Friday Fixup: Rebel Yell

A Twitter snippet, that might go away – who knows with twitter at the moment!
An image of the above tweet exchange with a link to the original (just in case!)

Jim Stafford (website here: https://www.jimstafford.co.uk ) said “I’d love any tips you could give me to pimp up page 2 (the yelling heads). Other pages for context.”

Firstly, let me say this is good stuff, man, what can I tell you – drawing transformers is insanely hard. Adding character to boxy shaped vehicular robots? DIFFICULT.

And I suspect I can’t tell you much, but I can say what I’d do.

Page 2

So here’s what I’d do.

There’s a couple of philosophical points I wanna get out of the way first, and these are no criticisms of you (or anyone else) but purely what I would and wouldn’t do.

I approach all my art work with rhythm in mind, and how quickly people get bored. People get bored looking at incredible art if it’s page after page after page after page. We’re so hard coded to boredom, I once saw a tv show where a sea cucumber was set up beside a machine that poked it at exact regular intervals, the first couple of times the sea cucumber visibly flinched, the fourth/fifth time it reacted less and by the seventh or eight time it did nothing. Why? It was BORED. SEA CUCUMBERS get bored. We get bored as a mechanism to conserve energy and we do it at a fundamental deep low level.

(This is why reading a 22 page comic is easy and looking at the art of one is actually hard – also why if you’re going to convention with artwork to show an editor, six pages is enough, they’ll be bored around seven no matter how amazing it is)

Anyway I say all this because I think the rhythm on this page is pretty simple -Every face is a shout. Every face is a close up (and often repeated faces). By varying the head angle we can do two things, one we break up the monotony a bit (same character but a different angle maybe?) but we can also very subtly cue the reader about the relative positions of each character. The page before clearly shows where they all are in relation to each other, and so, for example, Rotorstorm (in panel 4) is to the LEFT of the captain of the ship, so we have him look to his left on panel 3.

The robot dude (I’m sorry I don’t know all of their names!) on panel 5 & 7 is situated above the captain so if our camera can get a perfect shot of the captain’s head it would be looking up at that robodude. And any opportunity for a dramatic up shot is to be welcomed.

I think colour has something to say in this page too. As things get more intense that colour could be changing over the page. pushing to red or orange or similair?

Plus you can pull dramatic lighting even when you dont have the lights to do it, dramatic uplighting on panel 8 helps sell the idea that robotransformerbot is looking at a very important screen.

Panels 5 & 7 I’ve also varied the emotional response on this cylctronicmegarobotcardude – panel 5 seemed funnier if it was delivered dry – like raised eyebrow, then panel 7 a more dramatic shout. Just giving each face a slightly different emotional reaction will help a lot.

Panel 9 I’d push that shout even bigger. BIG pull in to a big reaction. Helping the reader on an emotional rollercoaster on the page rather than a kind of straight line emotional train.

And that’s it. I’ll end with mu usual caveat, this is what I’d do at this moment in time, it’s not right (or even wrong) it’s just my opinion, and I hope it has some value (even if that value is in ignoring it and saying – no – I’m sticking to my convictions!)

If you’d like to be featured here you can hit me up in email via pjholden gmail.com – stick an @ between pjholden and gmail.com and you’re golden!

Chimpsky’s Law Ep 6

Oh no! Chimpsky, locked in his own tower block surrounded by brain controlled cits that are all friends and all, now, absolutely set on killing our ape chum!

Here’s the first few pages in black and white from this week’s 2000AD!

And since I’ve been pretty lax in posting Chimpsky stuff over the past several weeks it’s been running, here’s some fun background extra inf… for the most part Ken just described these scenes of Chimspky in the different areas of his Megablock as outside or inside, so that gave me some free reign to just start designing areas of a block we’ve never really seen, so food areas, an alien garden, shopping precincts, all that stuff. It also allowed me to do a fun little King Kong moment…

You’ll notice on this preview, that I somehow forgot to draw legs for some of the characters in the top right, this was fixed before print, but oops!

Also, Makrill! The Ocean Sent “It Stinks” absoloutly inspired by my eldest who must’ve been 11 or so when he was told about scented candles and he asked if there was one that smelled like Mackrell – which he loved – no, son. No. (He’s now 18 and insists it would’ve been a good idea…)

The Science of Judge Dredd

Sparked by a (funny) question on the 2000ad message board:

Screenshot from 2000ad Message Board: Genuine question - does the lawgiver only eject casings on covers? I’m sure I’ve seen it before on covers but not that I’ve seen it in stripwork.

Posted by BPP

Genuine question – does the lawgiver only eject casings on covers? I’m sure I’ve seen it before om [sic] covers but not that I’ve seen it in stripwork.

http://futureshockd.wordpress.com/

http://twitter.com/#!/FutureShockd

BPP

As someone with a passing interest in this stuff, I have considered this question. What I’m suggesting isn’t – by any means definitive – but it’s an explanation of why I draw things the way I draw them, but first, let me talk more generally about my approach to Dredd.

