2000AD Prog 2235 is out this week, featuring Dept K – by Cliff Robinson (lineart) and Dylan Teague (colours)
It’s kind of exciting to see characters I designed handled by Cliff – we’re two very different artists operating at two ends of an extreme, I think, so when Cliff draws something I’ve designed (or, has happened once in the past) I’ve drawn something he’s designed it’s fun to see where are sensabilities take us.
I tend towards chunky and clunky character designs but with a certain elasticity / cartoony-ness that. Cliff has a more delicate line that is more realistic and elaborate.
(Still very peculiar to me that while Dept K and Chimpsky are running those are two sets of characters I co-created)
Anyway, on to the business at hand, Chimpsky Part 2 – at this stage of drawing I’ve abandoned paper and pencil in favour of the cintiq in toto – largely this is eyesight related (my eyesight slowly but surely getting worse since I first started my professional drawing career in what – I can only assume – is some sort of unspoken bargain with the devil – sure I’ll help your career, very very slowly, but also, while that happens I’ll make your eyesight just the bit worse…) but partially a growing frustration with the physical tools of drawing, which can be so bloody pernickity. One day the ink is fine the next too gloopy. Frustrating.
last week I mentioned I designed the mansion in Blender – building models of things you’ve got to draw over and over again is a time honoured tradition (here’s some classic Pathe news clip starring Frank Hampson and his assortment of models for drawing Dan Dare – I am no Frank Hampson, shucks I’m not even a member of his team that helped him produce the art, but if it’s good enough for those guys…)
My Blender knowledge is pretty perfunctory, but I knew what I had in mind, and in order to help keep the damn thing looking the same from panel to panel, I figured a 3d model is the best way to go, it also helps you keep on top of the insane deadlines you have to deal with as a comic professional.
So I drop the model in to clip studio, press a magic “render” button (actually labelled “LT Convert Layer”) and get a nice simple line art translation. I then proceed to draw all over it, because a rendered 3d image is too perfect, and would stick out like a sore thumb. So you draw over it, adding texture and details and just generally stopping the thing look like a 3d model.
Anyway, here’s pencils for pages 1 and 2 and colours by Chris Blyte and lettering Simon Bowland.
Well, like buses, you wait for one series you do in 2000ad to go down well enough with the fans for Tharg to ask you to do it as an ongoing, and then suddenly two come along at once.
Unfortunately, timing meant I’ve had to bow out of the continuing adventures of Dept K (I’m honestly gutted about it) as I’m in the middle of US book, as well as drawing the on going adventures of everyone’s favourite super smart simian, Noam Chimpsky.
Anyway this week’s 2000ad features the the second episode of Dept K I’ve drawn (fittingly we sort of wrap things up cleanly enough that Rory And Dan Cornwell can kick off a whole new slate of adventures next week!)
In the meantime, here’s some of the b&w art from this week’s episode …
Thomas (my 12 year old son, who’s currently working on inking episode 2 of Servant 72) has introduced my to Junji Ito, and his brand of short story existential dread, and it’s really opened my noggin up to writing little short horror type stories.
From my notebook the idea was “Astronaut Frozen in Place on Moon – can’t move becomes part of moonscape”
Then I sat and wrote it out, basically writing out almost exactly he dialogue you see here, but with no panel descriptions, though I largely knew what they would look like.
Here’s the full script:
"Last Man on the Moon" [They left me here] The suit will keep me alive, maybe even for years but I can't move. We thought we knew everything about the moon. Here in teh darkest place deep in the South Pole-Aiken crater things are here. I can see them. The cew think I'm dead but I'm not. Just immobile. At least here I can see the stars. Until Sunrise/ Without the visor I'll see it once. Then nothing.
I’d probably futzed around with it forever (initially I posted it to twitter, and I’ve since tweaked some lettering, and redrawn the first face…)
Anyway, I’ve got a few more of these ideas scribbled in a notebook, as long as I can keep them managably small, I see no reason I can’t get them done.
A bunch of these, then I’ll tackle something much longer …
Thomas, age 12, has been putting every wannabe writer/artist to shame (including me, his dad) by sitting himself down and just writing and drawing his own comics. This is his latest – Servant 72. I won’t spoil it, but inside you’ll meet a nice friendly robot servant with a fixed rictus grin who – unbeknown to him – has been the happy-to-serve slave of a vicious intergalactic warlord.
Here for you to enjoy, please leave a comment, Thomas loves comments!
Thomas (age 12) has written and drawn a complete graphic novel called “FLY” – he’s done it all on the ipad, using the apple pencil and an app called “Comic Draw” (a kind of comic studio for kids – you can script in it, pencil, ink and colour and then letter the entire thing in this one program)
Here’s the complete work in two parts:
Finn is a teenager who works at a trash job in a trashy home but little did he know his life would take a turn for the worst when a speeding car runs him over and he ends up in hell. Since he didn’t live a good life he was turned into his least favourite animal, a fly and since he didn’t go into the brain crusher he still has all his memories of being a human! Can Finn convince his friend that it’s really him and can they find a way out of this mess?!
