Monday 26 November 2012

D'Israeli - Luna City Bang Bang!

Well, it's clear to me now just why the D'Israeli droid was chosen to be the artist on Low Life. You see, Dirty Frank is, shall we say, more than a little insane and, judging my the mammoth task the artist set himself with this incredible cover, you'd hafta guess that D'Israeli is too!

This is simply astonishing. It'd be a big enough undertaking as a single cover but as a wraparound!?! Wow! As if any more proof were needed of Mr Brooker's exceptional work ethic, check out this article in his brilliant blog where he discusses the 'Sharkitecture' of the hidden city, it's amazing!

Over to Matt to tell us more in 5... 4... 3... 2... 1... Blast off!

"01-03 - Roughs sent to Matt Smith. He’d suggested something around the take-off of the God City from the end of the previous episode. I did two versions of this idea (close-up on Frank and pulled back to show the scale of the city), plus an alternate idea (a parody of the Jaws poster). Matt liked the “scale” version of the city take-off and asked me to turn it into a wraparound cover for even more impact. We took this forward without any more roughs."

01 - Hot Grot!

02 - The chosen one...

03 - Sharkbah! I LOVED this cover too...

With the cover chosen by the Mighty One, the hard work begins. Matt continues "04 - in Manga Studio, I pasted the rough into a double-page file (one of the few features Manga Studio lacks is the ability to change page size; back when I was drawing in Illustrator I’d have just doubled-up the page dimensions of the file I’d drawn the roughs in). The only change made to the original composition is to rotate it a bit so the city doesn’t drift off the top of the back page. I build a perspective grid round the rough using Manga Studio’s Perspective Rulers feature and do a rough drawing that extends the city across the back page. I add the damaged taxi, buffeted by the blast from the city’s take-off, as a point of interest on the back page."

04 - Find Frank! I challenge you to find Frank before moving on...

"05 - Pencils. The rough pencils give me a good enough guide for the buildings, so I concentrate the more precise drawing of the finished pencils on the figure of Frank, the taxi, and establishing a line of shadows that will fall across the frame (I do also add a few extra buildings top right of the back page)."

05 - More buildings!?!

"06 - Inks. Manga Studio’s pen tools are the closest thing I’ve ever used to a proper dip pen (and a good one at that). The pen tool can be constrained to draw along the perspective lines, which is how I did the manga-style whoosh lines at the edges of the drawing. Otherwise I ink everything freehand; I like my drawings to look hand-drawn. Coloured lines (the blast from the engines) are drawn on a separate layer from the black."

"06 - I hope Franks legs don't break, walking on the moon!"

"07 - Inks shown without the pencils and perspective grid, but with solid blacks added."

07 - The blackness of space.

"08 - Flat colours. With a complex drawing like this one you want to keep the colours as simple as possible, otherwise you just end up with an unreadabe jumble o’ stuff. I’m trying to keep it to big areas of simple colour that help define what you’re looking at; the lunar surface, the flames, the dirt-encrusted base of the city, the flanks with their exposed mechanisms, the finished, cladded buildings above."

08 - Flats amazing!

"09 - Now I add highlights (rimlights might be a better word) on a new layer, to help pick out the surface detail of the city."

09 - Wow, the rimlights add so much. Try flicking back and forth between images 08&09 to get the effect of the fire!

"10 - Light and shade. On another new layer I pretty much colour the whole thing again, this time looking at light and shade; everything in shadow is blue, the lit areas are pale yellow. Now I export the file to Photoshop, where I can start overlaying and merging these different layers to create a full-colour image with shading."

10 - Let there be light!

"11 - We’re now in Photoshop. Using the Magic Wand tool I separate the patches of yellow highlight out from the shadows and put them on their own layer (to do this, pick the Magic Wand Tool, then uncheck the “Contiguous” “Anti-Alias” and “Sample All Layers” checkboxes, which makes the tool select every patch of similar colour on a single layer, even if they’re not touching. Pick the layer you want, click on the colour you want to select. All patches of that colour on that layer will become surrounded by a line of “marching ants” to show they’re selected.  On the keyboard, press Shift+Cmd+J (Mac) Shift+Ctrl+J (Windows) and the selected bits will automatically jump up onto their own new layer.)"

11 - The fire from those boosters really starts to look fierce now...