I would rather draw something that explains the story and gives an emotional punch more than something that is the actual science of the world. As, I think Russell T Davis said of the Sonic Screwdriver (and I’m both paraphrasing and unsure if he’s the right writer) nobody wants to watch a Doctor Who episode where he spends much of it figuring out how to unlock dozens of doors, so the sonic screwdriver just magically does it.

So let’s start with that stupid/amazing/vision-obscuring/visionary helmet. Designed by Carlos Ezquerra to look like an executioner’s hood, and refined and refined over the years by list of the giants of British Comics, including Mike McMahon, Brian Bolland, Steve Dillon, Brendan McCarthy, and you know, nearly every UK british artist has had a go.

What’s striking about Dredd’s helmet is just how malleable it is, how open to interpretation and how iconic each artist can make it. Here’s a fun link, Steve Green takes a bunch of Dreddworld helmet designs and renders them in 3d, including Brendan McCarthy outrageously flared helmet, which on first glance I’d’ve said you could never make in 3d, but it works really well.

Personally my helmet design probably comes mostly from Steve Dillon, but also – and hold on to your Dredd-hats – partly from the Stallone Dredd movie.

From Dillon the general Dredd shape, from Stallone movie various frills, but also an opening mechanisim at the back, as well as a little extra padding at the back of the neck…

Elements, I’ve always presumed that came from practicalities of wearing the damn thing.

I’ve banged on about my approach to Dredd’s uniform already, so if you’re interested, that is here.

Now, as to the science, I tend to think of Dredd’s helmet as delivering information directly to Dredd’s eyes/ears, essentially super-vision, a Heads up display – possibly fed from tiny cameras around the head (If you’ve ever used an oculus rift in its camera mode, you’ll see how cool that can look), literal eyes in the back of his head. Linked to his gun too, so it would be fairly possible for him to turn his head fractionally, but have accurate vision 180deg behind him and to fire at a target without missing.

I’d also imagine that helmet would reduce/increase the information feed to Dredd depending on what’s happening. Dredd on a bike gets a HUD that’s different to Dredd on the street. Dredd with gun out, will get information about targets that he can acquire and suggesions for ammo type. Once the gun is ‘hot’ it’ll switch to a simpler mode.

Vision augmented, and the same will be true of his auditory input. (And this may even have some sort of neural link directly to him (this, by the way, almost all falls under the heading of “fan wank” – ie, 90% of readers won’t care, but some – SOME LIKE ME – get really excited about shit like this)

NOW! On to the gun

Here’s how I see it: Dredd’s gun is essentially a super sophisticated 3d printer. It holds multiple ingredients for building multiple types of bullet.

The device is primed (usually through spoken command, though it will default to smartly identifying the type of bullet) theory: maybe cadets are trained to shout out the bullet type so other Judges can have a better situational awareness. Dredd shouts “Armour piercing”? everyone else goes with Armour Piercing.

(Again, this is very much fan wank – the real reason Dredd shouts out the bullet type is so the reader knows what Dredd has fired…)

Why the shells? Well, the real reason is: they look cool. The in-my-head reason is that some of the raw material (but not all) is held in cartridges, and so they eject after they’re spent.

The question I have is, is it like my colour printer : where if you don’t have yellow ink you can’t (for some reason) print black and white. If you lack ingredient X can you still use bullet Y that doesn’t use it, or is the gun out of ammo?

I suspect some ingredients are common to all bullet types (projectile types? is bullet the right word?)

But that’s it. Now you can just ignore all of this, because, let’s face it, it’s just my fanciful head canon, that I’m just as liable to ignore myself if there’s a more interesting way to draw it.

The one thing I can’t explain, is why the Judge Eagle would sometimes flip on to the wrong shoulder…

UPDATE: I’ve turned on comments if you want to pop your own “How does the science of Dredd work” theory in here…

Chimpsky

I’m not exactly sure what the script said, but I think it said something along the lines of Chimpsky sits high atop the city. Not sure what Ken (Neimand) the writer was expecting me to do and I probably wasn’t entirely sure, but for the longest time I’ve been fascinated by the monkeys in Belfast Zoo and their high poles.

Belfast zoo is set on Cave Hill and has an incredible view over all of Belfast, and the monkeys (and there’s a LOT of different monkey enclosures) have various poles set out for climbing, resting and playing on.

I used to look at them up there, a single monkey on a pole and wonder what exactly they would be thinking. Seeing that view.

Anyway, that’s what I was thinking. As it happened, at the time of cover the 5G towers were in the news (and we were still aways from pandemics and mask wearing, timing just sort of happened), and I figured Mega City 1 would probably have a lot of communication towers just sitting around – granted we’ve never seen them before (that I’m aware of) but Mega City 1 – like Dredd – is quite a malleable place, so it’s not weird to do it.