When Finn died and was turned into a fly his life changed for the worst. Desperate to turn back he get transported to the afterlife. Can Finn fly past Satan’s anger or will Finn get caught in his web!?
There are three things I wanted to do – one I wanted to see how much story I could pack in to a one page story, I’ve been thinking about stories about love and unrequited love (specifically the deep gothic love stories, Dracula/Mina Harker, Conor MacCloud and Heather…) and I had a new brush from frenden I hadn’t used yet that I thought would be fun.
Having done the folklore stories, I knew I could tell a tale in that space, but could I come up with one of my own?
I wasn’t entirely sure where I was going with it, initially it was just going to be an old man visiting the grave of his wife, then it occurred to me I could give a bit of a twist – visiting the grave of his first love. Hard to know where poignancy ends and creepiness begins though, but that’s ok, a story this short you can read what you want in to it – did he live a decent life, got married, have kids, all the while that first love was just a part of him, or did he lament the loss for the entirety of his life? we’ll never know.
I’ve uploaded a high res tiff file in case you fancy colouring it – and if you do, drop a note in the comments, I’d love to see it!
Thought you’d like some behind the scenes stuff on Captain Cookies. Readers, did I make mistakes? of course. Will I pointlessley try and correct them several months (actually a full year) after drawing the strip and a month after it saw print? sure, why not.
But first, here’s episode one in glorious monochrome-o-vision…
So let’s take page 1, which I think, has the worst story telling issues (and entirely my fault) basically I should have stuck with my thumbnails for the Dredd bike, suspect I just couldn’t hack the angle. (And the sound effects are misread as coming from Dredd’s bike canon, so I should’ve drawn the weapon on panel 1 to be obviously something else, and moved the “Blams” somewhere they couldn’t be misinterpreted) I sent these pages to Matt in April, so, Chimpsky fans, if you’re wondering, I drew the Christmas Chimpsky AFTER this one was finished, scheduling meant it worked out the other way round in print.
Since I sent it in April it’s logical to assume I was drawing it in March, about a year ago and just as the first lockdown started – so let’s chalk it all up to that – it was rough last year, father-in-law was seriously ill in hospital (almost a year in and out of hospital before covid hit, and then passed away not long after this) kids taken out of school and the whole covid thing (which is, obviously still on going).
I was struggling with drawing traditionally – my eyesight has been constantly a pain since it started going in my thirties (just as my pro career started- thanks karma) and it’s close up work that I struggle with, so believe it or not, I have to tilt the table now not because of the dangers of back pain but because it lets me keep the art the same distance from my eyes whether it’s the top of the page or the bottom. Drawing digitally takes that issue away since I can just move the digital page around as I like.
So this was me pencilling traditionally and moving to digital inks.
(Of course, all of the above reads as an excuse, it’s not – it’s simply background details that can have an impact)
I’ve largely given up on traditional and moved entirely to digital drawing (traditional drawing is a rubbish term, but there’s no better way of explaining it – analogue drawing? actual drawing? nothing makes sense at all)
More Chimpsky to come, readers, and he’s now off in his own little strip, so no more near misses with Dredd – you’ll be pleased to know… (and let’s face it, he may be superintelligent, but he’s been lucky Joe hasn’t just hit him with a heatseaker already…)
This coming year marks the 20th anniversary of my first 2000AD Published work.
tl;dr Just that. This year, twenty years drawing Judge Dredd, and hopefully I’ll get to do more… now read on…
I’ve told the story many times, but to recap, following 2000AD’s purchase by Rebellion, Rebellion decided to have the first 2000AD Convention DreddCon:1 in November 2000 –
Having previously wheedled my way in to the online 2000ad fan community, via the fanzine “Class of ’79” (itself a product of the imagination of sadly missed WR Logan aka Stewart Perkins) and drawn a few strips for it, I’d also become friendly with Gordon Rennie – who was writing Dredd at the time – from doing some small press work for the fanzine “Violent” (created by Mike Sivier) It was clear I needed to go to the new convention.
I was pretty active on alt.comics.2000ad – a newsgroup (newsgroups were message board type things that had elements of social media to them – ask your parents)
And had set up a nascent web cam type operation to draw live from my drawing board (twitching before there was a twitch) And thanks to the wonders of the internet, here that is:
There’s a reason I’m telling you this and it’ll be clear shortly…
The year 2000 was a seminal year for a multitude of reasons, I’d applied for a new job that I’d started on the 1st of that year, working for a charity as their IT manager, but, importantly, it was a part time job and I’d intended to spend the remaining time drawing more and – as a kid growing up reading 2000ad – the year itself, obviously, meant something.
