Thursday 30 October 2014

John Charles - "Techno-creep!"

Here's John Charles' cool subscriber cover for issue 24 of IDW's on going Dredd series. It's a great image with an interesting backstory which John has been kind enough to share, he says "This piece was made over a year ago, and started life earlier than that, so it's difficult to detail exactly how I did it. It has been through several iterations though..."

"The earlier version was my starting point – trying to do a new 2000AD cover on spec. I think I 3D modelled the figure. Clearly a lot of work has gone into this, but ultimately I rejected it as the figure was dull and somewhat clumsy. As I recall this is where the background was first developed. Luckily, as it turns out, the figure was on different layers to the background. I actually rather like the more yellowy colour of the background here, but obviously decided to modify it in the later work. I've dummied in the logo to see how the cover would work with its design elements in place..."

Who watches the watchmen?

"I drew a new Dredd figure to replace the dull one. There may have been a 3D model of this that I traced, but I can't remember. The line art is full of imperfections that I tidied up in Photoshop. Looking at it now, I slightly feel that the legs are too long, but, hey ho... I made loads of fixes in the layered Photoshop file, like rotating his kneepad, adding in his badge and chain and generally colouring the art."

"I'm creepin', creep!"

"Respect thy fello citizen!" I wonder if Marlon Shakespeare wrote that?

"At some point, prior to publication, I started using the background in a piece of personal work – my own character : Technofreak. This was meant to be the cover for issue 1 of three 24 page comics. Somehow, I doubt they'll ever get done. There's just so much work involved. I have pared down my ambitions for the character and am currently working on a six-pager featuring him; far more achievable."

I hope we do see him as this visual is great!


"I originally submitted the finished cover to 2000AD, but it wasn't taken on. Later, when IDW started publishing Dredd comics, I submitted it to editor Chris Ryall, who presumably did think it worthy of publication and bought it from me. Result!"

A result indeed as we get to finally see this fab Dredd image!

Huuuge thanks to John for sending the images and breakdown. You can see more of his work here!

Monday 27 October 2014

Phil Winslade - She is the Law(less)!

Oh wow, I just adore Phil Winslade's cover for Meg 352, a stone cold classic! Marshall Metta Lawson crosses the Badrock crystalline plains with her trusty steed, Neddy. It's such a beautiful painting, and those colours are gorgeous.

Over to Phil to talk us through the creation of the cover "Here's the initial drawing and roughs - it was originally a design piece done before I started the strip. We (Dan and I) wanted to use the CATTs from insurrection (Colin MacNeil's brilliant design) as they're just so cool! One of the things I wanted in Lawless was a place where no wheeled vehicles could survive long because of the abrasive crystalline structure of the sand... and because I wanted horses!"

Phil wanted horses, so he drew a CATT!

From the, town of Badrock, she's a page right out of history!

CATT Stearings

"Tharg suggested it would make a cool cover but I felt it lacked a little movement so I tilted it slightly. Then made a cartoon and painted in Acrylics on Bristol board." 

The CATToon, ha!

Ride 'em, cowgirl

As well as a talented comic artist, Phil is a musician too, he says "At the same time of painting this I also painted the cover for the album my band has just made. Cosmic Rays the album is now out via and also features The Walking Dead's artist Charlie Adlard on drums, who also painted the gatefold. (plug, plug!)"

"Say what you see, say what you see!"

Huge thanks to Phil for sending the images, truly one of my favourite Meg covers of the year!

Sunday 26 October 2014

Ben Willsher - Hot Karl!

"Hotshot!" I've been dying to write this one up as I love, love, love this image! Ben Willsher is easily one of my favourite of this generation's Dredd artists and once again he's delivered in spades! As well as being used for the cover of Megazine 351, this will be the cover for the American reprint of Uprise, coming out on 29th October. Remember, the Underbelly sold out TWICE so you'd best order now creeps!

Over to Ben to tell us more about the cover "I was very excited to get this chance to work on the 'Movie' Dredd- Like all Dredd fans, I loved the film and long to see another one, fingers crossed (well, while I'm not drawing, that is!)"

