Every week, 2000 AD brings you the galaxy’s greatest artwork and 2000 AD Covers Uncovered takes you behind-the-scenes with the headline artists responsible for our top cover art – join bloggers Richard Bruton and Pete Wells as they uncover the greatest covers from 2000 AD!
This week, it’s the return of The OUT to the cover of 2000 AD Prog 2254! And with it, that means the return of Mark Harrison to Covers Uncovered, less than a month after he graced us with his entertaining explanations to putting the latest cover together.
The OUT Book Two is flying high in the pages of 2000 AD right now – don’t miss one of the most acclaimed series of recent years! And whatever you do, don’t miss out on Mark Harrison telling us just how the cover to Prog 2254 was put together!
MARK HARRISON: Hi again all! I took time out from the drawing board to discuss the cover – it’s a nice reminiscence and meander down memory lane (I wonder if it’s going to be a similar experience for you!).
SPOILER WARNING FROM MARK – DON’T READ IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE STORY!
I grew up in the late 60s and 70s and the Summer school holidays were a time of endless sunshine, scuffed knees smelling of grass, and morning TV for kids before the BBC testcard sent us outside to play. And that 70s morning TV for kids was perhaps completely unacceptable by today’s standards.
This was best typified by 1930s Tarzan films of Johnny Weissmuller that ran in the early mornings during the holidays and filled impressionable minds with monochrome horrors – all those deaths at the hands of wildlife, cannibals, or even the jungle itself, even at a distance and off-camera still terrified at a young age.
You could experience the foolhardy eaten alive (piranha, crocodiles, lions, etc), drowned, burnt alive, or torn to pieces (ritualistic tribal contraptions). If there was a bridge over a pool of lava or a seemingly bottomless crevasse you just knew some less than sure-footed fellow would be providing us with a Wilhelm scream at some point as he fell flailing to his death.
And all before 10am in our living rooms. We as a generation turned out mostly fine. Mostly. Our planetary husbandry might leave a bit to be desired.
Part and parcel of these serialised films was the perilous quest or trek. This was a lethal undertaking, across quicksand swamps, along treacherous ravine ledges, or hacking through jungles where giant spiders or man-eating plants lurked to trap the unwary.
Invariably there would be the loss of many an expendable character, typically the wide-eyed panicking native bearers of some private army expedition (the red shirts; the NPC of Tarzan films).
And this tradition of showing what dangers the heroes had faced and had just escaped by virtue of their being higher up the cast list extended to science fiction and fantasy films where you could expect to see a montage Trek of Terror where our intrepid party wanders in front of a cinema back-projection only for one hapless soul to be plucked off the path by a dinosaur or dueling monster ready to fight over their still warm corpse as their companions scurried to safety.
It would also provide our hero (probably Doug McClure but not exclusively) with my favourite movie hero line: “That could have been me.”
This is the stuff I grew up on, the McClure/ Ray Harryhausen movies that informed my childhood and that was the inspiration and the homage that Dan and I brought to this episode of The OUT, only with a modern twist – because what would anyone connected to social media do these days when faced with a possible life and death scenario? Why take a selfie of course! Which is just what we have Cyd doing here!
The camera disconnect from reality as we become stars and ‘content’ in what might be our imminent demise is something I can see happening. Not desired of course! (for more on this idea see this Reading The Pictures article.) But it’s the 21st Century human need to matter in the Universe. No matter how small and insignificant we might be!
For the cover I knew I wanted the layout to reflect something ‘Pulpy,’ as if illustrating one of those early sci-fi/fantasy stories, with Cyd low in the frame, craning to get into shot being taken by the floating Vuepro camera.
Caught in the flash throwing up ironic ‘love’ hand gestures with a somewhat forced rictus smile as she tries to ignore the danger behind her.
The ultimate ‘Hey- look at me!’ holiday postcard shot you might take and underplay to look cool.
This was a cover I saw in mind right from the planning of book 2 of The OUT, so you could even say it had the unusual effect of dictating the content of the story, not reflecting it or being a scene from it.
Wanting a travel montage of doom, Dan happily provided one in the story – Although with a blasé Cyd becoming bored with it all. ‘Dueling monsters, hey ho. Next!’
This cover and episode also marked a significant change in how I was rendering my art, in that I would outline or ‘Cut out’ in colour the characters and scenes and assign them to different layers in PhotoShop. A rough idea of smoke and dust too.
This would lead to me ultimately drawing in colour and adding the line art later as a final pass.
Here’s a sneak peak look at a future episode to illustrate my current process (subject to inevitable change!). I’m almost fully rendering the tone and colour and still I haven’t started inking the line art.
Theoretically (The jury is still out on this) this minimises unnecessary line art that might get painted over in a shadow and tonal pass and speeds up my work.
The tone and colours can be contained to the layer’s cutout helping me ‘stay within the lines.’
The tag line: “What the Harryhausen? ” was stolen from Bruce Campbell in the TV Series Ash vs Evil Dead and I didn’t expect 2000 AD to use it; too on the nose.
But they did keep the Vue Pro framing which I’m grateful for as it’s again a throwback to the 2000 AD sci-f graphics of old.
In a sense, if The OUT is a love letter to the science fiction Dan and I grew up with as kids (the books, the films, the TV) then this cover also harkens back to those 2000 AD covers of old when hyperbole was ‘Hyper-powered’ (Remember when everything was ‘Hyper’?)
By the way, credit to Susha Matthews for the original monster designs included here that came with wonderfully imaginative backstories. ‘Back off, kid, this is my story…’
Oh, one more thing that the readers might like…
A possible episode ending (lost due to space constraints) was of Cyd being released by the gangster aliens to return to the surface and contemplating the return journey: “What- go back through all THAT again!?!!”
To which the gangster boss would say: “No, no- you can use the stairs.” Indicating a staircase shortcut to the surface, to make the earlier perilous journeys even more ludicrous and the losses even more comically tragic and unnecessary.
But we already had so much going on in an already packed episode.
Okay then, back to Infinity and beyond! (3 episodes to go and we haven’t even plotted book 3 yet! But hey, what’s new?!)
Thank you, as always, to Mark Harrison. I know Covers Uncovered is all about the imagery, but I always love getting something through from Mark, as I know it’s going to be full of wonderful ideas, crazy asides, amazing flights of fancy… and that’s usually just in his first paragraph!
Be sure to check out both the Covers Uncovered for 2000 AD Prog 2251 and the interview with Dan Abnett and Mark Harrison on the OUT.
You can find the Harryhausen-tastic cover by Mark on the front of 2000 AD Prog 2254, out on the shelves of all fine newsagents and comic shops, as well as the 2000 AD web shop, from 20 October!