Scripting the Chryslids

The story of the Chryslids goes back something like 10 years. I know, I know. I’ve a few story ideas that never got beyond a seed – it always felt like I could lay my hand on a dozen smarter writers than I could ever hope to be, so it felt pointless trying.

Last year though, I decided it was time to script some things. So I wrote it (and a few others) up into full scripts.

I fancied this was a good shoe-in for actually being worth pitching to Matt Smith (2000AD editor / Tharg’s represenatative on planet Earth.

So I sent it to a few pals, writers/editors/etc.

But I’m always wary that, well, honestly, I’m a decent comic artist role playing being a writer. So I got some good feedback (Rob William’s, in particular was very helpful – Cheers Rob!) and then… well, this last year really got away from me, in a way I wasn’t expecting it to.

So the story sat and sat and sat.

I drew a couple of Dredds back-to-back (for the Megazine, next year – with Arthur Wyatt, and for 2000AD also next year with Kenneth Neimand) and Christmas was coming and I decided to down tools over the holiday, but it’s hard to stop that motor running, then I remembered the script…

Originally it was called Midwhich Cuckoo Block – which is too on the nose for a title, but explains the premise really well, I thought “what if midwhich cuckoo’s but in dredd’s world” and went from there. It was also an excuse (and I will make no bones about this) to draw a bunch of characters I’d never ever get the chance to draw, I’m not gonna be the go-to guy for a Judge Death strip, sadly. (Well, maybe) so I tried to figure a way to include big name bad guys in there.

In hindsight there’s some obvious plot holes, and I didn’t get the facetime with any of the bad guys I originally wanted – but, I think, the pacing of it is so fast and the ending (which I really like – though it divided the readers I sent it to) feels weighty to me. Felt like something, so I was content to ignore them (I mean, the obvious one to me is: does no-one account for how many bullets dredd fires?)

Anyway, here’s the script (below), and the art is here and you can compare them and see just how much artist-me got fed up with writer-me writing rubbish. Hopefully I’m a good enough artist that even in this sketchy unfinished form the storytelling works and I could paper over the worst bits of my kack-handed scripting.

Dredd Chrysalids page 6

And there we have it. I’m gonna blog an almost redundant post after this one, that just puts all six pages together (including corrections I’ve done along the way – mostly minor things, but they all count). In the end, I’m fairly happy with it. Esp that last panel, it feels right to me. I might be wrong, but you know, whatcha gonna do?

I’d sent the script to a number of writer friends, back when I’d harboured ideas of pitching it to Tharg, and I got two responses about that end: dredd shouldn’t lose, this feels like dredd losing and the other (from a dredd writer) I like that dredd loses.

In the end, my gut tells me the ending with Dredd forgetting is the one that works.

I’ll post the script in a few days so you can see how much I varied it after the fact.

“But, PJ, Why DIDN’T you submit it to Tharg?”

Well, reader, I’ll be honest, I didn’t feel I had the chops neccessary to get a Dredd script accepted – even if it was brilliant (which I might not be, I dunno…) it felt like I needed to write a bunch of stories – of any sort – before I could expect to waste Matt’s time with a read of my script. Esp since I’m only playing at being a writer, I may never write again (though, maybe — I’ve two other Dredd story ideas that, like this one, have sat in the back of my brain for a long time, that maybe could do with a spit and a polish and some pencils… maybe NEXT christmas… we’ll see…)

Anyway, hope you liked it, please let me know – I’m not being paid for this, so the only positive I get is feedback…!

Now, on to the pencils and greywash…

Dredd Chrysalids page 5

Ok, took a detour, but back to it (can we get this finished before xmas? who knows… maybe last page will be drawn while downing mince pies and baileys…)

Ok, this page slightly disappointed I didn’t get more Judge Death in there – the dredd/death confrontation should be a bigger moment, but really feeling the limits of the 6 page format – still, one page to wrap this all together neatly… can I do it? we’ll see…

Let me know what you think – I’ve been pleasently surprised, there’s definately stuff where I’ve been rewriting it while drawing it, and it could be my mistake in the past to try and keep writing and drawing apart, and they (for me at least) are really rather tightly intwined.

