Tuesday 26 March 2013

Henry Flint - Eric Rabinowicz is Back!

Can we rebuild him?

Hello Mr Reader, I'm delighted to write that the brilliant Zombo return to Prog 1825! The loveable undead brainchild of Al Ewing and Henry Flint, who politely shuffled into our Prog in 2009, was an instant hit with the readers spawning three epic, madcap adventures.

When we last saw the decaying daredevil, he was nothing but a puddle of splatted bone and gristle after sacrificing himself to stop the evil Obmoz (confused? Don't worry, there's a full Zombo recap after the step by step!) However, with an insane severed head piloting a death planet on a collision course with Earth, it's imperative that 'The Government' get Zombo back on his putrefying feet as soon as possible! Don't panic Earthlet, trust your government.

Over to the insanely talented Henry Flint to tell us more about this weeks' curious cover. He says"As you can see from the sketch, once it's been passed by editorial it's sometimes a good idea to tweak it here and there. After finishing the sketch I thought the image bore too close a resemblance to Dave Gibbons' excellent Dan Dare cover from Prog 81."

So here is the codpiece-tastic sketch...

The Fl1nt droid risks a visit ti Mek-Quake by going off-sketch...

And here is Dave Gibbons' classic Dare cover, I wonder if Dan is wearing a bright red electric codpiece under his pace suit?

Dave Gibbons? Never heard of him.

"The composition seemed to cut the cover too evenly in half which seemed a bit undramatic so I needed to angle it just slightly for my own piece of mind. The line down the middle turned red - the opposite of green on the colour wheel, nice clash!"

Henry made further tweaks "The eyes on the planet were removed as I simply couldn't get it right and anyway the cover text needed to go somewhere, so best that went. Grey skin goes well with every colour... Might not paint Zombo green anymore, grey is much better!"

Say it ain't so Mr Lunatic Artist, I like my Zombo a putrified green!

Below is the finished cover. I can't wait to see which silly places Mr Beardy Writer and Mr Lunatic Artist take us on Zombo's latest adventure - 'Planet Zombo!'

Another striking cover by the genius that is Henry Flint.

Finally, here's how the cover looks on your newsagent's shelf...

Lovely colour choices on the logo.

Thanks to Henry for sending the wonderful images and his scandalous words. Be sure to check out his wonderful blog at http://henryflint.wordpress.com/ and buy his amazing Broadcast book here, I can't recommend it highly enough! 

Zombo - The Stories So Far...

If you're new to the the wacky world of Zombo, I will attempt to recap his adventures to date, as well as showing each cover to date.


Can I meet you?

A government starship en route to the Epsilon-6 Orbital Station crash-lands on the mysterious planet Chronos. The passengers of the ill-fated craft include government officials, a group of civillians and... something else. Within moments of the crash, the sentient death planet has wiped out the majority of the survivors, forcing the others on a desperate hunt for safety. Among the group are two government agents, who zealously protect a mysterious capsule. Before long the capsule opens, revealing a terrifying, yet wonderfully polite Zombie, sporting a bright red, electrified codpiece. 

We discover that the creature is the result of the Biome-Z project - Earth's response to the threat of an undead invasion from a dangerous Zombie Planet. These nasty planets lure colonists in, allowing them to settle before viciously murdering then reanimating them. The agressive Zombie Planets wish to use their zombie army to attack humanity, making all of mankind 'Like us,' in it's undead image.

As Zombo leads the dwindling group of survivors to the safety of a remote research base, they are attacked by a group of inbred,  Twister-playing, redneck cannibals. While Zombo battles the hillbillies, the planet unleashes a terrifying, hurricane-like Death Shadow, which rips the flesh from bones in seconds.

Zombo calmly enters the black maelstrom but is unharmed. We discover that the death shadows were manmade, created by the same Earth scientists who created Zombo, to be used as a weapon against the interplanetary zombie invaders. The death shadows were dropped on several planets but proved ineffective against the undead as they were unable to digest fetid flesh. However, the planets themselves have been able to utilise the weapons, turning them against their human creators. Zombo explains that he himself has been created to stop the death shadows, his undead body making him impervious to attack. We also discover the death shadow on Chronos was put there as a field test of the mighty Zombo. As the planet itself was relatively empty and had limited powers of reincarnation, it seemed the perfect place for an assessment.

