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2000 AD Covers Uncovered – It’s a ‘Turner’ of the century cover from Boo Cook!

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 it’s the turn of Boo Cook to adorn the cover of 2000 AD Prog 2188 with a The Order cover featuring ye olde Armoured Gideon in a classic naval battle pretty much right out of a Turner painting (and thanks to Boo, you’ll be getting plenty of Turner puns all through this one).

It looks like this…

You’ll have been thrilling to Boo’s most recent artistic delights with the psychedelic Dreddverse tale Blunt III in the Judge Dredd Megazine recently. But his credits for TMO stretch back some 20 years plus now, beginning with Prog 1208 in August 2000, on a Steve Moore penned Future Shock; Home from the War.

So, to get the skinny on the cover, it’s time to Turner this Covers Uncovered over to Boo Cook…

Portrait of the artist with his At-At on his Ed-Ed.
Photo courtesy of 2012 interview with Brighton Source.

.As this summer marks my twentieth year in the service of Tharg’s mighty organ, I was very pleased to be back on cover duties.

I think Tharg’s initial request for the cover was for the 18th-century version of Armoured Gideon to be firing on an old ship in a Turner-esque naval battle. It took me a few seconds to process that as it’s pretty far removed from what I usually get up to, but I do like getting thrown a curveball now and then.

The painter J.M.W. Turner had previously made quite an impression on me during an A-level art trip to London, so I knew roughly where the cover was heading. Other highlights of that trip included an aubergine fight (not pictured on the cover).

I had a good search for Turner naval battle paintings online and there were plenty to get my juices flowing. Apart from getting a decent angle on the robot, the main problem – I quickly realised – would be finding a balance between ‘full Turner’ and the artistic sensibilities of a modern comic cover. This basically meant making the seascape and ship a little more obvious and slightly less impressionistic so the cover still had a bit of visual clout while hopefully being recognisable as a Turner homage.

The initial colour rough Turnered in to Tharg for approval

So I knocked up that colour rough and sent it off to Tharg and aside from us both agreeing that Gideon needed to obscure a bit less logo it was good to go.

I usually have two approaches to my comic art these days – the traditional ink and photoshop colouring route or the more gritty and expressive heavily tonal pencil and photoshop route, so given the nature of this beast I went for the latter.

Boo Cook Turner-ing in those pencils

In this approach I mostly tend to fill the entire page with heavy graphite but as I knew the sky would be fully photoshop painted I figured it would be a waste of time to go tonal on the sky at the pencil stage and just made sure that rough compositional info was there.

After scanning the pencils in I got stuck straight into the sky – I do love painting a wild sky in photoshop. A good example of the changes I made compared to my usual style is the sun in the background – it’s heavily textured, way more than I would usually paint a sun. In fact, I wouldn’t put any texture on a sun usually but being a Turner tribute I splozzed the paint around a bit (although not to the level of full Turner).

(Yeah – splozzed – Boo tells us it’s a technical term!)

Yep – look at those Cook Turner-esque Sun textures!

Painting the sea was great fun, again not something I do often but I really enjoyed borrowing some deep tealy greens and translucent wave-tops from the Turner reference.

Once I’d nailed a look for Gideon having scanned various quite different versions of him into my brain I painted him up adding plenty of water splashes and explodey stuff in an attempt to arrive at some semblance of 18th century Pacific Rim style fayre.

Pacific Rimeon?

As a side note the lazerz were originally going to be orangey fire blasts but they conflicted with the sun too much. FACT.

Turnering from red laser to blue laser – same result –
Armoured Gideon wins at Battleships again.

As is often the case with my artwork, my favourite bit of the painting is completely insignificant and almost unnoticeable – in this case, the unlucky buccaneer draped over a plank of driftwood in the foreground…

The alternate ending to Titanic, where Leo kicked Rose off the door!

Anyway, that’s about the size of it apart from thinking up lots of cover tag lines while I worked such as “TIDE TURNER!” and “TURNER THE CENTURY!” all of which I am very happy to say Tharg did not use…

Thanks to Boo for chatting and showing us his workings out of the cover he eventually Turner-ed in (plus giving this one its title). 2000 AD Prog 2188 is available from comic shops, newsagents, and the 2000 AD web shop.

Now, Turner-ing to a quick bonus cover feature from the Cook Droid…

2000 AD Prog 1500 (2006) with Tharg resplendent…

2000 AD Prog 1532 (2007) with Dredd under the flag of Booth…

Another Joseph Turner inspired cover, this time The Red Seas for 2000 AD Prog 1699:

2000 AD Prog 1817 (2013) – a glorious Ezqueera homage…

2000 AD Prog 1830 (2013)- gloriously old-school going-ons for Gunheadz

2000 AD Prog 1999 (2006) – Move along cits…

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2000 AD Covers Uncovered – Mark Harrison takes us OUT with Prog 2187

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, it’s the turn of Mark Harrison and 2000 AD Prog 2187, cover-featuring the fabulous looking new series he’s drawing, The Out, written by Dan Abnett. Obviously, these two gents have got form, having collaborated for a long time on the rather spectacularly good Grey Area.

The Out begins in Prog 2187, out now from comic shops, newsagents, and the 2000 AD web shop.

