Thursday, June 06, 2013

Stickleback: Number of the Beast at 2000AD Covers Uncovered

2000AD Prog 1835, the cover for the final episode of Stickleback: Number of the Beast.
Stickleback copyright Rebellion Developments Ltd/2000AD.
Stickleback Number of the Beast created by Ian Edginton and Me.

So, we come to the final curtain for this series of Stickleback - after such a long time away, I'm glad to see him back and set up for more adventures. Stickleback remains close to my heart - aside from the joy of working with me old mucker Ian Edginton, Stickleback is the first character I've helped create where we've got to go back and tell the continuing adventures. He represents a change of gear in my career.

To celebrate this landmark, I've got together with Pete Wells at 2000AD Covers Uncovered to put together a mammoth 3-part video post on the creation of this week's cover from first roughs to last TIFF file. It's packed with hints, tips and as much process porn as a body could want! Part one is up now!

Left: the original version of the cover with a white background.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Stickleback: Number of the Beast Part Three References

Something's brewing down in the depths
Stickleback Number of the Beast copyright Rebellion Developments Ltd/2000AD.
Stickleback Number of the Beast created by Ian Edginton and Me

Page 1

 Panel 2: “My five days” 

Stickleback has an arrangement with the White Lotus Empress that he can visit his son on one day each year - he’s lost five years to his regeneration, hence he feels he’s owed five days.

Page 4

Panel 1: Lots of stuff here:

Wold-Newton Tours

In the fictional biographies Tarzan Alive (1972) and Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life (1973), writer Philip José Farmer introduced the Wold-Newton family tree, a genealogy that bound together all of the best-known characters from the pulp and speculative fiction of the late 19th and early 20th Century. The idea was that the bunch of extraordinary individuals all sprang from common ancestors who were affected by radiation from a meteorite during a coach tour to the village of Wold Newton in Yorkshire. The notion of characters from one fictional world “crossing over” into another was not new - it had occurred in pulp fiction and was commonplace if the world of comics - but was usually limited to characters owned by a single publishing house. Farmer not only cast his net wide across the popular fiction of a whole era, but he worked out complex rationalisations to allow these sometimes-conflicting continuities to exist all in the same world. Farmer himself produced only a few novels depending on the Wold-Newton continuity, the most notable being his insanely pornographic “Doc Savage meets Tarzan” novel A Feast Unknown. In the UK, writer Kim Newman took up the baton with his novel Anno Dracula and its sequels, and in this century writer Alan Moore and artist Kev O’Neill brought the genre back to comics with the League of Extraodinary Gentlemen. Ian and I are manfully following in all these fine gentlemens’ footsteps.

The Lord Talbot

A tribute to writer/artist Bryan Talbot, whose The Adventures of Luther Arkwright (1980-84) lays claim to being the first British graphic novel, and also possibly the first example in comics of the genre that would become known as steampunk.
Bryan also drew the bulk of the first-ever steampunk story in 2000AD, Nemesis the Warlock Book IV: The Gothic Empire (1984, written by Pat Mills, first episode drawn by Kevin O'Neill.)

Adam Ant and Adam Adamant

1980’s pop idol Adam Ant as The Dandy Highwayman*, walking alliteratively beside Adam Adamant, the swashbuckling Victorian adventurer played by Gerald Harper in the 1966 BBC TV series Adam Adamant Lives! Presumably this encounter occurs before Adamant’s nasty hibernation accident.

*Initially I was going to miss this one out, as for some reason I felt too scared to mention him.

Trotter’s Independent Trading

Run by the forebears of Del-boy and Rodney from the popular BBC TV sitcom Only Fools and Horses (1981-91). Items on the stall (including a chandelier and a Batman mask) refer to famous incidents from the series.

Kim Newman with Kate Reid and Genevieve Dieudone

Writer Kim Newman, whose ingenious re-combinings of characters and setting from popular culture have provided inspiration for both Stickleback and Scarlet Traces, promenades with two of his most famous female characters.

Eckert’s Alternatives

Over the years I've slipped in various references to odd or fictional comestibles into my strips; fishpaste is the obvious one, also Zopto-Bemsol ("Effulgent and Prim!") and Mongue ("You know it's wrong!"). Eckert's Alternatives ("Good for a change!") are Ian's contribution to this noble tradition, his first since Captain MacLean's Old Rot Gut made its debut in Leviathan ten years ago.