"12 - In the Layers Palette, I add a Layer Mask to the layer containing the yellow. Layer Masks let you “paint with invisibility” - if you paint into the Layer Mask with white selected, then whatever you paint over on that layer disappears. Why is this different from erasing? Because the colour is only hidden, not destroyed. Paint into the Layer Mask with black and the hidden areas return. Painting into the layer mask with shades of grey allows for very subtle transitions."

"In this case, I treat the yellow as the brightest highlights from the sun, and use the layer mask to fade down the colour where I don’t want it to be so intense. I use a home-made brush with captured sponge-texture to give me textured shading that matches the gritty lunar surface."

12 - The layer mask having a startling effect on the highlights here.

"12a - I’ve also brightened up the flames from the engines - to get an effect of intense light, I stroke in white using the Pencil Tool, which gives me hard-edged, uniformly opaque strokes. I do want a bit of blending where the jets hit the ground, so there I use my own variant of Photoshop’s supplied maple-leaf pattern Brush - the hard triangular edges of the leaves convey crackling flame quite well.
A lot of people think you need soft edges and gradations to portray fire, but actually a combination of very hard edges and colour contrast work better. A little soft brushwork or gradation to add a glow does enhance the effect, but it’s the icing on the cake."

12a - Blast off!

"13 - Cutting out the yellow highlights left us with a layer containing only the blue shadows. Here is it on its own."

13 - Blue moon.

"14 - My usual formula for shadows is to reduce the layer opacity to 50% and to change the Blending Mode to Multiply - this gives the effect of adding a wash of transparent ink (the colours underneath show through and are darkened, This looks a bit strong to me - let’s see what it looks like against the bright highlights..."

14 - The D'Israeli formula for shadows.

"15 - Against the yellow highlights, the transparent shadows look quite dark and the contrast is a bit fierce."

15 - Too much contrast?

"16 - With the shadow layer set to Normal blending mode but still at 50% opacity, the underlying colours aren’t darkened so much, though the contrast between light and shadow is clear. This would be a bit bland on its own, but I’m going to do some more work."

16 - Almost there...

"17 - I select all of the shadow areas (because they’re the only thing on that layer, I can use Select: Load Selection: Layer Transparency to pick them out in one go). Making a new layer, I paint red highlights into the shadow areas around the booster flames using the sponge-texture Brush from step 12. I also darken the tips of the shadows with a deeper blue. I add orange highlights on the ground around the booster flames using the maple leaf Brush from step 12a.

Corel Painter would seem to be the ideal application to handle this sort of texture work, but this sort of large file (132mb on disk, 700mb in RAM) would just make it grind to a standstill. Quicker and easier to fake it in Photoshop."

17 - Red alert!

18 - Close-up showing the texture effects. Using these textures brushes takes a little longer than using simple gradations, but it helps give the work a bit more life and individuality."

18 - Maaaan, that looks hot!

19 - At this point, we’re done; save a copy, flatten layers, convert to CMYK, upload to the 2000AD server, send in the invoice!

 19 - The stunning cover in all it's glory!

So there we have it, another masterclass by the undisputed king of grot, D'Israeli. I've genuinely ran out of superlatives for this cover and the work of D'Israeli in general. The man is clearly a genius at the top of his game, long may he work for the galaxy's greatest comic!

Thank you so much to Mr Brooker for taking the time and energy for giving us yet another fascinating glimpse into his work.

Monday 19 November 2012

Clint Langley - Ro Busters

The Droids are back in town!

Prog 1810 brings us full circle as Pat Mills and Clint Langley share with us the very origins of Ro-Busters! Clint has produced this beautiful, nostalgia-laden cover, featuring Hammerstein with his 'old' head, to celebrate!

2000AD fans have been raving about Clint's inked artwork in the prog (which is gorgeous) but I always welcome his computer generated work too, so this cover is a blast for me! Thanks to Clint for sending it!

I wanted to use this blog post to highlight the sterling work Clint puts into those beautiful, glossy hardback ABC Warriors books produced by Rebellion. Over the years, the strip has been blessed with a phenomenal roster of artists - O'Neill, McMahon, Gibbons, Bisley, Walker, Flint, Ezquerra and of course Langley to name a few. While I love the bickering and boys' own action of  the strip, a major appeal for me has always been the art. 

