Monday 30 July 2012

Lee Garbett - Corps Blimey Guvnor!

Another striking cover from the talented Lee Garbett, this time featuring Dredd and the members of the Justice Department Marine Corps! The corps have been drafted in to help clean up the Mega City after the dreadful Chaos Day virus and are put through their paces by a highly organised City Def unit who have claimed independence for their block! As Dredd is trapped inside the block the marines employ typically OTT tactics to quash the rebellion, this isn't gonna end well!

Below we see Lee's rough layouts...

Followed by these absolutely beautiful pencils. Loving the Jock-esque helmet there...
And the final image. Over on Lee's site he states that this was his second pass on colouring as his original understandably featured a star field. I'd love to see that, I reckon it'd make a great contrast to the warm colours used on the Megacity version!
Thanks to Lee for sharing the images and giving permission for them to be put on here!

Sunday 29 July 2012

Tin Man Games - Judge Dredd Countdown Sector 106

Clint Langley's cover of Megazine 308 is used as the cover of the Gamebook

In Tin Man Games' brilliant new iPad game, YOU are the law! Next week sees the release of the Aussie company's latest chose-your-own-adventure style game-book for the iPad, Judge Dredd: Countdown Sector 106. Over the last few months I have been lucky enough to Beta test the game, here's my verdict!

The Promo Video for Judge Dredd: Countdown Sector 106!

Welcome to Sector 106

Playing as Judge Dredd himself, you are drafted to the crime-infested Sector 106 to help out, thanks to a judge shortage. The sector has it's fair share of problems, including juve gangs, deranged mob bosses, Zizz dealers and even evil serial killers such as the Dockside Strangler - a notorious fiend who is targeting slabwalkers at the smuggler-ridden port. Furthermore, as you progress through the story (or more accurately, stories,) a much bigger problem comes to light which will require all of your judicial training, cunning and a fair bit of luck, to solve!

"You may have heard of me, I'm a stickler."

You ARE the Law!

Here's an example of how the game plays. Early in the game, after dealing with a couple of run of the mill crimes such as a sky surfing mugger and a jewellery theft, you arrive at a scene of utter pandemonium at the Sam Walton Shopping Promenade.

A vehicle has crashed into a 'Chez Ugly' clinic at Harridges department store, causing fires, multiple fatalities and injuries and spewing thick clouds of toxic gas throughout the scene. What will you do? Help the injured, call for back up or enter the mall to survey the damage? Whatever you decide, and whatever consequences you face as a result, it soon becomes apparent that the crash was no accident, and something much more sinister is happening inside the mall...

After you have fought your way through various Dreddworld establishments (fatty clothing store, face change parlours and so on) you realise that the accident was a distraction, to cover a daring Sexmek heist! You are faced with the scene below:

"I want your sex!" A daring gang make off with some valuable Sexmeks!

And the following choices:
What would Dredd's Comportment say?

So Judge, what would you do?


While you control Dredd's choices in the story, combat and other events are determined by the roll of one or more dice. Combat works in different ways - in a gunfight you are told how many points you need to win (for example 13 points.) You roll the dice, if the number you get added to your base Lawgiver score equals or exceeds 13, you win, if not, you lose, costing precious vitality. Cleverly, at times you are offered the chance to use different bullets from Dredd's armoury, however these can bring their own challenge. When firing a ricochet bullet, for example, you may down three perps if you roll 14 or higher, two if you roll 12 or higher and so on.

Daystick or fistfights again rely on different rolls of the dice; you or your attacker roll several die, the highest number on one dice becoming the attack strength. The opponent then rolls the die, if none of their die beat that number they are injured, however if they match or beat it, they dodge the attack and can counter attack!

"I'm Dredd, fly me!"

Of course Dredd's has more than just weapons at his disposal, he can use his fearsome reputation to stop an incident before it begins, by implementing an authority roll. For example, as a bag snatcher begins to run off you can shout for him to "Stop!" an authority roll will decide whether you're intimidating enough.

Add to this chance rolls, agility rolls and more and you can see there's real variation to keep you hooked in the game.