Page 5

Panel 2: The Vaults (Piranesi)

The underground vaults in which the Sorrys lurk are directly inspired by the Carceri d'invenzione ('Imaginary Prisons’) of artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778). This series of 16 prints, first published in 1750, consist of black & white etchings of vast, vaulted underground spaces, and have been claimed as an influence by both the Romantics and the Surrealists. Given how wonderful the Carceri are, it surprises me to note that I haven’t ripped them off more often ; the last time was when completing the final section of Scarlet Traces back in 2002.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Stickleback: Number of the Beast Part Two References

Pages 1 & 2

Pages 1 & 2 - Camera Obscura

Based on a real pre-photographic projection device, in which an image of the outside world is projected into a darkened room through a tiny pinhole (“camera obscura” is Italian for “dark room,” and is where the English word “camera” comes from.) Later versions employed a rotating turret containing a lens and mirrors which projected a circular image down onto a flat viewing table, as with our design, which is loosely based on the camera obscura on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, round the corner from the flat where I was living while drawing the first series of Stickleback in 2006. 

The 3D projection aspect owes more to Star Wars than any real technology, though. It’s interesting that even retro-futuristic technology has to have this extra level to it now; I suspect ten years ago we might have limited the capabilities of such a devise precisely to show that we were in the past. I think of this as “super-duperness inflation.” 

Page 2

Page 2 Panels 1&2 - The Lost World

The original home of the Sorrys obviously draws inspiration from the dinosaur-filled plateau of Maple White Land from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1925 Professor Challenger novel The Lost World. Our Professor Challenger is based loosely on actor, explorer and national institution Brian Blessed, whose real life exploits were inspired by the character, and who played a parody of him, Sir Basil Champion, in BBC Radio 4 Extra’s The Scarifyers.

Project Gutenburg free ebook download: The Lost World.

Page 2 Panel 6 - Factory Farming

While obviously playing on modern anxieties about the factory farming of animals (chickens in particular), the batch breeding of a sentient but compliant workforce also has echoes of Aldous Huxley’s 1931 social parody, Brave New World.

Read Brave New World online.

Page 4

Page 4 Panel 1 - Oriental Tropes

This panel was an absolute bitch to draw; there are as many references dumped in here as the next two episodes put together. Also, due to my limited talent at producing likenesses, there’d be no reason to recognize most of them without this handy-dandy guide. From left to right:

Li H’sen Chang and Mister Sin from the 1977 Tom Baker-era Dr. Who story The Talons of Weng Chiang (itself a play upon Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu stories). 

The Three Storms versus a Victorian-ified version of Kurt Russell’s Jack Burton from John Landis’ Big Trouble in Little China (1986).

(Background) O-Ren Ishii and her bodyguards, the Crazy 88’s (their costumes a reference to Bruce Lee’s costume in the television series The Green Hornet), from Quentin Tarantino’s 2003 gore-fest Kill Bill.

(Midground) John Carradine twice, once as Kwai Chang Kaine from the 1972 television series Kung Fu, and once as Bill from Kill Bill.

(Foreground) Lone Wolf and Cub, from the Manga of the same name (Japanese: Kozure Ōkami) by Kazuo Koike. A total of seven live action Lone Wolf and Cub films were made in Japan during the 1970's, two of which were cut together to make the English-dubbed Shogun Assassin (1980).

Page 4 Panel 2 - Sonny Chiba

The multi-skilled Japanese actor here reprising his role from Kill Bill, this time making Sushi from a baby Cthulhu (therefore referring obliquily to Stickleback: England’s Glory.)

Page 4 Panel 4 onwards - Miss Scarlet’s Make-Over

Miss Scarlet has always been woefully under-used (the penalty of a large ensemble cast is finding them all something to do) but with this new series Ian was determined to bring her to the fore and give her more to do. Her new, orientalised look gave us the chance to give her a more modern, “flapper”-style vibe, suggesting someone looking towards the 1920’s and 30’s rather than back to the Victorian Era. For myself, I kept in mind Shanghai Lil from Hugo Pratt’s wonderful Corto Maltese in Siberia when drawing her.

Page 5

Page 5 Panel 2 - The Court of the White Lotus Empress

Introduced in the last episode of Stickleback: England’s Glory, the Empress is a female analogue for Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu. A detailed breakdown of the characters in the Lotus Empress’s court can be found here.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Stickleback Number of the Beast Part 1 References

Stickleback: Number of The Beast Part One
Stickleback Number of the Beast copyright Rebellion Developments Ltd/2000AD.
Stickleback created by Ian Edginton and Me

To minimise spoilificatiousness, I've left these nearly a week from delivery of subscription copies. Since subscribers will already have part 2 by the time I post this, It's time to get going.