Zombo absorbes the death shadow and is able to take control of it, turning it into a devastating weapon of his own. He obliterates the pursuing hillbillies before they can finish off the final surviving passenger of the crash, a lawyer called Ms Hollister. Zombo asks Hollister to accompany him on a search for a ship to escape the evil planet but she declines, choosing almost certain death by taking her chances in the vicious jungle...

"Merry Christmas, Mr Zombo!"

Zombo has been spending the months after his insertion onto Chronos hunting and eating the remainder of the planet's redneck settlers. Another doomed starship crashes onto the planet, this time comprising of a film crew. The crew were planning on filming 'Buddy Noel's Christmas Joyfest of Joy' aboard Hank Epsilon's Theme Park-like Epsilon-6 Space Station. 

The planet violently wipes out the entire cast and crew using a carnivorous Christmas Tree, vicious face eating baubles and, of course, sentient tinsel. The whole disgusting spectacle is broadcast live to millions of homes back on Earth, and doesn't go unnoticed by a set of bored, very disillusioned teens... 

Zombo's Eleven.

Smile Mr Rebel!

The latest craze for the disenchanted youth of Earth is uploading your gruesome demise to Death-Tube, in the hope that your suicide gets a coveted five star rating by it's viewers. After witnessing the massacre on Buddy Noel's macabre Christmas special, the Suicide Boys, led by the nihilistic Kingboy, venture to Chronos in search of fleeting fame thanks to a similarly spectacular demise. Zombo is only too happy to oblige.

High above the death planet, staff on long dead Mascot Mouse creator Hank Epsilon's opulent space station are preparing to televise the grand finale of popular talent show 'Stars in the Stars.' The show, hosted by cybernetic critic Myron Snyde (his circuits enable him to make two thousand judgements per second!) boasts a huge cash prize for the winner. Among the throng of desperate, fame-hungry hopefuls are a rat-pack inspired heist group on a mission to steal the prize money and a curious man with one hundred thousand bees...

Back on Chronos, Zombo's online popularity goes right through the roof and straight to his rotten green head.  Accompanied by the Suicide Boys, he decides to blast off  in search of further fame. As the group prepare to leave the planet we see that one of Zombo's victims has reanimated and shuffled aboard their craft. The motley crew depart with a course set for the Stars in the Stars competition on Epsilon-6.

Zombo, the Suicide Boys and their undead stowaway arrive just in time for the talent show. As Zombo's performance causes distress, anguish and even vomiting amongst the crowd, his undead passenger claims it's first victim, one Jackie Lagoon, leader of the heist mob. The zombie contagion quickly spreads on the claustrophobic station and the undead horde grows, causing panic and destruction throughout. One of the zombies finds her way to Hank Epsilon's Cryogenic Chamber, the final resting place of his frozen head. Meanwhile, in another part of the ship, her undead dog attacks the owner of the bees, knocking him into several of the hives... 

Oh what a glorious thing to be, a healthly, deadly, 'orrible zombee.

The massive zombie throng attack the audience of the talent show forcing Zombo, Snyde and the remaining Suicide Boys to retaliate. During the fighting, Zombo plucks out the diamond encrusted eye of an undead Rat Pack member. He cuts a hole in one of the windows of the space station, sucking the zombies and himself into the void of space. As the ghouls explode around him, Zombo uses his death shadow to pull himself back into the space station, just as the airlock slams shut.

Back on board and the zombies keep on coming. Zombo and his comrades electrocute the majority of the zombie horde by using a burning teen to set off the sprinklers next to some exposed wiring. Unfortunately, this shorts Myron Snyde's judgement circuitry, rendering him unable to express any negativity at all!