With Langley's hardback books, this is really brought to the fore. He goes back to his work, enhancing it, changing the flow or ambiance of sequences and adding a great deal. I'd say the books are comparable structurally to the cinematic layouts of American Reaper; they're the director's cut - lavish volumes break free from the shackles of the prog and as a result are chock full of extended sequences, completely redesigned panel layouts, pin ups and more. If you've only read the warriors in the prog, you ain't seen nothing yet!

Here's a couple of comparisons below.

Example 1 - Joe Pineapples - The Hit and Escape.

Here's the flashback of Joe getting ready to take out Volkhan, as seen in your prog. A nice DPS, I'm sure you'll agree...

Prog: Joe gets ready to off the Ikon...

Unfortunately, the assassin's bullet grazes the Ikon's head. As the troops assemble, Joe makes his escape. Quite abruptly, Special Ops droid Zippo appears, shooting off a powerful bomb-tag attached to Joe before helping him escape. This is how it looked in your super soaraway prog...

"Go, go, go Joseph you know what they say..."

Zippo appears and helps Joe escape.

However, check out that same sequence as it appears in the books...

The Book: A similarly cool (though quite different) DPS, leading to...

A stunning beauty shot of Joe with Volkhan in his sights - wow!

Again, Joe begins to make his escape...

  Go, go, go Joseph etc...

However, this time, we get yet another awesome DPS, Joe in someone's sights...

In the sights...

Yay, it's Zippo! Locked and loaded, he fires...


His shot shears off the bomb on Joe's hand and the battle continues as in the prog (note, without those pesky credits!)

It's great how much those couple of splashes add to the development of Zippo's character, it's very cool of Clint to go back and do this.  

Example 2: Mongrol's Story

Mongrol's creation at the hands of Lara and her subsequent death holds a special place in the hearts of most 2000AD readers I'm sure. Compare the final page of the episode from prog 1522 to the graphic novel. Mongrol buries his love before the final panel returns to the present as the warriors continue their journey across Mars...

Lara's iconic burrial as seen in Prog 1522

However, the book gives the scene much more time to breathe and includes that iconic image of Mongrol holding his beloved Laaaraaa! Her gravestone is fittingly at the end of the page...

A re-working of the page as shown in Rebellion's books...
Turning that page we get a beautiful, reworked DPS of the final panel, with much more detail and radically different lighting - check out the sunset, Deadlock's face and Hammerstein's eyes, for instance...
And Clint's re-worked panel becomes an incredible double page spread

As you can see, it's well worth getting the books if you can, as reading them is a really different experience to the prog, well worth the money too! The ABCs at their digital best!

Friday 9 November 2012

Tiernen Trevallion - Code 99 Red: Judge Clown!

 Get the point?

Is this the end for Jack Point? Prog 1809 features this shocking cover by the Absalom and Ratfink artist Tiernen Trevallion as Jack is attacked by a Black Ops fanatic. Tiernen was kind enough to send his step by step stages of the cover's development. 

Below are his pencils, fantastic sense of movement on the assassin here. 

End point?

Next those inks which make for such a strong image. Loving Jack Point's stubble on this...

Black Op Chop!

And finally those incredibly strong colours. Check out the clever spot (ha!) colour on Jack's tie, just brilliant!

Jack attack!

Here's how the design team at 2000AD added the cover elements to produce a really strong design.

You got jack, buddy!

Thanks to Tiernen for sending the images, please go to his website at and prepare to be blown away. A truly stunning talent!

Thursday 8 November 2012

Comic Archive - One Eyed Jack and the Death of Valiant!

This weekend sees the release of an excellent magazine featuring a host of articles and interviews with 2000AD legends such as John Wagner, Kev O'Neill and John Cooper. 'Comic Archive - One Eyed Jack and the Death of Valiant' is published by Hibernia Comics, who've given us wonderful reprints of classics The Thirteenth Floor and Doomlord.

 "But this building ain't got a thirteenth floor!"

It's a fascinating read, with articles on Wagner's ruthless cop One Eyed Jack (who laid the foundations of Dredd,) the final year of Valiant, the role of an Art Assistant (with some gorgeous images of classic 2000AD logos) as well as revealing interviews with John Cooper and John Wagner.

The fantastic article above discusses the role of the art editor and even includes an interview with Kevin O'Neill!

The meaty articles are complimented by dozens of classic images from the comic, including work from idols such as Ian Gibson, Carlos Ezquerra, Joe Colquhoun and Frank Bellamy. The art has been lovingly cleaned up the books' designer, Richard Pearce.  

