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, we chat to art droid Paul Williams about his latest cover – 2000 AD Prog 2199.

Paul was the winner of the 2000 AD art search competition at Thought Bubble 2017 and has since been published in Prog 2072’s Future Shock: Sunday Scientist. and in the DeMarco, P.I. 3-parter An Eye… in Megazine issue 410-413.

With Prog 2199, he’s created a classic Dredd image that fits perfectly with the finale to the latest Dredd epic, End of Days, that you’ll be able to see for yourselves from the 2000 AD web shop and comic shops when 2000 AD Prog 2199 hits the shelves on 16 September.

Now, over to Paul to chat about that cover…

Being a droid that’s fairly new off the production line, I wouldn’t expect to be the first person that Tharg thinks of when commissioning covers and so my approach has been to jot up an idea of my own and risk a Rigellian Hotshot by offering it up to The Mighty One on my own initiative.

It’s a risk you have to be willing to take when fighting for place in the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic and, fortunately, the reprimanding blasts have been kept to a minimum.

The trick with designing a cover that can be slotted in at multiple points throughout a year is that it has to be exciting and eye-catching as well as somewhat original, which can be difficult to pull off when you’re not working with any particular story specifics in mind AND there are also more than 2000 previous ideas you need to steer clear of (I recently had a different pitch rejected because it was unintentionally similar to a previous Cliff Robinson cover and, let’s face it, opening yourself up to comparison with a droid of that calibre is never going to end well!). In this case, I felt like I had a decent concept in mind so I began to jot down some early ideas in Procreate.

Initial sketch – Joe, you really should get that head wound looked at.

Here’s one trick I sometimes use when sketching with unusual perspectives, which is to find a shot with roughly the same angle I’m aiming for and take note of the line directions. I then used those lines alone to very roughly outline and place the city blocks at the foot of the image. At this point, I was unsure what style of city block I would go for, so they’re quite indistinct but the placement is pretty much locked in.

Tower Block mania sets in for the art droid.

Also of note, I always try and find a dominant “shape” in my compositions as I find those are the ones that I have the most success with, artistically. Here, I clearly latched onto the triangular shape that frames Dredd between the city blocks as I liked the way it would lead the eye with the inclusion of the 2000 AD logo atop. If you imagine that block of text across the top, the direction in which I intend to take the reader is like a big number seven across the page.

As much as I was getting a good feeling from that initial doodle, I didn’t think it worthy enough to pitch in that state so decided to draw it up with a bit more oomph.

Next, I took to the 3D modelling software Poser to create some reference for those city blocks, though sticking with that original placement I sketched out previously. The mesh of these shapes were then used as guidelines for carving out all the areas of detail, which is a process I always spend far too long on because it’s difficult to find the right balance between those and the areas you don’t fill in.

Every perp’s worst nightmare – Giant Dredd takes over the city!

With this one, in particular, I wanted Dredd to remain the focus and so didn’t want to add too much complex detail around him.

I also made a few other subtle alterations from the original sketch, including tilting Dredd’s head down a bit, enlarging the hand and making the skull look more like something that could actually possibly reside within a human head.

I also had to cheat a bit with the shape of the skull so that it would meet with the top of the helmet in a more visually pleasing manner but the logo will mostly obscure that so shhhh, don’t tell anyone.

Citizens… Dredd is ALWAYS watching over you.

So, that “oomphed-up” rough was sent off to Tharg’s delegate on Earth, Matt Smith, who deemed it worthy of adorning the cover of 2000 AD and the final version was inked (all on my iPad Pro) with just a few minor adjustments.

Thanks to Paul for letting us inside the making of his latest 2000 AD cover.

You can read an interview with Paul and his co-winner, script-droid Laura Bailey here and both Paul and Laura talk about their DeMarco strip on the Thrill-Cast here. And you can find Paul on Twitter and Behance.

And for an extra treat here’s Paul’s first 2000 AD cover – Prog 2146…