Sunday 16 February 2014

Phil Winslade - Blockwatching

Love this Orwellian Megazine cover by Phil Winslade. It's got a marvellously moody feel and a fantastic retro vibe that really put me in mind of Down Lawrence's/Carlos Ezquerra's Brainbloom cover of Prog 18...

Blooming perps!

I mentioned this to Phil and found that he has a real soft spot for retro Dredd, particularly Ian Gibson's biker version. He said "Yeah the classic vibe. I've always preferred Dredd when he's more of a 50's British biker bullyboy..." which can be seen in this cracking sketch he did:

Dredd gets ready for the Mega-City 5000

Phil provided some outstanding art for one of my very favourite Dredd strips, Prog 1650-1651's 'Caught in the Act.' The story, written by John Wagner, is a searing critique of the erosion of our civil liberties under controversial bills such as the UK's Terrorism Act of 2000 and the USA's Homeland Security Act.

The strip saw hapless Dudly D Dudson of David Blunkett Tower busted, interrogated, violated and cubed by Dredd and a crack team of judges for unspecified crimes under the 'Security of the City Act.' 

Truth!?! You can't handle the truth!

Among Dredd's team were the brilliantly named Judge Belmarsh and a little known recurring character Judge Skerrit. The latter, moustachioed judge is a little too eager to perform cavity searches and is a cheeky joke on a certain, similar sounding Andorran artist! 

 Skerrit prepares to get elbow deep in 'Caught in the Act...'

And again in 'Slow Crime Day.'

Poor Dudson's is brutally interrogated until he finally breaks and confesses to a string of unspecified charges. Under the Security of the City Act he is sentenced to indefinite incubement. However, it is later discovered that there was a clerical error and Dredd has arrested the wrong man...

Dredd Futz it up!

Dredd frees Dudson and, under the Security of the City Act, gives him paltry compensation for his distress. However, poor Dudly is placed under indefinite house arrest until the unspecified crimes he confessed to could be disproved. Just another day in MegaCity One!

A true Wagner twist right there!

Below is Phil's mean and moody sketch for the cover...

Is that a Stallone Lawgiver there?

The sketch is tightened up to make these rather lovely roughs...

Who watches the Lawmen?

Next up, Phil's cartoon... wait, what!?! Phil explains "I mean cartoon in the classical art sense - basically the transferred image that I painted on." Oh! I knew that, honest guvnor...

"The most violent, evil city on Earth... But God help me, I love it!"

And finally, Phil's coloured version which is "Painted in acrylic with paintbrushes and the like!" Which I'm sure you'll agree is a nice change!

Real paint!

Here's how the cover looks on your shelf. Having seen the paper version, I'll agree with Phil that it's printed a little dark so it's great to see the image on a nice bright monitor! That's one heck of a big tagline too...

"Aaaand, the award for longest tagline goes to..."

Coming soon from Phil and Dan Abnett is Lawless, which is set in the Dredd universe. Hmmm, I wonder what that's about then?

Coming soon... To a prog near you...

HUGE thanks to Phil for sending the images, it's great to have him back in the prog and I can't wait to find out more about Lawless!

Saturday 15 February 2014

Alex Ronald - Psycho Killer... Qu'est-ce que c'est?

Or rather 'Qui est-ce?' If you were wondering who exactly Ulysses Sweet is, he first appeared in the Future Shock 'Maniac for Hire' in Prog 507 and is the creation of Grant Morrison and artist Johnny Johnstone (going under the name of J Kube in the Credit Card.)
 Half man, half machine, ALL nutjob!
'Maniac for Hire' introduced us to the somewhat over-zealous, psychopathic cyborg. In the story, he was hired by the human leaders of the Anti-Robot League to disrupt the robotic workforce of the Tojomek Corporation in an attempt to wrestle the means of production back to the human labour force. Of course, Sweet went overboard, blowing up the factory and destroying all the robots within it. As a result, the human revolutionaries realised that they didn't have the skills, or indeed inclination, to do the heavy, dirty jobs the droids had been doing all along before turned on eachother.
In a cruel twist, we discover that all along Ulysses had been hired by the robotic management of Tojomek Corp to infiltrate and destroy the human revolution. However, Ulysses' twisted moral code of 'Never leaving a job half done' meant he was obligated to carry out his contract for the Anti-Robot League too so Ulysses blows up Tojomek with a load of nukes. No the wonder he never gets paid! 
 Ulysses, no one else can do the things you doooo!
Ulysses returned in the very next prog in the two parter 'Fruitcake and Veg' which was the debut strip of a new artist called Colin MacNeil, I wonder what happened to him? This time, Sweet was hired by the Vegetable Liberation Front to rescue the kidnapped ruler of the Planet Plinn, a giant potato called King Edward.  