Abnett describes The Out thus…

The Out is a cosmic odyssey, really. The story of human beings (well, one in particular) wandering out in the far-flung reaches of space, encountering a galactic milieu of alien species. SF is chock full of stories about mankind reaching the stars and becoming an important, or THE important, species, but what if we’re just a minor footnote no one’s ever heard of? Little more than tourists on the greatest Grand Tour/gap year ever? The character, Cyd, has gone so far into “The Out” that she’s forgotten where Earth is and hasn’t seen another human for years. It’s a story about what happens when the ‘wonder’ of the endless holiday starts to pale. What does it mean (to her) to be human? Has humanity made any impact at all? It’s a bit quirky, character-driven, and very alien.

And thematically, he and Mark refer to it as… ‘A love letter to the SF book-jacket art we grew up with’.

To give you an idea just what they mean… here’s the first page of The Out for you all to marvel over…

So, with that imagery burning it’s way into your minds, over to the great Mark Harrison to talk us through the making of the cover…

After pitching Tharg a promotional image for The Out, a first cover to introduce the strip was asked for.

Dan and I felt the promo image was a bit too on the money and revelatory for a cover so something more like the slow burn story unfolding and low key would be more appropriate.

The main character Cyd is a sort of Intergalactic Geographic/space tourism photojournalist, documenting new worlds opened up to the human race. Something akin to the emerging tourism industry of the 1950’s when exotic destinations became accessible to the general public. Whilst part of The Out’s image brief was to be inspired by the science fiction book covers of the 1970’s I thought this image should also work as an advert, subliminally influenced by the travel posters of the 1930s onwards. This sort of thing…

An image of our bon viveur heroine Cyd calling out to join her at her table outside an alien café enjoying a local (and escaping) delicacy. The scene should be bright, breezy, pastel-coloured, with simplified background elements, a beach scene, a building/night club and form of transport (in this case a Chris Foss inspired starship).  

Quite a bit of time and effort was put into moving these elements around to get a pleasing composition. Cyd’s pose also pays homage to Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

As for putting it all together… here’s Mark with the details…

I pretty much steamed ahead with this. I threw together some elements, silhouettes and moved them around until I got something pleasing for the background. 

I’ve been recently experimenting with custom shapes in PhotoShop, a technique used by some concept artists. A shape could be any defined image; in this instance a tyre image used to create a circular sci-fi jetty.

The seated foreground figure was redrawn a few times at the digital pencilling stage; the positioning of the legs was a problem. 

I decided to swap the character around and have the legs facing away from rather than under the table, the figure placement used to balance what would have been a centre-weighted composition.  

The inks included existing art of a spaceship that was also used to balance the image.

Flat colouring was added and edge lighting and a layer of lights derived from other files to add detail. which also informed the image such as reflections.   

Finally a pass of tone and tweaking the image, brightening the scene behind the character to add focus.

A late addition was to add an oval frame to the scene to mirror the starship and have the art break the frame for extra emphasis. It also adds to the poster feel and graphical conventions. 

And that’s it!

Of course, when Harrison says ‘And that’s it!’, what I and all other non-artists say is, bloody hell, that’s a fabulous amount of work going into this cover. Thank you so much to Mark for getting that to us and sharing it with you all.

The Out begins in Prog 2187, out now from comic shops, newsagents, and the 2000 AD web shop. It’s looking like it’s going to be a great series.

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2000 AD Covers Uncovered – Jock Returns For The 2020 2000 AD Sci-Fi Special!

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 year, the 2000 AD Sci-Fi Special marks 20 years since the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic joined games developer Rebellion, with a massive 100-page celebration of the last two decades! Inside, you’ll find brand new stories with classic Rebellion-era archive strips – with some special guests cropping up to really make this a true 2000 AD birthday celebration!

And all this under a stunning cover from a 2000 AD legend – Jock! So it’s time to settle down with one of the Rebellion era’s greatest artists and get him to tell us all about the making of a cover worthy of the celebrations!

You can find the 2000 AD Sci-Fi Special from all good newsagents and comic book stores on Wednesday 24th June! Or simply pre-order from the 2000 AD web shop using the link below!

PRE-ORDER NOW >>

I always try and fit in doing something for 2000AD if I can, and when Matt asked if I’d like to do the cover for this years Summer Special, I was happy to take it on. 

It also turned out that it would be a ‘bookend’ homage to a Dredd piece I had drawn 20 years ago, marking the anniversary of Rebellion taking over the Galaxies Greatest Comic. 

The original 2000 AD Dreddcon – an image so damn good it’s worth doing again!

Matt asked for a shot of Dredd looming over Oxford this time, rather than the London of the first Dreddcon image.

A fairly simple brief, with not too much wiggle room, so I comped together some shots of Oxford for the foreground and drew a quick sketch of Dredd.

Jock’s original sketch – A Dredd so scary even the buses crash!

I liked the pose, as did Matt, so once approved I blew up the sketch to full size and traced it off to keep the nuances of the way Dredd looked in the final piece.

Worked some more details into the figure and inked it over a couple of days while working on other projects. The final piece is quite large, on 16’ x 20’ art board.I reduced the size of his head slightly in Photoshop before sending the final file, so Dredd would feel as monolithic as possible – Dredd always looks best looking larger than life.

And that makes Dredd larger than life… A Backstreet Boys lyric? Really?

Chris Blythe was the colourist on the original Dreddcon piece and we were lucky to get him for this image too. Matt asked for a daytime scene to contrast the night of the original image, so we get the very apt bright blue skies of Oxford for the Summer Special.

The sun is out, the sky is blue
There’s not a cloud to spoil the view
Except Judge Dredd, telling you stay home.
(Buddy Holly’s first draft, unseen before now)

And that’s it – the making of an iconic cover, featuring an iconic character, by an iconic artist. Thanks to Jock once more for taking part. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before we see more of his art adorning the covers or pages of 2000 AD or Judge Dredd Megazine.

