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’re chatting to artdroid extraordinaire Tom Foster about his cover to 2000 AD Prog 2225, introducing us to the new Judge Dredd storyline written by Ken Niemand and drawn by Foster – A Penitent Man.

Tom Foster’s come a long, long way since winning the 2013 2000 AD Art Portfolio Competition at Thought Bubble. His first 2000 AD work, off the back of his win, was the Tharg’s Terror Tale: Done Deal, written by Alec Worley and published in 2000 AD Prog 1886. His distinctive style was an immediate hit with 2000 AD fans and he’s gone on to co-create and illustrate the first Storm Warning series in the Judge Dredd Megazine, written by Leah Moore and John Reppion, as well as having his art on Dredd and Sinister Dexter.

And now, we get to see his first longer Dredd tale, as Old Joe is on the case of an ex-Judge back in MC-1 after serving his 20 on Titan. It’s got plenty of moody Dredd going on, plus we get to see Joe butting chins and badges against the SJS – looks like being a great one, and all with Tom’s cracking art.

Now, over to Tom for the skinny on his Prog 2225 cover –

TOM FOSTER: When I get a cover assignment, I generally like to give Tharg three options to choose from, in the hope that I can avoid incurring his wrath.

In this instance, The Mighty One had given me a proposed brief, so one of the options was already spoken for. It was to feature Dredd on his lawmaster, backdropped by an image of the erstewhile Judge Asher, undergoing the horrors of Titan surgery, superimposed over the Mega-City One skyline.

(He always feels like somebody’s watching him – And he has no privacy (ooh ooh)
– always with the up to the minute musical references!)

The second option was of an over-sized Dredd sitting in judgement over a tiny Asher, under the glare of a skull-shaped spotlight (representing the SJS)

(Watching you… watching me – more cutting-edge musical references there!)

Lastly, I went for a bit of an oblique one – diagrams of the surgery, in the style of creepy old hand-tinted plate illustrations. I didn’t think it was very likely that this one would get chosen but figured it would make for a bit of memorably weird fun if it were, so included it just in case.

(Dentistry on Titan – still easier to get than an NHS dentist in Britain!)

I mocked the first two up with 3D models in Daz 3D Studio, hand-drew the third and coloured all three in Photoshop.

Tharg picked the second one, so I started working up a pencil rough.

I used to use 3D models for just about everything, but now I only use them now and again, either for particularly complex images or for something like this, where the picture is so stripped down and simple that everything rests on the legitimacy of a few basic elements. It’s also pretty quick and easy to throw a 3D version together when it’s such an uncomplicated composition, particularly as I already had so many of the 3D elements already and just had to pose them. (Thanks, incidentally, to Alex Ronald for letting me use his Dredd helmet and pauldron models).

(A beautiful view of Alex Ronald’s helmet there
– seriously, Tom gives us a line like that and doesn’t expect smut?)

I don’t trace any of my 3D mock-ups anymore – now I try to draw everything from scratch, only using digital models or photos for reference. So I drew an A4 rough in pencil and sent it on to Tharg.

(So, they say you’ve turned over a new leaf? Chinny reckon says Dredd)

Tharg approved it, so I worked up an A3 finished pencil version below, but Tharg felt Dredd was looking a little old and craggalicious about the face, so I applied some Vaseline to my scanner and scanned it again. Of course not – I drew it properly, like a good boy, and got a nice little pat on the head.

.

From there, I printed out a blueline copy and inked over it with a sable brush, using a bit of sponge for the texture effect of the spotlight beam.

(You can see why he got booted to Titan
– absolutely no idea giant Dredd is watching him, terrible Judge observational skills)

The colours seemed like a pretty straightforward proposition, given how much black was in the image, but it ended up taking quite a while to get them right. It can be tricky, when colouring a line drawing that relies so much on dramatic lighting, to judge just how realistic to make the lighting effects. It can either look very flat or totally inconsistent with the original drawing.

In the end, the key was in blowing out the colour as much as possible near the spotlight and only having richer, deeper colours towards the outskirts of the picture. It might seem like an obvious solution, but I’m quite thick – so that can make things more difficult.

At this stage, I was pretty happy that the cover was done, but, when I mocked it up with the logo and the rest of the trade dress, the black areas in the background started to look very empty and flat.  I think, when it’s just the picture, your brain just sort of ignores the shadowy background and focusses on the areas of detail – but once a bit of lettering gets involved, it interferes with that sort of tuning out process. So I put some texture in the background with a sort of red, spackly effect to match the rim lighting on Dredd’s helmet and pauldron.

(I am Joe, Judge of Mega-City One!)

This was another case of trying to avoid a photo-realistic lighting effect, in favour of something that would fit the line art style – so I kept it to basically spots of a single colour on black, rather than anything more graded. The biggest inspiration for the effect was the background in that bit in the opening titles of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, where he says “I am Adam, Prince of Eternia”. I always liked that look. To say nothing of Adam’s exceptional sense of dress.

That’s about it, really. I enjoyed this one a lot and feel like Dredd’s face came out pretty well. This is my first multi-part Dredd story, so I wanted it to have a dramatic signature image that summed up the story in the simplest possible terms. In that sense, I think this one works.

Thank you to Tom for giving us that look into the cover for his first Judge Dredd multi-parter. You can find both Tom’s cover and the start of his Dredd series, A Penitent Man, with the new 2000 AD Prog 2225 – it’s out on 31 March in newsagents, comic shops, and you can get it from the 2000 AD web shop.

And we all learned a new word too – Pauldron. It’s a component of plate armour that evolved from spaulders in the 15th century – so yes, Dredd’s shoulder armour. Who says comics aren’t educational?

For more from Tom, check out his brilliant From The Drawing Board video, read an interview with him from back in 2018, and go follow him on Twitter. Tom’s first 2000 AD cover, to Prog 1986 back in 2016, was the subject of the first 2000 AD website Covers Uncovered feature, with Pete Wells giving us the lowdown…