Wednesday 22 December 2010

Cover from the Emerald Isle!

Here is the cover of the excellent 2000AD fanzine 'Tales from the Emerald Isle.' The fanzine is the brainchild of David MacDonald (who also published the brilliant 'Doomlord' and 'Thirteenth Floor' reprints a few years ago) and features 2000AD's roster of Irish characters in stories written and drawn by the hottest up and coming talent.

The superb cover is by Alan Nolan, if you recognise the style, he produced the brilliant Slaine artwork in the Zarjaz Pat Mills special. His wonderful site is here.

Over to Al as he kindly tells us more.

"Emerald Isle editor David McDonald gave me a good idea of what he wanted for this cover -- the bould Slough Feg in one corner, opening up his tattered cloak to reveal Irish-tinged 2000AD characters Judge Joyce, Sinister/Dexter and Maeve the Many Armed.

Now I was familiar with Joyce and Sin/Dex, and practically on exchanging-Christmas-card terms with the Weird Lord, but Maeve the Many Armed I was flummoxed by. Must have happened during one of my few sabbaticals from reading the galaxy's greatest comic.

So I googled and googled and eventually came up with a reference...{%22ImageId%22%3A21516442}
...which turned out to be from a 2007 issue of Strontium Dog fanzine Dogbreath, and drawn by my old pal (and very talented artist) Vicky Stonebridge. Thanks Vicky!

I started off by drawing a very rough thumbnail at about A5 size for composition (Emerald_Cover_1.jpg), leaving enough room up top for a logo that I didn't have yet. As Joyce was my second favourite character (after Feg) and probably the most recognisable, I stuck him at the front with a dirty great pint of the black stuff. Sin/Dex I have coolly strolling from under the Weird Lord's smelly cloak, while Maeve goes all valkyrie behind them."

Al continues "I scanned this in, changed the colour profile from RGB to CMYK in Photoshop and stripped out magenta, yellow and black colours, leaving only cyan which I lightened to about a 20% tint (Emerald_Cover_2.jpg). I then blew this up in size and printed the light blue sketch at A4 size."
"Next, I inked directly onto the A4 printout using (mostly) an Artline Drawing System 0.2mm felt tip, adding all the detail and shading as I went, drawing at about 100% finished size. I scanned the finished artwork in a very high resolution."
"In Photoshop I cleaned up a few of the black lines, and greyed out parts of Joyce's helmet. I also added a white moon shape out of a grey tone at the very back to add depth.

By this stage the logo (designed, I believe, by another old friend Mike Carroll) had come in, so I added it to the "dead" space at the top, adding shading and highlights to the logo and tilting it slightly, and putting a shadow behind it to make it float over the action. I also brought Feg's right horn/antler in front of the logo, to give the whole shebang a more 3D look."

"And Bob's your Monkhouse, that was it, flattened the layers in Photoshop and saved as a jpg which I sent on to David."

Mike Carroll's brilliant logo

Absolutely fantastic! Thank you so much for that Al, you're an absolute star! I simply couldn't end this entry without including Al's hilarious, but ever so cool, back cover! He's really channeling the spirit of McMahon there!
Sincere thanks to Al for sending such an entertaining and informative commentary. If you want to buy Tales from the Emerald Isle (and you'd be mad not too!), then get in touch with Dave at Hibernia Comics.

Thursday 9 December 2010

Festive Fraser - The cover of Prog 2011!

Merry Christmas Earthlets! Behold the awesome cover of Prog 2011 by Nikolai Dante/Lilly MacKenzie creator Simon Fraser. Man, those colours are absolutely beautiful!

Simon said "Tharg wanted something Christmassy without anything Christmassy in it per se and Tharg might be flying like the Silver Surfer. So seeing as I seem to be drawing a lot of futuristic city scapes these days , I did one in the style of an old sci-fi book jacket sort of thing. The kind of books I used to borrow/nick from my Dad!"

"Here's the initial sketch, plus the worked up colour sketch (for the Editor to approve/hate!)"

Si then takes some of the magic out of his image by telling us "the city linework and the Tharg were drawn separately and assembled in Photoshop so I could use odd bits of paper that I had lying about." Odd bits of paper??? Dammit I want my Christmas cover to have been painted using pixie dust on pieces of reindeer hide. Not, odd bits of paper!!! That really is a beautiful cityscape though...