You can find the 2000 AD Sci-Fi Special from all good newsagents and comic book stores on Wednesday 24th June! Or simply pre-order from the 2000 AD web shop using the link below.

PRE-ORDER NOW >>

Now, a little more Jock from the archives…

First off, the cover from the 2012 Free Comic Book Day comic from 2000 AD, as featured by my esteemed colleague, Mr Pete Wells, legend around these parts, on Covers Uncovered from 2011.

One of Jock’s classic Dredds – Prog 1304 (14th August 2002)
Judge Dredd by Jock and Chris Blythe for Prog 1318 (20th November, 2002)
Jock’s wrapround cover to Prog 1450 (3rd August 2005)
Classic Megazine cover by Jock – Megazine 4.02 (September 2001)
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2000 AD Covers Uncovered – Patrick Goddard talks Prog 2185

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’s cover comes from the team of Patrick Goddard and colourist Dylan Teague. With Prog 2185, Patrick’s given us a look into the showdown between Dredd and that mystery cowboy (shhh… spoilers if you haven’t caught up yet!) currently featuring in the End Of Days epic unfolding from Rob Williams and Colin MacNeil. You can find Prog 2185 in the 2000 AD web shop and comic shops from 10 June.

Over to Patrick to tell us about putting together the cover… first the ideas after a commission from Tharg…

I had just finished Aquila and Matt offered me a cover to tide me over until my next scripts so it was great to draw Dredd again!

Initially, I thought there was going to be Mega-City 1 in the background but it wasn’t needed in the end so went with the simple face-off, and with a profile like Dredd’s, how can you not want to draw that?!!

First things first, cover design in blue roughs…

Are you dancing? Are you asking?

Next up, those wonderfully tight Goddard pencils…

With any large figure work I do, I tend to draw small and then enlarge it on my scanner, it helps me, for the most part, get the scale right.

It was a very quick cover to do, nothing too tricky to draw and probably had it all done in a day.

When the Law meets the Outlaw, we all know who’s going to come out the winner.
This town ‘aint big enough for the both of us!

Then I just hand it over to the colour maestro that is Dylan Teague and he works his magic, all done!

And here’s the magic added by Dylan Teague!

Thanks to Patrick for letting us inside the making of his latest 2000 AD cover. Follow him on Twitter and pick up Prog 2185 from the shelves or in the 2000 AD web store!

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2000 AD Covers Uncovered – Steven Austin on Dredd for Prog 2184

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 and the Judge Dredd Megazine!

2000 AD Prog 2184 is out on 3 June, featuring a cover from Steven Austin. He first worked for 2000 AD with Prog 1982, providing the art for a Tharg’s Time Twister – The Timeless Assassin, as written by Rory McConville. Since then, he’s done a couple of Tharg 3Rillers, The House Of Gilded Peak, written by Eddie Robson, and Keeper of Secrets, written by Robert Wilson, and a Black Museum Tale from David Baillie.

Here’s the tale of how this iconic Dredd cover for the Prog came about…

So this cover was a pitch to Tharg. Inspiration comes from the most random of places and the inspiration for this came from a link to a band sent to me by a friend, the band is named Burning Flag, I think I’d probably just been watching some news article on YouTube about the US and Donald Trump and somewhere in that mix the idea for this cover image came to fruition.

(Prelim sketch by Austin – doodles don’t get much looser)

I began as always with some very loose doodles, I had an idea that I wanted Dredd in front of a burning US flag but wasn’t sure of composition etc. so went about doodling some options, initially, I envisaged a flag behind Dredd, waving in an apocalyptic wind whilst burning, however, as I went along I started to draw the flag framing Dredd and this stuck.

Once I’d decided upon the design I was going with I went my usual route and drew an A5 rough which I then scanned into PS.

(A5 rough – Judge versus flag – flag always gonna lose)

I then blew this up to A3, printed it off and light boxed the rough onto A3 bristol board. Next, it was a case of tightening everything up and making any small changes I decide upon.

(Final pencils – Just once, just the once, you’d love to see him smile)

Once happy with the final pencils, I begin inking using sizes 2 and 3 series 7 sable brushes with some scribbling at the end with various pens, just to give it a little more edge.

(Final inks – Dredd’s idea of a Superbowl anthem was never going to go down well )

On completing the inks I became concerned that perhaps the colourist wouldn’t realise that the flag should be burning so decided to produce a coloured rough, I printed out the inks, painted over them very quickly in Acrylic and then rescanned it in placing the original inks over the top in Photoshop.

(Colour rough – seriously, if Trump gets annoyed at NFL players kneeling – he’d lose his mind over Dredd’s flag attitude. )

Next, I then decided to go a step further and play around with some digital colours before sending it off to Tharg.

(Colour Rough 2 – The flag never stood a chance. Dredd’s law wins every time)

I think the final colours are a very happy medium as to the image and mood I originally envisaged and Quinton Winters’ own excellent interpretation.

As always, thanks to Steven for sharing the making of the cover! Grab 2000 AD Prog 2184 at a newsagent or comic shop near you or from the 2000 AD web store from 3 June.

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2000 AD Covers Uncovered – PJ Holden Talks Megazine 420

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!

PJ Holden grabs his second cover of the year with Megazine 420, following the beautiful cover for 2000 AD Prog 2178 (see the Covers Uncovered for that one here).