Anyhue, here’s pencils and greywash …

The Mandalorian

Look, I’m a sucker for a monster-of-the-week story, or Lone hero wanders the earth, misunderstood and having adventures along the way. So, if I *had* seen the mandalorian it would probably be my favourite Star Wars thing. So much so, it may be the only time I’ve ever done a fan star wars strip… And here it is…

This came together VERY quickly.

While doing the Dredd strip I got it in my head I’d love – LOVE – to draw a Mandelorian comic (and especially in an official capacity) and I even posted this on twitter:

(the thing with drawing that Dredd, is I really want to write and draw a Mandalorian strip, but man does not feed his family by writing and drawing fan strips…)

4:25pm

So you know, I wanted to draw some sort of strip, and I was willing myself not to, but I thought if I could think of a one page Mando strip, that would be fun to do then … you know… I might just do it.. and lo, not 5 minutes later on twitter:

(I DID just think of a one page mandalorian story mind you…)

4:56pm

And it was this story pretty much exactly as you see it. (Though I was gonna cut to Mando being tossed and turned every time he speaks in panels 1-3 but in the end there wasn’t the room and I felt it worked without doing that).

Told my son about it (he’s 11 and loves baby yoda – seen it on the meme-a-verse) and he loved it which sealed the deal, I was gonna do it. But when, then I thought it’d be fun to run a poll on it on twitter, so I set a two hour poll and pushed it a few times, the results came in at 7ish (the time on the tweet is when I asked the question)


Mind you, I’d already pencilled the Mandalorian strip, in true Adrian Veidt fashion I’d literally finished it 26 minutes before the polls closed (wrote and drew the story exactly as I saw it). All that remained was inking, lettering and greywashing and here we are. Hope you like it!

Dredd Chrysalids page 4

And here we have it. The meat and bones. With a bit of luck the story is clear and it doesn’t just feel like a massive info-dump (and there’s enough info to get what I’m trying to do…)

I quite like the flashback framing panel, big rounded panel borders (all done in clip studio) here’s art without lettering and the pencils…

Dredd Chrysalids Page 3

This page changed a fair bit between my initial thoughts (writing/thumbs) panel 1, I flipped dredd so we’re seeming him rather than the Kleggs (we’ve seen them once, let’s get a good look at Dredd – beside the mystery of them being there/disappearing is better played off panel, I think – teleporter tech or something else? we’ll find out) last panel in particular, again, flipping from a wide shot – showing the entire scene to dredd’s face, keeps some mystery up and it’s good to get an emotion close to scared out of Dredd, isn’t it?

(As an aside: these are pretty tight for pencils from me, but if I were inking them and had more time [the constant enemy] I’d spend more time on some of those Dredd faces – this is me acknowledging that last face is not great)

Here’s all the back room stuff, you’ll see some tweaks I made from the pencils to the final here:

Dredd Chrysalids Page 2

Ok, page 2. I’m less happy with the script, the art and the letters. But sometimes you need to let a wound have air to heal.

The first lettered draft of this, I had dredd muttering those captions to himself, but it felt wrong. Popping them in a caption fixed that, reads more like a dredd script. But, for your delight I’ve kept that version of the lettered art below.

I’m not sure the lift reads as much like a lift as it needs to (if this were a paying gig, I’d be spending a bit more time figuring this out) and my lettering lack-of-skills are really starting to show here. But anyway. That’s page 2.

Dredd Chrysalids page 1

I’ve had a Dredd script on my hard drive for over a year, from an idea that’s over a decade old, and it’s just been sort of … sitting there… so I decided yesterday that, sod it, I’m never gonna polish it enough to expect 2000ad to print (let alone submit it to them for their consideration) so what I’d do instead is just pencil and letter it and post it here, hoping to get it all finished for xmas, so here’s page one lettered up along with behind the scenes commentary…

Ok, I’ll not post the script up, not until it’s all done, but here’s the layouts (which are largely impenetrable by anyone but me, and get more vague as they go along) page 1, as you can see, maps pretty close to the final pencils.