Anyway, my first Chimpsky cover (details here) looks like this (image below) and today I stumbled across a photo from 2005 I took of the Monkey in Belfast Zoo and … well.. the similairities are striking… I promise you, I’d entirely forgotten about the photo when I did the cover (I wish I’d remembered about it, I would have traced the figure…!)

2000ad Prog 2239

SK Moore

Wow, what a cover. One thing you can’t fault SK Moore on is ambition. It’s been quite a run of covers for 2000ada over my chimpsky run, any one could be a best of the year, easily. Anyway, on with this week’s chimpsky!

Now, as a special bonus treat, it rarely happens (but it happened twice- once in this week’s chimpsky and in next week’s – where I pick up something in the script wrong. In this week’s I misinterpreted how angry our chum Chimpsky would became and so drew a full on raging monkey attack – but, Ken felt it was too much (and he was right) so it was swapped out in favour of a more restrained any-moment-now-i’m-about-to-do-something-awful panel.)

Since I hate to waste anything, here’s the unused panel…

BTW I’ve been posting these things hoping for some feedback in the comments, but have only just realised I’ve had comments off – so I’ve no idea if anyone has been reading them, I hope you have!

In a couple of weeks after the series has run I might start talking about where I think I failed in the story, where my frustrations with what I wanted to do and what I just couldn’t make my art do sit. STAY TUNED!

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Cover by Cliff Robinson and Dylan Teague.

Under another stonking cover by Cliff Robinson and Dylan teague we have episode five of Chimpsky, but before I start that – just let me say, I’m annoyingly jealous of what Dan Cornwell got to draw in Dept K, I WANTED TO GO FULL KIRBY! Goddammit. Anyway, that looks great (he says begrudgingly through gritted teeth)

How it started…

Now Chimpsky! Episode 5 – and Norm finally comes face to face with … well, let’s not spoil it. If you remember back to episode 1, Norm in space, things all around him, I’ll let you in on a secret; I wasn’t entirely sure what was going to lead to that page 1 opener (but it’s such a striking/fun thing, I don’t think you’ll hold it agin’ me – will you?).

Comic production can take some time, page 1 of this strip was probably drawn three months before page 1 of Episode 5 (I don’t have the exact details but that wouldn’t be weird for 2000ad) deadlines are frequently about 2 weeks for six pages, though sometimes longer and sometimes less. So, you know, ideally I’d like those two sequences to mesh together a little better, but … I also wanted that opener to really pull you in to the story … more of a cover than a first page, really…

Chimpsky is now desperate to escape the ship’s AI and it’s apparent attempt to kill him… or maybe it’s leading him somewhere…?

You can see here my pencils are pretty scrappy, but it’s a fairly straightforward thing to draw, so not a lot of planning, and I was pretty happy with the results, love what Simon Bowland has done on lettering, and Chris Blythe’s colouring remains top notch.

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Out this Wednesday, featuring episode 4 of Chimpsky’s Law: The Incredible Mr Chimpsky.

Cor, just klook at that cover – 2000ad has been on a stonking run of amazing covers lately, making my initial one for Chimpsky look a bit feeble in comparison.

In which the family Jepperson point the finger of blame at Chimpsky, and Chimpsky – at last – tells us who the real killer is!

I hope this strip conclusively answers the question “is this a little Hitler moustache” – the answer is no – it’s a little tall moustache that splays out at the ends, and if you read it as a Hitler ‘tache, that’s on you. (Or me for my art being not as clear as I thought it was)

I’m pretty pleased with Chimpsky’s grimacing face on that second page there, some fun things to draw.

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Out last Wednesday, 2000AD Prog 2236 features Episode 3 of Chimpsky’s Law: The Talented Mr Chimpsky

All under a lovely Dylan Teague cover…

Wherein out four handed friend, begins to see the Jepperson’s come to various sticky ends, finds himself fighting for his life and J’accuse Chimspky!

There’s some fun PG tips style Chimps playing card nonsense in this issue, and I think I was generally pleased with the art on it.

One of the Things with this strip is there are SO many named characters, and they all needed distinct looks, and then there were an abundance of UNNAMED characters, but again – a distinct look. Even the chimps, all fundamentally the same but you still needed – at the very least – to distinguish Chimpsky from all others. Largely with Chimpsky, I did that with body language and story telling – keeping him the focus or making sure he’s much more aware of what’s going on than the other apes (who are largely just reacting to whatever thing is happening just now – all acting is reacting!)

The Jeppersons though I designed the first bunch that I thought we’d see more of – at this point I had no idea of what fate befell each of them, so, don’t think there’s any spoilers if I show you this.

The 2000ad cover I did that ran a few progs ago was originally supposed to be for this issue, I suspect it was just abstract enough it could be run at any stage and the first episode felt like a pretty good spot for it.

The reaction to this strip seems to be largely very positive, so hopefully we’ll get to do more (I mean, assuming Chimpsky makes it out alive, right? RIGHT???)

2000AD Prog 2235

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.