How's this for a scoop, Ben said "I nearly had a chance to work WITH the Movie Dredd - That being Karl Urban, himself! Karl had agreed to write a Dredd tale for the free comic book day in 2012, but unfortunately being the extremely busy and talented man he is, he simply didn't have the time. This was a great shame, but luckily the extremely busy and talented Matt Smith stepped in and wrote the wonderful Jimps Club."

"Anyway, jump ahead a couple of years and with a fantastic Prequel and Sequel comic under the belts of Messrs Smith, Flint, and Wyatt, here we are, I finally get my chance to have a go at drawing that amazing new body armour."

"First stage as always was the rough concept..."

 Urban Scrawl

"Once the rough was okayed by TMO. I set about drawing the final Black and White art. I inked in all the art, but left a roughed outline in pencil of some of the wall details that will be in the background. I knew I was going to paint these in, so I didn't want them to have solid black lines."

Dredd investigates Chopper's morbid phase...

"I then tidied up the ink lines in Photoshop to make them as crisp as I could. At this stage I took out the pencil lines as these will be a template for the Background paintwork. So they were stored as a separate layer for me to work on."

A heavy armoured special cop!

"The final stage was colouring. I really wanted to capture that grim and grimy feel that the film had to its urban (no, not Karl) environment."

Dredd's diarrhoea struck at a very inopportune time!

"I had an absolute blast drawing this, and I'd love to do more of these movie inspired Dredd images, so hopefully Tharg will continue to commission more of these tales...Hm, Death or Mean Machine, Oh Mighty One???" 

All of the above please Tharg! Huge thanks to Ben for sending the images and blurb for a truly cool cover. If you want a special SIGNED copy of the comic, get yourself along to Forbidden Planet on Saturday 1st November between 1pm-2pm where Ben and series artist Paul Davidson will be signing the Diamond UK Exclusive Edition - wooooooh!

Saturday 25 October 2014

Dave Kendall - Hunter Killer!

In this weeks' episode of Ichabod Azrael, our titular character runs into an old friend, the fearsome  Hunter! This vicious demon chased Ichabod across time to kill him over and over again. Is it time for Azrael's revenge? Who better to paint such a terrifying, horroric image right in time for Halloween? Well, none other than Dave Kendall himself. It is said that Dave's digital brushes are haunted by Janette Krankie himself!

Over to Dave to tell us how this horrific cover came to be - "Due to a short deadline and other deadlines to fulfil, this Azrael cover had a tight turn around. Luckily it was a beastly horror image which is always fun!"

"I shot a couple of images Tharg's way. One was a simple close-up/portrait image. I took advantage of the Hunter's anatomy to create a simple clockface composition with the dogs heads, whip and cleaver surrounding the main head."

"The other image was a more straightforward, action type affair. The Hunter attacking the towns people in a Frazetta type composition. Tharg went for the close up shot."

The Hunter will star in the new PETA campaign

Whip crack away, whip crack away, whip crack awaaaay!

"The next stage was to produce the finished pencils."

What a dog-eared beast!

"Because of the tight deadline I painted this digitally. I first applied a quick colour scheme under the pencils. I decided  to refine the colours using desert as an inspiration."

If it doesn't work out in Purgatory, the Hunter could become the first one man acapella band.

"I submitted this final image..."

Dog Cleaver!

"Tharg liked it but asked for more POP! I realised I'd drifted a little from my original intent. Aside form improving and adding to some details I cooled the shadow areas down in order to improve the contrast and colour scheme. This was the final approved cover."

By, the Hunters looking woof, he's really gone to the dogs...

And here's how the cantankerous bastard looks on your shelf, amazing!

I wonder if he can lick his own balls?

Huuuuge thanks to Dave for these stunning images, good god this years' cover of the year vote is going to be impossible! Please check out Dave's fantastic website here.

Thursday 23 October 2014

Alex Ronald - "School of Ruck!"

Ah yes, being a school teacher it's nice to see Dredd giving some effective discipline in the classroom in this outrageously magnificent cover from the Mighty Alex Ronald. Prog 1904 sees Dredd attend a disturbance at Gramercy Low School in the brilliant Block Judge storyline, with predictable results. Man, I'm jealous!
Below is Alex's digital rough which, I think depicts one of my RE lessons... 
"Hey Chinface, leave those kids alone!"

