Thursday 31 July 2014

Colin MacNeil - Weturn of the Mac(Neil)

Prog 1892 sees the 'welcome' weturn... sorry return of Walter the Wobot thanks to the dream team of John Wagner and Colin MacNeil. 'One Night in Sylvia Plath' allows us to catch up on the odd couple of Walter the Wobot and Mrs Gunderson since the events of Chaos Day.

John Wagner has created some absolutely classic comic characters in his illustrious career, he also created Walter the Wobot. The droid began life as a service droid in the Grand Hall of Justice before being assigned to Judge Dredd as a house robot during the Robot War of 2099. He has plagued the lawman's career ever since, though was assigned to look after eldster Mrs Gunderson following the Doomsday Scenario of 2121.

Below are Walter's blue prints, nice to see he has a fully functioning pleasure circuit (16) and a hoover attachment, the long winter nights must fly. Good to see tape recorders (5) have survived into the 22nd century, I'll hang on to my old Spectrum 48k games a bit longer...  

What if Judges Did Ads?
(Artwork by Kev O'Neill)

Pah! Look at Walter's tiny little pleasure circuits!
Over to Colin to tell us more about his thoughts behind this weeks' striking cover image "I thought the cover design should be quite bold, so it would stand out on the shelves, rather than just doing a nice drawing. The job of a cover is meant to be noticed after all!"
"I was asked by Tharg to do a Walter cover, as he hadn't appeared on the cover for yonks! By making the cover image more graphic than pictorial, it allowed me to get all the main characters on it. With Walter "drinking" a beer in the opening page of the story, I thought it'd be a good way to include Judge Death if his image was on the beer that Walter had. Mrs G peering out of the bottom part of the image with a big grin on her face just seemed like a thing Mrs G would do. I really enjoyed drawing Mrs G..."

And it certainly is a very strong, eye-catching image. Below is Colin's rough... 

Viz's first ever trible 'Up the Arse Corner.'

Followed by his trademark bold blacks. Colin's artistic style has seen significant change in recent years, from more delicate line work of old to strong, clean lines and imposing blocks of colour.

Perfect wenderwing by MacNeil

Next the finished cover without the background colour...

24 hour party people?

And finally the finished image.

The conga in full swing...

Colin is synonymous with lush painted artwork as seen in classics such as America, Mechanismo, Total War, Song of the Surfer and the first two books of Insurrection. However, in 2010, he had his first crack at digital colouring. The commission was for the poster for Hi-Ex 2010, a much missed comic convention in the beautiful city of Inverness. Colin produced the artwork below (which is proudly owned by Mr Pete Wells) which was the first thing he coloured digitally. Not too shabby eh?  
Colin adds "All done with a mouse too! In fact, everything has been done with a mouse, I haven't got round to getting one of those tablet thingys yet!" Amazing!

Ro-Ro-Ro-Jaws, gently down the Loch.

The coloured version was kindly sent by Richmond Clements, so a huuuuge thank you to him!

In his retirement, Joe allowed himself the odd smile...
Colin's first printed digital comic artwork was the cover of the erm zarjaz Zarjaz 14 which featured everyone's favourite camp vamp, Devlin Waugh... 

I only count seven tentacles there, I hate to think where number eight is...

Day of the Tentacle!
Closely followed by the cover of Dr Who fanzine, Dr WTF, for which Colin says "I really enjoyed drawing this. I'd never drawn anything Dr Who-ey before, it made a nice change from my usual stuff!"

She's got the whole world, in her hands!

Colin has been a longtime supporter of The Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design who run a fantastic course on Comic At and Graphic Novels! Colin is an ex-student of the art school and, along with legends such as Cam Kennedy, Ian Kennedy and Dave Gibbons, will sometimes share his work and expertise with the (lucky) students.

The luckiest students in the world!

Each year the students showcase their work in an anthology graphic novel, Colin provided the cover for the first. For an article about this, see 
Colin adds "I won't send you a picture of me as a student, it'd freak some people out. I had hair on my head but not on my face :)" Luckily, I scoured the internet for a picture of Colin in his student days and found this one from his appearance on University Challenge...

 "MacNeil, Scumbag College!"
The artist continues "Another enjoyable, different project for me. This image is just stuffed full of meaning on the idea of the "artist" and their inspiration."

Students have come a long way since the unwashed oiks of my day...

