Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Colin MacNeil - International Elf Service!

Christmas Eve!!! As the jolly fat man prepares to come to your house tonight (well, some of you, others have been waaay too naughty!) he thought he'd visit the covers blog first! There's a bit of a tradition of the mighty Colin MacNeil providing Christmas covers which we will celebrate on this special day!

Over to Colin to tell us how this year's joyful Magazine image came to be: 

"I spent ages trying to come up with a new idea for the xmas cover. I had a look at the ones that had been done over the years and well, pretty much everything has been done already. Y'know... Dredd with sack of toys, various ones with Dredd and Santa, a perp throwing snowballs at Dredd, etc. It was getting kind of tough trying to come up with something new. Then, I thought, what about Santa as a Judge? Don't think that's been done before. Obviously as soon as I got that, the elves started to appear. ... and of course they had to be judges too, but judges from around the world!"

With the idea in place, Colin produced these fantastic pencils, crikey there's some work gone into those...

"Ho ho hold it Creep!"

"I had lots of fun with the elves. Ill Elf instead of Death, Mortis with reindeer antlers, an SJS elf with a huge naughty list and a tiny nice list, etc."

Here's Colin's trademark bold inks...

You should see the Law Slayer

"In relation to the penguin, I drew that because I needed something to fill the space next to Santa and well, it seemed a fun thing to do. I likes penguins.  It was only later I discovered there actually was a real Dredd penguin. A happy coincidence indeed!" The covers blog HIGHLY recommends the Blind Mouse Toys Cosplay Dredd Penguin, it shouldn't work, but dammit it does!

Here are Colin's glorious colours - I love how Fire is a flaming Christmas pud!

Santa's Laws are coming to town!

"Oh, originally this was just going to be a single page cover, but then as the elves appeared it evolved in to a wraparound. Happily Tharg liked the idea, so a wraparound it was for Xmas. :)"

Good old Tharg, I suspect that was an Ebenezer Scrooge type moment in the Nerve Centre...

As mentioned previously, Colin has provided a few festive covers in the past, perhaps his big, white beard sends a subliminal message to Tharg? Let us celebrate those covers, firstly, the beautiful cover of Prog 815. As Dredd and Christmas are pretty much my two favourite things, I'm lucky enough to own the artwork for this cover...

He's gonna find out who's naughty and nice...

Next, the glorious cover of Prog 710 from 1990. A great ensemble cover there...

I wonder if there's a KTT on that list?

And this beauty from 1993 (if anyone has a 'clean' scan I'd love a copy to update this post!)

Why is Roxilla/Cyb-Aud in bed with all those droids?

Colin can often be relied upon to support the 2000AD Message Board Advent Calendar on Christmas Eve. Below is his brilliant Dark Judges image from 2009... 

How does Colin know my Great Aunt Genevieve?

The three wise men and Baby Thargus of 2011...

The gift of Thrillpower! 

And last year's snow Tharg...

Have a snowtnig Christmas!

A hearty thank you and Merry Christmas to Colin for sending the images, heart warming stuff! And a big Merry Christmas to all 2000AD fans and creators out there!

Tomorrow: Christmas Day! The first cover of 2015 will be unleashed!

Monday, 22 December 2014

Nick Percival - 2000RIP

On the third day of Christmas, Nick Percival gave to me, a page full of zarjaz Zombeees! Yes, I proudly present a high res, unlettered scan of Nick's creepy Star Scan from the Winter special.

"This was really just a bit of fun. Doing a riff on the Marvel Zombies but with 2000AD characters was Tharg’s idea and I had pretty much free reign to do what I wanted with it. I didn’t want to take it too seriously, so it’s all a bit silly but it was a good laugh to do and I‘m a big horror fan, so I can‘t complain when these kind of art assignments come my way. I actually do have a pitch for a one-off 2000AD Zombies ‘alternate universe’ type tale that I must write up sometime - that would be a blast to do."

What do you mean it's not festive? Jesus rose from the dead, didn't he?

As it is Christmas Eve tomorrow, who else but Santa will come, courtesy of Colin MacNeil!

Christmas Countdown Bonus: Eamonn Clarke - The Dark Judge Returnssss!

I LOVED Eamonn's contribution to the 2000AD Advent Calendar and knew I wanted to put it on the blog. Such a great idea for Dark Justice, incorporating one of the most recognisable cover images ever, perfect! I asked Eamonn to tell us more, he said:

"I've been fiddling around with Manga Studio5 and a basic drawing tablet all year while trying to work on another classic cover parody. My drawing skills are limited but watching the D'Israeli videos your site really taught me a lot about using different layers and different tools in Manga Studio."

