Behold, the Mighty Mechastopheles, a demon bound to a giant Mech! His sole (or should that be soul?) purpose to protect a dwindling mankind from demons of the underworld. But for how long can it be trusted?
This zarjaz image is a welcome return to Karl, who has not graced the cover spot for nearly two years! Luckily for us, the Richardson droid is also providing the stunning interior art for this bleak 3hriller!
Below we see a couple of Karl’s initial ideas for the cover. Obviously, it was always gonna be that beautifully designed Mech!
What’s he gonna look like with a chimney on him?
Ouch! Whatever you do Mechy, don’t sit down!
With the second image approved by the Mighty Tharg, Karl begins to work on the pencils…
It’s Walk Like a Pirate Day.
With the pencils inked, Karl begins to add the base colours…
Aw Mecha, you’ve dribbled custard down your front!
Karl continues to build up the colours, enhancing with his amazing special effect elements and adding the city of Vonitzia! Simply stunning!
On his days off, Mecha would love to visit the model village at Vontitzia.
Huge great stomping thanks to Karl for sending these beautiful images. Nothing says 2000 AD like a giant, demon possessed robot!
+++ Thrill Power Overload Warning! Repeat! Thrill Power Overload Warning! Earthlets should take several breaks when reading this post, Tharg takes no responsibility for injuries sustained whilst ogling this zarjaz artwork! +++
Got it? Okay then, you have been warned! All Earthlets should be aware of Hachette’s 2000AD: The Ultimate Collection by now; Eighty glorious graphic novels featuring the cream of the Galaxy’s Greatest comic! The spines of these beautiful books go together to form a brain scrambling, eye melting feast for your opical receptors rendered by the awesome artdroid that is Mr Boo Cook.
I reached out to Boo to ask if he would give us the lowdown on the image, however, on mentioning it to him, he began to wibble, then cry, before doing a complete system shutdown and sludge dump. After a reboot, a couple of pints of Castrol Super Strength and the promise of electro-therapy, Boo agreed to allow me to visit him at St Bedlam’s Home for Traumatised Artdroids.
With a glazed, wistful look, he said “When the email came through from Tharg asking if I wanted to do this job, I did possibly the longest and most flamboyant version of my ‘Mojave spirit dance’ yet – when the excitement is too much to contain you just have to do it. Seeing the list of characters he wanted portrayed on it was like looking at a role call of all the best things from my childhood to the present day! I literally took that list in the order it was written and started fleshing out the characters in a row (after adding a few extra faces, naturally – Grobbendonk, Toby etc. all the tiny stuff). As this was clearly the most complex piece of art I’d ever undertaken, I decided to do the rough in Photoshop so I could change things easier and move stuff around if necessary…“
Boo was a bit intimidated by the number of characters he had to draw, but Slaine didn’t think it too many.
Bravely, Boo continues “As I did the rough, the scope of the job was starting to become apparent, but the full terror was way off yet. I set up a grid over the rough so I could get the layout on the actual art exactly the same, as I knew there would be no room for maneuvering. I then proceeded to tape the first 3 sheets of A3 bristol board to my drawing board…”
With this, Boo began to weep. Nurse Bertha, one of the asylum’s orderlies lunged forward to ‘assist’ him, jolting Boo back into his harrowing story; “I started off by getting the basic un-dressed figures and their anatomies nailed first of all, and once I was happy with that moved onto adding the various costumes and details. Despite the fact that these are all characters very familiar to me, I’d hazard a guess that as much as 30% of the time the whole job took was spent searching for and looking at reference pics, but I was definitely having the most fun I’d ever had with a pencil! Once the anatomy and costume details were in place, I used my sacred 8B solid graphite bullet to add texture and tone to everything, then taking a HB pencil reworked everything, almost ‘inking’ it if you like. Usually for my comic work such as BLUNT, I pencil pretty roughly in 2H then ink, but it was Tharg’s inspired idea for me to use my painted style, which requires much more finessing at the pencil stage…”
Boo’s anguish momentarily abates as the Goddard droid is wheeled in, however, one look into those empty eye sockets as a result of his work on the Judge Dredd Mega Collection spine, sends fresh shivers down the Cook droid’s circuits. “After a week or so, I was ready to rack up the next three pages of bristol board, and line them up with the previous so that Bagman etc. would fit seamlessly when it was all joined. Then i proceeded to repeat the whole process again with the next characters on the list. this was about the time when I started to shit my pants a bit. For the sake of reference, I never tend to spend more than a week on a whole finished piece, so when 3 weeks was up and I found myself still PENCILLING the same piece of art things, started to get weird – if it had been any other job I don’t know if I could’ve kept it going without plunging into insanity but the joy of rendering my childhood faves really boosted me along. By the time I came to be doing the finished pencils on Kano’s boot at the far end of the spread, my entire arm up to the shoulder was in agony and my clawed hand was shaking uncontrollably like I had full blown art-zheimer’s. Yes – a pathetically useless example of human fortitude and first world problems! I felt like a rubbish Martin Sheen going up that river in Apocalypse Now, and there was KANO at the end of it – THE HORROR!! After the pencils were finished, I went to the living room and collapsed face first on the sofa. I stayed there until cider was introduced into the experiment.”