The Hall of Heroes

Longevity is further added to the game with a smart achievement system which encourages you to explore every possible outcome in the game. Some of the thirty achievements I've earned so far include "Sky Surfing USA" for riding a powerboard, "Throw a Percy" (think about it, Blue Peter fans) for destroying a pot plant and my favourite, "Dibnah Style" for using Hi-Ex rounds!

You also collect any in game art you uncover during your adventure to look at in more detail later, can you find all the illustrations to gain the "Art Heist" achievement?

The Law in Order - Can you earn all of Dredd's Achievements? 

 Similarly, as you arrest perps throughout the game you gain their rap sheet, making for interesting reading when you're not playing the game.

Some of Sector 106's most wanted.
Cosmo here is a graduate of the Marlon Shakespeare Skysurfing College, 2030
The Verdict...

In all honesty, I love this, and would recommend it to any Dredd fan! The writer, Nick Robinson, seems to have an excellent knowledge of Dredd and his world as the story is chock full of Dreddworld references from sky surfers to Ugly Parlours to Gunge to Zizz dealers. The tone of the writing is great too, featuring a vast range of engaging scenarios that have the balance between old school Dredd action and humourous Megacity madness just right.

The gameplay is great too, you really have to think like a judge when engaging in the various fire fights, lawmaster chases, procedurals and fistfights as the story progresses. Thankfully, on arrival at the sector house you are given a chance to hone Dredd's considerable skills in three areas, boosting your base stats. A visit to the firing range will add points to Dredd's lawgiver stats, helping in firefights throughout the game, where as a visit to the garage will tune up Dredd's Lawmaster, giving you the edge in any subsequent chase. A visit to the briefing room can help Dredd spot wanted perps or arm him with significant intel to help you make the correct choices through out his adventure.

Though the game is very well presented, a very minor quibble lies in the artwork, which has been painted by, I assume, an in house artist. While the art is not too bad, it would have added real authenticity if an existing 2000AD artist could have been commissioned to provide the artwork. However, as the examples below show, the artist (a guy called German Ponce) seems to have a good knowledge of Dredd's world.

 Robot War - Will you use Armour Piercing or Hi-Ex?
 50% off Bellywheels all week!

There's absolutely hours and hours of exciting, Dredd-based enjoyment in this game. I've taken several paths in the book which have taken me all over the sector and I feel like I've still only scratched the surface. This game is massive, and deserves to be huge!

When playing, you really do feel like the famous law man as you agonise over the countless decisions you have to make. Are you going to take the stealthy route, try to trick your way into a situation or go all guns blazing? The situations you find yourself in range from the sublime to the ridiculous but always feel like they could have come straight from the pages of 2000AD itself.

Tin Man Games have done an admirable job of bringing Dredd and his colourful world to life, I genuinely hope that this is the first of many adventures, imagine taking on the Dark Judges, the Sovs or even crossing The Cursed Earth! I'm sure the company would do a great job of plundering the 2000AD back catalogue too, we could have epic Quests as Johnny Alpha, take on the Norts as Rogue Trooper or even earn a fortune as a Buttonman. So many possibilities!

Buy this game Earthlets, I promise you won't be sorry!

Thursday 26 July 2012

Leigh Gallagher - Aquila... it makes me happy!

Over on the beautiful Leigh Gallagher' excellent blog, he has graced us with the breakdown of this weeks' lovely Aquila cover. There's alternative ideas, pencils, inks and an hilarious almost finished version! As ever, it's a hoot and the images are wonderful so stop looking at this and go there now!

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Greg Staples - Dredd 3D Cover Uncovered!

When you're asked by film giant Lionsgate and 2000AD to do a cover for one of the biggest, most anticipated movies of the year, it's pretty hard to say 'No', no matter how hectic your schedule is, as Greg Staples found out!

To compliment the highly anticipated Dredd movie, August sees the release of a digital comic exploring the origins of the movie's main villain, gang boss Madeline 'Ma Ma' Madrigal. The script is by Tharg's chief assistant Matt Smith and illustrated by the phenomenal Henry Flint, the story sports this beautiful cover by the legendary Greg Staples. 