You can get hold of the latest Megazine, issue 420, from the 2000 AD web shop and comic shops from 20 May.

The cover feature comes from the third and final part of the PJ Holden drawn Dredd tale, Bad Sector, written by Arthur Wyatt. And the Holden Droid was good enough to send over his process images for that Meg cover, along with his usual bizarre conversations with Tharg The Mighty… Over to PJ for the details…

I’ve decided I’d like to do more 2000 covers this year. Never sure the right way to approach Tharg about this, but I figure if I’m doing a strip I should at least ask if I can do a cover. So I did –

“Can I do a cover please???”
“OK! BUT ONLY FOR THE FINAL PART. I THARG HAVE SPOKEN”
(he always talks in the third person. Weirdo)

So I knew what was happening in the strip, and, technically, this cover is a bit of a cheat – Dredd doesn’t quite arrive with the tank – but the cover is doing a different job – it’s supposed to convey an emotion and sell you on the strip. So I sent Tharg some cover ideas: As you can see I think I was going for Dredd super imposed over some action.

The eight doodles of the Holden droid

Tharg responded:
“I THARG, IN MY INFINITE THARGY WISOM, DECREE ‘A’ TO BE THE GREATEST ART IN THE ENTIRE WESTERN HEMISPHERE. FINISH IT! FINISH IT! I HAVE SPOKEN”

Again, he’s kind of weird, but when Tharg says jump you don’t say anything, you sort of hide under the table and hope he didn’t notice you in case he makes you jump then sets MekQuake on you for not jumping high enough.

Pencils were fairly quick. I love drawing Dredd he flows out of my pencil as naturally as a phone doodle. Though I will admit, I’ve been wrestling with that arm pose since I pencilled it.

They bring a gun – Dredd brings a tank.

Inks next! Again pretty quick.

Dredd breaks up another lockdown party… the hard way.

And finally, flats and colours – the flats help me select areas of the image to apply proper colour too, so they’re only here out of interest…

Stay home citizens, state authorised exercise only – or Dredd will come knocking.

And with final colours, that’s it!

No Creeps, a cheeky BBQ in the park is not ok.
Stay home, exercise once a day, essential trips only – or Dredd will come knocking.

Hope you like it! (BTW if you’re keeping count, I drew this cover BEFORE the Chimpsky cover, but I did both in the space of a month, I think… and they’re covers number 7 & 8 for me… hopefully I’ll be asked to do more!) – PJ.

Thanks, as always, to the Holden droid for letting us inside the process of putting together his latest. Hopefully, if he keeps bowing correctly before Tharg, we’ll see him on many more covers to come!

You can get hold of Judge Dredd: Megazine issue 420 in print and digital from the 2000 AD web shop, and from whatever newsagents and comic shops are open in this trying times. If you can, make sure you get in touch with your local comic shop and support them however you can – they really need your help right now. See if they do mail order or kerbside pick-up for all your comic needs – now really is the time to pick up all those 2000 AD books you’ve been meaning to get your hands on!

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2000 AD Covers Uncovered – Stand By The Man – Jake Lynch Talks Prog 2181

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 and the Judge Dredd Megazine!

2000 AD Prog 2181 is out on 13 May and marks the return of artist Jake Lynch with another stand-out iconic cover featuring Judge Dredd … standing. But, as always, Lynch makes standing such a thing!

Lynch has done a fair few of these Covers Uncovered pieces, but looking back, the Lynch-droid always manages to fall foul of TMO somehow. And this time turns out to be no different. But before then, everything started out, as Lynch tells us with a doodle…

The cover came about as a doodle I submitted to Tharg.

(Dredd’s always been terrible at posing for the Justice Department annual photoshoot)

After the usual anger and Rigellian Hotshot (I had emailed during His Mightinesses cup break) it was agreed and I refined the pic and tone a little more.

(Hey Joe – feel free to crack a smile for the camera?)

That done, it was time to shift it into colour. I wish it was as simple as just ‘washing’ colour over the toned artwork (though that is the starting point) – it’s a little more long-winded and often feels like reworking the whole pic over again, hardening it out. It’s also the point where I decide on any new elements such as the rim-light colours and their strength.

(Yep, gotta love those rim-light colours – add your own Pete-Wells-ian gag here kids)

That sorted I start wondering if there’s any more interest I can add and submit an idea to Tharg (he’s angry ALL the time you know)

(Lynch Droid sends in more ideas – Lynch Droid should know better by now)

I am reminded to know my place and stick to the original idea (all hail Tharg). So I set it up for print and access the comics’ server to upload it where I accidentally delete 2000AD – sorry…

(The finished product – smile for the Lawgiver)

Thanks to Jake and leave him screaming deep down in the bowels of the Thrill-Centre begging forgiveness for the accidental deletion of the Thrill Power archives!

Remember kids, always take back-ups, just like Tharg does!

2000 AD Prog 2181 is out in digital and print on 13 May.

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2000 AD Covers Uncovered – Simon Coleby Brings The Vigilant To Judge Dredd Megazine #421

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!

Available to buy now from the 2000 AD web shop and whichever stores are open, Simon Coleby brings us the third part of The Vigilant saga on the cover and inside the pages of Judge Dredd Megazine 421

Yes, the stunning saga of Rebellion’s super-team of classic British comic book characters, The Vigilant, comes to a reality-shattering conclusion in the pages of the Judge Dredd Megazine #421 with a special 22-page finale. And of course, it’s all under a suitably stunning cover to really mark the end of a stunning series.

