Thursday 16 September 2010

Ding dong! Dredd calling!

Wow! The amazing Mark Harrison, Rebellion's head of concept, is back with an explosive Dredd cover to accompany the current 'Skinning Room' tale. The cover is packed with movement and intelligent little nods to some of Mark's favourite movies. Fans of Mark's work know that he loves to 'audition' Hollywood actors in his art and add cinematic 'Easter Eggs' to enhance the experience for the reader. This cover is no different so, over to Mark...

"Here's the Dredd cover story: I took a couple ideas of Dredd to Tharg as possible covers; The first was Dredd referencing a "Dirty Harry: Magnum Force" poser with the Statue of Justice in the background..."
Mark's Idea (above) and the very cool Magnum Force poster below...
Mark's second cover idea was also based on a couple of no-nonsense American Cops, John Wayne's James Brannigan from the 1975 action flick Brannigan (see the trailer here) and Sylvester Stallone's controversial portrayal of Megacity-One's finest. "My other idea was Dredd kicking in a door blasting; partly inspired by the John Wayne film "Brannigan" where he kicks down doors with a "Knock knock!" and the moment we first see Dredd in action in the film Judge Dredd as he "pacifies" Block war rooms. In fact the latter choice would define Dredd for me as I struggled to put my take on the look of Dredd..."

Above, Mark's sketch for the cover.

As we all know, Mark was a pioneer of digital art and it's use is still an integral part of his craft. He continues "The sketch approved, I quickly knocked up a Poser figure in a Bryce corridor (both 3-D apps I use occasionally) , a very basic texture overlaid onto the background (same one I've been using for years on Durham Red) to give perspective and some dynamic lighting to give me a foundation point. I had something clearly in mind; as in the movie, Dredd has blasted open the door and eased into the room into a half crouch as he rapid fires in an arc, taking out all the perps. A lot of repositioning; balancing the silhouette of the figure in the doorway. Not too low as to be lost, but not so high as to be a giant. Also space for the dynamics to work, the guns spinning out of flailing hands. A good chunk of time finessing this spacial relationship, where 3-D really helps (although i fudge it in the end!)"

"I'd had a chequered past illustrating Dredd in the past, first trying to realistically portray him then following the art styles of others. I decided I wanted to do "my version" for a change, a hybrid of the comic and the movie. Whatever you might think of the movie "Judge Dredd," there are some good design choices there. I liked the chunky, blocky look of the design throughout. My favourite comic version of Dredd is the very first Ezquerra/McMahon "Motorcycle Helmet" Dredd. The scaling of the uniform is at it's most practical and Dredd looks like a young, lean, pouting and arrogant Clint Eastwood from the Dollars movies."

Mark continues "The movie had a great helmet look. One thing I liked was how it squared off the "Death mask/skull" red flashing on the helmet. Rounded I think it looks weak and the movie one front on it looks quite devilish, so I incorporated that look into the helmet. I also preferred the turned up collar. It feels more military, stiff, tight and formal and more in keeping with the discipline of a Judge."
Above - The Block War scene that was obviously an inspiration and the 'devilish' movie helmet.

"The helmet alone accounted for 30% of the time spent on this image, refining it and getting it right. Even now I'm looking at the eyes thinking should I have dropped the angle a millimetre or so."
"In the sketch I originally had Dredd bursting in, respirator down, having Stumm gassed the place, gasses swirling dynamically, but thought it would be better to see his face. The chunky angular respirator, eagle and shoulder pads also fell into that blocky, utilitarian look. I should have carried to look through to the badge and belt buckle but I had been generously given a Termight Replica badge by Wakefield Carter and I thought it would be a shame not to use it!"

WARNING! The next part may be controversial!!! "Elbow and Knee pads were a pain. I confess I don't like them- the green just doesn't work. (Sorry Carlos!) So I darkened them down to muddy green and had the scene lit by green muzzle flashes. Why green? That's a nod to the Sandman's gun in the film "Logan's Run". (In the book the Sandmen were judge, jury and executioner and their guns fired 6 types of round including heat seeker. I "challenged" Mr. Wagner that "Logan's Run" was an influence on Judge Dredd and he growled that he "read a lot of books"....)"

Mark lets us in on some of the in-jokes in the text on the piece and manages to squeeze in another film reference! "A key ingredient in any Dredd story is a dark humour, so I have a sort of scrolling LED display above the door saying "YOU HAVE A VISITOR" that you can imagine being cheerfully announced moments before Dredd bursts in and guns down the occupants!
The "Smart door" also carries a bit of text (and some in-jokes) on it; an overlay that suggests that Judges in a crackdown situation can render all doors unlocked. I always liked it when the world of Dredd whilst exciting and heroic also carried this underlying feeling of oppression and the denial of human liberties. Dredd is not a nice guy. He's just better than the alternative!"

As for the door text, the "1187 Hunter Gratzner" was deliberate; I changed it from Blade Runner's "1187 Hunterwasser- I loved those model maker guys!) "K.Howell" is a friend of mine who *HATES* Judge Dredd. Dredd isn't too fond of him, either!"

"Finally, some gun smoke and debris and motion blur to suggest kinetic movement in the scene. Again, another balancing act of too much vs too little.

Some background detailing from the inside of a helicopter for the corridor (probably not necessary, my biggest weakness, knowing when to stop) I wanted it to look like the bowels of a ship or cargo containers. Not nice living quarters.

Some colour passes and tweaking, bring out the red of the helmet and bringing up the values on the eagle pad and face to centre the readers eye (and hopefully lessen the naturally lighter lit corridor behind.) Some specular light from the gun flash right on the bridge of the nose. Okay, we lost some red but the high point centres the eye. Check back with the sketch to see if can restore some of the energy lost in the process. Add a bit more "whoosh" and "zap" brush marks... done! (Entirely painted in PhotoShop CS2)"
"Efforts prove a hit with Tharg who likes the movement in the scene."

And dammit, so do I. A fine cover that is superbly cinematic, taking the best elements of the flawed old Dredd movie and creating a masterpiece. Ironically, Mark tells me that "A few days after submitting the work it was announced a new Judge Dredd film was being made!"

So here's hoping the new movie has half the passion and intelligence that Mr Harrison puts into his work! Thanks to Mark for the fascinating info, especially as he wasn't at his best when he sent it. True services to thrill power!


  1. Fantastic insight into the work of Mr Harrison. Keep up the good work, Pete!

  2. This is by far my favourite cover this year! It really has a filmic feel and should be 'required reading' for the guys over at DNA making the new movie.