Greg said "I was asked by both companies to do a simple, iconic Dredd image for the story only two weeks before going to San Diego Comic Con. I had loads of work to do but simply couldn't turn this down!

Greg used the movie poster as an influence as well as, quote, "a tonne of reference material that Dredd fans would kill for!" to help him produce the sketch below... 
With the sketch approved, Greg set to work on this beautifully detailed underdrawing which he would use as the basis for the finished image. Note the blank background, Greg explains "At this point, I'd only seen the poster which is very dark. I was going to go for a generic, smoky kind of background in keeping with the tone of the image..."  

However, with less than a week to go before SDCC, the brief changed significantly. An incredulous Greg laughs "Someone asked 'Could you 'just' put a city in the background!?!' I explained to them that this was to be fully painted and not a digital image. To paint an entire city takes an awful long time!"

However, Greg agreed, mocking up the fantastic preliminary images shown below. He said "I wanted to offer a choice. I'd not seen the movie at the time but had seen the trailer which again looked quite dark. For this reason I did one in daylight and one set at night."

It was decided that the lighter version would be used and Greg was finally able to begin to paint!

Greg printed out the daytime mock up and used this as reference for the amazing final painting below. Really taking it to the wire, Greg said "I was flying to America with the 2000AD crew on the Monday so had to have this delivered by the Friday before. After working on it for three days I literally finished it on Thursday night and jumped in the car to deliver it by hand. The paint was still wet as we jetted of to SDCC!"

It's a stunning image which, like the film, has been very enthusiastically received. Modest as ever, Greg said he's quite surprised by this, saying "You never know how these things are gonna go."

While in San Diego, Greg was been lucky enough to see the movie, and he told me about the screening. He said "I had a hectic few days doing the cover, then driving down to London before an incredibly long flight to America. We arrived, very jet-lagged, in San Diego at 8pm and the screening was at 10pm!" After a stressful dash to the venue, Greg's troubles were only beginning, he continues "Karl Urban was seeing the finished movie for the first time. He and Olivia Thirlby introduced it then Karl sat down next to me! I was desperately tired but was terrified that I'd yawn or sag during the showing!" Thankfully, the movie was so good, Greg was great throughout!

Naturally, I asked for Greg for his honest opinion, he said "It's brilliant! It was apparent almost immediately that we've got something very, very special here. It looks, and sounds, amazing! The cinematography is stunning and it's strange, but people were actually saying it's the best sounding film they've experienced!"

He was also complimentary about the cast and crew, saying it was evident that everyone he spoke to was passionate about Dredd and many were real fans. He was particularly positive about Karl Urban, who he called 'a lovely bloke' even when Greg accidentally put his name card over Karl's during the Masters of the Web panel, much to the audiences delight!

Massive thanks to Greg for taking the time to let me speak to him, especially after the frantic few weeks he's had! The web comic will be available in August and, I'm sure you don't need to be told, Dredd opens in the UK on September 7th!

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Ben Willsher - The Art of Lenny Who?

A warm welcome back to the prog for super artdroid Ben Willsher! Ben is easily one of the best artists working in 2000AD today, his knowledge of 2000AD lore and Mega-City history is vast and he always enhances his incredible artwork with in-jokes and Easter Eggs for the fans. His artwork exudes cool so it's no surprise that he was hand-picked by writer Andy Diggle to replace the mighty Jock on the brilliant Lenny Zero strip.

Lenny is an ex-wally squad judge who has embraced a seedy life of crime. He is quick-witted, audacious and very smart. He seems to have a knack for getting into trouble but thankfully, always seems to get himself back out of trouble. To date he has had three fabulously plotted, twisting, turning adventures in the Megazine which have seen him go up against all manner of criminal and judges, including Dredd himself! I've done a series recap at the end of this post to bring readers up to speed...

Over to Ben to tell us more about the cover:

"It's all about the Griffins... geddit? Like It's all about the Benjamins.... ah fageddit!!!! ;-) Ok, here it is... The story of the Lenny zero cover."

"This cover was drawn straight after I had finished part one of Lenny Zero, and Tharg said he wanted an image of Lenny and Shuggy together. He sent me this image of Han Solo and Chewie as a good starting point for the direction we should go in..."