On the finished version of the cover, the juve in the foreground sports a rather fetching T-Shirt with none other that Kreepy Kat on it. If you are unfamiliar with this disgusting web comic, I suggest you follow this link and acquaint yourself pronto! 
Written and (mostly) drawn by Alan Kerr, Kreepy Kat is a morally bankrupt, sociopathic, murderous freak of cat who spends most of his time engaging in unspeakable acts - Garfield, he ain't! Despite it's fabulously crude tone, the strip is very clever, really pushing the boundaries of the comic strip convention and existentialism as Kreepy exits panel borders, interacts with his creator and comments on the quality of the script, great stuff!
On occasion, guests artists would contribute to the strip including big names such as Frank Quitely. Alex was asked to contribute, giving us the gem below, lovely... 
Face Chuggers!?!
Below is the brilliant finished image, another classic from one of the hottest artists around!
Another teacher strike!

And here's how the cover looks on your self...

Hermione was the terror of Hogwarts in that difficult Year 9 period... 
Mega thanks to Alex for sending the images, check out his blog here!

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Pye Parr - Bato Logo

Pye Parr is probably, inadvertently, the droid who inspired this blog. It is he who has the unenviable task of covering all that glorious artwork with logos, barcodes and other necessary evils! However, the logo and branding, as this article will point out, is an art form in itself. An art form that must be recognisable, functional and adapt to any and every cover image on which it sits, a damn near impossible task!
I asked Pye to give us an insight into his creative process behind the extremely daunting task of changing such a beloved icon and he certainly didn't disappoint! Over to Pye-01 to tell us more. 
"I've been thinking (and worrying) about changing the 2000 AD masthead for quite a while now (I was sick of looking at the old one). A couple of years ago I did some cover type for Prog 2013 which I was kinda pleased with, so I made a vague stab at turning it into a full font, creating a file on my desktop I went back to every so often and tinkered with..."

The logo for the cancelled Prog ZOIB
"That file evolved into a terrifying sprawl of crap, as I dropped the idea of a font and started trying out stuff for the 2000 AD logo. These are the first couple of ideas, in various states of completion. I still quite like the shape of the 2 here..."

A terrifying sprawl of crap.
"Even as I was doing these I knew they weren't going to work. The characters were just too complicated to be useful, but I finished some versions off anyway just for my own satisfaction. I wanted to see if I could ape some of the bends and shadows of the old logos. Not sure it adds anything really. Plus, I wanted to do something new, not hark back to an older version."

The 2000AD Turkish Delight Special
"I started simplifying the letters, tweaking height and weight, and ended up with something I tested on the 2000AD sci-fi special that came out this Summer. I also started thinking about ways to use the 2000 AD badge as a kind of catch-all publishers thing, like marvel or DC use their logos on batman comics as I'd done this on the US-style Dredd and Brass Sun comics and quite liked it."

What's that comic called again?

"After a bit of feedback on the sci-fi special, and some time to stare at it, I went back and changed the characters again. The Sci-Fi Special logo was ok, just not elegant enough somehow, so I went back to it again and changed all sorts of minor details, like the angle/size of the corners and crossbars, and adding serifs on the characters. The first time I felt I was getting somewhere was the bottom version in this pic."

10,000AD, easy!

"First tests on logo placement. I went back over the last 10ish progs and redid the covers exactly as they were but with the latest version of the banner. It doesn't look like much, but slight changes in the boldness or width of the type really affect how much space is left for the 2000AD badge, so I did quite a lot of mucking about here. At this point though I was still quite set on having the badge much smaller and sticking the prog number underneath it, all within a box so you could flick through a pile of issues quickly and find the Prog you want."

The creation of each of those covers is on this blog - just sayin'!
"After a meeting with Matt, Ben and Jason we decided to drop the prog number from the banner. The badge was too small, and no matter how I laid it out it was needlessly fussy. The small type interfered with the overall look of the masthead, plus I couldn't decide what text from the barcode info to split off from the barcode box. Prog number? Date? Price? All of it? Here's some of the options I came up with. The problem with most of these is being sure they'd be legible on some of the more mental pieces of cover art we get. I think its ok to bash/cover the logo about a bit, it can take it, but things like price and issue number you can't."

"I also changed the 'AD' bit on these, as Jason felt the original A looked like an R. At the time I thought that was rubbish, but looking back he was right - as the AD is sideways it needs to be as legible as possible."