Sweet Potato! 
Sweet had to travel to the planet Drofane and defeat King Edward's captor, the evil Monsieur Fear, a skilled fighter who could turn any household item into a deadly weapon. Naturally, Ulysses killed everyone, nuked the planet and subsequently ate King Edward. I assume he went without a pay cheque once more!

 Has King Edward had his chips?
Prog 2014 saw the character resurrected by Guy Adams and Paul Marshall as the half-witted lunatic is hired to protect shallow, spiritual singer Arlyne Glebe who is finding herself in a cult on the Amethyst Cluster. Cue a story of beheaded dolphins, Rupert the Bear dream sequences and, of course, planetary destruction.
I'm thrilled that Alex Ronald worked on this cover. I'm a huge fan of his Vampire Vixens of the Wehrmacht comic (buy it here, I promise you'll love it!) and 2000AD message board peeps with be aware his recent Megazine cover just missed out on winning the cover of the year vote. Amazingly, this is Alex's first ever 2000AD cover, despite working for the comic for over 19 years! Over to Alex to tell us about this long overdue cover:
"Tharg had asked for the cover image of prog 1869 to be a full face shot of character Ulysses Sweet in all it's bloody, gory glory. He supplied the classic Glen Fabry Slaine cover as a reference point."

A stone cold classic! 
"When I worked on this cover Ulysses Sweet had only been in a couple of issues other than prog 2014, so I backtracked to his appearances in prog 507-09 to get up to speed with what he was all about."
"Paul Marshall's take on the new Ulysses Sweet was a joy to work from. His scarred and stapled face combined with the metallic skullcap sets him off as a fearsome character to begin with. But combine that with the deep sunken eyes and the lack of eye brows and you really have one menacing looking individual. The icing on the cake though is that no matter how bad things get, how much he's hurt or inflicting pain on others, he always does it with a smile. The hallmark of a true maniac. :)" Ah, so that's why David Cameron is always smiling - Pete.

"So taking a range of Paul Marshall's art I quickly built up a bust of Sweet using a 3D sculpting program called Z Brush."

The years have certainly not been kind to Ulysses...

"I'd started using this program late last year in my day job creating models for an animated show. I found Z Brush to be a very fast and intuitive way to work compared to Maya or Lightwave. In fact, I was so won over by how good it was I bought a copy for myself over Christmas and this was the first live use of it for freelance purposes."

"If any of you are budding digital artists I can recommend trying out the scaled down version of Z Brush which is called Sculptris. It's free to download and use and although it has limited functions you'll find out if it's something you enjoy without any financial outlay."

"Having sculpted the head I took the image into Photoshop and started to paint in lighting details in BW tones. Rough blood trails were added and then the image was sent to Tharg  for approval..."
Ah that glowing complexion, that winning smile, those shining staples, what's not to love?
"Having got the 'Good to go' I applied a basic colour wash then started to work up the image layer on layer."

"Michael Berryman's cannibal character from the 'Hills have Eyes' came to mind when I was working on this cover, so I adopted the spooky/cheesy 'torch in face' lighting style from the film poster as I worked in the colour and lighting details."

 Ah, the adorably named Pluto.
"A few hours spent embellishing the colour rough and it was nearly done. Perhaps because I'd been looking at it for too long I decided In the end preferred the face looking to the left. So a quick and easy mirroring resulted in a not so quick and easy fixing of the non symmetrical ears. Haha. I got caught out there."

"So here you have it. The grinning bloodied face of Maniac for Hire, Ulysses Sweet :)"
 Something's gone wrong ear...
 And here's how the prog looks on your shelf - yuck!

 "Buy this prog or I'll eat your children!"
Oh, before I go, here's Alex's homage to Brett Ewins' brilliant cover of Prog 475, simply stunning...
As a child, this cover made me feel 'funny'... 

As an adult, this cover makes me feel 'funny.'
MASSIVE thanks to 'the nicest guy in comics' Alex for sharing these, it's sending the online community crackers! I know he's working on another couple of covers and I can't wait to see 'em! Go visit his fantastic blog here for more jaw dropping art...

Wednesday 12 February 2014

Clint Langley - Tubal Fix It!

Ah, the ABC Warriors game of Twister was never going to end well! Clint Langley sent these magnificent step by step images of his latest cover, at last giving us a peek into his illusive workflow!

