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...

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