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!

Time for the latest Judge Dredd Megazine – issue 455, which is out right now, featuring with a rather stunning Judge Anderson cover from superstar artist Rachael Stott.

Rachael’s work was most recently seen about these parts with her stunning rendition of Indigo Prime in the 45 Years of 2000 AD Art Book. She’s perhaps best known for her work for Marvel and DC, including Spider-Man and Supergirl, but she’s made incredible interior and cover artwork for IDW, Titan, Archie, Image, Boom!, and many more. Right now, she’s drawing the adventures of a certain Fantastic Four-some over at Marvel Comics.

Anderson gets the cover of the Megazine this month due to a brand-new series, Dissolution, starting this month in the Megazine, with writer Maura McHugh and artist Lee Carter picking up on the aftermath of the Be Psi-ing You one-off published in Prog 2250, and finds Cass and fellow psi Corann Ryan being held under guard at Psi-Division. To keep you up to speed, that story is reprinted in this month’s bagged supplement (the Carter droid taking the opportunity to remaster his artwork to stunning effect) alongside 2019’s The Dead Run series.

Right then, time to see and hear Rachael’s take on what is a stunning cover – and extra credit to her for getting ‘psyched’ in there with her very first sentence!

Psych… Rachael’s very earliest designs for the Megazine cover… spot the deliberate mistake?

RACHAEL STOTT: When Matt – sorry, who’s this Matt? – When Tharg approached me about doing a Judge Anderson cover, I was pretty psyched as I don’t think I’ve down any Judges professionally yet. That uniform is so iconic and we’ve seen so many interpretations that it’s always fun to approach a character and have a serious think about ‘Okay, how would *I* draw them?’ ‘What does the Rachael version of Judge Anderson look like?’

And I think we all have to just go back to that classic Carlos Ezquerra version of Dredd and determine what we all found so compelling about it. 

I always think about how Dredd, if envisioned as an American character, would’ve looked way more muscle-bound and thick. That classic Captain America Dorito-shaped torso. A superhero. Whereas instead, Dredd’s design is all about contrast – huge golden shoulder epaulets next to a solid black, unrendered jumpsuit. A zipper (when was the last time you saw a zipper on a superhero that wasn’t Catwoman?) Practical yet impractical. Realistic but cartoony. Narrow hips, thin thighs, but big chunky pouches (For spare change). Contrary to what you’d think, being so top-heavy in his design makes him look really solid. I think that’s why artists like Jock are so perfect for Dredd – huge slabs of black ink accentuating all these big chunky, contrasting shapes.

I’d seen many versions of Dredd and Anderson that went for a realistic-looking approach, but I really wanted to swing the other direction as far as I could. I wanted to accentuate anything that is already over the top about the uniform – I think that’s when the design really shines.

It’s all about the epaulets – Rachael Stott’s linework for her Anderson cover

RS: So that meant, for starters, the biggest epaulets I can get away with. (So much easier to ‘cheat’ on how they’re placed when you don’t have to worry about panel-to-panel continuity).

A narrow waist still, and more chunky pouches (for snacks), and weirdly the ridiculously chunky zipper became my favourite part? It’s funny when the stuff that should be boring to draw ends up fun.

Rachael Stott’s Anderson in initial colour stages, complete with ‘ridiculously chunky zipper’ and however many links to the chain she needs!
And more Anderson with colours, layers, and tones – psy-chedelic trippiness not shown

RS: Then for the colour and effects, I tried to come up with a way of showing telepathy that made the image a bit trippy, and to be honest I just messed around with layers a lot until I found colour combinations that I liked.

One of the original sketches for the cover had her psychic-ness messing with the logo – but that may have been too much of a logistical/branding nightmare for Tharg to allow. 

So the drawing part was methodical, but the colouring was throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what stuck.

I ended up really happy with the finished piece, I hope I get to draw more Judges in the future!

Well, we reckon Rachael’s not alone in wanting her to do more Judges in the future… Anderson, Joe, or anyone from Justice Department, that would be a great thing to see.

Thanks so much to Rachael Stott for another wonderful stream of consciousness Covers Uncovered and for letting us into the mind of yet another artist!

You can find the Judge Dredd Megazine issue 455 everywhere Thrill Power is sold, including the 2000 AD web shop.

Oh, and as an extra special treat for you… here’s Rachael’s wonderful Indigo Prime piece we mentioned for the 45 Years of 2000 AD Art Book – and you can get hold of the hardback version here at the 2000 AD web shop or here for the web-exclusive slipcase edition.