Welcome once more to 2000 AD Covers Uncovered, where we get the art droids to spill the beans over the trials and tribulations of what goes into making the covers of the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic so very special…

Pete Wells started it all off and now, with Pete’s blessing, we’re carrying it all on. 

This time, it’s time for Rob Davis talking us through the latest appearance of the Mighty Tharg on the cover… It’s 2000 AD Covers Uncovered, it’s Prog 2159 (out on 27 November)… time to bow down once more before the Thrill Power delivered by Tharg!

PROG 2159 Cover
(Tharg see all – Including just what you’re doing right now!)

Hopefully you all know Rob’s name already, given that he’s the author of the frankly incredible Motherless Oven trilogy, with the thid and final volume, The Book Of Forks, out right now from SelfMadeHero. It’s one of the best graphic novels of the year… do yourself a favour and check it out!

Now, here’s Rob Davis to take us through the latest cover for 2000 AD and the latest appearance of the Galaxy’s Greatest editor…

Matt [Smith – Tharg’s earthly representative] asked me to do a cover a couple of years ago for Counterfeit Girl and it was a lot of fun. It had been 20 years since I did anything 2000 AD related, but I really enjoyed doing it.

This autumn when I finally finished my trilogy of books for SelfMadeHero (The Motherless Oven, The Can Opener’s Daughter and The Book of Forks) I sent Matt an email asking if he had anything else for me. My timing was good because he had a cover that was looking for an artist and he offered it to me. He said he wanted Tharg on it.

Well, I’m of the generation whose first experience of 2000 AD was the 1977 TV advert with Tharg ordering us kids to buy his new comic (which we did!), so drawing him for the cover 42 years later sounded pretty cool.

I had a look through the archives and realised that there have been a lot of Tharg covers and most of the good ideas have been done, so I settled on a kind of montage of great thrills from the past cast like shadows in his cavernous imagination and Tharg the Mighty glittering like a jewel in the centre. I think I probably got as much out of the colour and form as I did the theme in the end.

In terms of roughs, I produced countless scribbles on scraps of paper looking for a simple composition that felt like a Tharg cover. I wanted him to look imperious, alien and mysterious, but really I think it brought the 2000 AD fan out in me and I enjoyed getting as many Thrills in as I could. It probably dates me how many of the characters I drew go back to the early years of the comic.

I sent this digital rough over to Matt. He said he liked it and was happy for me to draw it up…

Tharg 2000 AD cover - without text
(Tharg 2000 AD cover rough – Look on my Works, says Tharg The Mighty!)

Next in the preparation of the cover.. pencils…

I pencil my art on a wacom tablet in photoshop. I prioritise getting everything in the right place: the compositional elements, the blacks, the proportions, and the attitude etc. The line you end up with is a bit ugly drawn in photoshop, but that prevents me suffering the misery of the thumbnails or pencils looking better than the final inks. This is a perennial problem for comic artists who often find that the life they had in their initial thumbnail sketch can never be recreated in the final art.

Tharg 2000 AD cover - outlines
(Pencils for the cover – here’s looking at you, Tharg)

And now to inking the thing…

I print out a blue line of the wacom pencils scaled up to A3 on Bristol board and then ink with a brush and indian ink or Pentel Brush pen. I try to inject some life into the inks if I can and also try to avoid too many unnecessary idiosyncrasies if possible. 

I was quite happy with Tharg’s head because it has a decent mix of figurative and abstract.

On one hand it looks like an interesting jigsaw of abstract 2D shapes on the other it looks like I’ve rendered the 3D form of the head. I always admire artists who find that line between those two approaches and that’s what I was aiming for there.

Tharg 2000 AD cover - outlines closeup on Tharg
(Oh, crack a smile, Tharg!)

The next stage… adding in the colours

To make Tharg pop I used his spectrum opposite (violet) as the background. I also dropped the tone and saturation on the background. Hopefully when it’s printed the familiar characters in the background won’t be immediately obvious, but will emerge, like childhood hallucinations in a dark room.

Well, that was the idea anyway.

The finished cover - without text
(The finished product… Tharg casts his discerning eye)

Thank you so much to Rob Davis for talking us through the latest appearance of the Mighty Tharg on the cover of his comic. We think Tharg will be pleased.

We heartily recommend you follow Rob Davis on Twitter here.

Now… here’s that Counterfeit Girl cover for Prog 2008 that Rob was talking about…

Counterfeit Girl cover for Prog 2008

And a few more of the appearances of the great and mighty Tharg from the past..

Dave Gibbons - Prog 127 Cover
Dave Gibbons – Prog 127…
Robin Smith - Prog 283 Cover
Robin Smith – Prog 283…
Kev Walker - Prog 1313 Cover
Kev Walker – Prog 1313…
John Higgins - Prog 1919 Cover
John Higgins – Prog 1919… 
Dylan Teague - Prog 2111 Cover
Dylan Teague – Prog 2111…