Jean demonstrates the latest Wacom Hover-Tab

On to the epic Insurrection, the Warhammer inspired saga which saw some of Colin's most incredible work. Below we see his sketch for the cover of Megazine 334 which was digitally inked and coloured by the awesome Mr Neil Roberts. 
Colin says "The idea for this cover was taken from classic war time propaganda, Insurrection was a war story after all. I've always admired propaganda images from World War 2 in particular. They're bold, dynamic and full of emotive imagery. It doesn't matter whether they were British, American, Russian or German, good design is good design!"

Viva la Revolucion!

Bloody troublemakers!

Next we have an exclusive glimpse of some of Colin's abandoned ideas for the cover, firstly this gorgeous illustration of one of the doomed grunts - sob! 

Planet of the Ape

Next a marvellous bit of propaganda for the Colonial Marshall's Dept... join today! Colin adds "This was an early idea for my take on the classic propaganda poster. It provided the idea for the final cover design ie. all coming together, human, uplift and robot to fight for a common future type of thing."

Thugs, the lot of 'em!

Or how about this fleet of Zhind ships? "I suppose this is another propaganda-esque image, this time showing the threat."

I best stick the kettle on then.

And here is Colin's process behind the final, heartbreaking cover for Insurrection on Meg 342. Below, we see Colin's rough's as one of the Insurrectionists salutes his (many) fallen comrades, a modern classic...
"I knew this was to be the last cover for Insurrection so wanted something appropriate to the story. Where there was a propaganda image for the beginning of the final series, I wanted a reality of war type image for the end. Something definitely not propaganda. A final salute to the characters we had followed across the series, which indeed gave me the final idea for the final cover design. It's literally a salute to the fallen. It's also in a sense, a salute to the reader for following the series - a final bow before exiting the stage." Lovely sentiments there. I'm certain Insurrection is universally viewed as one of the best strips the Meg has ever published, it was a pleasure to follow.

"Ooooh me head. What did I drink last night?"

Here's that cover inked - the composition, the thick, black smoke and dangerous looking razor wire are amazing and that sad, oil-stained robot adds to the power of this incredible image.

Who knew Colin MacNeil was a Little Mix fan?

Here is a mock up of the cover...

I'm sure they could have covered the logo more, just to annoy certain people!

Followed by the astoundingly well coloured, final image. Colin has a keen interest in the military (as we'll see later in this post) as his knowledge and passion is certainly evident on this outstanding cover...

Sign... just beautiful.

And finally for this section, Colin's contribution to this years' convention booklet for the Glasgow Comic Con - lovely. Colin explains "This years theme was stolen moments and since I had been watching the Captain America movie the idea flowed fairly easily. The Captain takes a few minutes our from battling Nazis to have a coke and a read of his superman comic, just like any other GI in late 1944." 
When you've gotta go, you gotta go!

Colin is very gracious and is always ready to chat (and drink) with fans. He can occasionally be found on the 2000AD message board and will often very kindly contribute to the annual Adent Calendar thread. Here are his previous digital entries, firstly, the rather brilliant four dark Santa's of the Nativity. I think I notice something new every time I look at this...

Well, at least there's no sprouts

And secondly the Three Kings which is cute beyond words!

The birth of Tharg

As mentioned previously, Colin has a keen interest in military history and has strong ties to several Scottish Military Museums. He recently produced a series of illustrations and a fab comic for The Gordon Highlanders Museum in Aberdeen. 

The museum has a character for children called Bydandy, a young Drummer Boy with the Gordon Highlanders. Using his father's magical bagpipes, Bydandy travels through time, learning about the contributions made in various wars by the Gordon Highlanders.
"Yes, I've always been interested in military history and was absolutely thrilled to be asked to draw Bydandy for the Gordons. It was a dream project for me. Any other regimental museums out there fancy some pics, give me a call, I'll sort you out! :) "

Little drummer erm... boy?

Below we see Bydandy in the Highland Division of the Gordon Highlanders in WW2...
That's S-P-A-D-E to you!

Wot no war?

Here's Bydandy in the Boer War, ready to serve with Captain Towse...
Towse about that then?

And Bydandy in camouflage - if you look hard you might just see him!
Whistle do nicely!

It would be remiss of me if I didn't show off... I mean share my awesome commission I got from Colin back in 2011. I'm a huge, huge fan of his Mechanismo Mk1 designs so asked for Dredd battling a Mechanismo robot. What I actually got was, quote, "Dredd battling a horde of decommissioned Mechanismo robots who have somehow reactivated to get revenge. A scrap in a scrapyard if you will..."

Colin said "I think this drawing is one of the best Dredd's I've ever done, ever. I'm still very proud of it."

Below are the pencils - just look at the work and energy that has gone into those - astounding!

