Saturday 26 September 2009

Mark Harrison's Formula for an Amazing Cover!

Above is Mark Harrison's absolutely beautiful cover for Prog 1655.

Mark burst into 2000AD back in 1994 when he produced scorching visuals for the Judge Dredd tale "Conspiracy of Silence," a prelude to the Wilderland's Epic. He went on to provide the operatic artwork for the reboot of Durham Red which was painted both traditionally and digitally - without a doubt making him one of the pioneers of digital artwork in the rich history of 2000AD. His other projects include the terrifying Glimmer Rats story, the Pulp Sci-Fi one offs (of which he wrote two episodes) and The Ten Seconders.

So, for all you aspiring cover artists out there, it is my pleasure to reveal 'Harrison's First Law of Amazing Covers' which should help you all produce similarly spectacular results. Ready? Here we go (click the image to make it bigger):
Simple eh? Professor Harrison will expertly demonstrate his complicated formula below, pay attention at the back!

He explains "Originally I was handed the brief of the Succubus and Uriel and I imagined using the image of an old Macbeth poster I did way back. (It felt very Macbeth, the whole Necrophim story, which is my favourite in 2000 AD at the moment.)" Below we can see his original poster and the concept sketch for the prog cover...

He continues "I use a quick photo montage method that is digitally painted over. This can be images off the internet or if you're lucky, someone posing for you (like my brother in these shots). I asked my long suffering brother to give me a series of brooding, dismissive, confrontational, pissed off poses; more than usual! (Note the cereal bowls doubling for skulls that were going to be in the original image.)

I supplemented that with photos of an action figure gave me some basic clothing reference. I've used action figures as a source of reference for years as they afford you that freedom of pose and perspective a photo can't give you (Well that's my excuse for my "reference collection"! ;))

Tharg wanted the female draped over the man so I used a flop of a thumbnail image of a Vanity Fair image as reference."
We can see all of those elements in the image below, perhaps his brother whould have looked slightly less brooding if Mark had sorted out a beautiful girl to drape herself over him!
Next, Mark handily goes on to justify the existence of this very blog - "The background was the architecture of Hell, namely internet images distorted; ruined churches, abbeys, statues , stone carvings and fields on fire (all lost on the final cover!)"

Finally he adds some Photoshop magic to really bring the cover alive! "To give a suitably hellish sheen to everyone I dropped a "sweat" image file (that I've had since Glimmer Rats days) over the bodies.

Finally I ran a couple of my own custom PhotoShop actions to add bloom and colour overlays (which as you can see in the attachments make a hell of a difference, making it punchier.)"

So there we have it, stunning stuff! Mark continues to work with Rebellion, producing absolutely beautiful covers for their Abaddon range of books. Please visit Mark's website and also take a peek at his hilarious Travellers strip. You can see more of Mark's covers uncovered on the great covers sketch page of Barney here!
HUGE thanks to Mark for being so generous with his time and for sending such amazing images!

Thursday 24 September 2009

Neil Roberts - From sketch to digital masterpiece!

Part of the many joys of doing this blog is seeing the diverse ways that Tharg's talented artists produce their work. A relatively new name in the world of 2000AD is Neil Roberts and I think this guy is definitely one to watch!

Here, Neil explains how he went from the sketch below to the amazing digital beauty above!

"This is the basic 3D model of Judge Dredd, textured and wireframe. This was achieved using a variety of 3D programs and Zbrush2"
"The final rendered image before compositing it into the Photoshop file..." "This is called a ZDepth pass – this means you can control many element with this image: fog, falloff, depth cueing and all sorts of boring technical stuff." "This is Is the textured cityscape in the scene..."
"The cityscape from a distance – you can see the overall layout is a bit random – it just has to look good from the final camera angle."
"Below is the final rendered cityscape before placing into the final image.""The Zdepth pass – useful for dropping in fog and placing explosions in the scene whilst in Photoshop, without having to re-render everything." "The Photoshop file with everything dropped in place and all ready for the final paintover."
Aaaaand finally "The final image painted up with a few adjustment layers to tie all the layers together."
Wow! I find it fascinating how producing artwork has changed in such a small period of time, it blows my tiny mind!
Neil is hard at work on another cover for the galaxy's greatest and I for one can't wait! Please check out his Blog here as it tells us more about the cover and shows off some of his other wonderful work! Mega thanks to Neil for sending the images and explaining everything to me!

