The cover for the Renga dummy by Glenn Fabry. Nestling for over 20 years on a long-forgotten hard drive incompatible with modern computers, we’re delighted to be able to finally bring you some of the work that featured in a stunning ‘dummy’ comic, Renga, commissioned by DC Thomson, featuring work by Paul Cornell, Alan Grant, John Hicklenton, Tony Luke, Alan Mitchell and others. While the…
I really like, or should that be loathe, these uncannily updated versions of the alien superfiends,in an eerie tarot deck:
I. The leader and certainly the most evil of the Dark Judges’ is Judge Death, he believes that “all crime is committed by the living, therefore all life itself is a crime!”
II. Judge Fear - The embodiment of terror itself… Fear wears a hoodie - drokkin’ genius!
III. Judge Fire - A being of living fire, perhaps the most dangerous Dark Judge of all, able to turn his trident into a flamethrower, or as a fiery spear.
IV.The Happy Kingdom Of Flies - The unmistakable reek of decay creeps closer, as the foetid stench of rotting corpses descends, and a chillingly familiar touch turns a once healthy body into a crawling, maggot-ridden, fly-blown corpse, until all that’s left is a bleached pile of bones - it is the beast-headed Judge Mortis, usually wearing a sheepshead, this time sporting a magnificent set of antlers!
It is with great sadness that we received the news of the tragic death of one of UK comics’ most important creators and artists, Brett Ewins.
Best known for his work on Judge Dredd, Anderson Psi-Division, ABC Warriors, Rogue Trooper, and his own co-creation, Bad Company, art droid, Brett had been an integral part of the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic, virtually from it’s inception.
The mid-late eighties were an especially busy time for the Ewins art droid, creating projects outside his spiritual home at 2000AD with long-time collaborator, script droid, Peter Milligan, starting on Strange Days anthology comic, in 1984-85, following up in ‘85-86, with Johnny Nemo: a noir-ish future private investigator, with an eye for the ladies, and a knack for snappy one-liners, both for Eclipse Comics.
Ewins, together with friend and fellow 2000AD art droid, Steve Dillon, went on to found '90s pop culture phenomenon, Deadline, home to iconic female rebel, Tank Girl, in 1989, where his massive workload, and constant deadline demands eventually took their toll (perhaps reflected in the title of the new magazine..).
Something had to give - as well as drawing Bad Company II, for the weekly Prog, and publishing a monthly magazine, Brett had drawn one-off Hellblazer & Swamp Thing stories, then embarked on a six-issue mini-series, Skreemer, with Milligan and Dillon,for DC Comics.
So,in 1991, an overworked, exhausted Brett had what was referred to as a 'nervous breakdown’, Deadline’s popularity had soared and the stress of completing his numerous projects had finally caught up with him. He withdrew from the comics’ industry entirely, apart from a brief Bad Company spin-off, Kano, for 2000AD in 1993.
Out of the public eye, Brett planned to recover with an anthology title based on work from friends in the industry like Peter Milligan, Alan Grant and Alan McKenzie, as well as friends like musician Michael White.
This volume was finished with the story, “Machine”, drawing on first-hand experiences involving his breakdown. He worked on the stories from 1995 to 2003 and were eventually published in 2004 by Cyberosia.
Brett has also had his painted work displayed in exhibitions, inspiring and collaborating with, street artists, particularly the Mutoid Waste Company and The IFC Crew.
How D'Israeli Drew Leviathan
(Or, Drawing Comics from Scratch on Computer)
D’Israeli is a phenomenal artist and is often paired with the excellent Ian Edington. They have done some fantastic work together and I would recommend thei collabs to anyone. My personal favourites as Leviathan and Stickleback.
D’Israeli is not at all shy about his comic making process and his website features a bunch of great tutorials and resources including templates for various comic companies.
The following is his process for creating a page of Leviathan
The bad news, if you’re starting out and you want to get the sort of effects I get, is that I do all my work on computer using some fairly expensive software. I draw using Adobe Illustrator, though most of the steps shown here could be done just as well in other graphics programs such as Photoshop, Painter, Paintshop Pro or CorelDraw.
Click on an image to see a larger version with more detailed notes. Technical information is printed in red, so you can find (or skip!) it easily. (Technical information requires some knowledge of computer graphics programs. I’m sorry I can’t explain more, but the time I had to do this site was strictly limited…)
My basic method of drawing comics - thumbnail, rough layout, pencilling and inking - is still the same as when I was working on paper. The idea is to break the drawing down into lots of little steps, which sounds as if it would be slow, but it means that no one step becomes daunting, so you can zip through them quite quickly.