 "Who's scruffy lookin'?"

"I loved this idea, but I wanted to get some elements of the story in there, too. So I roughed out an image of them both being surrounded by falling money, which I felt was a more symbolic image of the story arc."

Cue Twerk, Ben's sketch

"Tharg approved this, so it was just a case of getting on and drawing the thing."

Very cool inks for a very cool cover!

"Now, I'd drawn the falling money, so this meant I actually had to design the creds themselves. There's never been a definitive version before, but there were a couple of versions I'd liked over the years. The first being Brett Ewins' design in the 2000ad Annual 1979, but you could only see the top end of the bank notes. The second was in the Judge Dredd Annual 1983, in the Readers' art section and that had a more fully fleshed out design of the note. Obviously, this had been largely based on the Ewins' version by Adrian Franks, of Lorshill, Southampton (where is he now?), but it had always impressed me, so I thought it was worth using it as a footprint for my own take on the note."

Brett Ewins' Galactic Groats

Adrian Franks' famous(!) hundred cred note. Where is he now?

"So I set about designing the new look note - I took two real bank notes as further inspiration: The 100 dollar bill, and the long departed pound note. I love the pound note, and I was genuinely gutted when it was taken out of circulation in favour of the pound coin (PAH!). I felt it had the right shade, tone and colour to be a basis of my new design..."

It's all about the Benjamins!

And the Lizzies!

"The one thing that is noticeable about bank notes in general is they all have the face of someone that is hugely influential to that nation, so why would would Mega-City's currency be any different.... but who to choose?" 

"It had to be a Chief Judge, and Judge Griffin seemed the obvious choice to me as visually he is the most striking. Problem was I wanted to put his full name, but unlike Francisco, Hershey, Silver, Volt, McGruder, Goodman, Solomon or Fargo, he didn't have a first name. So I had to pick him one, and who better to name him after than Jürgen Prochnow, the man that played him in the Stallone Dredd movie. Hopefully that is now Canon ;-)"

"I say we extend execution to include lesser crimes!"

 "Something that Andy (Diggle) and I worked out is that lower notes like the 100 Cred bill would be like traditional bank notes, whereas as they get higher in denomination (for example 10,000 creds) they would become smalled and more like credit cards."

"A finishing touch to the note was the addition of the 'Justice Department Approved' stamp created by the brilliantly talented nerve centre designer Simon 'Pye' Parr- So extra thanks to him.

A little bit of Pye Parr magic...

"And here's what the final image looked like..."

Please Note: The owners of this blog remind you it is a crime to print out and try to spend 100 Cred Notes...

"All I had to do then, was warp it into the image about a 100 times and colour the whole image. TA DA!...

And there it is, another winner from Willsher! It's phenomenal how much work he put in to those bank notes, let alone the rest of the cover! The artwork in strip is excellent too, with cameos from Stookies, Shako and Judge Pal and the inclusion of Satelats, Shuggy tables, sumps and more, excellent!   

The finished cover, money, money, money!

The Prog as it appears on the shelves.

Thanks a million to Ben for sending those brilliant pictures and, of course, for the fascinating words, it's almost scary how much he knew about creds! Hmmmmm, I wonder what did happen to Adrian Frank is!?!

Lenny Zero's Origins

The story of Lenny Zero's origins are almost as intriguing and complicated as the wily character himself! The following story has been told often, but it's worth telling again!

Writer Andy Diggle was assistant editor of 2000AD and editor of the Judge Dredd Megazine as it was heading for it's milestone ten year anniversary issue. Despite the very tight editorial budget Diggle was keen to get Goddamn superstar artist Frank Miller to draw the celebratory cover. So, in an act of complete selflessness, Andy wrote a cool as der cucumber ten page script for free, using the money saved to fund the landmark cover. Art duties were picked from 2000AD's ever growing slush pile; one artist had really stood out in Andy's mind, a massive talent known as Jock. The artist was asked to illustrate the strip and a creative tour de force was unleashed!

As many will know, when Miller's cover actually arrived it was an absolute train wreck. The editorial team expressed their disappointment to the artist who asked for the work back and (thankfully,) it was never published. Still, every cloud has a silver lining and from this awful cover a seriously cool character was born as well as one of comics' most fruitful and successful partnerships!