And here is the fully assembled image in all it's glory. I really, really like this cover, the colours are beautiful, those planets are stunning and it does indeed manage to be festive without a hint of tinsel. A triumph of brilliant design!

Wednesday 1 December 2010

Clint Langley - Team Player!

Behold yet another amazing Clint Langley cover, this time featuring players of Slane's oddball Murderball game! The image is a fantastic homage to Bob Peak's seminal Rollerball poster from 1975 and, as ever, features some of Clint's fantastic character designs. Here's the poster from the film, if you're unfamiliar with it....

Teamwork is very much the theme of this week's post as we take a peek at how Clint has collaborated with other professionals and indeed, other organisations.

Firstly, let's see how he worked with writer and artist Nick Percival. After I gushed about the Legends: The Enchanted novel in my recent Nick Percival post (available for a ridiculous £2.99 on the Comixology app), I mentioned to Clint how it's lush, digital artwork very much reminded me of his. He hold me "Yeah, I know the book well, I did some splash art for the film concepts for it."

And here they are; firstly, most of the principle cast astride their bikes looking all mean and moody. From left to right we have Bear and Goldilox, Jack the Giant Killer, Red (Riding) Hood, Hansel and Gretel.

Next is Jack the Giant Killer who, with the help of some narcotic-like magic beans, is no doubt off to slay another giant.
The next set of collaborative works are laden with great sadness. On several occasions, Clint was lucky enough to work with the late, great John Hicklenton who, after a long battle with Multiple Sclerosis, bravely took his life in March this year with the help of the Dignitas group in Switzerland. The week of John's death, 2000AD carried this fantastic ABC Warriors cover by Clint, in which Rojaws pays tribute to one of the comic's most original and memorable contributors.
John Hicklenton will perhaps be remembered mostly for his outstanding work on Nemesis and his fine, super-violent work on Judge Dredd strips Black Widow, Heavy Metal Dredd and the controversial Blood of Satanus. His passionate art style was visceral, highly individual and never, ever predictable, resulting in raging debate among the 2000AD fan base.

It is perhaps because of John's ultra violent approach to his work and his love of music that he was chosen to follow Simon Bisley on the Heavy Metal Dredd stories. Below are several images from Rebellion's Heavy Metal Dredd Collection which Clint was able to digitally enhance...

In the final months of his life, Jonny wrote and illustrated the brilliant graphic novel, 100 Months (on sale for £12.99 this week only!) The novel, in which Clint gets a dedication, tells the story of Manu, the vengeful Earth Goddess who wages an angry, bloody war on all that is wrong with humanity.

"Fear me! All who obey the coin!"

Even without knowing the heartbreaking circumstances surrounding the book's creation, it is a difficult and very thought provoking read. It's gruesome, yet beautifully intricate illustrations trap you in the page for the longest time and, despite the abundance of violence and gore on show, it is often magnificent prose that has a more profound effect on the reader.

"The murdered carpenter..."

100 Months is an angry, yet ultimately uplifting look at mankind's fragile relationship with the earth and is, without doubt, a fine testament to a true visionary. You can order the book from Cutting Edge Press.

Simply stunning work...

Finally, this week saw Clint contribute to the Willow Foundation's 'Star on Canvas' online auction. The Willow Foundation is a charity formed by former Arsenal and Scotland goalkeeper Bob Wilson and his wife, with the aim of giving special days out to seriously ill people aged between 16 and 40. The auction saw many well known faces from the worlds of sport, art, design, fashion, music and entertainment paint a 20x20 cm canvas to raise money for this worthwhile cause. Big names such as Bob Hoskins, Ricky Gervais, Tracey Emin, Dave Gibbons, Mark Harrison, David Tennant and Stephen Fry all contributed paintings to the auction. Clint was asked and painted the beautiful 'Bowling Wool: Together', raising a very respectable £471 for the charity. Clint said "It was a privilege to be included and contribute to such a great cause!!!"

I'm sure you'll join me in congratulating him on such a worthwhile endeavour.

Bowling Wool: Together

My thanks, as ever, go to Clint for being so kind to share these images, especially as many were sent at obviously a very sad and difficult time. I think his eagerness not only to help this blog, but causes like the one above, speak volumes about this wonderfully talented man. Thank you sir!

Tuesday 23 November 2010

Prog 1713 - Dr Loo!