Page 1

Panel 1: Dark Satanic Mills

Based loosely on the landscape of Bradford in my native Yorkshire.

Panel 3: Sentinel Steam Lorry
The sentinel was a real steam powered lorry produced by the Sentinel Waggon Works from 1906 till as late as 1950.

Page 5

Panels 1 & 2: Talos and the Harpies

The severed head of the giant ambulatory statue Talos and several stuffed harpies from the 1963 Charles Schneer-Ray Harryhausen film Jason and the Argonauts.

Panel 3: Gorgo

The “British Godzilla,” from the 1961 film of the same name. Gorgo was the second of three monster films directed by Eugène Lourié. The first, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, kickstarted the career of animator and effects wizard Ray Harryhausen, as well as inadvertantly spawning the whole Japanese Kaiju genre when Toho made Godzilla (Gojira) in 1954 to cash in on the terrific success of The Beast in Japan. Ironically, Lourié ended up adapting the Kaiju “rubber-suit-mation” technique to create the monsters in Gorgo. His third monster film, The Giant Behemoth, brought him together with veteran effects animator Willis O’Brien, the man behind Hollywood classic King Kong, and mentor to the young Ray Harryhausen.
Gorgo enjoyed considerably longer life in comics than in movies, enjoying a 23-issue run in his own title published by Charlton Comics. The comic featured early work by Steve Ditko.

Panel 3: Skeleton of Konga

The “British King Kong,” from the 1961 film Konga, about a gorilla who accidentally drinks super growth serum and ends up ambling amiably around London while sqauds of hysterical Tommies shoot at him for being out of scale (still a capital offence in the 1960’s). Konga is also notable as the film in which veteran British actor Michael Gough (later to play Alfred the butler in the Tim Burton Batman movies) succeeded in the delivering the line, “if I hadn’t shot her, pussy would have started to swell uncontrollably,” with a straight face. Charlton Comics adaptation of Konga is notable as the first published professional work of Steve Ditko, who went on to co-create The Amazing Spiderman.

Panel 3: The Cavorite Sphere
Professor Cavor’s anti-gravity space vessel from HG Well’s novel The First men in the Moon, also filmed by Schneer & Harryhausen in 1964.

Panel 3: Time machines

From left to right, on the balcony rail:

HG Sewell’s pocket-watch shaped time machine from Ian Edginton’s and my Tempus Fugitive stories in Judge Dredd (2004-2007). Sewell himself has made brief cameos in Stickleback as an inmate of Bedlam.

The elaborate glass lens design from Simon Wells' 2002 version of The Time Machine, starring Guy Pierce.

The classic George Pal model from his classic 1960 version, starring Rod Taylor.

The time machine ridden by Malcom McDowell as HG Wells in pursuit of Jack the Ripper in the Nicholas Meyer's 1979 film Time After Time.

Panel 3: Kali
The animated sword-fighting statue from Schneer & Harryhausen’s The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973)

Panel 4: Insect monsters

An ant-like Zarbi and moth-like Menoptera from the Willam Hartnell-era Doctor Who story, The Web Planet (1965)

An adult Wirrn from the Tom Baker-era Doctor Who story, The Ark in Space (1974). Not shown here, Wirrn larvae were huge featureless maggot things made by wrapping an unfortunate BBC extra from head to foot in bubble wrap.

A giant maggot from the John Pertwee-era Doctor Who story The Green Death (1973).

(Shown in framed photograph) Mosura (Mothra), the giant moth guardian of Infant Island, from the Toho film of the same name (1961). The most popular Kaiju after Godzilla, Mothra was the first Toho monster to cross over with the Big G in Godzilla vs. Mothra (1964). She appeared in 14 Godzilla fims in all three series, and is the only Toho monster to spin back off into a solo series (The Rebirth of Mothra, 3 films 1997-9). Although, in the original film Mosura, the meddling Western power is coyly renamed "Rosilica," the film still exhibits an rather startlingly overt anti-Amercianism, making it one of the more interesting ones of its type.

Panel 4: The Peanuts

The two tiny figures in the glass case panel left are the telepathic twins who mediate intercede with Mothra on behalf of the world, variously called “The Fairies” or “The Cosmos” in different versions. In the earlier films, they were played by twin sisters Emi and Yumi Ito, who performed on stage as “The Peanuts.” The jar of peanuts on the case above them is a reference to this.

Panel 5: The Prague Orloj

The timer for Stickleback’s regeneration machinery is a copy of the famous multi-faced astronomical clock that stands in the old town square in Prague. It's the third oldest astronomical clock in the world, and the oldest still working.