My eyes! Goddammed awful.

The story so far...

Here's a recap of Lenny's story so far.
Meg 3.68: Lenny Zero

Lenny's eponymous début strip introduced us to the crafty Wally Squad judge who wanted out of the force. Lenny's true identity is discovered while working undercover to take down mob boss Caesar Piccante, an abrasive two hundred year old gangster who's personality is biochipped into the body of a ten year old body. The quick talking scoundrel promises to use his judicial credentials to spring Caesar's captured accountant from an interrogation cube, saving his thirty million cred fortune.

Lenny liberates the accountant, however this is a Justice Department sting to try to finally implicate Caesar as mob boss and take him down. While racing away from the cubes, Zero tricks the accountant into giving him Caesar's account details before leaving him and a justice department tracer on an automatic refuelling platform.

Disillusioned with the justice system and very much in love, Lenny races to JFK space port to escape to a life of luxury with Mona, the gal who'd stolen his heart. However, the master conman is himself duped, as he discovers Mona is actually SJS Judge Kramer and he is the victim of a honey trap. In a tense stand off, Lenny activates the self destruct mechanism on his weapons, leaving Kramer badly wounded and allowing Lenny's escape...

You can read Andy's fantastic script for this fine story here.

 One of the most iconic Dredd images ever...

Megs 4.01 & 4.02: Dead Zero

Lenny is a wanted man. Furious Mob Boss Caesar Piccante wants his thirty million creds back and the justice department are hunting for a judge gone bad. As the story begins, Lenny, who has been hiding in a giant fat suit, is captured by bounty hunter Trapper Khan. A firefight ensues and Lenny quickly formulates yet another cunning plan...

Cut to Lenny helping a couple of chancers from Ciudad Barranquilla to rob a mob truck in a PSU blindspot. However, there is no honour amongst thieves and the Banana City Scoundrels turn their guns on Lenny...

A body bearing Lenny's ID card is pulled from a chem pit, the very flesh burned from it's bones and the skull blown apart by a mob laser blast. An obsessed SJS Judge Kramer demands a full autopsy and discovers that the body does not belong to Zero and he has tried to fake his death to escape the justice she is so desperate to give him.

Very much alive, Lenny has assembled a group of dangerous master criminals to go after a star freighter carrying forty million creds worth of grade A Umpty Candy at JFK Space Port. As Lenny retires to one of his many safe houses, he comes face to face with Justice Department retribution in the form of a seriously grim Judge Dredd.

The law man makes no bones about arresting Lenny. However, the wily crook utters a code phrase that activates a massive hidden robot, attacking Dredd and giving Lenny time to escape. Dredd makes short work of the droid and pursues the fleeing Zero on his Lawmaster. Lenny steals a bike and somehow manages to evade Dredd who fires a hail of bullets at his hog...

The heist is on! Lenny, disguised as a judge, leads his squad to the Space freighter. They board the ship only to be confronted by Trapper Khan and we discover the details of Lenny's plan. He has double-crossed his entire gang, trading their freedom for his, ensuring a massive reward for Khan's captives.

Unfortunately victory turns to defeat as Zero discovers he hadn't escaped Dredd at all, Dredd's bullets were in fact tracking devices and the justice department arrives in force, led by Dredd and SJS Judge Kramer. The judges attempt to board the ship but are informed (by an unseen judge) that the entrance hatch is booby trapped. The ship takes off and is vapourised in orbit. Kramer is furious, wishing she could've gotten her hands on Zero one last time. As Dredd assures her that Zero is dead, we see him calmly walking away, getting one up on the justice department yet again...

So cool...

Megs 4.14 & 4.15: Wipeout

Lenny has returned to life of crime in the Big Meg, wiping and re-chipping credit cards and selling them to the mob. During a deal, one of the goons recognises Zero as the judge who ripped off Little Caesar. Using his wrist mounted guns, Lenny mows down the gang but not before one of the thugs gets the message to Piccante, "Lenny Zero is aliv-"

Realising that Caesar will not rest until he is dead, Zero goes on the offensive. He targets several rings of Caesar's operation, losing him creds left, right and centre, humiliating and weakening him before rival bosses. After causing significant damage to the Caesar's rep, Zero finally kidnaps him while he is on the crapper...

