As some of you may be aware, Tinman Games are currently working on a follow up to their digital choose your own adventure game Judge Dredd : Countdown Sector 106. We’ll hopefully be keeping an eye on this as it develops, they were good enough to give us an early play through on the last one, but to kick things off we had a chat with Bubba Zebill who is providing the art for this project.
Firstly let’s get your nerd credentials out of the way. Can you tell us about your history as a 2000AD fan?
Nerd Cred 1…Well, my first prog was during the Destiny’s Angels story (progs 281/288). I then hunted down almost all the back issues including 1 and 2. But my prize issues are in a box above my desk. Progs 72 to 78 of The Cursed Earth. Those are the issues that have ‘Giants Aren’t Gentlemen’ and ‘Burger Wars’, the issues of Dredd that can never be re-printed because they satirised actual corporations…and named them!
Nerd cred 2… Reading 2000AD got me drawing in the first place and maybe a year later my first rejection letter from Tharg. I became very interested in French comics and a big fan of Moebius. I was lucky to do my college work experience placement with Jim Baikie in Orkney. So I think I spent 12 days with the Baikie’s and it was just incredible to be able to do that. So it was with Jim that I had my first actual comic art experience, but sadly not on a Dredd strip. I carried out some rudimentary tasks for Jim on ‘Clive Barker’s Night Breed’ for Epic comics.
One of the best experiences of my life, I learned more with Jim in 12 days than I think I learned in 4 years at college!
Nerd Cred 3…I do a bit of acting now and again and my make-up lady on a recent production was none other than Meg Tanner who was in charge of make-up on Dredd-3D… she showed me a bunch of behind the scenes make up tests and stuff, amazing. Is that enough nerd cred?
You’re doing the artwork for the follow up to Judge Dredd: Countdown Sector 106. Can you tell us how this came about?
Tin Man posted a tweet about the first Dredd game book and I dropped them a line to say I’d always been a fan of Dredd and if they needed an artist etc etc. They liked my work a lot but had already completed the art on the first game book and they said they’d “keep me on file”. Everyone says that…but Tin Man actually DID and about 3 weeks later asked me to draw a last minute set of mugshots…I had about 60 seconds to get those done. When they started planning ‘The Dark’ they gave me all the illustration work….and all the time I needed!
Has this been a case of them giving you a script and letting you choose what you show or have they been really specific about what you do?
I drew a few pictures off the top of my head. Those were well liked because they fit the basic direction and will be used. Otherwise Nick Robinson has sent me a set of scenes to illustrate that are specific in some important ways but mostly wide open for me to interpret my way…and that’s kind of perfect really.
Have you had any input into the game’s content at all? Do you know if any of the script has changed due to artwork you’ve submitted?
I know the basic plot but have not read the story. I may have had an influence on perhaps one aspect of script development…maybe. I can’t say what it is but I can say I mentioned something about something to Nick, something Nick had originally considered and decided against or forgotten perhaps in the process of developing the story. This something is now very much part of the game book! The illustration that followed is now something of a favourite of mine….possibly the one I like most, and that’s saying…uh… something.
Roughly how many pieces of artwork have you had to create for this?
I’m at about 18 full colour paintings now, I’m laying out a PDF so that we all know where we stand and what is still needed. But I have about another 15 or so to do. I also have about 30 or so mugshots to do. And If you recall, there was a slightly animated opening to S106, with Dredd on his Lawmaster. So I volunteered a short animation sequence which I’ve been working on…it’s short, blip-vert short. But we’ll see, it may not make it in but if it does it’ll be a neat addition and follow up to the bike one which I really liked.
Were you asked, or did you decide yourself, to go for any specific version of Dredd or were you able to just create your own?
I’m standing on the shoulder-pads of giants here…Doing right by Mr Wagner and Mr Ezquerra is thought numero uno for me. I thought about how realistic or stylised it should be and for a nano-second wondered if it should be a film Dredd, but I decided Dredd should be film-like, like concept images for a film, but with Dredd in traditional uniform. I decided that I’d lean toward ‘realistic’ because I have the opportunity to lavish time on single images, but some of the images would look like very polished panels while fast-action should be perhaps more chaotic and grainy, even verging on abstract at first glance. I decided at the beginning that it was not my job to try and put my spin on Dredd, I think that would be awful. The work has to emulate the best we’ve seen of the comic over the years, that’s my only concern. So I decided it would be gritty, he’d be lean rather than overly muscular. The son of a bitch has to be just about the hardest character to draw to be honest….and the best.
You’ve also done a strip for Zarjaz. How does sequential work compare to the game work you’ve done?
Jurassic Farce by Lee Robson, yes. Comics are a lot harder. Paintings can be quite detailed but in comics detail can really slow story-flow down for the reader. Knowing just what to put in is the hallmark of a master and that comes with experience. Continuity is also a nightmare. I get very uptight about these things and it makes the process miserable. But I was recently heartened to see that one of my favourite Dredd artists completely forgot to include an elbow pad in one of Dredds most famous battles….best of all – nobody noticed!
Jurassic Farce did help me get my Dredd in order. Oddly enough one drawing I made for JF ended up later being used as a mugshot in “Judge Dredd: Countdown Sector 106″ as it just happened to fit the description of one perp and I’d begun both projects at the same time. So one of Lee’s creatures is in 106!
Are you a gamer yourself? Also did you ever used to play any of the Choose Your Own Adventure books back in the dark ages?
I didn’t play CYOA games…I’m not a gamer really. But I did go nuts with ‘Escape From Castle Wolfenstein’ some years ago, I love that game and when I can I’m getting the new one. My wife also reminds me that I played Doom incessantly when she was pregnant with our twins….poor wee souls, they must have heard all that shooting and growling as they bobbed around in the womb.
Art nerd question. Can you tell us a bit about your process and what you use to create your artwork?
On the game book I’m using Manga Studio EX4 and Photoshop for colours and textures. I use a Wacom Intuos 2 tablet, or did until it broke down after 7yrs of hard labour, so now I’m on the Intuos 3. In 2007 I went to Slovenia to work on a film and bought the Intuos 3 to take incase I got a commission while away from my desk. I didn’t and the I3 stayed boxed until about 2 weeks ago when my I2 became ‘eccentric’. In addition I use Anime Studio and Motion Artist. I’ve experimented with Mudbox with comics I find it’s helpful to build the character. This is a trick I learned from Jim Baikie who, while explaining the usefulness of modelling clay pulled an odd looking object from his desk drawer…turning it he said ‘Skiizz’. And you know, it damn well was!
On other projects I’m likely to use pastels, scraper board, oils on canvas, watercolour and red wine too. I started painting with wine about 6 or 7 years ago, I may be wrong but at the time I searched for others doing this and found only one artist in California. Now many artists are using wine…so I think I may have popularised the process. Maybe.
Bubba Zebill, that’s an unusual name, is it real and if not why do you use it?
Y’know people don’t really mean it when they say “I could tell you but I’d have to kill you.” But I mean it, I would have to kill you and in as ruthlessly efficient a manner as possible. Unless…unless you bought me a pint of Guinness, then I might relent. But otherwise…
Lastly can you let us know when the game is due out and where else people can check your work out?
I don’t know the launch date but it’s definitely not this year. I could say summer 2014…but that wouldn’t stand up to your lie-detector because I simply don’t know. Tin Man are rolling out a lot of projects at the moment, those boys and girls are busy!
As for me, my OPIPOP website should be up again soon. In the meantime you can see what I get up to at this blog …
and I’m on Twitter here… @Opipop
and I tweet my Dredd Gamebook progress here… @BubbaZebill