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.

One Small Step…

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 …

The Studio

I’ve started obsessing over my studio shelf space.

Generally I’m a pretty lazy collector, I’ve books going way back to the dawn of my interests in comics (specifically copies of The Dark Knight Returns), books that I bought to read on holiday, and then I’ve started amassing hardbacks.

To give you some idea of the nonsense on my selves – I don’t have a first volume of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (I bought the individual issues), my second volume is a paperback, as is the Black Dossier (which doesn’t seem to have a volume number, but comes – I believe – between 2 and 3, Volume 3 (Century) I think I had one issue of the miniseries, and then I picked up volume 5 as a hardback.

Wasn’t a problem before now, I’ve probably read them all digitally on comixology or just sort of missed them. But now, having replaced two bookshelves that were waist high with a single tall shelf, I’ve started putting things on that shelve and noticing the weird gaps.

Locke and Key Hardbacks volumes 1,2,3 and 5 no volume 4. NO VOLUME 4. Idiot.

The previous shelf was behind things so I never saw any of it, I’d allowed clutter to come front and centre, covering it, and I had a mobile artstation unit sitting in front (I figured I could move it, so what harm, it turns out A LOT OF HARM. A LOT)

Anyway anyway, have started going mad like a windows 95 computer defragging a particualrly egregious hard disk, moving books here there and over there.

My main problem is I want to stack things where I can put my hand on them, but equally, I really want the ones I love to be constantly at eye level – so I’ve set up an Alan Moore shelf (got your usual V for Vendetta, Captain Britain, Watchmen, Futureshocks, League etc). But, of course, I’ve got gaps in things like Swamp Thing (not only gaps but I literally haven’t read a lot of it!)

So, past the Moore stuff there’s a Frank Miller/David Muzzachelli collection (small but nice). I’m totally missing Electra Assassin though (yes, it’s Bill S. not David M.)

Suddenly I’m noticing gaps. About three years ago my wife and I agreed that we’d pretty much got all the things, and the last thing I needed was more books I wasn’t likely to read (and worse, I’d already spent a Christmas or two asking for books that, idiotically, I’d forgotten I already had) here’s one such exchange, almost word-for-word:

Annette “What do you want for christmas”
Me “Well, I’m largely ok, but I wouldn’t mind Alex Toth: Genius Illustrated
Annette “I think you have that.”
Me “Ho, no, I have the OTHER two books – but not that one”
Annette “No, I’m pretty sure I got that for you last year”
Me “No, I think I’d know if I had that book – it is flipping massive. I’d’ve spotted that on my shelves! HOHOHO!”
Annette “…” goes into my room … comes back out brandishing a large object
Annette “You mean this book?”
Me (sheepishly) “…yes…”

Anyway, crises averted on that occasion, but at least three other times I’ve asked for, and received, gifts that I already had. And so, self imposed book exile began. No more buying.

I bought and read digital, that was fine.

But now… but now… I can see my books again. It’s weird, it’s like suddenly you have your own library (I mean I don’t profess to have anywhere near the books of Sean Phillips who appears to have opened a branch of forbidden planet in his studio but it’s more than average)

That said, there’s plenty of books in there that I enjoyed reading but am unfussed about keeping. I nopped out of the Walking Dead (started reading it when I had young kids and found I just couldn’t put up with the constant peril) so I have volumes 1-5 and volume 8 (where the flip are 6 & 7??) I have various sandman, but I can borrow sandman from the library as digital files to read, so that’ll do. I have invincible volumes 1-3 & 6 (sigh) and suspect I might wanna buy that in massive compendium form. I have about four versions of Hellboy Seed of Destruction (as well as most of it digitally) so I should gut that a bit.

Anyway, it’s taken me decades, but I think this is finally becoming the studio I’ve always wanted…

3d For Comic Artists – Sketchfab to Blender

So if you’ve followed along with the Blender basics, I’m now going to start to get into doing USEFUL stuff with Blender.

When I first started using Blender it was as a bridge to go from sketchup to clipstudio – I know a lot of artists take sketchup screengrabs and push them into clip studio, but I found having the 3d model in clip studio was a whole lot more useful.

Now, I find myself mostly grabbing 3d models from Sketchfab and then bringing those into Blender to ensure they’re the right scale and then going from there to sketchfab.

Continue reading “3d For Comic Artists – Sketchfab to Blender”

So farewell then, Captain Cookies

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…)

Who Killed Captain Cookies?

Well, another belter of a Kenneth Neimand script, in the form of Who Killed Captain Cookies, and, hopefully, by now you’ll realise the Chimpsky is on the case!