Simon was good enough to send over his process images that went to make up that cover. We’re incredibly grateful to Simon for getting this over to us as he’s had what could best be described as a rather busy couple of months, both before and in lockdown. It’s a tale of computer breakdowns, beating a new computer until it did what he wanted, and then a surprise lockdown house move – it’s definitely been a busy, busy time for him! Thankfully, all has settled down a little now and we look forward to seeing whatever is next from one of 2000 AD’s finest artists!

Now, here’s the making of that great Vigilant cover… over to Simon…

And so; the cover for the final chapter in The Vigilant’s tale.

The previous two covers showed the team in heroic, dominant poses. This one had to suggest a moment of peril. Perhaps of defeat. It needed to suggest the questions appropriate to a cliffhanger ending. Will they survive? Will they return? Will the Leopard from Lime Street go back to wearing that leopard-print onesie?

The design of the piece was fairly straightforward – a three-tier composition with the mauled team in the foreground, the looming figure of the demon Mazoul in the midground, dominating the image, and the haunted manor house in the background to provide depth and a sense of scale. And also because who doesn’t love drawing gothic, dark, spooky architecture?

To add to the sense of disorder, I decided to go for a tilted angle – in cinema, known as ‘Dutching’. It’s a technique I find very useful to add interest to my panel compositions. The practise originated in German expressionist film-making, largely being used to convey alienation, madness, disorder and all that kind of fun stuff. For some reason, it seems to work well in my art. Make of that what you will.

Terry Gilliam and Tim Burton both use it to great effect in their movies. You can also see it overused to hilariously awful effect in the Scientology disasterpiece ‘Battlefield Earth.

The idea for the drawing was fairly strong and straightforward from the outset, so I didn’t need to do a huge amount of preliminary work. I did a few rough sketchbook thumbnails, just to sort out the balance of the elements, then I put together a marker rough on A4 paper, which I submitted to Keith in the Nerve Centre for approval.

As usual, I drew the pencils for the finished page on A3 typing paper, starting with a rough blue-pencil drawing, and then refining it with fine-liner marker pens.

I scanned the finished pencil work, then printed it in cyan on A3 Bristol board for inking.

The piece was inked using Rotring Art-Pens, Japanese calligraphy markers, Chinagraph pencils and splatters of ink applied from an old bit of kitchen sponge and flicked from a toothbrush.

After all the mucky stuff with ink, I scanned the image back into Photoshop for a final bit of digital polish.

Len’s colours are superb, as always – a restrained yet strong palette. Warm colours emphasise the foreground, with cooler colours around the haunted manor. The flame colours add drama and impact and also help to ‘pop’ the figure of the demon.

So, that’s that one. We bid farewell to this heroic team. I can only hope that the trivial matter of a global pandemic won’t stop this story finding its way into readers’ hands.

Thank you so much to Simon Coleby for sending the art along.

Now, as a bonus to all you lovely readers – another great bit of Coleby Vigilant artwork – something he put up first on his Facebook… – it’s also a little insight into just what a damn trooper Simon was in getting The Vigilant finished and for taking the time to get the images over to us – he’s had a busy, busy time in lockdown!

A couple of days ago I finished the third ‘Vigilant’ story. That was an ‘interesting’ one — a challenging script, then a dead computer. A new computer which turned out not to be up to scratch, so then another machine and all the fun of sorting out compatible software. Then just for extra chuckles, here comes a global pandemic — having to pack up my studio and unexpectedly move house, mid-job. Never a dull moment, eh? Anyway, with my brilliant collaborators, the job was put to bed with a week to spare — all good and everyone’s happy.

So, for a change and just to chill out I thought I’d do some drawing today. A spec thing I’ve been playing with. Not sure if it’ll get used or how, but I’ve been enjoying bunging it together.

I do love calligraphy when I get a chance to incorporate it in my stuff, so this one has some of John Dee’s occult Latin text, rendered in a lovely Arabic style font. Because why not? Anyway, just a thing that I’ve been playing with, not for any particular reason.

He’s also sent along the skull reference piece…

And then, a few days later

I’ve been doing proper work today, but also pretty-much finished mucking about with this spec thing. Just going to bung some colours at it, then call it done.

And finally

So — that piece I was working on for fun a couple of weeks ago. I bunged some colour on it and Tharg’s in-house graphic droids logoed it up.

Yep, like it says – Vigilant – Rapture ends the saga (for now) in Judge Dredd Megazine Issue 421 – out now – get it from the 2000 AD web shop!

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2000 AD Covers Uncovered – SK Moore’s MC-1 under the gaze of Dredd

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!

Heading to the 2000 AD webstore and whatever stores are still open, you’re not going to be able to miss 2000 AD Prog 2179 with a stunning cover by SK Moore…

Stewart Kenneth Moore first entered the pages of the Galaxy’s Greatest when he took over the art duties on the last series of Pat Mills’ Defoe: Divisor that began in 2000 AD Prog 2150. His style is full of detail and style and you can find an interview with him talking about his artwork on Defoe: Divisor here. Currently working on his graphic novel, MK-Ultra: Sex, Drugs and the CIA, he took some time to give us this week’s wraparound Dredd cover.

Stewart joins us now to break-down just how the cover was put together, a tale of respirators, masks and a city under a watchful authoritarian glare…

How to Have Ideas Without Getting Any Ideas.
I didn’t have one. I wasn’t looking for one either. But despite a huge effort on the part of my frontal lobes to keep my mind trained on the psychedelic world of 1970’s San Francisco (the setting of my current project) images of Hazmat-suited soldiers emerging from disinfectant clouds repeatedly turned my thoughts to the stories of Judge Dredd. 2020 Wuhan China seemed very Mega-City One.

