Here's a cover that never was by 2000AD superfan (and new daddy!) Mike 'Larf' Marshall. This festive treat was one of the many highlights of the great 2000AD 2012 Advent Calendar and, as it's pissing down with snow across the country, I thought it'd be cool to share his process with you.
It's a real treat for the regulars on the messageboard with several cameos in the graffiti and the odd block name (Pete whistles innocently...)
Over to Mike 'I've been a massive fan of 2000AD since Prog 1 and I can remember, quite vividly, running around the playground playing Judge Dredd, Ro-Busters, Shako, and all the rest. 2000AD influenced my life greatly, it fired my imagination, and ignited my artistic career. I knew from an early age that I wanted to draw for a living and luckily I had parents and teachers that encouraged me in that direction. Now I run my own design company and gradually over the years my role has become more facilitator and project manager than artist and designer.'
'Over the years I've tried to enter the forum competitions whenever I can, but due to always being busy less often than I would like. I was determined this year that I was going to contribute to the message board advent calendar. What I thought I'd do though was to try and combine the day job with my passion for 2000AD and in doing so create something quickly, and not as time consuming as a hand drawn design.'
'My studio does a lot of concept work for retail and exhibitions and part of our work is to create speculative 'realistic' designs to show clients what their trade show stand or retail environment will look like. We use programmes such as Photoshop to combine stock photography and real life photography together along with 3D models and drawn visuals. So I thought I'd design a cover in a similar way to how we work in the 'real world'. I gave myself the brief of Dredd sentences Santa and just took it from there… I never really meant for Dredd to execute Father Christmas but hey I found a stock image of a dead Santa and could not resist...'
Now that's what I call a nut cracker!
'I had a rough idea of what I wanted to do in my head. We've been creating a lot of retail tablet apps this year so I thought I'd build in Dredd using a tablet on the cover. John Wagner often parallels our universe and Dredd's universe so Dredd using a tablet seemed a good visual reference that reflects the tablet pandemic that's going on at the moment. Using the image in my head I trawled our archives and a couple of stock libraries that we use and found some images that I thought might work when combined together. Don't ask me how I knew they would they just seemed to fit!'
Below are the stock images Mike used; Santa and bloodstains, what could possibly go wrong?
'I found a pretty cool rendering of a sic-fi city scape and a reference for a concrete background so that set the precedents for the background.'
This reminds me of McMahon's famous 'Un-American Graffiti' cover...
'I cut the image out and broke down the depth, softening the focus and giving the image more depth. I wanted the weather to be heavy snow so the buildings in the background and the vehicles would just be blurs in a white blizzard, so to do this I had to break the image apart.'
White sky at night, Judges delight!
'I knocked the colour out of the image and then replaced the blue lights in the rectangular building on the right with gold as I decided this was going to be my Sector house...'
Sector House blues...
'I created a justice eagle motif and applied it to the building, and gave the golden areas a glow, as though they were lit up, by overlaying layers in photoshop and applying different mask techniques...'
Lovely eagle motif there...
'The snow is just random dots of white applied with various brush thicknesses, some gaussian and motion blur, and then repeated at various sizes and blur depths / speeds to give the feeling of depth to the weather. I also thought it would be cool to make the tall spire block on the left the Pete Wells block (yaaaaay!), and then I added some more lines of lights on the Sector House block.'
There's Pete Wells Slum Habs bringing the neighbourhood down...
'I wanted the masthead to blend into the background, and sit amongst the buidlings.'
'I always admire the unsung understatedness of Simon Parr's designs of the Prog covers, his almost instinctive acceptance that the illustration has to always come first and the functional aspects of the masthead, barcode etc. frame and highlight the main image. I don't know if you've noticed but the complexity of the covers has been simplified greatly hover the last couple of years, but the look and layout still remains iconic - this is so difficult to do, but so rewarding when done correctly.'
Yep , Mike's spot on here. Simon Parr does a fantastic job.
Ah, the good old tooth logo. Warms the cockles of my heart!
'(A good thing to notice here is that instinctively I designed this at A4, when I copied and pasted an actual cover over the top to get the logo in the correct position I realised that my cover was slightly longer - this being a spoof and a mock-up I left it at A4.)'