Suddenly, Zombo is attacked by Zombee - the unfortunate beekeeper who is now a monstrous entity made entirely of angry, undead bees! As the two fight it out, we discover that the head of Hank Epsilon has been reanimated by the zombie virus and wishes to betray all humankind. He persuades the now pleasant and compliant Snyde to help him escape the stricken space station.

As Zombo and Zombee continue their battle, reinforcements arrive in the form of the no-nonsense General Sir Thaddeus Nigel Beast, who orders Zombo to board his ship immediately. Meanwhile, the now undead Kingboy has made his way to the station's main control room, triggering the self destruct mechanism to ensure the ultimate Deathtube score. Zombo uses his death shadow to dissipate the bees and escapes just as the station explodes. 

As he is picked up by General Beast's ship he meets his new handler - Ms Hollister, who managed to escape from the Death Planet in the original story...

The Day the Zombo Died.


After the destruction of Epsilon-6, Zombo is on his way back to the safety of the Government-run Earth. However the president already plans replaced him with version 2.0 - Obmoz, the anti-Zombo. Quicker, more powerful and a lot less polite, Obmoz is tasked with improving the president's approval rating by fighting crime on the streets before taking the fight to the zombie worlds. 

The president sees Zombo as a failed prototype and orders his assassination,  using a disruptor in Ms Hollister's newly manufactured robotic arm to cause a malfunction aboard Zombo's spaceship. The attempt fails and the group reach Earth, leading to an awkward meeting between Obmoz and Zombo. In a charm offensive, Obmoz kisses Hollister's hand, discharging the disruptor and frying his obedience circuits.

No longer under government control, Obmoz kills the president and fights with Zombo. Our hero tries to shoot Obmoz with a gun hidden in his secret agent cap, but ends up blowing his own brains out instead! Is this the end of Zombo?

Zombo loses his head.

As Obmoz continues to attack the presidential staff, General Beast saves the day, blasting the undead villain out of the window and into the street. Obmoz flees, swearing bloody vengeance  In the calm after the storm we discover that the president has made an insane digital back up of himself, known as Homo Digitus, and refuses to be replaced. We also discover that Zombo has a second brain, located in his bottom.  The brain bursts into life, much to our heroes horror!

Agent Karen, a technician on the Zombo project recounts Zombo's secret genesis. The Zombo Project (i.e. mixing human and zombie DNA) was the brainchild of Dr Procoptus, an elderly scientist with a penchant for male strippers and porn. She and her team tricked male stripper Eric Rabinowicz into stripping for them in their lab and signing forms to say he consented to become Zombo. As part of the procedure they swapped his brain, putting his original in his bottom!

As Hollister attempts to console and rehabilitate the shocked Eric, Obmoz tracks down Zombo's creator, Dr Procoptus. The doctor agrees to help him overthrow the corrupt president by giving him the power of one million Zombos!

Hollister recounts her own horrific experiences on Chronos, recalling how she needed urgent medical attention after losing her arm. She remembers a lab with lots of full-body prosthetics and decides this may be a way to help Eric defeat Obmoz. She calls the laboratory but there is no answer. There, we see Hank Epsilon, complete with fancy new robotic body, was wiped out the staff, helped by the docile Myron Snide...

Obmoz, now encased in a giant astral projection launches a final attack on the government, who retaliate with the terrifyingly cheesy Planetronix program. Obmoz easily swats this aside and manages to kill General Beast too. The general's death buys enough time for Hollister to order Eric to retreat, with a quick electric shock to the codpiece for good measure. This reignites the death shadow, which Eric uses to enter Omboz's astral projection. Belting out 80's 'classic' "Male Stripper" by Man Parish, Eric launches himself at Omboz, taking off his pants and throwing them onto Omboz's head. The codpiece fries Omboz's brain, killing him and saving the day (did I really just type that?

 When the smoke clears,  we see that Eric just now just a stain on the pavement. 

As the survivors debate whether to try to save Eric or not, the decision is made for them, Hank Epsilon has commandeered a world and is on a collision course with Earth... Zombo must live again! 