Below we see his pencils as the cantankerous Happy Shrapnel/Tubal Caine/Colin MacNeil prepares to re-arm and repair the Warriors after a particularly fierce battle. If anyone is wondering where the name comes from, Tubal-Cain is mentioned in the book of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible. A descendant of Cain, Tubal-Cain was thought to be a very early metalsmith, possibly a maker of weapons of war. As the Warrior's official armorer, he's rather aptly named.

The image below is called "Return_to_Mars_Cover_2_Sketch.jpg" Sketch!?! Sketch!?!

Stop... Hammertime!

Here is the image inked up, with Steelhorn added and a bit of Mongrol gunk. Love the energy in this...

Uuuugh, I hope that's oil dripping from Ro-Jaws' pipes...

Next Clint adds some tone and the piece takes a moodier turn...

The ABC's got absolutely smashed at their party. I mean really hammered...
Some lighting effects are added, courtesy of a great big flaming hammer!

Tubal fix it for yoooouuu... you and you and you!

And the piece fully coloured with lighting effects. Hmmm, I wonder why Blackblood is there, the traitorous little shit?

Oh dear, looks like it's NOT oil leaking from Ro-Jaws, I hope Mongrol has put the lottery on this week, it's supposed to be lucky.

Below is, I assume, Clint's suggestion for the logo placement and colour, which judging by the finished version, was adhered to pretty closely...

The warriors photobomb Tubal's picture.

 I recommend handling this weeks' prog with heat resistant gloves.

Giant flaming hammer sized thanks to Clint for sending these fantastic images, it's great to get (a little) more of an idea how this artist works. Please check out his website at

Saturday 8 February 2014

Mark Harrison - Hot Digital Dog!

BOOM! How cinematic is this cover!?! If a Strontium Dog movie is ever released, I insist that Mark Harrison gets poster duties! When I contacted Mark to ask for the cover images, I remarked how much this reminded me of a 70's action film poster, he said "Well spotted with the film poster nod. This was harking back to those dynamic explosive war film posters you used to get, REAL MAN posters before the advent of PhotoShop (Yeah, I know, bite the tool that feeds me!)"

Mark asked me to put some cool posters here to demonstrate, mentioning 'Where Eagles Dare', 'Shout at the Devil' and 'Zeppelin' as inspiration. I added 'The Destructors' as it is action cliche heaven!

Big explosions and MEN!

MORE big explosions and MEN!  

EVEN MORE big explosions and MEN!

A little explosion and MEN being MEN!

Mark continues "In my mind I saw this falling transport and  all these faces and images coming out of the smoke like the smoke was a rip in the white of cover paper.  Back to back shooting, spouts of flame streaking out. Bodies falling down from the crashing transport like James Bond opening titles... "Skyfall..."

"Of course I got a bit insecure about the plain white background so I offered up some alternatives, but it was always going to be the white really..."

White, with orange candy cane...

Orange candy canes and explosions.  

Tango Charlie

Purple rain (of fire!)

The bastard child of 1 and 3
With the sketch laid out and the colours (almost) decided, Mark inked the piece. "One interesting decision was to flip the direction of the crashing craft which you can see was going the other way in the sketches.  That was done as a way of balancing Alpha's big gun which I would assume dominate the top right of the cover."

Strinkedium Dog

Here Mark decided to play with some of the elements to interact with the logo; "I moved some figures around so they could be "dropped" in front of the logo to break it up and give the cover a bit of depth."

"It was always intended to be painted. I did consider a coloured ink drawing at one point and did use that as a foundation before I did a "traditional" paint over in Photoshop using custom brushes based on real world brushes I had scanned and built."

Laying the foundations

"It's an approach I mentioned I've done before on a recent Megazine cover and probably has some redundant steps for a digital artist  but there's a comfort in knowing the foundation is there to fall back on. I went with following closely Carlos' art so it didn't jar."

Coming this summer... a movie that wi-... (cough... splutter) Sorry I couldn't keep the voice up.

"And in another plug for other art and artists, I'd be remiss if I didn't admit a reason for approaching this cover in the way I did was the lushious, lovely, inspirational art of Jim Murray and his recent work 'Drowntown.' A 2000 AD artist that has just gotten better with time and you wish was still gracing the pages of the comic. Check out his book!"

I'd second that - the book is by 2000AD writer Robbie Morrison (Nikolai Dante, Judge Dredd) and Jim Murray (Die Laughing, Holocaust 12) and is a superb read and a real feast for the eyes...

Buy this book!

And here's how the cover looks at your Thrill merchant, Johnny is a Public Enemy indeed!

We got to fight the powers that be!

Explosive thanks to Mark who's next project has got me very excited! Check out his website here!