Plus, and this might have been the clincher, 2000 was the year I turned 30.
So I went off to DreddCon, with a pile of comic pages (having advised people over the years you only need a few pages, I decided I’d try a slightly different, idiotic, tact and bought a whole load of work with me, the hope being I’d show it to then editor Andy Diggle and he’d relent under the pressure of my resolve and volume of my pages)
As it turns out, Andy was one of the people who’d watched the webcam (see, told you it would be relevant!) and said he thought (as he surface skimmed the art on the top of the massive pile of comics pages I’d bought) that my art had improved, so yes, he’d give me some work. I was a little anxious because he wasn’t really looking at the mountains of artwork I’d bought for him to look at.
In one of those happier coincidences, my girlfriend (who’d become my wife a few years later) was with me, so it was a glorious glorious con – best of my life, probably. (She remains not-a-con goer though)
I phoned Gordon immiediatly, and Gordon, to which I’ll always be in his debt, said he’d just sent in a Dredd and he’d ask for me to draw it.
And lo, I ended up debuting in Prog 1233 in March 2001 in Judge Dredd.
Some mad person has done the leg work of checking all of the contributors to Judge Dredd and the number of appearances (in the Megazine and 2000AD) and in the twenty years since, of the 146 artists to have worked on Dredd, in terms of number of appearances, I come in at number 9. Something which even now I’m slightly baffled by – how did that happen? In my head I’m still trying to break in to comics in general and 2000ad specifically. This past couple of years I’ve gotten more comfortable with how I handle Dredd himself, even as I’m still casting around trying to figure out how to draw his entire mad world.
That first Dredd strip, I redrew it maybe three/four times, a curse that has followed me around on almost every job – the most recent Dredd I abandoned pages and redrew them with just as insecurity.
Anyway, twenty years. Kind of remarkable to do anything for 20 years really – I think my life working in IT lasted from the age of 14 to 37, in comics 30 to 50 (seven year overlap). Maybe, as the comics time frame takes over the IT time frame I’ll stop thinking of myself as an IT nerd who draws comics and instead ease into old age thinking of myself as a comic artist first and foremost.
This next year, in the bag already for 2000AD is more Judge Dredd, a solo Chimpsky series and more Dept K – if I end up spending the next twenty years working for 2000AD, well, it’s a life well lived as far as I’m concerned.
There’s no central committee to say “Here you go, twenty years of service, well done” so I make no apologies fort the self-congratulatory nature of this blog post, almost everything I’ve ever done in comics has been a way to connect to an 11 year old me, sitting in my room drawing Judge Dredd and trying to escape the real world, so well done you – you did it. I love drawing Dredd, I always have, I always will, and now I’ve finally gotten good at it, I’d like to do more.
Thanks to everyone who’s helped me get here – WR Logan, Gordon Rennie, Andy Diggle, Mike Sivier, Christian Dunn (former Warhammer editor) and, of course, Matt Smith – Thargs current incarnation who’s been there as long as I have, as well as the pals I’ve made along the way, Rob Williams, Si Spurrier, Arthur Wyatt, Al Ewing, and many, many more. And, finally, of course, special thanks to the readers who’ve put up with me as my art style has evolved over the years, there will always be ups and downs in quality, sometimes because you learn and try things out, sometimes it’s because drawing is bloody hard and life is hard and everything is HARD. But it’s never, NEVER because I don’t love the job.
So, while John and I aren’t exactly the same age, we both grew up in Blighty and share many of the same references, and I’m pretty sure John had some notion what I’d do with this.
Monkey was an absolutely formative experience for me. I’d never seen anything like it. It hit the UK in ’79 – and I was nine years old. I grabbed the nearest broom handle from the back yard and was twirling it around like Monkey Magic for hours on end.
Endless school fights.
If you’ve never seen Monkey (or, to give it it’s original Japanese name, “Journey in to the West”) it was an absolutely bonkers adaptation of the a Chinese novel written in the 16th century. And probably my first exposure to asian culture.
I had a couple of notions of how to handle this, the big choice was do I do my own version of The Monkey King or do I do the version played by Masaaki Sakai (who was impossibly charming as the boisterous, and naughty monkey)
And you know, the pleasure of doing your own stuff is you can do what you like. So Masaaki Sakai it was.
Ideally, I think, I would’ve like to have done this as a four colour comic book adaptation or a cover – and I designed a “The Monkey King” logo to drop on it, but I just couldn’t make it work, so in the end I settled for moving some of the text around so I could end on “The Monkey King” trying to tease out the idea of what my monkey king might look like, so in the final panel reveal it’s a neat little nostalgia hit.