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Prog 1654 - Lady and the Vamp!

Paul Marshall has provided this fantastically stlyish cover to this week's 2000AD prog, featuring Lulu's battle with the Vampiric leader of the Family Selene! Marshall is somewhat of a veteran artist in 2000AD having provided us with thrill power for over 20 years! After cutting his teeth on the obligatory Future Shocks and Dredds, Paul beautifully illustrated Firekind, one of 2000AD's most beloved strips.

Mashall continues to wow us today with his scrotnig artwork, recently filling Simon Fraser and John Burn's (very big) boots by providing the beautiful (and at times, completely depraved!) artwork for latest Dante arc! Congrats to Paul for an amazing job!

Speaking of Dante, co-creator and all round genius Si Fraser sent me the covers I was missing from my Dante collection! Below we have the cover for Prog 1511 which marked the start of 'The Sword of the Tsar' arc, which saw Dante taking the role of executioner for his greatest enemy, Tsar Vladimir the Conqueror!

Next we have inks and colours for the final part of the story as Dante comes to the Tsar's rescue as he is attacked by an agent of the inter-dimensional White Army!

And finally the roughs and colours for Prog 1629, showcasing the opening episode of 'An Army of Thieves and Whores' which, we assume, sees the beginning of Dante's final push against the Tsar. This superb cover features many of Dante's supporting cast including my favourite characters, Flintlock and Spatchcock!

As ever, mega thanks to Pye and Si for these images!

Wednesday 16 September 2009

Bojemoi! A Simon Fraser Nikolai Dante Special!

Nikolai Dante, the bastard son of a cruel tyrant and a vicious pirate queen, swashbuckled his way into 2000AD in Prog 1035, back in 1997.

Set in the 27th Century, Dante began his saga with humble origins as a fraudster and thief, but soon ended up as part of the Russian aristocracy, thanks to a chance bonding with an imperial weapons crest. The weapons crest is an alien cyberorganic computer which grants it’s host a range of special abilities. As a result, Dante can extrude razor sharp bio-blades from his hands and has enhanced healing abilities, both of which are very useful considering the number of brawls he finds himself in!

Over the course of Dante’s adventures, we’ve seen him rise from vagrant to aristocrat, governor, general of an army, pirate king and outcast, always with a swagger, an acute sense of moral virtue and a lopsided grin.

The Russian Rogue has become one of 2000AD’s most popular characters, even beating Judge Dredd to the coveted accolade of ‘Favourite Comic Strip to Appear in a UK Comic or Magazine’ in the annual Eagle Awards, 2001.

The strip has been the inspiration for many great covers over the years with several being produced by Simon Fraser, Dante’s co-creator. Simon’s career at 2000AD began in 1995 when he drew Shimura for the Judge Dredd Megazine. While working on this strip , Fraser got talking to its writer Robbie Morrison and their shared love of swashbuckling adventure films and historical adventure comics led to the creation of Nikolai Dante. You can read more about Dante’s genesis here as well as marvel at some great early character designs.

I am proud to present almost all of Simon’s Nikolai Dante covers, starting with Prog 1116. This is Simon’s first Dante cover, which depicts Nikolai and Viktor, his rather peculiar brother. Viktor is an enigmatic loner who’s weapons crest allows him to transform into an horrific beast!
Next we have Prog 1139, which I feel is the definitive Dante cover! A cocky looking Dante complete with Huntsman 5000 rifle standing on the Romanov crest. So cool!
Here are the pencils and final version of prog 1143 featuring our hero with ‘The Firebird’, Ballerina-Queen of the Danse Macabre and finest dancer of her ace. Naturally, our man beds her, which is subtly depicted using a picture of the train entering a tunnel – how corny!