A rumble at the Pete Wells Mech Wreck Yard!

And the awesome finished piece. I saw this before the Zarjaz cover or Strange and Darke (his first 2000AD related strip to see really the style change) and remember being blown away - such a radical departure yet still recognisably MacNeil! I feel very, very honoured to have this...

If you look closely you see spot Robert from America, a lawmaster and a very well hidden Heavy Metal Kid...

I'll end with one of Colin's career highlights - yes he painted America, provided beautiful work for the first ever Dredd/Alpha meeting, killed Chopper, offed Johnny Alpha and resurrected the Dark Judges but we all know when Colin looks back on his distinguished career, the page below will always be his very favourite...

The greatest page in 2000AD history!

Of course, Colin agrees, he says "I'd agree, those Commando Forces blockers are just great ain't they? :D " Hey, wait a minute!!! All that nice stuff I said about him above, just forget it, he's talentless hack! On a serious note, that page was a complete surprise and was a really lovely gesture. When I approached Colin about buying the page he wouldn't take any money, instead he asked me to split what I would pay between two military museums in Scotland. See? He can be nice!  
Absolutely gigantic thanks to Colin who, as ever, has been an absolute gentleman. This article has gone back and forth between us and he's scoured old computers and hard drives to find content for which I am eternally grateful. If you've enjoyed this look at his work, why not buy him a drink next time you see him at a convention...?

Thursday 24 July 2014

Shucks! It's Alex Ronald!

Prog 1891 sees the debut of Leigh Moore, John Reppion and Steve Yeowell's brand new thrill 'Black Shuck.' The series features vicious Vikings, mythical monsters, terrifying trolls and a terrible tribe of totally twattish twats - it looks to be a winner!

If you're wondering about the name, the Black Shuck is a legendary ghostly dog that allegedly roams East Anglia, there is an artist's impression below. However, in the story, Black Shuck is a mysterious, shipwrecked warrior who claims to be the heir of the Viking King Ivar. But is this just a shaggy dog story?

The Black Shuck with his terrifying red eyes...

I'm absolutely delighted that Alex Ronald, one of my very favourite artists, has been asked to produce the first cover for the series. What a cracker it is, I love the composition! I asked Alex how much reference material he got, with it being a new strip and all. He said "I received three black and white pages and the following brief: 'Black Shuck himself central with his sword out and roaring trolls all around him!' Cool!

Below we see his 3D roughs, a troll based on my wife and Shuck, based on my lover, Justin Lee Collins...

Egor was legless again.

Shuck shows us his funky moves

Next is the composition that was sent to Tharg for approval...

Put that away, it's a family comic! 

With the mighty one's blessing, Alex painted the cover in his usual jaw-dropping style...

"Oh trollocks!" 

And here's how the cover looks in your local thrill merchant.

"I want to hug him and squeeze him and call him George!"

HUGE, troll sized thanks to Alex for sending the lovely images. Please check out his blog for more amazing work!

Monday 14 July 2014

Karl Richardson - Karlifacts!

Aquila is back and he's on a mission from God - Ammit the Devourer to be precise! Leigh Gallagher is back on art duties, however, the always brilliant Karl Richardson has painted this scorching hot cover for us.
Karl said "It's almost a year since I've done any digital painting so I was a little rusty at first. However, Leigh Gallagher was happy and said it could have been traditionally painted. I think Tharg was happy, so it's all good!" As Karl hasn't ended up as a plaything for Mek-Quake, he may be right...
Below we see Karl's very rough pencils (his words, not mine!) and this cover is already off to a mean and moody start...

The Roman Paparazzi artist Crotchus Maximus was the founder of the Upskirt shot.
Karl tidies those pencils up and adds the obligatory drop of jizz to his picture...
He wants to be careful where he's putting that sword...
Digital painting begins - if this is Karl when he's 'a little rusty', then Grud help the rest of us!
A quick spray tan and we're ready to go...

Digital painting continues, with background elements added...

"Arise, Sir Soontobedead...."
And here's the finished image, complete with blood and gore, absolutely amazing!

Aquila got in trouble for lighting his farts again...

Here's how the cover looks on your thrill merchant's shelves - deadly!

I wouldn't eat this butcher's 'Special Stuff.'

The colour scheme and wicked flames reminded me of my lovely commission that I got from Karl, fully painted and bloody amazing!

"Judgement Day at Pete Wells Block."
Huuuuuuge thanks to Karl for sending the images, I'm sure Leigh Gallagher couldn't have asked for a better start to the series!