Warhol's futuristic phase

"With these things in mind I made some more changes and got the final logo! Having all the silliness bashed off it makes it much stronger. If it was a logo that had to stand alone you could afford to make it more ornate or technical, but the cover art for the Prog does the hard work, so I think the masthead works if it stands out without dominating, or is so stylised it only suits certain pieces of cover art."

Sniff! S'beautiful!

"The new barcode box. This might seem inconsequential, but its probably the thing I'm most proud of - there's just something pleasing about it! Fitting a barcode round the art is one of the most annoying things about cover design. It HAS to be easily visible, but you don't want to give it too much emphasis or it looks fugly on the artwork. This is partly why I wanted to move the date/number/price elsewhere, so I'd be able to cram the barcode off the edge of the page. Really glad I managed to find a way to make it look pretty cool, match the internal design/logo, and stay useful and flexible."
NOTE: For some reason Blogger would not accept the graphic of Pye's barcode, even when I didcked around with it in Photoshop. Drawing that big, ugly black box around the image worked for some reason, so apologies to Pye! - Pete

Very popular with Zebras this one
"Aaaaand the final cover in all it's glory! It helps no end that the first cover with the new logo on it was an absolute stonker. Amazing bit of painting by Greg - so much so that hardly anyone mentioned the new logo on the forums I looked on, as everyone went gaga for the art! I'll take that as a good thing!

Even Dredd wouldn't mess with that logo...

Phew, that was exhausting! But wait! There's more, lots more! Pye also told us about his redesign of the Nerve Centre Page. It is extremely important that he got this right as this is Tharg's page, any error here, no matter how small, would result in a one way trip to see Mek-Quake!
"The New Nerve Centre. I've had an idea in my head for a little while about basing the nerve centre design around Tharg's rosette of Sirius - having Tharg peer out the centre circle, with all these concentric techy looking rings radiating out from him. After making a rosette graphic I liked I started bashing things together in indesign. I tried for a LONG time to get the different page elements in all sorts of layouts, but annoyingly the main problem on each one was the rosette - it just made everything hard to read, so after trying it as a box, a background, squashed in the corner etc. etc. I had to kill the idea. It was driving me nuts and I was rapidly running out of time..."

Warning - If you stare at this image long enough you will get a taste for polystyrene.

"The main rosette graphic. The top ones are colour test that ended up being used as Prog 1900 countdown adverts."

The Nerve Centre, they use everything but the soul.

"The final layout. I used the rosette as a header/footer instead. There's so much info to get on The Nerve Centre it just had to have a plain background. Like with the logo: simpler is stronger."

Oh that Tharg! He's so Betelgeusean when he's mad!
And finally, the good old Credit Chips:
"Again on that theme I redesigned the credit boxes to match the work I'd done so far. Plenty of opportunities to customise these for specific strips too, so I'll be doing that more in future."

We WILL see Pete Wells in one of those credits one day
"So that's one off the bucket list, next up: A new Dredd logo..."
Wow, that's a staggering amount of work with some real thought going into it. Next time you pick up your prog, take a good look at all these extra bits and spare a thought for Pye, unsung hero of the Galaxy's Greatest!

Saturday 18 October 2014

D'Israeli - D'Sisters of D'Eath!

Fan favourite D'Emon D'raftsman D'Israeli is back with this haunting cover depicting three wicked witches that would gladly see the destruction of our world. Powerful stuff indeed, just in time for Halloween! As ever, Mr D'Israeli has given a gloriously detailed breakdown of his cover process, so as Stickleback himself would say, "Off we trot playmates, arseholes and elbows!"

Matt begins "Tharg’s usual concise brief went as follows, “how about (a cover) for (Stickleback) part 4 with the symbol in the background and in foreground the three sisters looking sinister?”

“The symbol” is a crop-circle-type sigil that’s a major element in the story and appears multiple times in the strip itself. I constructed it in the vector program Adobe Illustrator (which is really good for making geometric designs like this) and exported as a high-resolution bitmap (TIFF) file that could then be imported into Manga Studio."

The schematics for the Nerve Centre Christmas tree...