Note that Boo’s right arm had completely fallen off at this part of the process, he still has difficulty wiping his bottom.
“Finally, I sent the pencils off to the Mighty One for approval…”
Note Ro-Jaws getting fresh with Dante, he really is a lothario!
“Tharg’s only note was that I’d given him a massive ear! This was true so I fixed that before he could launch a Rigellian Hotshot my way – phew!”
“Hey Johnny! Who is der cucumber with the big ears, eh?”
“I then proceeded to spend a depressing amount of time scanning pages and trying to make them fit with each other – with 6 A3 pages this was quite tricky! A few days into the painting in photoshop the slow flow of poo from my pants became something of a torrent as it truly sank in just how long this was going to take. At this point I sent the Mighty One a progress shot so he could see how it would look eventually and pleaded with him not to dismantle me for my sloth-like turn-around. He agreed on the condition that i would muck out the Dictator’s of Zrag’s holding cells for the next 3 millennia…”
Good old Tharg, too kind for his own good. Here is the picture that Boo sent…
Nemesis is going to give Stickleback a damned good spanking for making Skizz smell his fart!
After his medication and a brief beating, Boo continues “So it was essentially just a case of building up all the layers, starting with shadows and background washes then painstakingly adding tone to the various elements. I decided it would be quicker to paint things in batches – my extremely supportive droid-wife ‘Gem-Bot’ would enter my cubicle to check my progress occasionally ‘What are you painting today?’ – ‘Today I am painting all the leathery bits…’ I would reply. The next day would come; ‘What are you painting today?’ – ‘I’m still painting all the leathery bits.’ you get the idea…”
“I was spurred on of course by some truly joyful moments – the green-ness of Waldo D.R. Dobb’s face, the gnarlyness of Kano, Feel the Freak’s tiny bug friends (that i still don’t recall the name of, answers on a postcard please).”
Mind the greens, Boo!
“I don’t want to hear about your exploding arm Cook, you’re in Bad Company now! Keep going soldier!”
Aaaaah Freaks out! Le Feek! C’est chic!
“After 3 and a half more weeks of sitting in a tiny chair making thousands of tiny digital marks with an exploding arm, the job was finished. It’s difficult to describe the intensity I felt working on a job this long – I had to really Zen it out and give myself a few good talking to’s, but all this was far outweighed by getting to interact with some of my closest, longest pals, watching them all joshing about with each other, 6 and a half weeks of immense, intense FUN!”
Here are some of Boo’s closest, longest pals…
Just WHAT is Grobbendonk looking at!?! Dirty boy!
“Have you stolen my tights, Blackblood?”
“What? Tharg might extend the collection? Oh Boo’s poor heartses!”
Just look at how happy Wallbanger is to be back in service!
And here is the piece in all it’s zarjaz glory…
The painting that made Boo go Boom!