Page 7

Panel 2: Surrounding Stickleback in this panel are; a Lament Configuration box from Clive Barker’s Hellraiser; the box, the musical box (wound up and ready to play) from the opening titles of 1960’s childrens’s stop-motion puppet series Camberwick Green; Malvoisin’s Mirror, from the strip of the same name written by Chris Lowder and drawn by the excellent Brian Lewis for House of Hammer #6; and on the bottom right, the fully assembled Key to Time from Doctor Who season 16 (1978-9).

On re-reading the script for this post, I discover I was also supposed to put in the Maltese Falcon, but I forgot. Oopsie.

Panel 6: Frankenstein’s Apparatus
The equipment shown in flashback behind Orlando Doyle is all apparatus from Frankenstein’s laboratory in the classic 1931 James Whale/Boris Karloff version. Designed by Kenneth Strickfaden, this gear was still showing up in horror films as late as the 1970’s.

Page 8

Panel 5: The Judas Silver

Previously mentioned in Stickleback: England’s Glory, Judas Iscariot’s 30 pieces of silver have been paid by Stickleback to Orlando Doyle in return for future favours. Stickleback’s resurrection clears the debt.

Page 10:

The Construction Robots

The skeletal construction robots with their scaffolding-like limbs are a tip of the hat to Kev O’Neill’s classic Trebuchet robot from Nemesis the Warlock Book III.

Dray Brontosaurus
Stickleback is set in an unspecified late-Victorian era, so there’s none of this Apatosaurus business yet. We’ll find out why there are dinosaurs in the streets of London next Prog.

The Monkey’s Uncle

A reference to the controversy surrounding the theory of natural selection proposed by Alfred Russel Wallace and Charles Darwin (who appears on the pub sign, lampooned as an ape.)

The London Overground
The notion of the overhead monorail as a symbol of futurity goes back many years; real examples have been built, most famously in the Disneyland and Disney World amusement parks in the US. The overhead design here is loosely based on the Wuppertal Schwebebahn, opened in Germany in 1901 and still in service, though I’ve simplified the overhead support considerably. The name London Overground is a recycling from Ian Edginton’s and my graphic novel Scarlet Traces (Judge Dredd Megazine 2002-3/Dark Horse 2003)

The Steam Man of the Prairies
Written by Edward Ellis in 1868, The Steam Man of the Prairies is considered the first US science-fiction "dime novel." It's the story of Johnny Brainerd, a teenage dwarf who build a non-sentient steam-powered automaton capable of pulling a carriage at speed. Despite the somewhat bizarre premise, the story was enormously popular, seeing reprint 6 times between 1868 and 1904, and spawning many imitators, including the long running Frank Reade boys' adventure series. It's one of the earliest examples of the invention-based genre known as the "Edisonade."


These evolved dinosaurs were inspired by Professor Dale Russel’s famous (and controversial) dinosauroid thought experiment - an attempt to map where dinosaur evolution would have led if they had not become extinct. His own proposal was for a strongly anthropomorphic intelligent dinosaur, though our version follows later thinking that posits creatures that are more theropod-like. Just why the streets of London are alive with these little critters will be revealed next Prog, so I’ll say no more.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Stickleback Number of the Beast: 2000AD Prog 1824 Cover

The new Stickleback steps out of his tank on the cover of 2000AD Prog 1824.
Stickleback Number of the Beast copyright Rebellion Developments Ltd/2000AD.
Stickleback created by Ian Edginton and Me
2000AD Prog 1824 see the start of our new Stickleback story, Number of the Beast, and sports a cover featuring the new Pope of Crime himself! Pete Wells at 2000AD Covers Uncovered has kindly hosted a step-by-step demo of the making of said cover, including a short video segment showing exactly how I produce  those texture effects. Check out the demo here. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

New Stickleback!

First try at Stickleback's new look - we dropped the streaks, he looked a bit too Ra's Al Ghul
Stickleback Number of the Beast copyright Rebellion Developments Ltd/2000AD.
Stickleback created by Ian Edginton and Me
So, after nearly three years, Ian and I have finally squirmed out of the corner we'd painted ourselves into, and a new series of Stickleback begins!

I'll be doing the usual catalogue of references for each episode, but I'm leaving that towards the end of each week to keep the spoilerificatiousness down to a minimum.

Pete Wells at 2000AD Covers Uncovered will be publishing a step-by-step demo of this week's Stickleback cover soon (he'd have already done it if I'd had the bits ready, sorry Pete!), so I'll link to that as soon as it's up.