What is a Graphics Tablet?
The advantages of drawing on computer
What is a Graphics Tablet?
A graphics tablet comes in two parts - a plastic pad which connects to your computer by a cable (1), and a stylus. Using suitable graphics software, you can draw on the pad with the stylus (2), and your drawing will appear on the screen (3). Sitting around till mid-afternoon in your dressing gown (4) is optional.
Most tablets use USB connections, and come in a variety of sizes, from A6 through to A3; I use a Wacom Intuos A5 tablet, which costs about £250 in the UK; a good starter tablet is the Wacom Graphire, which costs about £75. The faster your computer, the better your tablet will work.
The stylus is pressure-sensitive, so depending on what software you use, you can draw lines which get thicker the harder you press (like drawing with a brush), or you can “paint” with colour. The drawing above was produced from scratch on computer, using a graphics tablet and a program called Painter 8.
Drawing on a graphics tablet feels really unnatural at first because your hand is in one place and the drawing is appearing somewhere else. It will take a while to get used to that, but the best remedy is lots of practice, even if you just scribble with the stylus.
Advantages of Drawing on Computer
The first time I used a word processor, I felt a huge sense of liberation; suddenly, it didn’t matter if I mis-typed something. Even better, I could write something in the order it occurred to me, then cut-and-paste the bits into shape afterwards. I could work in a way that suited the way I thought, not the way dictated by an intractable pen and paper, or worse, typewriter.
That’s what working on computer has done for my drawing. Suddenly I’m free to experiment because everything can be changed back if I don’t like what I’ve done.
1 2 3
1 A page of art at minimum magnification (it’s the tiny black dot in the middle of the white square!)
2 A page of art filling the monitor screen
3 Maximum magnification - this is the head of one of the two tiny figures visible on the left-hand side of the previous image.
My drawing has improved, because I can zoom right in to the image to work on fine detail (something I always had trouble with before). I used to have to do two stages of pencil drawing (a rough and a finished stage) to make sure the drawing was precise enough before I did the inking, because the inking was so difficult to correct. Now I only do one stage because the “inks” are no more difficult to correct than the “pencils.”
I use Adobe Illustrator for drawing because it’s a vector-based program - that means every line or patch of black I draw is a separate object that remains “live” and editable. It gives me a fantastic amount of control over what I’ve drawn (see below).
1) basic drawing, using medium flexible brush
2) change outline to heavy flexible brush
3) change outline to fine flexible brush
4) scale drawing, scaling line thickness
5) scale drawing withoutscaling line thickness
6) convert outline to grey
7) convert outline to colour
8) change outline to rough brush stroke effect
9) change outline to charcoal effect
…and each of these changes were made after I’d finished the drawing, with one mouse click.
Brushes and Tones of Grey
I use only 5 tones of grey (from white to black) and 5 Illustrator brushes to create black & white art.
The greys are 25%, 50%, and 75% (rarely used). The light blue (50% Cyan) is used to indicate rough drawing and is never used on the finished drawing.
Most of the drawing is done using two different widths of pressure-sensitive brush. These will produce thinner or thicker lines depending on how heavily I press down on the stylus while drawing.. This mimics the dip-pens and brushes that I used to use when I was working on paper
This is Ian Edginton’s script for the page I’ll be using as an example. In a UK comics script, the action in each panel on the page is described, along with any dialogue and sound effects.
I usually receive scripts by e-mail, thent print them out. Often I underline important sections - for example, if I need to get reference for something or design a new object/character.
This is my first step in designing a page. In a notebook I do a rough scribble of the page (left), showing the size and position of panels, and the action and speech balloons in each panel. Sometimes I’ll do two or three thumbnails until I’m happy with the layout.
I trace the panels from a grid (right). The grid has the same proportions as the comic page, but is much smaller. Working on a grid means my page layouts will fit the finished page perfectly.
My page grid is made in Illustrator and contains grids of panels in the following arrangements: 3 x3, 4x 4, 5 x 5 and 6 x 6. I do a new one to match the format of each new publication I work for. The master versions are around A3 and serve as templates for the actual artwork. I then make a smaller copy to trace from in my notebook.
Moving to the computer, I open a file in Adobe Illustrator. I work from a template that has a larger copy of the page grid built into it; so I can easily lay out the panels to scale with my thumbnail rough.
