War! Those pesky ‘Martians’ are constructing a contraption to block the sun’s rays, wiping out the entire solar system! This devious plot has finally prompted the nations of Earth to come together as one to launch a final offensive against the occupying alien menace on Venus! Meanwhile, on the surface of the planet, Ahron and Ikarus frantically search for a way to wipe out the alien threat. Oh-laaaa indeed!

I asked King of Covers, D’israeli to tell us how he crafted this latest masterpiece. He said “This was a weird one – I’d just finished Scarlet Traces: Cold War series 1, Tharg very kindly gave me a cover for series 2. However, Ian Edginton’s series outline wasn’t in yet; we’d no idea what it would be about, beyond the fact that Ahron and Ikarus would be in it. So Matt came up with a generic “Ahron fending off tripods” concept, and we took it from there. This also explains why I didn’t do my usual three roughs for this one – I submitted only the one you see, and that went through.”

“I started by arranging the tripod models I’d made for the first series in an appropriate composition to make up the background of the image. The original HG Wells tripods were graceful and organic, like animals, so I just used to draw them by hand, but the new Venusian ones are meant to be a cross between deep-sea diving gear and military tanks, so I made them more clunky and complex, and at that point building a model was the easiest way to go.”

This also works as a basis for Groucho Marx in a chef’s hat.

“The video below gives you an all-round view of the tripod model. I didn’t bother building the legs, as those can easily be drawn by hand; the checker pattern on the finished render helps me to draw in addition details like lines of rivets or oil stains more easily. Missing from this version of the model is a stick that extends from the base of the model to ground level, making sure the tripod is always the same height…”

 D’Israeli continues “The model was imported into Manga Studio, and I traced over it, adding the figure and the tentacles. This is the rough layout approved by Tharg. Since I was kicking my heels at the time, I put a bit more work into this one than usual.”

“Oola! Keep still while I’m drying your hair!”

“Once my rough was approved, I copied the “inks’ from the rough drawing onto a new layer and filled them with pale blue to use as the rough basis for the finished drawing. I also made sure the reference model shot was visible, as I’d be tracing from that when I inked the tripods.”

“Mind the Checkerboard, Ahron!”

“The “pencil” drawing (in red) firmed up the figure of Ahron and fixed the position of the tentacles.”

“Aw, my own little Venusian. I will love him, and hug him, and call him George!”

“Time for the inks. The “ink” outlines to the figure, tentacles and tripods, added using Manga Studio’s Pen Tools…”

“Y-you have a snot hanging out of your nose…”

“I added the “painted” shading to the inks using the Lasso Fill tool to add spot blacks, then the Brush Tool to soften up edges where necessary. The end result should look hand-painted, avoiding the “too-perfect” airbrushed look of much digital colouring.”

“One down, twenty nine to go!”

“The Paint Bucket Tool in Manga Studio has the nifty ability to draw blacks, so it’s much better than Photoshop for putting flat colour under drawings . The Lasso Fill Tool – which automatically fills any shape your draw with your chosen colour, also helps make Manga Studio a fantastic tool for colourists.”

It takes over an hour for the aliens to do the Hokey Cokey.

“Colour-Shading – I added a red tint to the piece; this will be the underlying shadow colour out of which all the other colours “pop.”

A water pistol!?!

Next D’Israeli adds a Colour rim light, he says “This is a blue “rim light” – a light that just picks out the edges of Ahron and the tentacles, pulling them forward from the background tripods…”

While Ahron was busy fighting, Ikarus fired up the sunbed.

“The final step was to put in the bright yellow highlights from the muzzle flash of Ahron’s raygun. These pull the figure away from the background and direct the eye to the main character. At this point I can export the file from Manga Studio to Photoshop for the final file processing and upload!”

The aliens weren’t happy with the Oh La La Land Oscar Mix Up.

Huge, huge thanks to Matt “D’Israeli” Brooker for sending his usual meticulous process notes and images. Watching his artwork take shape is a real pleasure and this series of Scarlet Traces looks incredible.

Will mankind be able to stop the aliens in time? Will Ahron escape his home planet? What will happen to the offspring of Ikarus and Irya? There’s only one place to find out Earthlets!