Mega-City Undercover – Book 1

 

I am now back at work and, having had a really difficult weekend before starting back, I’ve not had the energy to paint.  So I’ve been kicking back and just reading comics in the evenings which is my best way of relaxing when I’m not painting or fishing.

This week I read a brilliant trade paperback (a collection of serialised comic stories) called…

Mega-City Under Cover

Mega-City Under Cover (book 1) was one of the best 2000AD collections I’ve read in a long while. It’s published by Rebellion and well worth a look.  The book is based in the world of Judge Dredd, in his city, Mega City One but follows the lives adn struggles of under cover Judges rather than the Dredd style Judge.  The book’s split into three main parts with several stories in each.

In the first part you’ve got three brilliant Lenny Zero stories written by Andy Diggle and drawn by Jock. They are like an cross between an edgy cyberpunk tale and a noir detective story. It’s sort of what you’d get if you crossed Raymond Chandler and William Gibson. (Think ‘The Long Goodbye’ mixed with ‘Neuromancer’). The characters were excellent. I couldn’t help rooting for our hero, ‘Zero’, from the start. The stories each have their own tale to tell and each form part of a longer story which fits together beautifully. It was a joy to read.

 

 

Lenny Zero – Art by Jock. Copyright with Rebellion.

Jock’s art in the Lenny Zero stories is beautifully done. His style fits the theme perfectly. The stories are all drawn in black and white with grey tones in a way which has an excellent grungy futuristic feel without losing the definition of any of the characters or losing sight of the plot. You always know which character is which and what is going on but still have this beautifully styled artwork.  Here’s some more of his work.

 

‘Lenny Zero’ – Art by Jock Copyright with Rebellion

 

The second and third set of stories all come under the Mega-City One undercover cop title ‘Low Life’ written by Rob Williams. The series as a whole follows the adventures of undercover judges in a particularly run down area of the city called ‘Low Life’ where criminality is normal and nasty, and life is cheap. Life for judges in Mega-City One is never easy but if the judges are undercover too the demands of fitting into a criminal fraternity and still being a judge constantly pull their personalities apart which makes for a really interesting read. All of the Low life stories filling the rest of the book are excellent – some of the best 2000AD I’ve ever read.

 

‘Low Life’ – Art by Henry Flint. Copyright with Rebellion.

 

The first half of ‘Low Life’ is drawn by Henry Flint. Again it’s done in black and white with grey tones and it looks absolutely superb. Henry Flint manages to combine a strong dynamic drawing style with amazingly clear and beautifully rendered art. It’s an absolute pleasure to look at and some of my favourite art of all time.

Here’s some more of the brilliant Flint…

 

 

‘Low Life’ – Art by Henry Flint. Copyright with Rebellion.

 

‘Low Life’ – Art by Henry Flint. Copyright with Rebellion.

 

The last third of the book is also beautifully written by Rob Williams but is drawn by Simon Coleby.  I’m afraid, in this particular book, I didn’t get on with his art at all. I found it generally too high in contrast – too many solid blacks and solid whites.  I struggled to work out which character was which . (The same character frequently looked very different from panel to panel and some different characters looked the same as each other.)  As a result I found it difficult to follow the story at times and sometimes couldn’t work out what the picture was of.  I think it’s a shame I struggled here because, what I could read of the stories by Rob Williams in this part of the book, was still great.  I suspect that if Simon’s art had been passed to a colourist before publishing it would have scanned much better, as coloured clothing could help track which character is which.  (Also, I think it’s worth noting that  this particular art was first published 12 years ago.  Simon’s more current work, on ‘Yaeger’ for instance, is outstanding!)

 

So overall I’d give this book 4 out of 5 stars. Basically the first two thirds of the book were some of the best comic stories I’ve ever read and it was only let down a little by the art in the last third of the book which I couldn’t get on with personally.

 

Here’s Jock‘s cover art for the book in all it’s glory… (Again copyright – Rebellion)

 

[Please note: None of the above art is by me – all art is Copyright Rebellion and by the people named in the text.]

An Easy Digital Colouring Process

This week I worked on a number of smaller images in my sketchbook and started a bigger project.  The smaller images were in ink and pencil…

 

[Pencil on paper]

 

 

[Ink on paper]

 

[Ink on paper]

(NB:  The Drawing is my own but the character ‘Strontium Dog’  (aka Johnny Alpha) belongs to 2000AD (Rebellion) and the art style I used was my own version of Carlos Ezquerra’s brilliant work.)

Then I coloured them digitally.  I thought it would be fun to go through the basic colouring process I use with the gecko picture as an example.

(1) I start by scanning in the art work and cleaning any scanning artifacts (I always get one which is irritating).  I also do a general clean up of the image and adjust the curves and levels if it’s needed.  I usually do this bit in photoshop.

(2) Then I save the cleaned image and open it in Manga Studio 5.

(3) My next big job is to put in the ‘flat colour’.  Basically this process involves colouring every pixel of the drawing in flat solid colour with no anti-aliasing, shading or anything else – just flat blobs of colour right up next to each other.  I tend to use colours similar to those I want to use in the final product but you don’t have to.

So here, I’m putting in the flat colour for the first few leaves…

To combine the colour with the line art like this I put the line art in the top layer and set that layer to ‘multiply’.  Then I paint my flat colour in the layer below.

Here’s a bit more flatting done…

(Here you can see I’ve accidentally painted the flower properly with final colours in the flatting layer.  I could have wiped it all out and made it white but I knew there wasn’t much I wanted to do with that part of the picture so I left it.)

Generally I paint the flats using the polygon selector with anti-aliasing off so I get a clear division of one colour or the other with nothing in between.  Once I’ve selected my area I just fill it with solid colour.

Finally when all the flat colour is done it looks like this (without the linework on top of it)…

 

So with the linework we’ve now got to this…

 

I really love flatting images, I find it repetative but nice and it makes me feel relaxed.

(4) Next I complete the detailed colour and shading for each flat area.  This is where the real digital painting starts and I find in a lot of ways I can paint in my PC just like I paint on a canvas.  I can’t always get the same effects digitally but I do have the advantage of the back button which will undo my last few changes – I wish I had that on paper sometimes!

Here’s the painting done for the leaves but not yet the gecko…

And here’s the desktop with the gecko painted fully too…

 

(5) Finally I put on any borders I need and save the fullsize image, then reduce the size for the web and it’s ready to go.

Here are my final coloured pictures…

 

 

Lionfish, Ink and Digital Colour

I have been planning a new watercolour this week.  It’s of a lionfish.  I started out making a sketch and then developing it in ink as a sort of practice run.

Here’s the lionfish practice…

 

Also this week I’ve been playing with some digital colour using some other ink drawings in my sketchbook…

Original ink…

And with digital colour…

 

Original ink…

Digital colour…

(Ink and colours are my own work but ‘Old Stony Face’ as a character belongs to Rebellion and the brilliant people at 2000AD.)

Original ink…

Digital colour…

 

Original ink…

Digital colour…

 

Original ink…(inspired by George Todorovski’s YouTube Video)

Digital colour…

 

Original ink…

Digital colour…(this one’s for Dave from Davezart)

 

And last but not least – Gotham City’s moody Bat – 10 min quick ink sketch…

And in digital colour…

(Batman Inks and Colour are my own, by the character belongs to DC Comics)