'The next bit was to set the mid-ground stage and I wanted some texture on the wall. At first I was going to create my own graffiti using the Wacom, but I just did not have the time so I sourced a graffiti wall, and placed this on a multiply layer over the concrete. Adding in shade and a spotlight on the floor where Santa would go completed this build.'
What no Chopper?
'I dropped in an iPad image rough central and where I thought it would go...'
Hmmmm, I wonder if we'll finally get a Wacom-type stylus in 122 years time?
'The glove! Dropped roughly in and coloured Tharg Green for positional. A blank barcode also added. At this stage the board homage starts, and using the Wacom, graffiti fonts and hand-drawn and scanned names more depth and texture of graffiti is added to the blank area on top of the wall. Good to note here that I knocked the mid-ground back a bit and softened it with a slight blur to bring out the foreground.'
Buttonman, Proudhuff, Burdis, RAC and more, it's the wall of shame!
'Lots of work on the glove to tan it into the colour scheme. Changing a black object into a coloured object is a tricky process, but as it's supposed to be leather, or a derivative of, it was a tad easier. Highlights, deeper shade, and additional shadows to blend in with the image are added...'
Steam Powered Judging GloveStep 11
'Dead Santa. Cut out from the original image and the edges cleaned up, the coloured de-saturated and shade and reflections added onto the concrete so he blends into the image.'
Poor Santa always gets it on the message board Advent calendar!
'More work done on Santa, additional shadows and some snow added to the mid-ground.'
Ha! It looks like Dredd is taking a photo, the weirdo!
'Using the paint splatters from the stock reference I added in blood splats in perspective on multiply layers, under and over Santa.'
Adding the gore...Step 14
WARNING - Unpleasant images alert!!! Do NOT show the following image to young children!
'Enter Dredd. Or as the case may be John Burdis. I wanted a reflection of Dredd in the iPad but the only good ref I could find at the right angle was a lovely pic of our very own Commando Forces, so with a bit of blur and some overlay magic enter John…'
It's Judge Sump!
'Erm… this is the same as step 14, I just like John - handsome chap he is... '
Please note - this was written shortly before Rosie was born. I suspect the previous sentence was the result of stress or lack of sleep - Pete
Those i-amthalawpad screens are certainly sturdy to withstand Burdis' ugly mug!
'The i-Pad becomes the 'i-amthalaw Pad' (deliberately spelt badly) and the interface is created in InDesign. I more or less made this up as I went along, but the crux of the idea is that the tablet should tell the story. Santa's a wanted perp and it lists his violations, and his possible violations (PV), control is ID'ing the corpse and confirming to Dredd that he has just executed a known fellon.'
This is BRILLIANT! Please take the time to look at this full size, it's a hoot!
AKA Santa Baby! Hmmmm, Kylie...
'The controls are brought into Photoshop…'
I love how Mike has put an awful lot of thought into the i-amthalaw Pad's functionality, genius!
'…and they are merged into the design, and given some glow to make them look like touch buttons.'
'Main interface is scaled in to fit...'
Ah, Burdis' face is covered now, thank Grud!
'Camera lens and speaker details are added into the tablet interface, as well as glows around the thumb as though pressure is being placed on the screen - this also highlight the 'terminated' button. I also replaced some of the interface text in Photoshop to tell the story better, including the 'elf and safety' violation!'
'Hasta la Vista, Santa Baby!'
'I wanted to somehow connect the glove to the tablet, as though there was an electronic interface between the pad and Dredd himself so I thought that Dredd could have 'digital' gloves that maybe connect the tablet to the HUD on his helmet or some-such. I drew the cabling in white…'
Liking the cable idea...
'Step 22 - …then blended the cable design in so that it looked as though it ran under the glove, and then gave it some shine and sparkle.'
and the execution is ace.
'The final design was brought into InDesign where all the text is added as well as the spoof Prog number. All done :-)'
What a brilliant piece of work! So many clever touches and so many happy fans on the message board! Mike's company is called Eatsleeppthink, check out their website here.
Thanks to Mike for sending such an entertaining breakdown and congratulations again on the birth of Rosie!