Respirators and masks were on my mind long before they became mandatory in Prague, where I live. Passing the occasional nightmarish figure in 17th century ‘Plague Doctor’ uniform or glimpsing hooded figures in state-of-the-art military gas helmets in the metro system here was an increasingly common sight. Gallows humour. Everyone’s a social satirist these days. 

Within a few days, we were all in lockdown here and running errands without a mask was illegal. But there was no problem, no panic-buying, the citizens just got on with it like they’d seen it all before. They hadn’t, of course, no they’d seen far worse. Compared to Soviet and Nazi invasions this was nothing.

The image of Dredd with his respirator down while addressing a population that had seen ‘far worse’ flashed through my mind, probably while I did something awful like clean the cat litter tray, who knows, but I laughed. It might have been partially triggered by something a 2000 AD fan said to me on Twitter (How’s that for reverb!). I don’t really know why I laughed but it occurred to me the idea might amuse others too and that it could be a very good thing right now. I realised it might cheer people up, especially fans, to see that in Mega-City 1 it’s business as usual. Beyond that, it reinforces the lockdown message. Hmmm…

Ideas don’t always appear fully formed and when they do I get a bit suspicious of them and doubtful of how I came to have them, ‘where did that come from?’ I wonder. I tend to think I’ve seen it somewhere. So I quickly searched the back issues on the 2000AD website, I found nothing that looked anything like what I imagined. I couldn’t be sure but decided to risk embarrassment by pitching anyway. Pitch and be damned!

The Pitch 
I emailed the idea to Tharg accompanied by a simple rudimentary scribble (see simple rudimentary scribble provided) that I offered to ‘work up’ into a doodle.

I included a drawing of Dredd that I made for the ill-fated 2nd Judge Dredd Gamebook. The scribble was very simplistic so I felt I should show the level of finish I would be aiming for. Tharg’s very own emissary on Earth, Matt Smith, told me to doodle on and, so, doodle on I did.

Yep, that’s a scribble!
And the detail of Dredd by Moore from the 2nd Judge Dredd Gamebook

The Doodle 
I knocked out this doodle with the poor-taste text ‘KEEP CALM AND CARRY HIGH-EXPLOSIVE’ . These words being, of course, a cruel update of the famous WW2 era British motivational posters. I thought it was very funny. So funny in fact that I fell out of my chair and on to the floor. I lay there for some time, doubled over laughing.

At some point, I regained my composure and climbed up into my chair to ‘carry on’. This was of course just place holder text, the words that will actually go on the cover have nothing to do with me. That’s decided in The Nerve Centre. But I do need to show where I would hope any text would be placed. It so happens the art was published without any text and that was the best choice of all. 

I submitted the doodle and that evening I noted a mysterious green glow at my window. At the time I thought it a kind of sign from The Mighty One’s ‘Rosette of Sirius’ or something. Come to think of it, this part of what I’m telling you may be rubbish, so take it with a pinch of salt.  No one drives these days. The traffic lights outside my window are permanently green, maybe that was it. Hell knows. The point is I thought I had the green-light, that’s what I’m saying. I thought I could take this doodle and go ‘NEXT LEVEL’. It’s the thought that counts, right?

The Design
Now cheering you up is an objective, sure, but I need to grab you to do that. Anyone who has stood back and looked at the shelves of WH Smith knows what a piranha-like feeding frenzy that is. Prog 2179 has to crack Woman’s Own right in the staples, head-butt its way through an army of Clarksons, turf Good Housekeeping backwards out an open window and boot Country Living right square in the GQ’s! But how?

If you can see Dredd’s visor at 200 feet, well, chances are Ideal Home will bottle it, Vanity Fair will fold, Heritage Railway will step up or step off. Aye, thought so Heritage Railway. Everybody knows that visor and what it represents, back off! 

Now, if I succeeded and you grabbed 2000AD, that’s good, but my job isn’t done yet, it needs to grab you! With it in your mitts I want you to feel you are at the back of the crowd watching the screen. I want Dredd looking in at you, not the other way around! Yes, It is ‘objectively true’ to say that you are holding the prog, but at some subconscious level you have now also entered Mega-City One and are standing at the very back of the crowd. And just about when your eye begins to study the distant fatty with his wee belly-wheel, I think, it’s fair to say, you’ll have been grabbed!

Now, you might open the issue, or turn it over. If you do the latter, I’m taking your eye deeper and deeper into a vast Mega-City in a desperate effort to hold it there long enough to prompt the store clerk to break the spell and ask ‘You gonna buy that comic ur whit?’ (Translation: ‘Are you considering purchasing this particular publication?’).

The combination of confusion followed by a flush of embarrassment should render you psychologically weakened enough to be highly suggestible to the word ‘buy’ at this point and my work is done here. You don’t work this long on the subject of MKUltra without picking up a few mind-control tricks! 

Cover detail – Moore masking the city

Shut Up and Tell Us How You Did It. 
I took the 2000AD cover template and over-laid my doodle. I then lightened those layers and started to rough out the particulars on a new top layer. That means making a strong Dredd first! I only have his visor to go on, no chin, so nailing the visor ‘intent’ was very important. Although Dredd is depicted on a massive screen the dramatic trick here is to treat it like a goldfish bowl and we are the goldfish and he is looking in and down at us like a giant. Later I had to push Dredd back because the dominance of the black in the helmet threatened to make him appear to be an actual giant and that could be confusing. Am I…repeating myself? Age, jings.
 