"I wasn't sure I would be able to anything for the calendar until I had the sudden flash of inspiration about a parody of the iconic Batman cover which would fit the coming event nicely." 

"Producing the back drop and the Lightning strikes were pretty easy and I tried to make it look like it was snowing rather than raining in the original. My biggest moment was when I found the button that applies coloured borders around all the elements of a single layer. That let me put a black border around the title lettering but mainly gave me the White flash border around Death himself which made him really pop."

"So there he is copying Batman's famous entrance and getting ready to return to Dredd's City after a long absence. I'm just glad that people seemed to spot the reference so quickly. Phew!"

Great stuff! Thanks Eamonn!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Greg Staples - I'm Dreaming of a Dark Christmasssss...

Welcome to day 2 of this festive 2000AD Covers Uncovered special! On the second day of Christmas, Greg Staples gave to me, a badge that was bloody scaryyyy! Yes today, Greg tells us the surprising way that his excellent, very daring Christmas cover of Prog 2015 came about. Prepare to have your mind blown!

Greg said "This cover certainly is a departure from the Christmas norm, it was originally done back in summer and was intended to be a slight nod to those black Christmas horror films where the red against white indicated Christmas... but in blood! It maybe turned out a little bleaker than intended but it was important to get across that this wasn’t a Judge Death comedy from the off. Tharg with a Santas hat next year!"

"There was a lot of experimenting in Dark Justice and this was no exception. I was given a plain unpainted badge by Planet Replicas and thought I’d paint it then photograph it and from that paint the original onto a separate paper using the photo as reference."

"Say my name..."

"Once it was photographed I painted in a splat of blood..." Wait, what?!? I thought it was cranberry sauce!

Greg's Easter cover will feature baby Tharg in a manger, three wise men (Dredd, Alpha and Rogue) and a star.

"From there I got a large plain sheet of art paper and carefully drew it, then painted it up in my usual manner. An experiment for sure, fun to do and while I might not attempt the same thing again, like most new ideas it gave me an idea for something else..."

So effectively, Greg photographed his painting, before painting his photo, as reference for his painting!?!

Luckily, Death washes his clothes with new improved Scariel. Tough on blood, Boing(R), egg and other stubborn stains - even at low temperatures.

Brilliant! Greg has painted one or two more covers for Dark Justice before the series is done so keep watching the blog for more! A HUGE thanks to the very, very busy Mr Staples for sending the images and fascinating write up.

Come back tomorrow for another festive treat!

Simon Fraser - Dante Chores!

Hooray! Rebellion are reprinting the hard to get second and third editions of the Nikolai Dante series of Graphic Novels with some dazzling new covers from series co-creator Simon Fraser! I asked Simon of he'd be kind enough to send me the lowdown and, as usual. he didn't disappoint! Over to Si:

"Rebellion are finally succumbing to pressure and doing new editions of the second and third Dante collections. In the case of The Great Game it wasn't so pressing as there are still a lot of copies of the first edition knocking about the distribution and retail chain. It was part of the abortive DC comics publishing partnership from years back. So the new edition is more about maintaining consistency. In the case of The Courtship of Jena Makarov, it came out after the DC deal collapsed and as a result had a MUCH smaller print run. Copies of this book have been reselling on ebay for silly amounts of money for some years now. I have lost count of the number of times that people have asked me where they can get a copy of this book. They want to buy it , but can't, therefore they can't/won't buy the 8 volumes that follow it. Arrgh! After years of asking Rebellion nicely about this, then not so nicely, I eventually just told people to Bittorrent the thing. Yup, that makes me a bad person. Off to Hell I go!" I believe it's called Mek-Quake...

Simon continues "Aaaanyway, so now, at last, we're having a new edition of each book. New covers are required. This is fun for me , because A) I had thought that I would never do another Dante cover and B) I wasn't much keen on my earlier efforts. So in order of publication..."

"Nikolai Dante - The Great Game"

"You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy"

"The original cover has dated badly. I hate it! It's been annoying me for years now. While I actually quite like the ship (I wanted to do an airbrushy Ferrari car portrait like used to be on my brothers bedroom wall in the 80s and I think that worked), everything else is static. The exploding planet is awful. Some of the wreath of character portraits are just bad. This may have been done while I was learning Photoshop in 1997 or 98. All my previous colour work had been done on my Acorn RiscPC, which I was fairly fluent with. This cover might have been the first thing I did on my new-ish 233Mhz Pentium PC. So this was done while I was living in Vienna. I was still in my 20s ( just ). What I'm saying here is that it's bloody old!"

