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.

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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…!)

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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???)

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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”