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 a suitably spooky cover from Tazio Bettin, showing us the creepy goings-on in the latest Sinister Dexter strip, The Thing in The Thing. Well, actually it’s the latest Dexter strip, as Dan Abnett and Tazio have broken the partnership between the two greatest gunsharks in Downlode. Currently, Dexter and his gang have gone on the run from the rogue AI that’s taken over Downlode, with Dex’s ex-partner, back from the dead and reanimated by the AI, hot on their heels.

You can find this mean and moody Tazio Bettin piece on the cover of 2000 AD Prog 2283 – out wherever you get your Thrill Power on 25 May.

TAZIO BETTIN: The current chapter of Dexter  brings us back to the atmospheres of weird fiction from the ’20s and ’30s. If you have never read any horror stories by Arthur Machen, Robert Bloch, Frank Belknap-Long, or Clark Ashton-Smith, that is your cue to rectify that.

Dan’s script plays beautifully with classic horror tropes, so I knew immediately that I needed to convey a similar mood through the cover, and that I wanted it to be a homage to classic horror covers and posters. My inspiration came from Hammer horror movie posters from the ’60s and ’70s, especially those featuring the legendary Peter Cushing and, of course, Christopher Lee as Dracula. Those artworks used to have such iconic atmospheres, with just the right amount of cheesiness.

Going back to the classics is a great exercise in analysing the compositions and palettes, see what made the posters so iconic, and possibly learn something new and valuable.

Paul Wegener
Tazio’s inspiration for Rev. Wegener.

Let me backtrack one moment to mention that, when I read the first script, I was overjoyed to realize that one of the new characters in this story would be a perfect match for the semblance of german actor Paul Wegener, best known for his role as the eponymous monster from german Expressionist movie Der Golem from 1920 (yes, this is another clue if you haven’t seen it). I’d wanted to draw him as a character in a comic for a long time, but it couldn’t be just anyone. It had to be a memorable character, and there it was!

I suggested as much to Dan, who agreed and went as far as even naming the character Reverend Wegener. I’d be curious to know how many readers will get this somewhat obscure homage… His face is very striking and intense, and hopefully, I managed to do him justice.

With that in mind, and back to the cover. I had the iconic villain, I had the inspiration. The rest of the pieces fell into place rather smoothly and naturally. I wanted the cover to be all about foreshadowing and make the reader wonder. What happened to Billi? What are those moths about? What’s that thing in the barn?

Compared to my previous cover, the process in this one was much less cerebral and much more like a natural flow of connecting the dots and let the pieces fall into place. So much so that it’s hard for me to analyze it and put it into words.

I sent some initial proposals to Matt and Dan, but it was an easy choice: everyone agreed that the one to the right here was the right one. Since the story is mainly centered on Dexter and Billi Octavo, I left the other characters out this time, favoring immediacy and expressiveness.

There was little changed from layout to pencils, except for minor adjustments in the placement of elements.

There is one element I changed in the transition from pencils to inks: Wegener’s face felt too much like a caricature, and I wasn’t satisfied. I didn’t want to go that far with the cheesiness, so I redrew it.

The last remaining part was choosing a colour theme for this drawing. Green is easily linked to the horror and supernatural genre due to the eerie quality it can have. I thought I’d use it to highlight the elements of danger: the barn, Reverend Wegener, the moths, and chose background colours that would work well in highlighting those elements, in this care a purple dominance. Hopefully that also adds some creepiness and surreal quality to the whole picture.

I am very honoured to have a chance to draw a cover for 2000AD magazine again, and I hope the readers will like it!

Tazio, we’re certain the readers are going to love it!

Thanks so much to Tazio for sending that one along. Love it when the artists go deep into the ideas behind the cover and Tazio certainly did that!

If you want to read more from Tazio, check out the making of 2000 AD Prog 2259 here.

You can find 2000 AD Prog 2283 wherever you pick up your weekly dose of Ghafflebette comics, including the 2000 AD web shop from 25 May.