This is a four parter (part 2 this week) and I promise you, it won’t be the last you’ll see of Chimpsky. (though I can’t exactly tell you when you’ll see more of him…)

Here’s the layouts of part 1, I remember the day I did these and it was so much fun to just noodle drawings of Dredd, hence the nutso details on Dredd and the vagueness of everything else. It was also a period where I was struggling with the work generally. Times like that you just sometimes have to trust the craft will get you through. Thankfully, I’m actually feeling pretty pleased with the stuff I’m drawing right now – but you’re unlikely to see that stuff for another year!

Having seen the story in print (and remember, drew this around August?) I think I made page 1 panel 1 & 2 a little more confusing than they needed to be, the thumbs work better here I think.

Thumbnails for Who Killed Captain Cookie Episode 1

I’d very much like to try and get this blog into a useful shape again and for that, I think, what I really need is feedback. Even if it’s just to say “Hi I saw your blog” please leave a comment below! And I promise I’ll begin posting more…

Stay On Target!

If you’re not familiar with “The Pomodoro Technique” it’s a super simple technique for focusing on tasks. The name “Pomodoro” comes from the italian for tomato, and is based on a rather cutsey tomato shaped timer the creator of the technique used. The idea is simple, and it’s this:

You set aside 25 minutes to do a single task. At the end of it, you take a five minute break. Do it again, and repeat until you’ve done 4 sets in a row, then instead of a five minute break you take a 25 minute break.

I find, for the sort of work I do (ie drawing comics) it’s a brilliant way to break log jams. Where I often focus on getting a page done, it’s very much a-can’t-see-the-woods-for-the-trees problem. Focusing on a timer that I draw to, rather than obsessing about whether can draw or not .

I’ve also been playing (for decades really) with a way of figuring out how much time I’ve been spending on pages. So here’s the latest iteration, the target below is pretty simple and represents a single page (you can write the page number in the centre). The first set of segments out from the page, the first inner ring – represents pencils, inks, colours and lettering (or, if you’re me, two segments represent pencils and two inks).

The larger outer ring, divided into chunks of four represents individual pomodoros, in sets of four – I’ve been aiming to do around 16 pomodoros per day – so in total the outer circle represents two days worth of work.

The plan, the guarantee, the thinking, is that instead of worrying about how long a page takes, all I’ve got to do is fill those outer rings as I do pomodoros and boom the page does itself (I mean you’ve still got to draw it, but it makes it – for me – much more manageable)

In this example, page 15 is fully pencilled and I know it took me about 3.5 hours.

So I’ve created a weekly sheet (let’s see how long I keep this up…) that contains a day breakdown of pomodoros as I do them along with 12 pages I could finish in the week (I mean 12 is ridiculous, the reality is, I’ll be happy to get six pages finished in a week, so if you’d like to use this, just remember the extra targets are just there for symmetry and balance on the page rather than actual work you should do)

If you want to use this yourself, it’s scaled at A5 so you can cut it out and stuck it in a diary or just use it on its own (or don’t use it at all!)

Download here:

The Portable Studio

Away from home for a couple of days, and so I had a chance to build up a portable studio. There are, obviously, major constraints but that’s ok, I like limits.

Everything fit in a single big bag.

Digital elements on the studio:

iPad Pro 12.9 512Gb, the latest model, with a nice case for it and the Apple Pencil. This case has a fixed cover (I much prefer these kind of things)

I’ve also got a usb-c dongle, which I can plug a mouse in to (for the purposes of this I borrowed my son’s gaming mouse, though it’s a little ostentatious for my tastes – with it’s vegas lighting and stealth fighter looking buttons)

I’ve a neat little Bluetooth keyboard, a separate keyboard with a hardware on/off switch on the bottom. It’s got a nice feel. I like it because it can be placed anywhere – in front of the iPad, or off to the side, so I can use it while digital drawing.

The mouse and keyboard combo means the iPad can act like a normal computer. And, of course, I can just grab it and start drawing, I’ve procreate for colour painting and clip studio.

Big important point with clip studio is remember to pre-download all the files you’re working with. I’ve pre-downloaded the 52 pages of the folklore stories, because trying to do that over a 3G connection is a bit murderous (and would eat up data).

That’s all topped off with my iPhone, and it’s 30Gb three connection which I can easily tether to the iPad (oh, I also have some earphones that plug into the usb-c dongle, bog standard headphones since the iPad Pro no longer has earphone connections)

So that’s the digital stuff, but I still like drawing on paper.

So the traditional tools are a canson 180 notepad – these are great because.- as you can see in the picture, they can be fully opened up they’ve cleverly got a stitched spine that a separate front and back cover, so they can open up without the spine getting in the way. It’s really very clever. Plus I like the paper. This is A4 (my eyesight being rubbish, I used to use the A5 but everything has got to be bigger)

I’ve paired that up with a zebra brush pen (small) – though I should have bought a few more inking tools.