A change of style for the cover of prog 1172 which featured the final part of ‘The Courtship of Jenna Makarov’ which see’s Dante finally win the heart of his beloved Jenna before a fight to the apparent death with the ‘Beast of Tunguska!’
There are many aspects of Simon’s work that I love – particularly the amazing architecture and cityscapes he produces (see the graphic novel cover below), his brilliance at making characters emote and the bloody lovely curvaceous ladies he draws. The cover of prog 1238, showing Dante in a dangerous game of cat and mouse with the Vampiric Family Selene, demonstrates my last point very well! I love the design sense in this cover too.
Wonder why Dante is looking so smug on this cover? Well, other than the fact he’s just pulled a couple of stunners, this was the celebratory cover for his Eagle award for favourite comic character!
Aaah, lovely Lulu, demonic half sister of Dante. After the events of the Tsar Wars, Lulu waged a terrorist campaign against the Russian Empire until tracked down and apparently killed by Dante… You can see how Simon produced this cover here.

The cover of Prog 1592 shows Dante at the mercy of a Terrorist in full Major Liberty garb in the shocking tale Amerika, the end of which marks yet another turning point in the life of the Russian Rogue...
This brings us to the most recent Dante cover, which again features the verrrrry sexy Lulu. Note in this inked version the position of Lulu’s head and erm… lack of creepy crawlies! Simon recalls that “Tharg asked me to change the head and he opted for more bugs than I had originally drawn” hence a redrawn head and more pesky bugs!

Purely for completion’s sake, I’ve included Simon’s ‘debugged’ version, bojemoi!
Next up we have a couple of graphic novel covers, both for the Romanov Dynasty but each for different publishing houses. Personally, I think the cover of the Hamlyn book (Dante on the Flying Steed over New Moscow) is my all time fave.

Finally, the inks for the cover of Dave Bishop’s Strangelove Gambit novel, phew!

If you’ve enjoyed what you see, please check out the fantastic Lilly MacKenzie strip at This free strip is written and illustrated by Simon and is absolutely brilliant! Also, Simon’s Official blog is here.

Many, many thanks to Simon for sending me the cover stuff for Prog 1651.

Friday 11 September 2009

Dave Taylor - Super Circuits!

It’s a well known fact that other than Tharg, 2000AD is ‘staffed’ by numerous droids that have been constructed by the Betelgeusian editor’s own green hands. One can only assume that when he came to make the Dave Taylor droid, Tharg must have popped some extra RAM in the Mega-City One Rendering Circuits as Dave is celebrated throughout the galaxy for his brain-frazzling Mega-City vistas and his amazing technological design work. Don’t just take my ill-informed word for it, super artdroid D’Israeli rates Dave as “the best current Mega-City artist” – high praise indeed!

However, the Taylor droid is not just a one trick erm… robot! His figure work and portraits are amazing too. Just look at the talent oozing out of his trademark crowd scenes in the recent Dredd tale, High Spirits. Simply stunning – oh, you get extra points if you spot dead bad guys from Dredd’s past in there too. For example, in the panel below you can clearly see The Raggedy Man to Judge Lamia’s left and Filetooth, from the Cosmic Punks Gang, on her right:

Bolland’s famouse Filetooth cover image:
I am chuffed to present all of Dave’s fantastic covers to date. At the top of this post have have Dave’s yummy Prog 1653, showcasing his awesome Photoshop painting skills. The cover depicts a grizzled, morose-looking Dredd who's haggard face is testament to the recent distressing events in his world. Wonderful stuff.

Below we have the inks and finished versions of the Anderson inspired cover of Megazine 236. You can read his commentary of how the cover came together here.

Finally from the Megazine, the Big Robots cover of Meg 261. This was a madcap Anderson tale featuring sentient City Blocks where Dave was able to show his block-drawing skills to their fullest!
Moving on to 2000AD, we have a sketch and the finished cover of Prog 1599, showcasing a blinded Dredd getting ready to throw a wobbly – not to mention a punch or two!

Finally we have the companion pieces to this cover, featuring undead nutcase Rohmer, from the Ecstasy storyline.

As well as being a talented git, Dave is also very generous at sharing his work through his super blog (here) and is currently working on a top secret Batman project. I wonder if he’s swapped his Mega-City Rendering Circuits for Gotham City ones?

Thanks to Dave for the images, you're a star laddie!