Before I go away for the weekend, I wanted to post this "making of" feature for my next Defoe cover for Prog 1643 of 2000AD, which subscribers should be receiving in the morning, and it'll be out in stores from Wednesday.
Oooohhh, I've been looking forward to showing this cover....
Here's what happened: Before the writer of Defoe, Pat Mills, starts writing a "Book" of Defoe, he very kindly asks me for my input of things I'd like to possibly draw in the future, and he'd do his best to put it in if it worked. So a year or so ago, I mentioned a certain scene featuring zombie babies that I thought would be very cool (that scene actually features in this episode of Defoe, so I can't spoil it).
So, inspired by that scene, the idea for this cover just flashed into my head, and I was so certain would work, that I didn't even bother pitching my master and editor, Tharg, different ideas to choose from. I REALLY wanted to draw this idea: Just a simple image of Defoe clearly struggling as he is COVERED in zombie babies!
But even though I thought it could be a great image, I knew it was debatable that Tharg would go for it--after all, if you think of what zombie babies actually are, it's a bit close to the line and could be perceived as "bad taste"...
Anyway, the very crude rough drawing I pitched is below:
So thankfully Tharg liked what he saw, giving me the go ahead to carry on, but understandably voiced his concerns. These being what I predicted: that if the zombie babies looked too much like deceased babies, then obviously some stores may find it too offensive to stock, which is fair enough. It's ok to have zombie babies in the interior story, but it's probably not a good idea to have them on display on shelves in mainstreet stores.
Below is the photo reference I used of myself posing as Defoe, followed by the pencilled cover.
Here's the pencil version I sent for approval. I basically just drew them as angry,drooling, dirty babies, with no sign of decay or "zombieness". But Tharg still thought they screamed "deceased babies" so asked if I could make them look more "demony" instead.
It took a while for me to think of a solution that would still make the creatures on the cover relevant to the story inside, but eventually I thought to give the babies scaled skin and sharp teeth. Also at the suggestion of my buddies John Reppion and Leah Moore, they would eventually have red glowing eyes and a more alien green blood pouring from their mouths, so basically they now looked like little monsters which is alot more acceptable. And Tharg thought so too!
Can I just add at this point in the inking I wasn't happy with Defoe's eyes and expression--he seemed a bit too scared, and I originally wanted more "angry desperation", so before I coloured it, I repositioned one of his eyes in Photoshop and messed around with his eyesbrows abit.
Also, Pat quite rightly mentioned that having the inscription of "Killing zombies since 1666" on Defoe's weapon probably wouldn't do us any favours.
And here's the finished colour piece! We got there in the end. Personally, I'm made up with how it turned out and I'm hoping it could be a memorable cover. But of course, it's up to the readers.
Hope you like it!