Henry Flint Extra

Henry also sent these fine, fine images from his recent Megazine cover. Over on his excellent blog he discusses composition and colour choices, brilliant!

I'm not messing with him!

Git big chopper!

Wednesday 20 March 2013

D'Israeli - All hail the new pope!

With his omnipotent grasp of terran past, present and future, the Mighty One did indeed foresee events transpiring in Rome last week. On the very day white smoke rose from the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican, green smoke was seen wafting from chimneys of the Nerve Centre. This signaled a scrotnig new cover by D'Israeli, featuring the Pope of Crime himself, the enigmatic Stickleback!

The kingpin of crime was last seen plummeting to his apparent death from the airship of Irena Bernoulli in the heart stopping climax of London's Burning...

Stickleback: Number of the Beast is set five years after the villain's last adventure and sees a very different London. What dangers will the mysterious Stickleback face this time?

As ever D'Israeli has been ludicrously generous with his time, giving us a highly detailed, fascinating breakdown of the cover's creation. This time, he has even included an instructional video showing how he uses his grot textures, amazing! Without further ado, it's over to the D'emon D'raftsman himself...

"As ever, I started with a loose brief for a cover from Matt Smith:

"Maybe a movie poster-type montage of SB surrounded by the dinosaurs? Or a sinister shot of SB stepping out of the tank towards us, like Jeff Goldblum emerging from the teleport pod in The Fly?"

In Manga Studio (EX4)

"01-03 - I generated three cover roughs, two of the tank (one with Stickleback concealed inside in case we wanted a publicity image that didn't give away his new look) and one with dinosaurs. For the two tank shots I used the same background with different foregrounds drawn in. Matt picked number two, Stickleback emerging from the tank."

01 - Sticklebacta tank...

02 - It's Brundleback!

03 - Dinosaurs in Stickleback, huh?!?

"04 - Pencilling - I only pencil the foreground figure, as everything else is precise enough in the rough (you won't care if one of those machines in the background had two or three dials on it, but you'll notice straight away if Stickleback is a little bit out of proportion or has the wrong number of eyes :-)"

04 - Test Tube Terror!

"05-09 I draw in blocks of colour that will act as masks for the textures in the next step. The blocks are drawn using the Lasso Tool (no anti-aliasing) for very sharp edges, then filled with colour using Edit: Fill (Cmd/CTRL+U in Manga Studio) These colours won't be seen at the final stage, so I don't try to make them realistic; they just need to be different enough from each other that Photoshop can select them individually. I've included the different stages of blocking in the colour; each of these is on a different layer so I can add or remove stuff without affecting the layers above and below."

05 - Purple Haze

06 - Masks are added to some of the background details

07 - Oh oh, Stickleback has just stood in something...

08 - Tube Technology

09 - Final Colours, what a demonic looking Stickleback!

"When this stage is done, I export to Photoshop format."

In Adobe Photoshop (CS5.1)

"Manga Studio works natively at 600dpi; that makes for unwieldy Photoshop files, so I downscale the file to 400dpi using Image: Image Size… (Alt+Cmd/Ctrl+I), with Resample Image set to Nearest Neighbour (preserve hard edges) which gives me nice sharp edges for the selection tools to grab. The 400dpi resolution will keep everything nice and sharp looking when the file is printed.
I also add a white layer between the colour blocking and the drawing textures; this lets me see the image as it will appear when finished, but I can hide it to get at the colour blocks to make masks."

10 - D'Israeli has very kindly made this YouTube video showing how he uses the Lasso Tool and the Sample All Layers option of the Paint Bucket Tool to add textures to the image using colour blocks as masks. What a brilliant guy!

10 - D'Israeli's video, he makes it look so easy!

"11 - Textures only. There are two sets of textures, one at 100% opacity, and another, on a separate layer, at 50% opacity to give textured greys (both layers set to Multiply so stuff will show through underneath them when I add it later). As you can see, the textures alone look like an indecipherable mess. Most of the work after this stage will be making a "readable" image out if this mass of textures."

11 - The scary thing is, the D'Israeli droid's advanced software upgrade means his CPU can make sense of all of this!

