine after what looks like a particularly nasty battle! It looks like we've found another contender to fill Clint Langley's big boots as new Slain artist!

Thank you SO MUCH to Liam for sending the images and text, I must admit to being a bit star struck when his email came through! You can visit his site here and his amazing Deviant Art gallery, which features mega, mega Hi-Res versions of his work (including pages from his recent Dredd story) here. Prepare to be stunned!

Now that he's back, let's hope Liam is going to stick around with 2000AD for many, many years to come!