Friday, 22 April 2011

Toad in the hole

Over on the A Little Bit Bunny Blog, I'm late in the month of the Toad...

Initially I was going to do a Sagbelly, from an Episode of the classic Judge Dredd epic "The Judge Child". I got pretty close to a finished piece in photoshop... I was trying out an all digital approach...

...but then I remembered, I'd already done a Judge Dredd piece over there very recently!

Then I experimented with the idea of those psychedelic Toads... but toads are such weird looking creatures anyway, doing any sort of twist was causing me a headache...

If in doubt, go with a joke.

So, if you wanna see what I sketched out really quickly this know what to do!

Monday, 11 April 2011

Kapow! (goes the weekend)

This weekend was Kapow, I only went for the Saturday though.

I arrived bright (and what I thought was early) to the Business Design Centre in Islington... all the same, I spent a very happy half hour queuing with my good buddy (and cover artist extraordinaire) Neil Roberts. We happily chatted our way along the snaking path to the entrance in the glorious sunshine.

Upon entry I was handed the usual crap in a bag. After finding where to hand my portfolio in for a possible review slot and a brief circuit of the con I looked at the programme to discover that time had ticked on. The 2000ad panel was going to start in 15 minutes... where the hell it was it taking place?

I wanted to deliver John's commission to him before that began... With mobile 'assistance', I located John, at the front of the queue for the 2000ad panel (huzzahs!)... Then blushing from all the kind comments from members of the forum I shuffled into the auditorium and hid a bit.

It was interesting to hear some legends of 2000ad speak. The panel comprised of Dave Gibbons, Matt Smith, Al Ewing, Jock, Chris Weston, Steve Yeowell and Brendan McCarthy and for the most part it was as informative a previous such talks I've been to. It was also heartening to hear from Jock that the Dredd movie is on track and looking "really cool".

I'd been sitting with Matt Gibbs and after the panel, he showed me the lovely work that he and James Reekie have been doing on the Ionmonger's Daughter... I honestly hope they find a good home for it, as it looks very cool indeed.

My next port of call after a respectable break was to once again approach Matt Smith at the 2000ad booth with my portfolio... as always, Matt was generous with his time and succinct in his appraisal of my work. He preferred the work I've been doing more recently, particularly Who's Next and my Joe Pineapples strip, because he felt my inking had more "life" to it. He still felt some of my panels were a little stiff, and pointed out a couple of the ones I wasn't happy with anyway... He said to send the samples in for him to put on file and happily that means I'm still moving in the right direction!

I'd prepared a cheeky business card specially for Matt, please see below (photo courtesy of Strontium71 on the 2000ad forum).

It just struck me as funny when I thought about doing it and I hope Matt got a kick out of it. (for those of you who've not seen it before, I originally did this piece for Dirk Van Dom's 2000ad Christmas party themed game)

I bumped into my most excellent friend and co-Tharg-hassler Conor Boyle, who had just been informed that portfolio submissions were now closed... and so he'd missed the opportunity (such as it was). From a couple of reports I've read though, it was oversubscribed and very few people actually ended up being seen anyway (I wasn't either) so I'm not sure if "opportunity" is the correct word...

Whilst Conor cornered Tharg I chatted briefly to Seb Antoniou.

With tummies rumbling, Conor and I headed out to find some food, Liz and Alec Worley in Costa Coffee, via the perpetually jovial Kerrin Shaw.

Fed and watered, we returned to the event, I picked up a copy of the ABC Warriors Special, which I'm sure you've all now ordered here or here from the good folk at FutureQuake. John Burdis, dressed convincingly in a Judge's uniform loomed into view and informed me that someone had been looking for me, the person in question sadly never found me - if you're out there, all I can say is, sorry, see you at Bristol?

Dave Stokes emerged a while later from a crowd and we spoke about the benefits of our twitter accounts and the difficulties associated with getting a break in the comics' industry. We parted with a mutual assurance that we would show our work to at least one more person. Pat Mills was in my peripheral vision and so I approached him... he asked that I show him during his signing later and so I nipped off to buy something suitable, as I don't usually 'do' the whole signing thing.

There was just time to swing by a very busy and record breaking Jim Campbell before getting in line.

I did manage to show my portfolio to Pat, and although again, he said he liked my work, I think it was my 'Blackmailing Tharg' business card that he liked most.

Knackered from standing in the queue, I headed for the Slug and Lettuce, where thanks to Liz and Conor, a nice space had been reserved for the 2000ad forum gang to congregate.

I was glad to put faces to so many names and hopefully I'll see them all again at the next convention I go to. I did a few sketches had a good laugh and didn't drink nearly enough to feel a woozy as I did before running to catch my train home.