As Boo is strapped onto a gurney to be taken back to his cell, erm, I mean, room, he said “I am EXTREMELY thankful to the benevolent Mighty One for bestowing this job upon my humble droidself – the joy and torment involved certainly bordered on science fiction sado-masochism at times, but I’d do it again in a flash!…maybe… after I’ve finished mucking out the Dictators…”
With that, our time is up and he is taken away. As he is wheeled down the putrid corridors of St Bedlam’s, I hear him gently sobbing, then giggling, then doing a little blow off.
Huge thanks to Boo for sending the images and brilliant commentary, I hope he gets the feeling in is arm back soon. Be sure to subscrive to The Ultimate Collection here and visit Boo’s blog here for some absolutely stunning work.
Mirror, signal, Cyclops Phylon TX Laser, maneouvre. Jake Lynch continues his love affair with the Lawmaster with this absolutely awesome cover for Prog 2043. Jake is one of the goto droids for damn cool Dredd images and this cover certainly doesn’t disappoint!
Jake was kind enough to send some process images, so buckle up and let’s go! Jake said “This cover continues my obsession with trying to work out how a Lawmaster works!” Below is Jake’s rough…
Dredd stopping on a ‘No Stopping’ sign. What? Are YOU gonna tell him?
Jake builds up the inks and adds some tone. Note the reverse Z design…
Dredd waits at the Drive-Thru Hottie House.
Jake begins to add colour…
The Enceladus cover variant.
Here we have a look at some of the road signs, Jake does a great job of coming up with some very authentic looking ideas here…
The ‘Get in Lane’ sign is based on the Pedestrianisation system of Norwich.
And here’s the final image; Jake said “The difference between rough and final layout of signs was a case of keeping it readable.” Great job fella!
Dredd swotting up on his Highway Code Test.
Simply awesome! Thank you so much to Jake or sending the images. Be sure to check out his fantastic print at the Vice Press Zarjaz Exhibition at The Gallery at Munro House in Leeds from 22nd September 2017.
Yikes! How’s that for a freaky cover? Fan favourite Tiernen Trevallion delivers the creepy artistic goods for the return of ‘The Alienist’ on the cover of Prog 2042. This arc of the supernatural horror series sees occult detective Madelyn Vespertine investigating an impossably mangled corpse in a field in England. The strange occurence has also attracted the attention of the sinister Professor Pretorious and his undead henchmen. What develment is afoot?
Below we have Tiernen’s excellent pencils…
A sneek peek at Take That’s Fiftieth Reunion Tour Poster, 2050
Tiernen then inks and adds tone to the creepy pencils…
The Black Eyed Sleaze
Before adding highlights and those damn spooky, twinkly eyes, shudder!
“Twinkle, twinkle big black eyes,
Your two mates are attacting flies!”
Walloping great thanks to Tiernen for sending these amazing images! Here’s hoping we see him back on Absalom soon!
Prog 2040 saw the spectacular return of the pschological spy thriller, Greysuit. When we last saw Delta Class Assassin John Blake, he was in the clutches of arms dealer Hugo Prince, deep in the Bolivian Jungle! Not one to be fazed by a little thing like an armed to the teeth militia, Blake soon makes his thrilling escape!
Tharg decreed that popular cover artist Alex Ronald should capture the mayhem of Blake’s high speed retreat through the jungle which, of course, he did admirably! Below we see his digital rough…
An image of my postman delivering items marked ‘Fragile’
Followed by his splendidly rendered final image, wow!
The challenges on Top Gear were beginning to get silly…
Huge, huge thanks to the talented Mr Ronald for sending the images. Be sure to check out his amazing blog from some utterly jaw dropping images!
Prepare for jussstice as Judge Death and his twisted cronies return to the Judge Dredd Megazine in the terrifying sequel to Dark Justice, Dark Dominion. There aren’t many artists who could follow in the footsteps of Dark Justice artist Greg Staples, however, the master of horror and decay himself, Mr Nick Percival, is more than up to the task!
When we last saw the Dark Judges, three of the fearsome four were cast adrift in the cold vacuum of space, never to trouble the city again. Surely not even the Dark Judges can come back from that…?
