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 wonderfully talented Nick Roche talking us through his action-packed cover to the new 2000 AD REGENED Prog 2220 – OUT NOW!!!
It looks a lot like this…
Inside 2000 AD REGENED Prog 2220, you’re going to find five exciting new strips – a brand new Cadet Dredd: Suboptimal by Arthur Wyatt and Davide Tinto, Future Shocks: Geeno Firenzo by Karl Stock, Silvia Califano and three completely new strips, Action Pact: The Radyar Recovery by Mike Carroll and Luke Horsman, Viva Forever: 9 Amazing Tips by David Baillie and Anna Morozova, and Mayflies: Precious Cargo by Mike Carroll and Simon Coleby.
It’s a real Scrotnig Regened to kick off 2021’s all-ages 2000 AD selections, with a great looking cover by Nick sure to attract all those tiny Earthlets to the Zarjaz thrills of 2000 AD for years to come!
So, take it away Nick…
NICK ROCHE: I was first made aware of Tharg’s presence by an uncontrollable twitch behind my left eye. My initial thought was “That toxic paint I licked off that bootleg Transformer in 1989 has finally kicked in.” But soon I realised he was making contact telepathically. He had need of me. And who was I to refuse? (Nick Roche, Writer/Artist on Scarenthood, Transformers, and Death’s Head, that’s who!)
I had the honour of being in The Mighty One’s ‘Regened Pool’; a cadre of “talent” called upon to ensnare younger Earthlets into the realm of inescapable Thrill Power. And so Tharg was gifting me the chance to craft the cover for 2021’s first all-ages prog. A Regened Cover meant two things: Dredd, and LOTS of blank space. I was in.
The brief was thus: ” I was thinking of something like: Dredd leaping out of the way as a giant robot smashes down its fist – or along those lines.”
Getting to draw a robot AND Judge Dredd for a 2000AD cover? I would have paid for the opportunity. Unfortunately, Tharg detected my stray thought, and took me at my word. And as such, I now owe him a large amount in some obscure ultraterrestrial cryptocurrency I’ve never heard of.
Here’s my first – and only – draft at a layout for the cover. I had asked if the cover required the uniform white background that worked so well on previous Regened covers, and Tharg had said it wasn’t essential. I thought it was a great unified bit of branding across the All-Ages issues though, so I thought I’d sell him on the idea: I’d keep the cover free of ALL background elements, and have the impact of the giant mech’s crash fists create the only definition and colour on the image, apart from the figures themselves.
I stayed close to the palette of the earlier covers, with strong vibrant colours smashing out of the crack in the ‘ground’, and intense flashlines. They’re the sort of colours and elements you don’t often see on a 2000AD cover, so I thought they’d stand out and serve their purpose by saying ‘This prog’s a little different, lads’, with Dredd and the big bot anchoring readers in more familiar territory.
This is the only prelim sketch I did for the robot too; I got a sense of what sort of imposing shape was needed right there on the page, and what proportions it would need to dominate the space on the cover, and overwhelm Dredd too.
I emailed it off to Tharg, but he reminded me that he still had control of my every waking thought and he’d seen the image before it had even entered my own cerebral cortex. I didn’t ask why he hadn’t said that earlier and saved me the bother of the sketch. It turns out, The Mighty One was “well-chuffed” with this initial layout, and I could go ahead to finish the image. This rarely happens in comics, and I was almost masochistically waiting for the multiple mental hoops Tharg would force me to hurl myself through to earn his pleasure – I’d heard so much about it all! Maybe next time, eh?
So using the layouts, I basically went into “add detail” mode. Most of the brainwork had been done by figuring out where all the elements should be in that rough sketch. I remember focusing on Dredd first, making sure his pose remained strong and all his bits and bobs were in the right place. I saved the robot as a sort of visual ‘dessert’; the mech didn’t have to look like anything in particular, it wasn’t tied to a specific design that was to featured within, I could have fun and lose myself in its design. One of the treats in creating a one-off visual for a cover like this, is that no matter how much detail you add, you don’t need to fret about it being replicated panel-after-panel within an actual strip.
I’d made a name for myself drawing robots over the years — I’m mostly known for my Transformers work, so I know my way around hinged knuckles and extraneous panelling detail. One of my strengths honed on drawing those guys is to make the robots as readable and characterful as possible, and that was one of my aims with this guy. But I also felt duty-bound to stick to a 2000AD aesthetic with this mech.
There’s no such thing as ‘Too Subtle’ for any of the Prog-born bots, so i leaned into his dumb face and OTT chompy teeth. I think I struck the balance between giving him enough detail to make younger readers lose themselves in, and enough appealing body shapes to reassure their older guardians who will be tasked with shelling out for the comic on their behalf.
I tend to work traditionally- on physical paper with pencils and pens – so this is a scan of my inked line-art. I drew my pencils on cheap cartridge paper, scan them into photoshop, convert the pencil lines to blue, and then print those out onto better quality Bristol Board for inking. I ink straight onto the blue-line print out, and when I scan the finished piece, I have photoshop tuned up to eliminate any of the unwanted blue marks, leaving only the pure black and white you see here. That way, I don’t have to take time to erase any of the pencil marks if I’d inked straight onto them. That’s always a time-suck, especially as you often have to go back and re-ink elements as the eraser has removed some of the ink’s intensity.
I use lots of vinyl-tipped Japanese ‘disposable brush pens’; the tips are flexible enough that be leaning into them or easing off on them, you can create different thickness of lines, while still maintaining good control. I like using these on robots and mechs, because it gives them a lively feeling, without relying on rigid lines, and that adds a little more character to them. I use fineliners for the fiddly bits, and Pentel pocket brush pens when I want a nice tapered brush stroke here and there.
The impact/flash-lines from the finished piece would normally be added to the page traditionally, but I waited until the next stage to drop those in…
To aid the colourist (the amazing Gary Caldwell, but I didn’t know who was on duty at this stage), I dropped in the flashlines on a different layer and in a lighter tone using Manga Studio (recent versions are called ClipStudio, and it’s a great piece of kit that’s really intuitive for creating comics digitally). This would (hopefully?) make it easier for Gary to separately select them when colouring, instead of having to fiddle with the line art and extract them manually. (Also, there’s a handy tool on Manga Studio to draw lines that radiate from a specific point and move things along quicker for any Betelguesian publishing moguls.)
All that remained was for me to email it to a company called Rebellion, and a soothing sense of a job adequately abandoned that remained in my soul after Tharg severed his mindlink with me. A while later, I’d be treated to a look at Gary’s smashing colours and I join the rest of the earthlets in waiting for the latest Regened issue to pass through my letterbox. Though why all these people are in my hallway watching my front door is a mystery, and not something that was discussed with me by Tharg.
Mind-link severed, Nick still has a nagging pain in his temple, far too many people in his hallway, and a very large bill in Betelgeusian crypto-funds to pay thanks to enjoying his job far too much. But fear not, Tharg is a (relatively) benevolent dictator.
So, as we leave him with Tharg’s minions knocking at the door to arrange transport to the Art Droid
cells accommodation cubes and will let Nick work off his debt, let’s give our thanks to Nick for sending over those images and we’ll be looking forward to seeing his next art for 2000 AD Regened soon!
For more from Nick, you can find him on Twitter, and be sure to check out the interview he did with writer Cavan Scott about their Rogue Trooper Regened strip that ran in 2000 AD Progs 2130 and 2170… looking like this…