Oh no! The Victorian Kingpin of Crime, sneaky old Stickleback himself, has stolen D'Israeli's latest blog post and has posted it here! His crafty gang also lifted extensive notes detailing each stage of the creative process, what a bunch of cads!

The notes, beleived to be written by the artist begin "This was my first cover drawn in Manga Studio... for a Judge Dredd story drawn by 2000AD titan Brendan McCarthy, so I've got a lot to live up to!"

Indeed he did, McCarthy made his debut in the galaxy's greatest comic way back in Prog 82 (September 1978) and quickly became one of 2000AD's most respected, creative and daring artists.

Matt continues "Below are the original roughs I sent to Tharg. The brief was "Dredd rapping on the doors of the public loo, with maybe a Tom Baker-style scarf sticking out from the bottom of the door". I did the first two without reference, which is why it's the wrong kind of loo (also the old 2000AD cover grid). Tharg sent me some reference and I produced three, which was okayed."
Next we have roughs...
and approval rough pencils.
"Below are the tidied-up working rough pencils, with perspective and Dredd's anatomy tightened up. I use a pink colour for stuff that has required a second pass - for example, I draw Dredd by doing the outlines of his figure first in blue, then adding all the pads and eagles in pink - if they were the same colour the drawing would get lost in places."

One of the joys of D'Israeli's work is seeing how he uses technology to enhance his already formidable skills. He says "The loo, the wall and the console were all plotted out using Manga Studio's Perspective Rulers tool - this forces drawing tools to run only along perspective lines, which makes roughing out objects in perspective an absolute doddle."
Next we have the 'pencils' stage "I only add finished "pencil" drawing to the figure, since the background is already plotted out nicely and there's no point in duplicating work. Note the grid (build using Manga Studio's "Vanishing Points" filter) which is a handy guide for freehand drawing in perspective. I made the "Mega City Public Restroom" sign on its own layer, copied it and distorted it to fit the side of the loo. (Note: this job was the last I drew using my old copy of Manga Studio EX 3, which had trouble managing the distortion, so I exported the sign and distorted it in Photoshop. I've since upgraded to Manga Studio 4 which is much happier with this sort of thing.)"
Next the image is inked in D'Israeli's distinctive style; "I like to ink everything freehand to keep a slightly looser, hand-drawn look. I added very slight curves to the edges of the loo, to make it look a little more rounded - Brendan's design looks as if it's made from moulded plastic..."
"The inks on their own, including "colour holds" (coloured outlines). From here I export the drawing from Manga Studio in Photoshop format."
Time to start adding colour - I certainly don't envy Matt having to contend with McCarthy's insane use of colour! The artist says "Flat colouring in Photoshop. Brendan McCarthy's colours for the strip are really psychedelic, so I'm trying to follow that while making something that looks pleasing to the eye. I set up a series of purple mid-tones that I can work off with other colours..."
"Next shading, added on its own layer in pale violet, using Multiply mode - this is like adding a transparent wash."
Next we see further evidence (as if needed!) of D'Israeli's amazing sense of design, "Highlights 1 - now the colours are starting to pop! I'm adding opaque highlights on a new layer, then cutting into them with a Layer Mask to establish shadows. Brendan used a really strong cyan for the wall behind the loo. I can't handle that kind of contrast with the same aplomb, so I'm pushing the strong blue up the top of the frame where it'll back the 2000AD title block and hopefully push it forward..."
"Highlights 2 - a few extra little highlights to add 'zing.'" Stunning!
Off to computer program number three, Coral Painter, to help get that gritty D'Israeli finish we all know and love. "I make a copy of the file and open it in Corel Painter (which can handle Photoshop files so no need to convert). Painter has a load of useful texture brushes, which I use to break up the smooth Photoshop finish - Sponges to add texture to the pavement, Sargent Brush and Chalks to modify the texture on the wall, and Water Blender to just tweak the edges of the shadows on the loo. I also added a few more colours to the scarf."
Adding the Fishpaste! To add a thoughtful finishing touch to the piece, D'Israeli adds some very special graffiti "Back in Photoshop, I use a layer set to "Multiply" to add graffiti to the back wall and "gum-spots" to the pavement. Except for my trademark "fishpaste," all the graffiti relates to work by Brendan McCarthy."
Finally... "Flatten layers, save as TIFF, upload to 2000AD FTP, done!" Oh, he makes it all sound so darned easy!