"So what do I want the new cover to be? Well in the first instance I want it to be all about the ACTION. In the second I kind of want to make more of the EXPLODING DAMNED PLANET! I always liked the character of Elena DiJanisaire, it spoke well of Dante's character that the girl he actually married was so badass. I kinda-sorta-mighta have used her as a springboard for my own character Lilly Mackenzie. Quite subconsciously you understand. I wouldn't want to give Morrison too much credit ( he'd want royalties or something )."

Just a normal day for Lilly and Cosmo...

"The fact that Elena dies early in the story isn't a problem, in fact it's a plus. If she's so prominently featured on the cover, one might ( mistakenly ) assume that she would last for the whole story. So the shock value of her murder is enhanced. This story also has an awesome baddie in Dante's insane half brother Valentine Romanov. I wanted to incorporate him in there somehow. I wasn't immediately sure how I could do that. Would he be cackling in the background as the Darkstar explodes? Naaah, it takes away from the explosion to do that. Also I don't want to spoil the reveal of his true face near the end of the story. In the pencil rough you can see that the exploding skull is already there, but also some refugees from the first cover 'wreath'."

Then, Valentine did the most powerful burp ever...

"They made it into the first colour rough, but then those bozos were erased. There was going to be a lot of exploding detritus and I didn't want the composition to get bogged down with too much stuff."

Surly Valentine

Why was Valentine crap at musical statues?
'Cos he kept Roman-off...

"I did a lot of screwing around with wet media brushes in Photoshop to get the explosion nice and detailed. I wanted the feeling of gas plasma being released by the heat. I fiddled about with the Hue slider on the background too. Sometimes that will suggest a colour combination that you would never have attempted, but totally works."

Valentine reads too many progs in one go...

Romanov family reunions were always a little explosive...

To finish off I made the skull a little darker, to contrast better with the blast. Some people have told me that they don't recognise it as a skull immediately, it comes later and is a bit surprising. I'm happy to have made an almost full cover image of an exploding skull, subliminal.

Eloise remembers just why she divorced Nikolai...

Nikolai Dante- Love & War ( formerly The Courtship of Jena Makarov )

The coolest swinger in town...

"Like the Great Game cover, the original one is quite cheerful and swashbucklery. The new title however, suggests a bigger scale and more tragedy. So I rethought this cover more completely. I don't hate the original this time. I actually quite like it. If it has a problem , it's that the composition is quite flat. I thought I might try and amp up the drama this time."

"My first thought was that I could do a shot of Dante inside the burning Airship, all battered and bleeding. That idea was nixed by Tharg. It wasn't really epic enough. Also needs more sex, fair enough."

Dante's Inferno...

"So in the next version I went all out for EPIC. Also , because the book no longer has her name in the title, I dropped Jena Makarov from the central position with Dante and substituted Katarina Dante. I love the idea of our handsome, virile, action hero going into battle, with his Mum!"

"Muuum, they're all picking on me..."

"I've kept the sunset from the first cover, thrown in some grand architecture and massed armies to give it scale."

Notice how all those leading lines draw you you Dante's crotch? Very clever Simon...

"In retrospect I'm not mad keen on that dull red colour. Oh well. Maybe there will be a 3rd edition of it one day and I can fix that!"

 Just... move your arm a little Katarina...

HUGE thanks to Simon for this, it made me realise just how much I miss Dante. Perhaps a Christmas re-read is in order?

Speaking of Christmas, there will be a festive update to this blog each day until Christmas Day! Enjoy!

Saturday, 13 December 2014

D'Israeli - Stickle-whacked!

Sniff! Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and prog 1911 sees the end of the modern classic, Stickleback. The mysterious pope of crime first appeared in 2000AD in February 2007, and over the last seven and a half years has kept us guessing as to who, or what, he really is. Killing him at Christmas too, thanks a lot Tharg, you green git! 

Baring a bloody scrap with Santa, visionary artist D'Israeli has been the sole artist on the strip. Bringing a grimy, texture-filled Victorian London to life, brimming with all manner of fantastic locations and colourful, monocromatic characters! The strip will be a big miss, but I have a feeling we are simply entering a new phase of the character's life...

Over to D'Israeli to tell us how Stickleback's swan song came to life, or should that be death? 