"I used Manga Studio 5 to generate the three roughs which I submitted to Matt Smith. 01 was the closest to the brief, 02 added past and present versions of Black Bob (as seen in that episode), and 03 was a “wild card” design based on a Gustav Klimt painting. Matt Smith went for 01. In the case of 01 and 02, I imported the symbol into Manga Studio and used the transform setting to distort it into the correct perspective, as that was quicker, easier and more accurate than trying to draw the symbol by hand, even roughly."

"Look out! Falling crop circles!"

Penny Red had spent a long time training her famous synchronised head lice team. 

Bah, I really, really like this one Tharg!

"Next the grey “pencil” drawing over the top of the chosen rough. I still think of them as “pencils” even though I do the whole shebang digitally. As ever, I do the “pencils” on a separate layer so they can be changed without affecting the underlying drawing."

Dreadful Pennies

"Next the blocking. This breaks the drawing up into blocks of colour that I can select later and fill with texture. Since I did the last series of Stickleback, I discovered Manga Studio 5’s incredibly useful “Lasso Fill” tool, which for some silly reason is hidden away in a sub-menu. Lasso Fill allows you to draw a shape freehand, but instead of producing a selection, it automatically fills the just-drawn shape with your chosen colour as soon as you raise the stylus from the tablet (pro tip: Manga Studio lets you select “nothing” as a colour, and if you do that with the Lasso Fill tool it becomes a very quick and accurate eraser for large areas). The Lass Fill tool speeds up the blocking stage immeasurably, and acts in very much the same way as Illustrator’s Pencil tool did, back when I was using that program for drawing."

When spray tan goes wrong...

"Here's how to find the Lasso Tool in Manga Studio 5 (5 or EX5 but not earlier versions); there are a whole nest of sub tools hidden in the tool bar. Depending what sub-tool is selected, the icon will look different (to further complicate things, I’ve rearranged my toolbar, but try just below or above the Type Tool (A) on the toolbar (marked 1 in the illustration). A sub-menu will appear, divided into tabs. Click on the “Direct Draw” section (marked 2 in the illustration) and then on the Lasso Fill button (marked 3 in the illustration)."

Easy as one, two, three...

"My preferred settings for the Lasso Fill tool. If you’re working at resolutions below 400dpi, try playing with the anti-aliasing settings to avoid getting jagged edges."

It's all gobbledegook!

"At this point in the process, I export the cover to Photoshop format and open it in Photoshop (I use Photoshop CC but any version will do.) I add textures to the blocks of colour I’ve made previously (you can see a brilliant video tutorial of that here - Pete) I also put blocks of grey under the textures to make them more coherent and solid."

"Cracking cover Gromet!"

"I then select all the textures (Select: Load Selection: pick “(name of layer) transparency” from the drop-down list and click OK) and, on a new layer, paint in blacks over the textures to deepen some of them further." You can see D'Israeli's incredibly useful video on this part of the process here."

"I then close the file and re-open it in Manga Studio 5."

This years' trick or treaters were scarier than last years'!

"Finally, painting; I used to use Corel Painter for this stage of the process, but Manga Studio 5’s Watercolour Brushes are 90% as good as Painter’s, and Manga Studio is so much faster and more stable (in fact, Manga Studio runs faster with five pages open than Corel Painter can with one.) The upshot of this is that, after three upgrades which have actually brought declines in performance, I have with great relief been able to drop Corel Painter as a working tool." 

"That bit of relationship-breakup schadenfreude over with, back to business*; I use the Transparent Watercolour brush in Manga Studio 5 to add bits of shading and modelling to the faces, I also  paint in dark areas on Penny Red’s long hair (left) and then scribble over them with a Pen Tool loaded with white to create hair strands."

Photo found on Wayne Rooney's phone... 

"Once this stage is complete, I close the file and re-open it in Photoshop and make a copy as a flat TIFF file for upload to the 2000AD FTP server. And that’s that!"

"* Yes, I’m over you, Corel Painter, over you, do you hear? I never think of you any more!" Yeah, you keep telling yourself that Matt, we all know you're pining for just one last Coral Painting session...

And here's how those harpies look on your newsstand, yikes! 

 The latest line up of the Sugababes

Great galloping thanks to Mr Brooker for another amazing cover breakdown, check out his stunning blog right here!