A final thanks, goes out to the lovely Pete Wells of the 2000ad covers uncovered blog for letting me into a little known secret I'd been missing... a little motion blur and the judicious use of red, can really add the finishing touch to a piece of work.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Who's Next?

Amongst other bits and pieces and preparation for this weekend's Kapow, I've been doing a commission for John Burdis, I'd done something for The Cellar of Dredd before, a quick single illustration of Hondo-Cit's Inspector Inaba. I'd done that under my own steam following the fab time I had at the Hi-Ex Comicon, but this time, John had something in mind.

The following is all about the "process" for those of you who like to see the work in progress stuff.

I did an initial sketch based upon John's original brief:

"Dredd stood in the middle of a street with dead superheroes strewn all around him and Joe saying something along the lines of "Costumed vigilantes, leave the real crime fighting to me!"
The characters who would be dead would include Superman (head missing definitely), Batman, Wonderwoman, Captain America and all those other US bods.

One thought kept floating around my brain, a pile of dead super-heroes and something in Brian Bolland's classic cover to Prog 2000 kept nagging at me as well.

John liked the inital sketch but had a couple of requests for additions if I could manage them:

First up was a simple addition to the roster of the dispatched: "Green Arrow's arm with a broken bow"

Next was just a weapons' upgrade to the "Colt Widowmaker " instead of the Anti-Hero gun I'd been musing over as the reason why Dredd was now able to dispatch these super-heroes.

Finally, a nice way to really make the commission a personal one: " a large pristine BURDIS BLOCK and a couple of derelict smaller blocks with the names MARVEL and DC".

In Dredd's world, towering apartment Blocks are often named after famous people, sometimes for satirical reasons, sometimes equally as a tribute to that person. I felt that DC and MARVEL blocks could nicely be rolled into the one (albeit well beaten-up) DEE CEE MARVILLE block.

I wanted the blocks to say something about John and the two comic companies respectively... aside from the beaten-up aspect of DEE CEE MARVILLE, I wanted the block to hint at those companies' stock-in-trade - Super-heroes!

John's online forum name is COMMANDO FORCES, for reason's which are obvious to anyone who knows him. Hopefully my intentions for his 'block' shouldn't need much more explaining. For the DEE CEE MARVILLE block, I wanted it to look as much a possible like a cape flowing over the shoulders of a hero, almost immediately that dictated a very Art Deco style, evocative of old movie theatres.

By this point I've switched into Google Sketch-up to muck about with the architecture, mainly because if we decide to change the POV, I haven't got to reconstruct the difficult curvature on that art Deco styled block... but it wasn't there that my main problem would be!

I had inadvertently created, by virtue of the military style helmet, a very phallic looking building... "could you put some sort of roof sports complex/airport style thing somewhere around/on that part?". Thankfully we caught it and had a chance to make a suitable alteration.

The only other thing John wanted was "More gore on those bodies." I guess the super-hero fan in me was just subconsciously trying to limit the damage to all those "good guys", but, you've got to give the client what they want!

I'd been concerned over Dredd's footing and so I added in Reed Richards, utlising his 'rubbery' consistency to nicely fill in the space between Superman and WonderWoman.

After showing the last version to John, I couldn't help but think we'd lost the 'Military' in the styling of 'Burdis Block' in favour of Miners or worse still, Doozers!

The easiest way to show him some alternatives was a little fly-around movie taken out of Sketch-up. I can't advocate strongly enough the time saving aspects of this program for me, where previously (hours of projecting the perspective correctly) would have ended up making me want to stab myself in the head.

Throughout the process, there had been dissatisfaction on both our parts over the wording of Dredd's proclamation, neither of ours had been punchy enough. John had started a forum topic to ask for help and there had been some great and some very witty suggestions, but it wasn't until my good pal and Fractal Friction co-contributer Chris Askham suggested a short and sweet "When are you CREEPS gonna learn?", that either John or myself found a 'fit' for the illustration.

We we're all happy until John posted my initial sketch in the same forum topic...

PJ Holden (who has always been insightful and helpful to me from my very earliest foray into the comics business) suggested the even shorter and IMO 'sweeter' "WHO'S NEXT?". Sorry Chris, but you know when something's right.

With the final version okayed by John, I turned the 'pencils' into a 'blueline' ready to print out. Using another tip I'd picked up from PJ, I left the 'speech' to print out in Black for crispness in the final artwork.

I inked the dead super-heroes first because I knew there would be a lot of work in that part, in fact it took most of a morning to do, but after getting Dredd inked in, it was all fairly plain sailing and came together quite quickly!

I sent a scan of the final thing to John yesterday and I'm pleased to say he's very happy with it and looking forward to seeing it in the flesh at Kapow!

I guess that's it really, other than to ask: "WHO'S NEXT?"