Tharg's brief was “I was thinking of another Stickleback cover for the last episode -  maybe an image of SB's harness lying discarded on the floor?” So I fired up Manga Studio EX5 and got to work!" 

"I usually try to provide two variants of a cover brief plus a “wild card,” but in this case, the image was so strong, and fit the story so well, I just did two small variations on the  brief, one exactly a stated, one with the addition of the empty Stickleback mask. Matt picked my variation with the mask." 

Spine tingling!

The Ugly Bug's fall...

"Then in on a new layer I drew a refined “pencil” drawing to just tighten up the details..."

Margaret Thatcher's true form.

"Next the Pencils & Blocking. Under the pencils I added blocks of colour to act as masks for the later painting and texturing. The grid of tiles was a late decision, constructed using Manga Studio’s excellent  perspective rulers. It’s a bit wonky at the top, but I wanted that part to fade to black anyway, so I didn’t waste time fixing it."


"Blocking and Shadow - I don’t usually add any sort of shading at the blocking stage, but in the case of the tiling, adding a transparent layer of colour over the existing tile pattern simplified later texturing and painting stages. Because I separate out the colour blocking  out into layers, I could just add the shading on a new layer between the foreground elements and the background tile pattern. One great advantage of working digitally is the ability to make major decisions like this “on the fly” without risk."

"At this stage I exported the image as a layered Photoshop file."

Red Devil?

"In Adobe Photoshop CC I added textures using a combination of the selection tools (to select different areas of the colour blocking) and the paint bucket tool, filling with textures of my own making."

D'Israeli's textures include coffee, stuff from down the back of the couch and egg from Mr Twit's beard.

Then it's back to Manga Studio EX5 for painting. Manga Studio can work with Photoshop files, so I just re-opened the file without further conversion. I use Manga Studio’s Transparent Watercolour brushes to paint in detail and shading. I’ve modified the brush settings so give harder edged, distinctive brush strokes (avoiding the slightly airbrushed look of the default settings). The point is for the end result to look as organic as possible." 

"While Manga Studio’s watercolour brushes aren’t quite as good as the ones in Corel Painter (which I used to use for finishing), the overall speed and performance of Manga Studio is so ridiculously superior that I’m confirmed in my decision to abandon Corel Painter."

Yes, over the years on this blog we've seen D'Israeli's very public, somewhat undignified break up with Coral Painter. I for one hope that the end of Stickleback helps the artist draw a line under this obviously painful split and both can get on with their lives.

"At this point I’m finished; the only step left is to re-open the file in Photoshop for export as a flattened TIFF. That’s then sent to 2000AD by FTP."

Criminal chrysalis 

 At the end of the strip we find out our protagonist's true identity, something I called back in 2010, go me!

 To honour our fallen antihero, I think it's only right to have a Stickleback Cover Gallery special!

We'll begin with the crooked crooks' debut way back in February 2007...

Stop picking your nose Stickleback!

Prog 1575 featured Stickleback's motley crew - Black Bob, Gay John, Fiery Jack and Little Tonga!

Day of the Tentacle!

Next, possibly my favourite Stickleback cover of all, the awesome Prog 1669...

There's gotta be fish paste in that hamper...

There exists a coloured version of this cover, while's lovely, I'm pleased they kept with the thematic monochrome approach...

Fetch the engine, fetch the engine! 

A very important cover next, as Stickleback faces off against the Iron Maiden Irena Bernoulli at the climax of Stickleback Book 3...

Stickleback always had a way with the ladies...

Evil is reborn as the Pope of Crime is reanimated by the Brotherhood of the Book. Ironically, this cover published in the same week that Pope Francis was elected. Truly, Tharg knows all!

Sticklebacta tank

Stickleback and his pal Henry...

Always a pioneer, Stickleback attempts to light Henry's burps.

A sorrie state of affairs as Stickleback and Bob get to work...

Ugly scenes on the first ever Black Friday...

The sinister sisters prepare to make mischief on Prog 1903...

The worst ever episode of 'Blind Date.'

And, the end... or should that be 'The Beginning?'

He sure looks dead to me...

I would like to publicly thank Mr D'Israeli for giving so much of his time and putting so much effort into his Stickleback posts for this blog. Over the years he has provided pages and pages of detailed information, given us free brushes and even made instructional videos to share his artistic process. I'm so flattered and it speaks volumes for the man. 

So thank you Matt, from myself and everyone who reads this blog.

 Stickeback is dead! Long live Stickleback!