"12 - Under-filling the textures with grey. Since the two sets of textures are on separate layers, I can make selections out of the textures using Photoshop's Select: Load Selection with Channel: Layer Transparency picked. This might sound complicated, but put simply, Layer Transparency grabs all the stuff on a given layer and selects it. No matter how complex of faffy the outline - bang! Instant selection. The only drawback is there's no fine control; you get everything on a given layer, which is why I made sure the 100% and 50% textures were on their own layers earlier."

"So I use this method to make selections out of each of the layers in turn, then on layers underneath, fill those selections with grey (mid grey for the 100% textures, pale grey for the 50%). I paint into the selections a bit too, to break up the uniformity a bit. The texture layers are transparent (Layer mode = Multiply) so the greys show through."

"Straight away the drawing becomes much clearer."

12 - Ah... a version for the rest of us!

"13 - Blacks. Same trick with something extra added; I want to paint over the 100% textures (and only the 100% textures) with scrubby, painted-looking black that will help to define certain bits of the image, but still leave some of the texture showing through. So, first, Select: Load Selection with Channel: Layer Transparency selected gives me a selection of the 100% textures. Go up to a new layer, fill with white ("What?!?"). Set the layer mode of this new layer to Multiply, then check the "Preserve Transparency" checkbox."

"Why? Setting the layer to Multiply makes the white fill transparent (so invisible), and Preserve Transparency locks the layer so you can only paint on those invisible pixels. I know where the shading's going to go (because it corresponds exactly to the textures that are visible underneath), so I can bash away with a big Brush loaded with black and it won't go anywhere except over the textures. I scrub in the black, selectively darkening areas (I can even use selections based on the colour blocks on the bottom layer to control where the black goes precisely)."

"Now you can properly see what you're looking at - Stickleback stands out from the tank nicely. Everything after this is refinement."

13 - The criminal mastermind gets even darker!

In Corel Painter (11)

"Painter is a graphics program similar to Photoshop, but specializing in simulating the texture and brushstrokes of real media like watercolour, charcoal, crayons and so on. Painter will open Photoshop files, so there's no need for any sort of export process. It can produce some spectacular effects, but the extra processing power needed for those "real" brushes means it runs s-l-o-o-o-w-w-l-l-y-y on the sort of high-resolution print files I work with. Thus I use it for adding an layer of finish to stuff I do in Photoshop, and I try and keep my use of Painter to a minimum.

14 - I use the Watercolour Brushes in Painter to soften up some of those hard edges on the texture blocks, and add just a little detail to the areas of plain white. Again, I use selections based on the colour blocks on the bottom layer to constrain the painting and speed the process up (I started out as an airbrush artist and old masking habits die hard).
The effect on this cover is quite subtle, so here's a "before-and-after" close-up showing the painting on the face."

14 - It's all in the detail...

"15 - Full view of the cover with painting added."

15 - Old Stickleback is such a loveable looking fella isn't he?

Back in Adobe Photoshop

"16 - On a new layer (set to Multiply) I've darkened down the cylinder (a little) and the background machines (more) to pull the figure of Stickleback forward."

16 - Making the background almost as dark as the character himself... 

"17 - Fine detail added; reflections on the tank door; ripples in the liquid at Stickleback's feet; water drips."

17 - Nice of D'Israeli to give the door a polish before he finishes.

"18 - Finally; vapour coming off Stickleback to pull him forward even more. Painted in using my own variant of the Photoshop "leaves" brush - I use this all the time for everything from steam to fire to grot on walls and floors. It's a great way of painting in shading without getting that over-smooth "digital" look."

18 - The final image, creeeeepy!


And here's how the cover looked on your newsagent's shelf:

Wow, what an absolutely astounding commentary by the three times winner of the Cover of the Year vote. A HUGE thanks to Mr Brooker for once again putting an insane amount of work into a post for this humble blog. That fantastic video is the icing on the cake and the good news is he's promised more! He has another two covers to come in this series of Stickleback and you'll be able to read all about them right here!