A graphgear 1000 pental pencils – filled with .5 leads (I bought a bunch of .5 HB leads but it turns out not all HB leads are created equal, so I reverse fed a stadler .5 lead into the nib of it, which is a bit darker. We’ll see if we run out of leads)

A Mono Zero eraser pencil. These are great if you’re doing pencil textural drawings and you can use this to pick out highlights.

A Boxy carbon eraser, I like black erasers, they seem to smear less.

And that’s it.

All of that fits in to a fairly sturdy man bag I picked up a few years ago.

Basically I can now do roughs and inks some things, the folklore tales are largely all digital so I can probably do that entirely.

BUT I am supposed to be on a holiday for a few days. So maybe I’ll just sleep. Who knows…

Folklore Thursday: Food

If you sign up to our patreon you’ll have read this post already, and you’ll be helping us create brand new comics every week.

Originally posted here.

Hey ho! 

Started with a bunch of different kids and ended up being one based on me experiencing all of this, because, you know, I did…

Green Crisps, even to this day I’m still a little wary over green crisps, I’ll eat them, but I’ll be suspicious.

Pips – oh man, one of my best mates in primary school (age about 7?) was a fella called Paul Brolly who would eat an apple whole, core, pips, the bit of twig if it was there. A feat that would leave me wide eyed. It was fairly plausible a tree would grow from your stomach straight up your throat and out your mouth. This seemed entirely consistent with all the facts, and yet, Paul Brolly defied all of them. He was a medical marvel.

Blue Smarties. I was pretty hyper as a kid, so I’m not sure if I ever remember this one, but I’m certainly aware of it now. (Fun fact: red colouring E120 is made from insects, I’m pretty sure that would’ve blown my mind as a kid)

And finally…

I can actually remember where I was the first time I was told swallowing gum would stay in your gut. I was about 6 or so, and my mum told me. And I remember thinking “but I’ve been doing this for ages, is all the bubble gum gonna stay in there??” 

To this day, I’ve no idea what happened to all the bubble gum in my gut.

John Reppion wrote a fun little essay to go with this week’s tweet here.

Midweek update

Hello sports fan, it’s time for the midweek update.

So, what can I tell you so far: I’ve lost track of the days, I’m unsure what work I’ve done, and I’ve had my second cornovirus haircut and now my hair is a clumpy mess of shaved and unshaved bits.

Ok, on to work:

Last week I finished inking a WWI story that I’ve been doing for a little while (it needs approval)

Here’s a sneak peak:

Spiky Mallet. Timmy Mallet’s more angry cousin.

My original plan with this was to do traditional inking, but time got away from me, so it ended up being all digital. Annoyingly I think the all digital looks better, but it feels less satisfying to do.

Also, on the cards: started ep 2 of an entirely new Chimpsky! Bad news for those Chimpsky haters out there (I know you exist) no idea when we’ll see this but it’s fun to let loose in mega city one again. Also, did a cover for it.

Been tasked with doing a cut out and keep Judge Dredd, so that should be fun!

Couple of days ago the Times ran a Roy of the Rovers story written by Rob Williams, and drawn by me (colours by John Charles)

Image
Photo from the 2000ad/Roy of the Rovers twitter stream…
The actual strip, coloured so the colourist could see the white logos I dropped on there. (c) Rebellion Developments Ltd, probably.

It’s been a strange month, this. With Judge Dredd: Chimpsky’s Law running in 2000ad, and Judge Dredd: Bad Sector running in the Megazine and then the Roy of the Rovers and, unbelievably, NEXT week finally the graphic novel “The Stringbags” by Garth Ennis and me comes out (ably assisted by Rob Steen lettering, and Kelly Fitzpatrick colouring) and shepared with love and care by Gary Thompson at Dead Reckoning.

Book Cover: The Stringbags
pew pew pew / cover by Me with colours by Kelly Fitzpatrick

Since there’s an 11 page preview of this here, I think I’d be ok to show you a few of those pages unlettered in b&w, right?

If you’re not sick of hearing me talk you can listen to the 2000ad podcast I did last week here:

Oh, if you’re in the mood for WAR stories by me, Rob Williams and I have a destroyer strip in the Battle special coming out on the 19th of September.

Image
pew pew pew too

I really shouldn’t, but here’s a bit of this too… (which you might have already seen on twitter)

Crikey, that’s been exhausting. I hope you don’t get sick of my art!

I came out of last year a bit worried that I didn’t have much in print to show for the work I did – I think I’d a few little bits from 2000AD (actually about a year ago first Chimpsky strip was printed) and I think the Image Comics Savage Dragon and maybe a few other bits and pieces, and after finishing the graphic novel I wanted to get stuff in print. Anyway, for reasons I don’t quit understand it’s all arriving at once. That’s the way, though, innit.

And I haven’t even mentioned Dept K yet…