I make the panel borders using Illustrator’s Rectangle Tool, set to no fill and a 3pt black stroke. The document has multiple layers, and the panel borders rest on the topmost layer. I then put each stage (perspective, roughs, rough pencils, inks, blacks, greys etc.) on its own layer so it can be worked on without affecting other parts of the artwork. The average layer count for a page of mine is about 24 layers, though Illustrator layers don’t eat up memory in the way Photoshop layers do.
I then put in the rough drawing (little better than stick figures) to establish composition. I draw them in pale grey as I’m going to be drawing over them again, and I use a thick pen so I can’t get too precious about the drawing; I just need to block in rough shapes at this stage.
It would also be possible to scan the thumbnails from the notebook, place them in the document and scale them to fit, but it’s usually quicker just to re-draw the stick figures, and it gives another stage for tidying up the composition. When I’m drawing the roughs, I usually zoom out so the page appears quite small.
Rough Drawing with Perspective Grids.
I delete the panel grid, and make perspective grids for each panel that requires one. The perspective grids act as useful guides when I’m drawing buildings or machines; they also help to establish the sense of scale that’s so important in Leviathan.
I make the grids using Illustrator’s Blend Tool; I just make two lines pointing to a vanishing point and Illustrator will create more lines between them at any interval I choose.
Because it’s a vector program, Illustrator has something called the Scratch Area, a 6 meter square of usable non-printing space that extends beyond the artwork on all sides. This lets me fix vanishing points out beyond the page boundary in a way that would be impossible in Photoshop or Painter.
I do a more finished drawing in pale blue over the top of the grey roughs. This drawing is in proper perspective (thanks to the grids I made).
The rough pencils occupy their own layer; the finished drawing will be done on overlying layers and then the rough pencil layer will be deleted.
Rough Pencils with Black Background
Using the rough pencils (in blue) to guide me, I drop in the big areas of black shadow in the main image.
The black shadows go on a layer under the rough pencils, I can change the layer order at any time, moving any layer up or down the stack.
I start “inking” the image - putting in the finished drawing. I draw in black on the white areas, and in mid-grey over the black shadows. The mid grey makes a comfortable contrast against the black - lighter grey or white lines would be too contrasty and uncomfortable to look at.
It’s easier to ink over the blue drawing with the black background hidden (left), but every so often I check the drawing with the black background (right) to see how it’s coming along.
I use the thinnest brush in my set for backgrounds, and a thicker brush to put heavier lines on the foreground figures, making them look closer. It’s easiest to do all of the colour there’s least of first - in this case black - that way you know all the remaining lines must be grey, whether the background black is visible or not.
I ink the whole page, putting in outlines only. I’ve added black only where I know I’ll need to ink in grey - otherwise it would be hard to see what I was doing.
It is possible to ink in black, put the shadows underneath and convert the outlines over the shadows to grey, but it can be fiddly. It’s also possible to draw in black and set the blending mode of the outlines (or layer in Photoshop and Painter) to Exclusion (Reverse Out in Painter), but the effect can be unpredictable.
Blacks and Greys
I add “spot blacks” - patches of black that act as shading - and also some lighter highlights to the outlines on the monsters in the foreground.
I put grey tones onto the image - both flat greys, and gradients, which are patches where one colour blends into another. Here I use gradients that blend from white to grey, to show the fall-off of light coming through the open door.
I also start to add rendering - little pen strokes to make the scene look gritty and dirty - I add score marks in the grime in the floor where the door has opened.
To make a guide for the score marks (inset), I made a set of concentric circles with the Blend Tool, then distorted them to fit the perspective grid.
I add further refinements to the drawing - putting grey highlights on the monsters, to make them look more 3D.
I also add white highlights and use spatter effect Art Brushes to add gore to the shooting of the monster in panel 3 (inset)
This is the page as it appeared in 2000AD, less the lettering. The page is exported from Illustrator as a TIFF file, which prints easily.
I export the pages as 600dpi greyscale TIFFs (no anti-aliasing, no layers) at artwork size (about A3) and scale them down to print size and resolution in Photoshop. 2000AD require computer generated art at the same size as the page (in this case 194 x 297mm, though 2000AD has changed format since) and at 300dpi. They also like 72dpi copies of the pages for the letterers.
Illustrator will export all the objects in a document, meaning that if some lines go over the page boundary, the dimensions of the exported document will be increased to fit them in. To constrain the dimensions of an Illustrator document when exporting, I make a rectangle around the page boundary and convert it to crop marks using the “Make Crop Marks” command in the Object menu.
Lettering was added later by Tom Frame using a program called QuarkXpress.