The magazine is bursting with lovingly restored pages...

Over to Richard to tell us about his cover design "I'd previously designed the cover for Hibernia's reprint of the classic "Scream" series, "The Thirteenth Floor". Partly through necessity - there was very little, if any, suitable colour art to use - and partly through design, I ended up with a very clean black & white design that (hopefully!) was strong and bold, without being too plain."

"When David contacted me about producing the cover for his new project, he was keen to stick with something similar but he had a very specific idea of what he wanted the cover elements to be. He was keen to use the "One-Eyed Jack" and "Valiant" logos in the title of the book, and he had a particular image of Jack in mind that was to be accompanied by a snippet of text."

"My first draft of the cover was run off quickly the same night David sent me the scans he wanted to use for the cover. It was very rough, with no real clean-up on any of the logos or the pic of Jack, but it got things moving. At this stage, especially when someone has something fairly particular in mind, I find it best to fire a rough out so that there is something concrete to focus on. From here, we can start to eliminate anything that's entirely wrong, and I start to get a clearer idea of what the other person is looking for." 

Richard's rough and ready cover.

"In this case, David was not keen on the top bar, and he wanted the title to run "stacked" above the picture of Jack with the quote to follow beneath. He also wondered about replacing the "Death" in the title with the logo from the Valiant strip, "Death Wish", but I felt it would be a step too far, and would leave the title and cover feeling more like a collection of clipped logos, rather than something a bit more cohesive."

"With David's notes in mind I went back and started to modify that first rough. Partway through this process, it struck me that the typeface David had asked for the quote to be set in looked as though it might belong on a telegram, or an old police typewriter. I had a look for reference images and worked up a "frame" for the image that would make the picture and text look as though they had been printed on a spool of paper then torn from the machine. I also decided that the picture of Jack would look better if we cropped it down to just his figure, with some panels from a full strip behind him for a bit of texture."

Ripped from the typewriter

"I sent the fresh draft off to David and while I was waiting for his response I started playing around with the file. A full colour cover was out of the question, but I was worried that the stark black & white cover was going to be too plain. As an experiment, I took the Valiant scans David had sent to me and set them flowing diagonally across the front cover, dropping the whites back to a dark grey. It's an effect that's been used elsewhere that I quite like, and I thought it worked reasonably well here, so I sent off this alternate cover to David for his consideration."

Richard's unused idea

"This second go at the cover was in line with what he was looking for, and although he turned down the alternate cover I'd presented he was happy with the other draft. From there, it was a case of some final clean-up and sourcing a higher-resolution scan of Jack to replace the lo-res one I'd been using, then a couple of minor layout tweaks to finish the piece off, ready for print."

Thanks to Richard for those fantastic images and his fascinating insight. The magazine has now been sent to the printers and should be available very soon. Keep an eye on and the 2000AD message board to get your copy. It is essential reading for any 2000AD fan and I can't recommend it highly enough!

Sunday 4 November 2012

Edmund Bagwell - Kleggsellent!


Good Grud, what's happening here then? The glorious Edmund Bagwell has produced this very disturbing cover of Judge erm... Klegg! I asked Edmund if he was around when the Kleggs made their first appearance in Megacity One, he said "Yes I was reading 2000ad when Judge Cal introduced me to the concept of private military contractors, villainous swine!"

Below are Edmund's excellent roughs - I genuinely can't pick a favourite here! As we know, A is great, B could be 'An American Were-Klegg in Brit Cit' and C is like a scene from a nightmare!

 Behold the Hordes of Klegg!

With the first design chosen, Edmund produced these immaculate, yet rather unsettling inks.
Say "Raaaawwwwwwrrrrr!"

 Here's Edmund's fabulous colours - I love the drool and those awful spots in his mouth, yuck...

All together now "Slicey, slicey, oncey, twicey! Claw and fang'll kill Dredd nicely!"

And here's the image with the grim background colour...

 "Meaty, beaty, chop 'em neatly! Death or glory, no retreatee!"

Here's what design did with the finished image...

Klegg-sized thanks to Edmund for supplying the images this week. Very modestly, he said "This cover was great fun to do, Henry Flint had done all the hard work though!" Looking at the work ad craftsmanship on display on this post, I'm sure like me you'll disagree...

So thanks again to Edmund, please go and visit his wonderful blog here!