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 PJ Holden talking about his cover marking the return of Noam Chimpsky.

PJ kindly took the time to walk us through the process of behind his popular cover…

My first cover idea was to use the Dark Knight Returns cover, and I mocked up a cover that – to be honest, I loved. I think Tharg liked it too, but rightly pointed out it was a bit of a clichéd cover idea (though I still think it would’ve worked for Chimpsky… maybe if we ever get a collection Hint Hint)

( I’m the Goddam Chimp Judge!)

So back to the drawing board I went, and pitched a few ideas.

(From ChimpanA to ChimpanZee – PJ’s primate preliminaries)

And I described them thusly:
A – Lone Chimpsky high above the big meg
B – Bounding into action (this is a filled-out version of the batman dark knight returns, I think it works as a knowing homage…)
C – Chimpsky, high up surveying the scene
D – Dropping down from the ramp, mad rush of cities, bit spider-versey…
E – Chimpsky on top of an Eagle, a kind of DREDD movie poster…
Okay, I admit, I do tend to lean on homages in my cover work.

Matt – Tharg – liked the look of A, I think he liked the amount of dead space he could potentially fit chimp-related puns in… Next step was to pencil and ink it…

(Surveillance Simian Supreme – Chimpsky keeping an eye on MC-1)

The pencils here were edited to make Chimpsky’s tower even taller. It’s sort of felt weird to leave that much space blank, but, as with Chimpsky’s previous (2000AD Message Board Winning ) cover (Thanks everyone!), I’m learning to give room to let things breath can be a good thing.

Inking next…

Something about this kept niggling me, I knew exactly what it was but I don’t think I wanted to admit it to myself – those arms on Chimpsky, they were too straight (not usually a problem) but they were perfectly in line with the tower, making a bit of a dull read, so, in Clip Studio, I basically bent the arms and dented up the tower a little…

Though, just before reinking, I did a value study – I did a bit of googling to find good looking sunset colours, and used one to create this value piece (converting all colour to grey) dropping the logo in just to see how it read.

At this point, I moved the image to my iPad pro – Procreate is a brilliant program for colouring, and could natively handle CMYK (Clip Studio can be a bit odd with CMYK – though I’ve never had problems before). But Procreate also introduced some new amazing watercolour brush tools and I wanted a lot of texture in the sky.

Using a single brush, I washed in the background in seconds (no really!) and was blown away with how effective it was given how little effort had gone into the colouring. Procreate, though, is a little more fiddly when you’re doing colour flats – colour flats allow you to isolate elements on a drawing so you can colour those bits separately.

So I spent far longer drawing these masks that you never see than I did doing the actual colouring. At this point, we’d point you to the video PJ’s uploaded to YouTube of the colouring process (https://youtu.be/xwtuKvj_m8s), but we’d be remiss if we didn’t give you just a few highlights here…

Colouring all done and dusted, sent it off, fingers crossed. And Tharg pronounced his pleasure, and I was issued extra oil rations for my efforts.

(The extra oil rations were immediately withdrawn as I had to get on a finish the 5 episodes…)

And that’s it, the makings of a great looking cover! Thank you so much, as always, to PJ for a great run-through of a great cover.

You can find the return of simian supreme Chimpsky in Prog 2178, which is out now!

And, as a bonus, the last time PJ and Chimpsky were on the cover, and inside, 2000 AD with Prog 2131…