With Dredd inked I got on with the citizens. I wanted to build everyone around the wee belly-wheeled ‘Fatty’. Making a large man very small was another way to maximise Dredd. That may have been a lesson learned from Jim Baikie.

Making the small Fatty the big focus on the cover.

Long ago I asked Jim about a tiny dog in one of his Dredd pages. ‘It’s that minimalist thing’ he said. I believe he meant that emphasising something so small can serve to maximise other things, in this case, Dredd. One way or another it amuses the eye.

Stewart sent along this Star Scan –
‘This is the picture I refer to by Jim Baikie. Thanks to Wullie Russell for sourcing it.’

During the day I work on my graphic novel. I start early, around 6am most days. But some days I start at 5am. I worked on this cover in the evenings. I had a long lead time on it so I could potter around at night and take my time. I started work on the city on the back of the cover at the same time as I worked on another cityscape during the day for my book.

One of Moore’s San Francisco cityscapes from Project MKUltra

San Francisco 1971 and the futuristic MC1 are quite different, but they affected one and other. I think my GN page was improved by this back and forth method, as though one image was a testing ground for the other. 

The glorious vista of a Moore MC-1 cityscape

I then scoped out the cavernous interiors of the mega-blocks to heighten the sense of vastness. Finally, I created a final inked drawing of the entire wrap-around scene. My goal with this design is to jump off the shop-shelf at you…oh, I did you say that already…ha ha, you whipper-snappers!

But for those with digital subscriptions, I take it even further. My hope is that digital resolution will be good enough to allow readers to pinch and expand the scene to reveal many more areas. You have to remember that your comic may be A3 on paper but in the digital medium, it is a vast wall-sized fresco, potentially anyway. I have been trying to exploit this side of digital comics for the benefit of readers for years now in Aces Weekly. But I must admit, it is exhausting and I’m not feeling the love. This is an area to be explored, but it may be beyond me to continue in this way much longer…..where was I? 

Oh right, now I set up my rulers. I draw with a tablet and work in Manga Studio (now inexplicably known as ‘Clip, Studio Something’…well, not in my day!). The digital rulers allow you to work faster than you might on paper. But they are a pain in the neck. As much as I love the speed I find them to be maddening and would rather use actual rulers on Bristol board. I like technical drawing. Digital is vital for speed, though, and not having to worry about how or where to buy art materials with all the shops shut nowadays (due to the pandemic) is yet one more unseen advantage of digital art. In the Covid age I never run out of ink!

Detail from the cover – mugshot

The doodle perspective was all by eye. I always find it a bit uncanny when I over-lay the rulers and they all work right away. Doing perspective by eye, without rulers has it’s stylistic advantages. Some artists never use rulers and the organic quality, it seems, keeps the image alive in a way that rulers can kill a picture. The straight line can stiffen art to death.

‘The straight line leads to the downfall of humanity’ – Friedensreich Hundertwasser.

Well, I wouldn’t go that far. So I draw everything…refine, delete, clean up. It’s a balancing act and I try and keep the image a ‘comic’ image and not too ‘real’. This leads to areas looking real and some more like comic characters, I like that mix right now, I think it keeps things alive somehow, unpredictable, amusing. Here and there I might use some photo references, but they also can stiffen the art and I’m often disappointed with the outcomes. So I tend not to. I have found that if I fog out my sketches, make them really really light, almost vanishing, my imagination suggests things in them that are not there and I follow that very often. Strange, I know, but true. Try it. Anyway, I export my inks and open them in Photoshop.

Background details to zoom in on in digital – Peeps of MC-1

To quickly govern colour I pull in my doodle and ‘gaussian blur’ the doodle into a cloud of colours. That creates a ‘colour atmosphere’ that I then place under the inks and workover. The colours I choose are reactions to the colours beneath. I have always painted this way in oils with very colourful under-paintings. It’s a way of doing things. The psychedelic MK page definitely affected this part of my Mega-City. 

More Moore detailed figure work

I paint the details and push and pull and fight and temper things for a long while. I like flat colour in comics but mix things up a bit with some shading and airbrushing here and there. Eventually, I look at the whole image and temper a few final things. In this case, pushing Dredd back a bit so he will sit better under the 2000AD logo. It’s always a good idea to keep checking against the logo that the whole image works to serve the title. 

At the very end, I made some blunders, with so many details I accidentally lost a few things. There was some graffiti and a few other details that I painted over accidentally. There was more gas and darkness on the front cover art. Somehow I mixed things up and lost those layers in the final version and didn’t realise. It realised it didn’t really matter, not a big deal.

I use Dropbox (or other FTP system) to upload final art to Tharg. I then wait in fearful silence. You never know, the work might not pass muster and I might be demolished by Tharg’s Rigelian Hotshots. They move at near light speeds, I understand.

So if Tharg is in Oxford it should only be a matter of seconds for them to strike me down, so, once the moment passes and I’m still quite conscious (and not horribly burned) I feel it’s reasonable to assume the work has most likely been approved for publication. However, if Tharg is in lockdown at his second home on Betelgeuse it could take considerably longer for me to be rent asunder. I’m not sure how many light years away his star system is or how long it would take for Rigelian Hotshots to get to me.

But The Mighty One must be happy with my work because I am still here typing this missive with my faculties intact!

Now THAT was a Covers Uncovered! Thanks to Stewart for going deep onto something that will, no doubt, be up there in the top Prog covers of the year!

