It's all a long way from the vision in the illustration I did for The Observer Sport Monthly a couple of weeks ago (subtle link!), which showed a fantasy final between Brazil and England, with Owen scoring the winning goal in Berlin. I wanted to publish the drawing here, but hoped to do so under better circumstances!
I was sent a brief which asked for a 'Roy of the Rovers' comic strip-style picture, as described above, and also a mock-up picture of the kind of thing they wanted - with Theo Walcott in the background, and Roberto Carlos failing to defend against Owen's winning strike. I thought the scissor-kick was quite unOwen-like, yet I had to show his face clearly and the goal was to be in front of him, so sketched out a few ideas.
I picked out the sketches that I liked best and amalgamated them on the computer to produce a layout guide at the correct size. My quick and free-flowing sketches are nearly always more lively than the finished product!
Next I worked up the pencil stage and sent it to the editor, who approved it.
The editor liked the inked and coloured version overall, but wanted me to work more on Owen's face (likenesses are not my strong point, but I can do it if I slow down a bit) and to make it look more 'Roy of the Rovers', so there were a couple of versions at this stage (including thickening up some lines and brightening the colours). A good editor can always get better work out of you. You'll also see I have drawn it further out round the edges. This was in case more lettering or other elements were to be added, so I had room to make the drawing bigger or smaller within the frame if need be.
It was thought that a classic 'Roy of the Rovers' look was not coming across. My view is that it wouldn't because I still had to draw the players in modern kit, whereas part of the old football comics look is the 1970's hair-do's and short shorts! I had the idea of utilising Photoshop to make it look like an ageing comic, scanning in some grubby comic page edges, halftoning it and fading the colours (especially the yellow). This did the trick.
This drawing was to be the cover, but towards the end of the deadline they got an exclusive Ronaldhino photo (the main feature being an interview with him), so my drawing was moved to the inside. I had an hour to re-lay it out, so felt it was rather rushed, but overall, I was happy with the job, despite the fact that the newsprint effect was lost somewhat by now actually being printed on newsprint rather than the glossy cover paper.
Note: I haven't included the inset drawing I also had to do of the present England team hoisting the World Cup trophy, based on the famous 1966 Wembley photo.
For a bit of World Cup fun - if you remember the 1998 tournament - see Len Twaddle's True World Cup Diary.
I recently re-bought these two books ('Asterix and the Roman Agent' (1970) and 'Tintin - The Black Island' (1938/1966)) as I have decided to slowly convert my wilting paperback collection of Asterix and Tintin books to hardback albums. The Roman Agent is one of the earliest comic books I owned. It was a Christmas present from my mum in about 1974 or 75. Every year she'd buy me either an Asterix or a Tintin book. The Black Island was my first Tintin adventure, and I think I received that the following year, maybe a couple of years later.
I still have my original copy of The Roman Agent - the figure of Tortuous Convolvulus has been cut out and lost, and there are various numbers in circles and triangles written on in biro - some kind of long-forgotten 'favourites' marking system. The rest is just about hanging together. I re-read a few Asterix books recently and this one really stands out as one of the best in terms of artwork and script.
Throughout most of my childhood, Asterix retained top position in my favourites, and although I also loved Tintin, it wasn't until my early twenties that Hergé's creation took the lead in my affections and I had the money to complete my collection of his adventures. The detail in the modern version of the Black Island is fantastic, and its Britishness may be part of the reason that particular volume attached itself to me so closely. It has an interesting publishing history, the subject of an article I wrote here.
Because I read these comics at such an impressionable age, and I re-read them again and again throughout my childhood and adolescence, they have stamped themselves indelibly on my mind - a particular feature comics have anyway, being so graphically strong. Unlike a film image, a comic panel can be stared and wondered at for many minutes, and returned to at any time. It has coloured my taste in comics ever since, and I am always immediately drawn to European album format comics, with their simple page layouts, clean colours and larger size. That's why when I discovered the work of Edgar P. Jacobs and Yves Chaland much later on, they already had a channel directly into my heart. It extends to my recent enjoyment of Trondheim's 'Dungeon' series too, and not to mention the direction my own comic creations have taken in the past few years (these books may even be the reason I work as an illustrator today). I know I'm not alone in having my strongest attachments to comics that etched their mark on me in my formative years, in fact I wouldn't be surprised if that's what keeps the comic industry going to some degree.