Lenny tries to appeal to Caesar's better nature, telling him about his stolen childhood, his life as a judge and how he'd fallen in love with a lie. Lenny wants to wipe the slate clean and allow both parties to walk away before they kill each other. Unfortunately Ceasar doesn't have a better nature and he refuses. Lenny uses his EMP-based credit-wiper to wipe the mob boss' biochip, erasing any memory of Zero or the trouble he'd caused.

For the first time in his life, Lenny is free...

So there ya go, all you need to know about Lenny Zero! Thanks again to the brilliant Ben Willsher for taking his time to send the images and commentary!

Sunday 8 July 2012

Simon Fraser - Bye Bye Nikolai

The sun rises over a Russian landscape forever changed by one man...

This week we wave a sad goodbye to one of 2000AD's most endearing characters, Russian Rogue Nikolai Dante, the only strip audacious enough to have trounced Dredd in the Eagle Awards!

Co-Creator Si Fraser has provided a beautiful farewell cover that, true to the character it represents, has broken convention and is as individual as they come! Here's Simon to tell the story: "So here's the last Dante cover, and this one has been controversial! Some felt that not having Dante on the cover was a mistake. I really wanted to take a step back though, make an image that would be powerful due to the lack of Dante, the feeling of his absence. I wanted to make a cover image that would work before you read the story and also afterwards as a coda. The sky is a sunrise not a sunset, with all the future that implies."

I have to say that this certainly was the case for me. I'm a huge fan of Dante and am ashamed to admit I had a restless night before my prog arrived and had butterflies in my stomach before reading the strip. When I saw the cover (thanks to the subscriber's preview at ECBT2000AD) it struck me how much the Karyatids looked like they were carrying a coffin and the general sadness and emptiness the cover conveyed certainly made me fear the worst...

Simon continues "I threw a lot of cover ideas around, discussed it with my studio mates (thanks to Jason Little for the Karyatids) and finally did the pencil sketch. I thought it could be a tough sell. I'm not aware of any other 2000AD cover that has had no characters in it at all..." 

 Pencils with plenty of character, but no characters!

"I think Matt did some consultation around the Nerve Centre (he must have asked Tharg - Pete) and then gave me the go ahead. The execution was pretty straightforward."

Below we can see Simon's digital rough, a smashing image as is.

 Is this the end for Russia's greatest love machine?

The inks once again show us what a fine draughtsman Simon is. Beautiful perspective, amazing architecture and those weeds are superb...
 Such a haunting image.

And finally, the awe-inspiring finished cover. Simon says "I'm very happy with the sky, which is a digital painting."

A new dawn, but will Nikolai be alive to see it?

Hat's off again to the design team at 2000AD. It's amazing the way they have made 'The End' a part of the image, I'd looked at Simon's 'clean' version loads of times before I noticed the type wasn't part of the image. Brilliant!

The End. But what's next for Morrison and Fraser?

Over on Simon's blog he thanks the people who have helped craft Nikolai's adventures over the years. He was kind enough to extend his thanks to this very blog and it's readers, saying "Thanks again to you Pete, your support has meant a big deal to us. Your Dante in covers summary was a tremendous piece of work. Thanks also to all the 2000AD fans for their support over the years, it's been a kick!"

I'm sure you'll agree with me that the pleasure was all ours. I've laughed, swashbuckled and maybe even shed a tear or two at Dante's amazing adventures over the last fifteen years. Seriously comics, and comic creators, at their very, very best.

Dante is dead, long live Dante!

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Carlos Ezquerra - Hot Dog!

Here's Carlos' cover for Prog 1790.  Unfortunately he can't find any of his sketches or the uncoloured version, however, I'm still thrilled to be able to offer you a lovely high res, clean version of the cover. Hopefully, like me, you'll spend ages just drinking in Carlos' exquisite detail, drinking in those vibrant colours and, well, checking out Durham's boobs!

Super thanks to Carlos for sending the image!