PLEASE do yourself a favour and check out D'Israeli's Blog, it really is a marvellous, exceptionally informative read.

Wednesday 13 March 2013

Steve Yeowell - Sailing into the Sunset.

Avast, ye scurvy swabs and cast yer eyes at the final cover for the Red Seas by series co-creator and sole artist, Mr Steve Yeowell. The cover features the dashing Captain Jack Dancer and his motley crew, as well as the odd villain or two! But how will the series end? Will Jack find himself in Davy Jones' locker or will it be off to the Jolly Cripple for a well deserved ale?

The series, written by Ian Edginton, began in October 2002, almost a year before Pirates of the Caribbean hit our screens. The strip followed the exploits of Captain Dancer and his adventures on the high seas and beyond. Those expecting a simple pirate romp were quickly proven wrong as the story took us on a complex journey through fantastical lands, other time periods and dimensions, pitting Jack agains all manner of gods, monsters, characters from history and literature and even old scratch himself!

I asked Steve how he felt completing the strip he'd worked on for so many years, he said "It's still sinking in. In the immortal words of Chairman Meo when asked about the effects of French Revolution, 'It is too early to tell!'" Sinking in - ha!

Below we see Steve's rough pencil sketch for the final cover, note the composition lines to give the image maximum impact...

Captain Jack throws brussel sprouts at the reader...

With the sketch approved by the Mighty One, Steve works on these beautiful pencils. A true craftsman at work here...

 All together now: "I'm your pirate Dancer, a dancer for money, do what you want me to doooo!"

And finally, marvel at his perfect inks...

 The Flashing Blade!

With the inks completed, it was off to colourist Abigail Ryder to work her magic on a really nice colouring job...

But can you name them all?
And here's how the prog looks on your shelf, ta daaaa...

I thought we could send the Red Seas off in style by looking at some of it's many memorable covers of the past, starting with the odious Doctor Orlando Ignatius Maximillion Herodetous Doyle...

 Sword off, Orlando!

Next, my favourite Red Seas cover of all time which kicked off the Underworld saga...

Jack up to his neck in trouble!

Jim Murray painted this superb cover for the Hollow Land story...

Clever boy!

The next covers are from the hilarious Old Gods story, which saw Jack outwit some cranky Norse Gods, grab some awesome weapons and even become immortal!

You can lead a Norse to water...

Jack gets to grips with the Lightning Bow. 

One character from history who appeared in the series was Sir Isaac Newton, who was a member of the mysterious Brotherhood of the Book. This shadowy organisation, who are the guardians of mankind's secret magical history, have appeared in many Edginton strips, tying together several characters of the 'Edgverse.' The cover below shows the great clock who's chimes summon the brotherhood to order...  

Now that's a skeleton clock! 

The next cover features Captain Sarita, Jack's plucky cousin who joins him on several of his adventures...

Classic Swashbuckling!

The cover for Prog 1688 absolutely freaked me out! Lobsters are vicious looking gits at the best of times, giant lobsters more so!

Lobster Random? 

Clint Langley provided his first Red Seas cover for Prog 1691. This terrifying monster was the first traditionally drawn image for Clint in over ten years!


The brilliant Boo Cook provided this exceptional, Joseph Turner inspired cover for Prog 1699, celebrating ten years working for the Mighty Tharg!

 Aaaaaaar Shipmates!

I'm sure this cover was inspired by Prog 89, is this the end for poor Jack?

"Don't Die Dear Jack (sob!) Please don't die!"

The legend that is Cliff Robinson provided this cracker for Prog 1736 which really looks like Dancer is erm... dancing!

 Lets Riverdance!

And finally, Clint Langley is back with this absolutely incredible wraparound featuring thousands of undead souls making giant Gollums, amazing!

The Sickerman!

So it's a sad goodbye to Jack and his crew, however, with the shared universe enjoyed by many of Ian Edginton's creations, who knows if he'll pop up again!

Many, many thanks to Steve for sending the images and congratulations on completing an exhillerating journey that has been epic in every sense of the word!