Lettering by me, using Evil Genius font from Blambot (home of many fine, fine fonts). Normally I’d ask Jim Campbell to letter any of these stupid ideas and I’ve no doubt he would’ve done a much better job than my hamfisted approach – but it’s nearly xmas and who wants to do unpaid work at this time of year? (Apart from me, apparently…)

Layouts:

And here’s the raw pencils for page 1… Scanned and tidied, added panel borders, resize a couple of things, made panel 2 push into panel 2 to just force the readers eye a bit to that panel (I had planned to have Dredd’s head here jut out of the panel, but that would have made it hard to place lettering)

I printed a template out in Clip Studio that shows me the safe area and some guidelines for drawing some standard panels, then pencil on that – I don’t pay too much attention to getting the borders exactly right as I take this into to clip studio and add panel borders digitally, ordinarily I’d then print that out – with the panels as blacklines and the pencils as a light cyan colour (ie a ‘blueline’ pencil) and ink over that, but since I won’t be inking this …

I decided to greywash it instead

And that’s it for page 1. If anyone fancies paying me to ink this page and owning the original artwork, you’re more than welcome to contact me at pjholden@gmail.com

Folklore Thursday: Cat

“John, look, I think we need to get engagement on twitter up. The internet loves cats, so whatever the NEXT folklore tale is about — I’m drawing cats”

And thus, John sent me this:

Cat Sí are Celtic fairies in cat form. An old tale tells of a man walking at night hearing a voice say “Tell Tom Tildrum Tim Toldrum is dead”. Returning home, he repeats this to his wife, whereupon their own cat exclaims “Then I am king of the cats!” and flees. #FolkloreThursday

I’ll be honest, no matter what John sent, I was drawing cats. I’ve got to find ways to amuse myself.

Anyway, Not only was I thinking cats, I was thinkig Aubrey Beardsley

And here we are. Usually ideas like this are about making sure I’m trying new things, if I can constrain myself in some way (esp if it’s a thing I never normally do) the thinking goes (well mine does) this might spur me into new stuff.

Beardsley, though, frustratingly, doesn’t seem to have drawn many cats. (No great surprise, he was a startlingly young 25 when he died) and so I was stuck with how to draw a Beardsley cat. Panel one cat was drawn on the basis that he tended to draw very wide bottomed figures, art noveauesque shapes. So I cobbled a silhouette around that. The spikes I added much later when the whole page was finished, partly because Beardsley did sometimes add fringes on to black areas, and partly because I wanted it to have some sort of air of the supernatural or – mostly – to differentiate it from the cat on the last panel. As it happens, the spikes I added made it look like Mog from Meg and Mog and that amused me, so in it stayed.

Panel 2, it’s Beardsley himself. A young man, never married so this is, clearly a fictionalised version of him. Beardsley’s work seems to have large black shapes (often fringed with white dots or black) and large clear white space. So it’s trying to figure out how to balance that all. Very pleased with the lettering balloon – done in Clip Studio, which is not a brilliant tool for lettering, but this was an easy effect to make (black on white balloon, white text, then the entire layer is given a black outline)

Panel 3, Beardsley and wife – just made her up. The picture behind them is “self portrait in bed” by Bearsley

Panel 4, finally our cat walks out – this is a Beardsley cat – taken from Pierrot and cat, from St. Paul’s – I’ve had to add a couple of legs as the original is behind another figure.

And the decorative around the frame element was important, but I felt I needed to get the thick black border for the full on Beardsley effect.

Hope you like it! One more to go before we call this year done, the next will be the last for the year, and it’ll be very wintery…

Folklore Thursday: Vrillon

This was a lot of fun.

I’ve been itching to do a scifi-ish tale with one of the folklore stories since we started (I am, at heart, a 2000AD artist, scifi is the norm for me) I honestly didn’t think we’d ever get to do one, but this presented a neat little departure. And I hope the twist in the tale end of it comes through (because I always need to explain the jokes: it was a hoax! AN ALIEN HOAX!)

I thought drab dreary 1970s england colours set against bright colourful alien life would be a fun contrast. On first pass of the thumbs I drew for it I thought I couldn’t draw an alien, because… well, the alien is never seen, but then I figured that would give me the freedom to do what I wanted – it’s an alien in the imagination, so he’s superimposed on a static TV background (I created a layer in clip studio, filled it with black, generated some perlin noise that was nice and big, then smeared some of it, then converted it to lineart – that gave me the static I wanted.

Anyhow, hope you enjoy it!