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 have the stunning cover for Prog 2176. Stunning in a couple of ways. First, it marks the return of Simon Fraser to the cover of the Galaxy’s Greatest. And second, because it’s the surprise return of Chief Judge Hershey!

Yes, in a surprise kept from everyone until the very day of publication of 2000 AD Prog 2175 on 1 April, it was revealed that Chief Judge Hershey didn’t perish from the microbial infection ravaging her body back in the pages of Prog 2150, but instead put in place a plan to right the wrongs she’d inflicted on the world with Judge Smiley.

Hershey getting a load off her mind in deadly fashion on the final cover to Prog 2176

HERSHEY: DISEASE, featuring the surprise return former Chief Judge Hershey, is written by Rob Williams with art by Simon Fraser. It all kicked off in 2000 AD Prog 2175 and continues with the cover feature on Prog 2176 by Simon Fraser.

Death is the longest walk – but for Judge Barbara Hershey, it’s only the first step!

So, here’s the magnificent Simon Fraser to tell us all about the making of a cover in particularly difficult circumstances, in the middle of chaos from the Covid-19 virus and a house move… and as it so often does, it all began with a missive from Tharg’s minion on Earth, editor Matt Smith…

“I was thinking of having a moody shot of Hershey on the cover for episode 2 (I don’t want to do it for episode 1 as that’ll give the game away). Would you be able to fit that in? I could do with having it for early next month.” Sez Matt.

The problem is that I’m in the middle of moving house, from the Bronx across the Hudson River to New Jersey. I’m already fighting to keep on track with the schedule, so adding a cover is going to be ….tricky.

Nevertheless, it’s late at night, I’m surrounded by mountains of cardboard and a very clear idea comes to me. My Scanner is packed so I draw what I think into an old sketchbook and shoot it with my cellphone.

What you staring at punk? I just died, you think I’m in the mood for this?

“I’m in the middle of my move right now. My scanner is packed and most of my computer. This is an idea I just had for a Hershey cover. Just her, looking intense, a bleeding nose, at the centre of the carnage. Kind of Frank Quietly-esque , but with extra grit.” :I sez to Matt.

The pose is an old standby of mine, the 3/4 elevation shot. I used it on one of my Dante covers. It’s pared-down, she’s centred in the frame underscoring her isolation and vulnerability. Her face is a mask of rage and resolution though. This story is Hershey’s story, her journey, it’s important that we see her face and be aware of her emotional state.

From the start of this thing, it’s been important to me that I draw Hershey as a woman in her late 50s, her actual age. I know that Mega-City One has de-ageing tech that can keep someone like Dredd functional well into his 80s, but I feel that there has to be a cost to that. Hershey is physically very strong, still capable, but the years and the responsibility have left a mark. Hershey is an intensely practical person and she’s been in the public eye for a large part of her life as Chief Judge. This story isn’t about that. She’s done with pleasing other people and she’s in quite a bit of pain. This is all written on her face and how she holds herself. The character is now very alive in my head so the drawing comes with very little effort.

I tidy up my photo/scan, pull back a bit from the figure and add in more background carnage, then shift it to blue line…

Blue? Of course I’m bloody blue. You try being me right now creep.

The linework is done in Clip Studio using a ‘Real G-Pen’ nib for the figures and a lighter, less gritty pen for the background detail...

I’m not telling you again. Stop with the staring or you’re next for Hershey’s law.

Now for the first pass at the colour in Photoshop. I could do this in Clip Studio too, but I’m under time pressure and I’m much more familiar with using Photoshop CS5 for colouring…

Colour adds nothing to Hershey’s mood

I’d dropped in a fade to push the background back and pop the figure forwards, but it was at the cost of the chaotic destruction being diminished.

I don’t want it to get too polite and polished, we need the chaos, so I nix the fade...

Fraser, ditch the fade. I want them to know just what taking a bite of Hershey looks like.

There are some problems with scaling on the plane with the various bits of debris, that’s a problem I find with working digitally. It’s easy to lose sight of the whole image as you zoom in too close and obsess about one detail. It’s all too easy to obsessively polish a cover. Turning into some kind of perfect soulless thing.

I don’t want this to look like I’ve inked it with a needle. So the imperfections stay.

The Removal Men are literally at the door and I need to pack up the computer.

Upload to Server. Done!

And that’s that, another stunning Simon Fraser cover, a fabulous image of Hershey for what’s looking like it’s going to be her finest hour.

Thank you to Simon for taking the time to get the cover done and for talking to us. You’ll be happy to hear he’s out of New York and in the relatively quieter and safer environs of New Jersey. We wish him all the best there as he keeps safe and healthy.

2000 AD Prog 2176, featuring that stunning cover and containing part two of Hershey: Disease by Rob Williams and Simon Fraser, is out on 8 April.

We’re still publishing, we’re still getting the Prog out to newsagents and stores where possible. It’s also available from the 2000 AD web shop for those of you across the world who can’t get to a print copy.

And for everyone else, no matter where you are, New York, New Jersey, the USA or here in the UK, keep yourselves safe and well, we know it’s bad right now, but we’ll see it all through. This too shall pass, just keep doing the right thing, keep your social distance, be kind, be good, and wash your hands. We’ll see you again on the other side of this thing.