2000 AD Prog 2179 is out now – available from stores that are open and from the 2000 AD web store.

You can follow Stewart on Twitter and Instagram for more art, more updates, and more greatness!

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2000 AD Covers Uncovered – Simon Fraser talks Hershey’s surprise cover appearance on Prog 2176

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 the stunning cover for Prog 2176. Stunning in a couple of ways. First, it marks the return of Simon Fraser to the cover of the Galaxy’s Greatest. And second, because it’s the surprise return of Chief Judge Hershey!

Yes, in a surprise kept from everyone until the very day of publication of 2000 AD Prog 2175 on 1 April, it was revealed that Chief Judge Hershey didn’t perish from the microbial infection ravaging her body back in the pages of Prog 2150, but instead put in place a plan to right the wrongs she’d inflicted on the world with Judge Smiley.

Hershey getting a load off her mind in deadly fashion on the final cover to Prog 2176

HERSHEY: DISEASE, featuring the surprise return former Chief Judge Hershey, is written by Rob Williams with art by Simon Fraser. It all kicked off in 2000 AD Prog 2175 and continues with the cover feature on Prog 2176 by Simon Fraser.

Death is the longest walk – but for Judge Barbara Hershey, it’s only the first step!

So, here’s the magnificent Simon Fraser to tell us all about the making of a cover in particularly difficult circumstances, in the middle of chaos from the Covid-19 virus and a house move… and as it so often does, it all began with a missive from Tharg’s minion on Earth, editor Matt Smith…

“I was thinking of having a moody shot of Hershey on the cover for episode 2 (I don’t want to do it for episode 1 as that’ll give the game away). Would you be able to fit that in? I could do with having it for early next month.” Sez Matt.

The problem is that I’m in the middle of moving house, from the Bronx across the Hudson River to New Jersey. I’m already fighting to keep on track with the schedule, so adding a cover is going to be ….tricky.

Nevertheless, it’s late at night, I’m surrounded by mountains of cardboard and a very clear idea comes to me. My Scanner is packed so I draw what I think into an old sketchbook and shoot it with my cellphone.

What you staring at punk? I just died, you think I’m in the mood for this?

“I’m in the middle of my move right now. My scanner is packed and most of my computer. This is an idea I just had for a Hershey cover. Just her, looking intense, a bleeding nose, at the centre of the carnage. Kind of Frank Quietly-esque , but with extra grit.” :I sez to Matt.

The pose is an old standby of mine, the 3/4 elevation shot. I used it on one of my Dante covers. It’s pared-down, she’s centred in the frame underscoring her isolation and vulnerability. Her face is a mask of rage and resolution though. This story is Hershey’s story, her journey, it’s important that we see her face and be aware of her emotional state.

From the start of this thing, it’s been important to me that I draw Hershey as a woman in her late 50s, her actual age. I know that Mega-City One has de-ageing tech that can keep someone like Dredd functional well into his 80s, but I feel that there has to be a cost to that. Hershey is physically very strong, still capable, but the years and the responsibility have left a mark. Hershey is an intensely practical person and she’s been in the public eye for a large part of her life as Chief Judge. This story isn’t about that. She’s done with pleasing other people and she’s in quite a bit of pain. This is all written on her face and how she holds herself. The character is now very alive in my head so the drawing comes with very little effort.

I tidy up my photo/scan, pull back a bit from the figure and add in more background carnage, then shift it to blue line…

Blue? Of course I’m bloody blue. You try being me right now creep.

The linework is done in Clip Studio using a ‘Real G-Pen’ nib for the figures and a lighter, less gritty pen for the background detail...

I’m not telling you again. Stop with the staring or you’re next for Hershey’s law.

Now for the first pass at the colour in Photoshop. I could do this in Clip Studio too, but I’m under time pressure and I’m much more familiar with using Photoshop CS5 for colouring…

Colour adds nothing to Hershey’s mood

I’d dropped in a fade to push the background back and pop the figure forwards, but it was at the cost of the chaotic destruction being diminished.

I don’t want it to get too polite and polished, we need the chaos, so I nix the fade...

Fraser, ditch the fade. I want them to know just what taking a bite of Hershey looks like.

There are some problems with scaling on the plane with the various bits of debris, that’s a problem I find with working digitally. It’s easy to lose sight of the whole image as you zoom in too close and obsess about one detail. It’s all too easy to obsessively polish a cover. Turning into some kind of perfect soulless thing.

I don’t want this to look like I’ve inked it with a needle. So the imperfections stay.

The Removal Men are literally at the door and I need to pack up the computer.

Upload to Server. Done!

And that’s that, another stunning Simon Fraser cover, a fabulous image of Hershey for what’s looking like it’s going to be her finest hour.

Thank you to Simon for taking the time to get the cover done and for talking to us. You’ll be happy to hear he’s out of New York and in the relatively quieter and safer environs of New Jersey. We wish him all the best there as he keeps safe and healthy.

2000 AD Prog 2176, featuring that stunning cover and containing part two of Hershey: Disease by Rob Williams and Simon Fraser, is out on 8 April.

We’re still publishing, we’re still getting the Prog out to newsagents and stores where possible. It’s also available from the 2000 AD web shop for those of you across the world who can’t get to a print copy.

And for everyone else, no matter where you are, New York, New Jersey, the USA or here in the UK, keep yourselves safe and well, we know it’s bad right now, but we’ll see it all through. This too shall pass, just keep doing the right thing, keep your social distance, be kind, be good, and wash your hands. We’ll see you again on the other side of this thing.