Below is a 'sketch' that Matt for me at the brilliant Thought Bubble in Leeds last weekend. I asked him for Stickleback doing something for this blog so he drew the image below with a space to add a cover. The cover in the sketch was obviously disproportionate to a standard 2000AD cover but D'Israeli was kind enough to correct this on a scan I'd sent him...

Also, as is customary for keen photographer D'Israeli, he took pictures of his sketches and sketchees for his own blog. For mine, I tried to ape the pose of Stickleback from the sketch then had the idea of making a never ending optical illusion by repeating the photo over and over in the sketch. Again Matt was kind enough to take my shoddy version of it and correct it. A fine, fine fellow indeed!
So, thanks a million to Matt for being so unbelievably kind in leaving so many fantastic images and such a fascinating commentary lying around for Sticklebacks gang to steal! On a personal level, I'd also like to thank him for being kind enough to fix my sketch and being such a nice chap when I met him. He really is D'best!

Go visit his wonderful blog here.

Friday 19 November 2010

Holy Moses, it's the multi-talented Karl Richardson!

Holy Christmas, it's another excellent cover from Karl Richardson, this time depicting dimension diddling Don, 'Holy' Moses Tanenbaum from hit strip (no pun intended!) Sinister Dexter.

I mentioned the resemblance to Bad Manners' front man Buster Bloodvessel to which Karl said "Actually, there probably will be comparisons with Buster, but hopefully from the sketches, people will see I just painted it from the sketch..." (below)

Karl continues "I hardly ever use reference, probably because I come from more a cartoon background. I remember using refs for Big Ben, when I did the robot/monster cover, but for things like that you have to - not that there's anything wrong with using reference, it's just quicker to do it from your head if you can!"

So, here's Karl's roughs from his sketch. He says "It was fairly straight forward as I remember - I did the sketch, sent it in - got it approved, then I started to render it..."

With the rough complete, the further details were added, "I remember adding more weight and width to his face as it wasn't nearly fat enough!" Almost there, just a few minor, and one major (for the observant among you), things to do "Yes, initially I spelt his name wrong!" admits Karl!

This really is another excellent cover from Mr Richardson, I'd love to see an alternative cover in the mould of the famous Obama 'Hope' posters.
If, like me, you were surprised by Karl's 'cartoon' roots, just check out some of the brilliant images he sent me! The first would make for a superb 1 page Future Shock...

Next we have some freaky Zombies...
And finally, of course, a Mexican bandit riding a T-Rex!
Thanks to Karl for once again being so brilliant with his time. He had a bunch of deadlines but still took the time to send the images and comments. What a lovely guy!

Monday 15 November 2010

Edmund Bagwell - Goodie in a Hoodie!

Yikes, here's the amazing cover for Prog 1711 showing the Megacity-One's premier lawman being served up as a gastronomic delight! This magnificent feast was created by the brilliant Edmund Bagwell who was responsible for the very unsettling artwork on last year's hit horror strip 'Cradlegrave.'

Above we have the delicious coloured version and the inks below. Edmund says "Not much of a story to this one, just Dredd bring served up at some sort of alien food convention! I had way too much fun drawing the alien fruit though!"

This is Edmund's second cover with his first being, of course, that iconic demonic hoodies cover of Prog 1633 (shown in all it's gory glory below...)

Edmund explains "This was all Tharg's idea. He had wanted "Something creepy and atmospheric – maybe a group of teens in hoodies facing us but we can’t see their faces, it’s just darkness under their hoods..."

Creeeeepy - Edmund's main reference picture.

More hoodies, aaaagh!

The alternative cover...

Edmund continues "I chose a really basic colour scheme to make it feel like a night time scene..."

The final mock-up

Below we can see Edmund's fantastic line work for the piece...
The artist continues "After seeing that Tharg suggested "a spatter of blood on the lead figure’s hoodie" to give it, literally a splash of colour!"

And there we have it, the making of the third most popular cover of last year as voted for by the members of the 2000AD Message board!

Edmund has started producing his own fantastic blog called Four Colours Good which further shows off his versatility and superb ability. Thanks again to Edmund for supplying the images and text - I've been dying to feature that iconic Cradlegrave cover since it appeared and this week's prog isn't bad either!