I asked Nick to tell us a bit about his incredible cover, and he was kind enought to send two images – a teaser image and the cover itself. He said “The teaser image was fun to do, since I pretty much did this for myself just to get into the mood for the storyline. John Wagner and I had been emailing each other sporadically over about six months since he proposed the Dark Judges idea to me, so I initially worked up some concept paintings of each Dark Judge and how I’d approach the look of them for the series. As with most artists, you want to put your own spin on it and I didn’t want to really repeat too much of what had been done before but they obviously still had to be recognisable as the Dark Judges. As you’ll see in the series, they do have a bit of a different feel to them visually. I then put together this teaser painting for the series which they used in 2000AD and online to announce the story.”
Put ssssome clothesss on, Fire!
“The first cover painting is again a bit of a tease, since we only get a glimpse of Judge Death in the reflection of the doomed astronaut’s visor. The story begins in deep space where the Dark Judges have been slowly decaying and floating around now for a considerable amount of time, so it seemed a good idea to focus on this element as a warning of what is to come for some of the new characters in the series.”
“It’s been great to finally work with John and he’s been very open to some ideas I had and incorporated them into the plot which is very nice of him. The Dark Judges are extremely violent and evil in ‘Dominion’ – there’s a feel of the movies, ‘The Thing’ and ‘Aliens’ throughout but with a lot of twists and surprises along the way. The ‘Sentence is Death’ runs strong in this one…”
Wow! A huge thanks to Nick for sending the images and write up, I can’t wait to see what ghastly goings on those twisted ghouls get up to this time!
Prog 2040 see’s Dredd battling the Undead as he takes on a fearsome Mummy!
Who better than well known Mummy’s boy Neil Roberts to come up with the goods for an awesome cover? Over to Neil to tell us more…
“First off was the brief from Tharg, he wanted “Dredd/ Mummy – his face is dessicated/ mummified and his bandages are unwrapping.” I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the general idea. Then I sketched up some thumbnails:”
Dredd HATED wrapping Vienna’s Christmas presents…
“Above: Idea #1, my first response to the brief, trying to get all the elements into the composition…”
The Academy tradition of wrapping newbies up in toilet roll and flushing their heads down the lavvy.
“Above: Idea #2, riffing on my initial thoughts, playing with colours, background and pose.”
“Let’s do the Timewarp agaiiiiiiin!”
“Above: Idea #3, trying something a bit different, but maintaining the required elements. I mailed those to Tharg, who requested a revised version of Idea #2, with a more direct gaze at the reader. So, I quickly drew another thumbnail…:”
The state parcels marked ‘Fragile’ arrive at your house, when sent by certain postal companies…
“…which Tharg approved! Then I was off – painting Dredd-as-a-Mummy! So, here’s the finished piece:”
(King) Tut tut Dredd. Just too wrapped up in yourself…
“And… that’s a wrap! Geddit? Wrap? Mummies? Bandages? No? Bah, I’m sticking to painting…”
Pyramid sized thanks to Neil for sending the images, it’s always wonderful to see his work on the Prog!
Someone had moved the ‘Out of Order’ sign form the lift…
“I wanted something with tentacles showing a break in sanity, something very familiar to me with the work I’ve done over the years for SelfMadeHero. What’s already been well established in series one was The Eye of Vovek. So I used that again here, exactly the same way as it features in series one, but with Bridget reflected in it with a similar fearful expression as per the 1st cover for this second series, a sort of visual call back. The rough I did even used the line art of the face from the previous cover just copied and pasted in this purpose.”
The dianoga makes a cameo in Brink!
“Again with the flatting.”
The view from the lavvy as Kurtis has one gin too many…
“And then colors, final inks, and done.”
“Erm… can I have my ball back please?”
Awesome! Vovek sized thanks to Ian for sending the break downs and commentary, they’re brilliant! Earthlets should look ut for Brink Book One when it is released in September this year!
