Zarjaz exhibition, London 2005

  • RELEASED: Sept 2005
  • FORMAT: A3, ink and letratone
  • LABEL: Playlounge
  • ILLUSTRATION: Openmind
  • SPOTTERS DELIGHT: I did this in the weeks before my kids were born and tried to put the date on the cover that I thought they would arrive, I was one day out.
  • EXTRA ZEN: BigMonster TV Report2000ad online

Another obsession that has been with me since I was 8 years old is the British comic 2000AD which I started reading from Prog 61 (the start of the Cursed Earth saga – nice timing) and still get to this day.

Again (the now defunct) Playlounge shop came up trumps with their pooling of artists from all over who have also been influenced by this great publication for an exhibition where they interpret their favourite characters old and new. This really brought people out of the woodwork and inspired some great work with some of the choices being for the hardened fan only.

I chose Torquemada, the arch villain in the Nemesis stories, as my character (Pete Fowler had already nabbed Nemesis) and decided to present a fictitious cover of a bygone era of the galaxy’s greatest. Kevin O’Neill was the artist who originally created and drew the Nemesis story and he is considered by many to be THE definitive artist for the strip even though he was later succeeded by Brian Talbot, Jesus Redondo and John Hicklenton amongst others. He has always been one of my favourite artists and he really came into his own drawing this story over the years as Torquemada morphed from a man in a mask into a spectral monster who took over his minions’ bodies to live again.

In brief, Torquemada was based on Thomas De Torquemada, the leader of the 18th century Spanish inquisition, and his quest was to oust ‘illegal aliens’ from his empire, the difference here being that the aliens were actual aliens; ie different species to humans. The planet they inhabited was called Termite as they’d burrowed into the ground and formed millions of tunnels called ‘the tubes’ and Nemesis was the leader of the alien resistance constantly causing havoc in his ship ‘the Blitzspear’. This gave a great excuse for various high speed chases around the tubes amongst other things and you can see some of these morphing out of Torquemada’s mouth in my image with Nemesis’ head silhouetted in the distance.

One thing about O’Neill’s style, apart from it’s supreme goulishness, was his attention to detail. Everything down to the last nut & bolt was rendered in pinpoint precise detail and his level of draughtsmanship is second to none. This became apparent when I was researching the character and I couldn’t believe how much effort went in the tiniest detail in the backgrounds.

The original 2000AD logo has always been my favourite so I decided to revive that and include things like the ‘credit card’ (another O’Neill creation) which stated who wrote, drew and lettered the original strips. With a cover price of just 10p (earth money) and the Prog number 167 – the first issue that the character appeared – I tried to encapsulate the character and the tone of the stories.

As I mentioned before, Torquemada went from man in mask to monster and I wanted to draw a composite of the two in his image, hence his mask is twisted as well as sharp angled. He is flanked by a group of his terminators, always loosely based on Klu Klux Klan in the comics, and one is in the foreground in homage to the first cover image that went with the strip. The logo and 10p are morphed into buildings as O’Neill was one of the only artists to play with these things in the context of the comic’s covers. I also used Letratone, sheets of differently spaced dots to give tone to images back in the days of bad printing, on the inked image to allude to his highly detailed renderings from years past.

I’m reasonably pleased with the end result although sitting down to draw all the different cars was a pretty daunting prospect. Here are some of the original sketches that were then assembled in the computer and inked as well as the final result and pics from the exhibition in the link to the right.