The REAL Batman returns as Rebellion prepare to release ‘The Dracula Files’, in October, just on time for Halloween! The classic tales, which originally appeared in Scream Magazine, were written by Rogue Trooper’s Gerry Finlay-Day and Simon Furman and perfectly illusrated by the legendary Eric Bradbury.
Who better to ask to provide a terrifying cover than the brilliant Mr Chris Weston, who knows a thing or two about vampires and things that go bump in the night! Chris said “I was asked to create a cover for an all new collection of The Dracula File, which previously appeared in the much-loved but short-lived Scream weekly.“
“Here’s the brief I was given: “The majority of the story takes place in eighties London, so I’d like the cover to encapsulate that. Maybe have Dracula attacking a city worker (with bowler cap and brief case), l– with a backdrop of Ben Ben/Parliament. It’s more comedy so don’t be scared to have fun.””
“As ever, I started the preparation for the job by taking some photo-reference, using myself as a model. I’ll spare your readers the sight of me poncing about with a cape on and fangs in. I then produced the following rough based on photos too gruesome to share:”
“I then use Google Sketch-up to find a 3d model of Big Ben and rendered a shot of the building at a suitably dramatic angle.”
Chris continues “This was montaged together with my sketch to produce a pretty comprehensive prelim of the cover. I even went on Google Earth and found the correct railing design for the Palace of Westminster. The lamp-post is accurate too. I don’t know why i bother making sure I get details like this right… it doesn’t make my life any easier.”
Those charity muggers are getting more extreme!
“Next, I added the logo and sent it off to Rebellion…”
Fangs can only get better!
“I got the thumbs up from them pretty quickly, and set about finishing the final version. I tried something new on this piece: I produced a meticulously shaded pencil version of the image:”
It’s okay, Bernard had eaten chicken Kiev for his lunch…
“Next, I created a separate layer in photoshop and blocked in the colours. This is generally known in the trade as “flatting”, and most artists pay someone else to do this laborious task. I’m too tight and too much of a control-freak to trust someone else with that job, so did it myself.”
“Using the flat layer to select areas I started tinting the pencil art to the required hue. Some water-colour textures were pasted in at this point to add atmosphere.”
Tinto Bats (if you get this pun, you should be ashamed of yourself!)
“Then it’s just a case of painting in extra shadows and highlights until the job is done.”
A blood sucking parasite and Dracula.
Wow, absolutely amazing! Thanks Chris! As I mentionws earlier, Chris has form with Vampires. He says “This is a very traditional, Lugosi-inspired take on Dracula, which was fun. Previously I’d created a silk-screen print homaging cinema’s original vampire tale, Murnau’s Nosferatu.”
“Monster, monster, monster!”
As well as this hilarious story “I did come very close to drawing a cover for one of David Bishop’s “Fiends of the Eastern Front” novels. I submitted a rough featuring Captain Costanza which, according to Garth Ennis, looked like he was doing something unspeakable to a Nazi skull. I don’t know if this was the reason my cover was rejected, but, alas, it was!”
Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him really well!
“Also, on a similar theme, I was once commissioned to draw a Black Max picture, a terrific strip from Thunder weekly. This is one of the strips recently acquired by Rebellion, so it wouldn’t surprise me if we see a collection of this story released at some point in the near future. But who should they get to create the cover of this potential collection? Any ideas?”
Quite simply, another stunner from Chris. I’d have him doing every cover for every book if it were up me! Thanks to Chris for sending the raft of images, amazing work as ever! The Dracula Files is released on 19th October 2017, order yours or face the wrath of the Count!
Uh oh! The intrepid agents of Exo Transfer Control are back and they’ve got trouble! Something is tearing apart cargo handlers in the Grey Area and it’s up to officers Feo, Resting Bitch Face and Bulliet to stop it. In a facility full of oddballs, how do you tell the spooks from the kooks!?!
Series artist Mark Harrison is back to pack the panels with all manner of cinematic effects and crazy background jokes. I urge you all to pour over each and every page as the Easter Egg count is off the scale!
Over to Mark to tell us how the cover was created “After an initial suggestion from Tharg-who-must-be-obeyed of a “Transformers” type alien looming up behind our unwary heroes, I came up with this finished sketch in PhotoShop that also suggested some mood lighting, being lit by amber emergency lights.”
“It’s behind you!”
“I knew I wanted a sort of “Was that the wind?” cliché moment you get in a horror film, where the beast drips saliva onto the heroine or in this case blood (Having not seen the final cover I don’t know if this will be censored along with the “Fork U”- Tharg and his minions can move in mysterious ways!)” Rest assured, both details survived! – PWLS.
“The transformer alien was in the guise of a Fork lift truck so I grabbed some images off the internet, cut them up and created a sort of collage of machine parts as an indistinct “presence”.
“The creature would be more silhouette and shadow and light than anything too complex. (Although you can see from the “inks” I did work into it quite a bit before dialing back the detail.)”
“The inks however tend to be towards the end of the process these days as my particular approach towards a cinematic styling paying attention to lighting and shadow no means I usually after initial sketching go straight to a silhouette of the foreground figures and around, on top of and behind that I place special effects.”
“Big Jobs!” Ooops, wrong strip!
Of course, Mark is well known for his cinematic approach to his artwork, with a range of atmospheric volumetric light effects, smoke, lens flares and sound effects. Mark gives us a little insight into his infatuation here: “I’d become quite obsessive with in-camera lighting effects and artefacts, loving the added colour and layering they create.”
“Ironically I’m not a fan of them excessively used in films, but sparingly, anamorphic, is there nothing that screams wonderful widescreen film more than the short life of a lens flare on screen? I love ’em! (When they are real!)”
“I like the effect in comics so much I’ve created my own over the years. Even as pencil and paint pre-computers, and then created my own based on freeze frames from films (the helicopters approach in Close Encounters; Kane descends into the Egg silo in Alien.) However, recently I realised I could generate my own better than I could make them digitally using my camera and an anamorphic lens (that gives you that classic panavision look!)”
“I lay on my back in the garden on a sunny day and pointed my digital camera at the sun (not a good idea kids) with a black portfolio on my lap to catch the flaring effects. You can see the results in what I call “JJ Abrams Wet Dream”. :)”
“God knows what the neighbours must have thought!”
“Beyond honour, there is duty! Beyond duty, obsession! And beyond obsession, madness! Beyond that, is a man lying on his back in the garden, taking photos of the sun!”
Mark continues “Will I actually use them remains to be seen. I generate a lot of art files than sometimes don’t get used. Making comics into movie comics is pretty complex!)”
Below are the lens flares used on this particular cover…
Mark does the Rorschach Test.
“I established the effects and atmosphere of the piece using silhouettes…”
“Who turned out the lights?”
“Now its time to give the foreground some detail. I add additional art such as the guns and ETC logos a separate layer and block out large areas of black using the PhotoShop lasso tool and fill…”
“Then comes the heavier line brush work to define depth. Finally the finer line detail. Pretty much the classic inking approach.”
Not so resting, surprised face!
“I’m inspired by artists like artist Michael Golden. His work on Marvel’s “The ‘Nam” and his more caricature portrayal of heroes is something I’d definitely want to explore in future episodes of Grey Area.”
“It’s something I feel more comfortable with. A mix of realistic cinematic styling with almost a toon like content.”
Hey what’s this!?! Nam Covers Uncovered?
The Golden Boys.
“Flat colours follow which are sampled colours from a reference sheet that I apply to the scene at a reduced opacity initially. This gives the scene a colour mix. Tone and rim lighting are defined once again by lasso took and brush.”
“The flattened image is then selectively dodged and burned and a few custom actions are run that enhance the over effects and colours.”
He slimed me!
“Finally I tweak the overall contrast and gamma and lighten for final delivery and printing to compensate for the darkening that takes place in the printed comic (which doesn’t always work.)”
Resting Bitch Face had gone a little too far with her Ripley in Exosuit cosplay costume.
Huge thanks to Mark for sending us the images and fascinating process, I always enjoy his commentary when explaining his cover process, passion and innovation in equal measure!