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Creating Comics: Lee Robson and David Broughton talk “Strontium Dog”

Strontium Dog "No Choice At All"

Lee Robson is the writer of the graphic novel Babble and a frequent contributor to many British independent titles, including ZarjazFuturequake, the Strontium Dog-inspired DogbreathSomething Wicked and several of Accent UK‘s themed anthologies. He’s also penned a series of online daily strips featuring 2000AD‘s Judge Dredd for FutureQuakePress, which are collected here

David Broughton has created his own comics, such as the brilliant Shaman Kane, Spectre Show and Martillo. He has also drawn various comic strips for 2000AD fanzines Zarjaz, Dogbreath and other small press publications.

Here’s an item on how David and Lee tackled a new Strontium Dog story, “No Choice At All”  for Dogbreath, published earlier this year…

Strontium Dog "No Choice At All" - S1

Johnny Alpha on the trail of an SD Agent gone bad. Art by David Broughton

“Way back in July 2012 I worked on a Judge Dredd story, ‘Big Jimping’ written by Lee Robson for the 2000AD fanzine Zarjaz,” Dave opens.. “When Dave Evans, the editor of Zarjaz and Dogbreath, sent me Lee’s script for Strontium Dog ‘No Choice at all’ I knew it was going to be a great story.”

“There’s no easy way to say this, so I’m just going to come out and say it,” confesses Lee Robson, “But I’m not a massive fan of Strontium Dog. But, when editor extraordinaire Bolt-01 asked me to contribute a couple of scripts to Dogbreath, I stupidly said yes…

“I knew going in that I wanted to take another crack at Durham Red,” he continues. “With my first attempt, back in Dogbreath Issue 27, I never really got the character right, so I wanted to try again, with something more simple and straightforward. Once I started to lay out the foundations of what became ‘Like A Dog’ for Issue 31, one plot beat kept niggling away at me: Durham was set up to become the unwitting star of a “snuff” vid. But who had set her up?

“I knew it had to be another S/D agent, but if it wasn’t a personal grudge (which – spoilers! – it’s not), then it would stand to reason that she wasn’t the only Stront that was set up. And if agents were being set up, then, surely, Johnny Alpha was the man to get to the bottom of it…

“Once I started to connect those dots, ‘No Choice At All’ started to come together…”

Durham Red - Like A Dog by writer Lee Robson and artist Paul Williams

A panel from “Durham Red – Like A Dog” by writer Lee Robson and artist Paul Williams, which also appears in Dogbreath 31

Creating the Story

“The idea was to set the story at the same time as ‘Like A Dog’, but also push away from the ‘Western in Space’ approach that I’d tried on my previous attempts at writing Alpha,” Lee continues. “This time, I decided, I’d set the whole thing in an urban environment and have Alpha on the run, because… Well, at the time, I didn’t know why he would be on the run. All I had was the idea of the story starting in the middle of a scene, with Alpha stranded on a ledge while the local police searched the room beyond. I knew I had to somehow connect that scene to the idea of Alpha trying to track down the traitor from The Doghouse, but I really couldn’t figure it out.

“After a lot of frustrating starts and stops, I finally managed to pull the story threads together – albeit very, very slowly – and started bridging all the gaps that would link the story to ‘Like A Dog’. My only problem was, I didn’t have an ending…

“By that, I mean – spoilers! – Alpha gets his man, but, the way the story unfolded, he was still wanted by the local police and trapped in an unfamiliar city, and I was running out of pages (I’d set myself a very rigid eight page target). So, I had to, basically, end it how I started it, in the middle of a scene.

“I was never completely happy with the ending I came up with, I’ll admit, but, by the time I got there, I was just glad to have the thing finished and submitted, and the lads at Zarjaz seemed to like it, so who was I to argue? Looking back it now, though, I kind of dig it…

“I got paired up with Paul Williams for ‘Like A Dog’ and David for ‘No Choice At All’. I’d worked with both of them before (both on Dredd tales for Zarjaz, oddly enough), and I knew both of them would bring their A Game, so I wouldn’t have to worry on that front. It’s fair to say, though, they both surprised me with what they came up with: Paul’s dynamic storytelling knocked me off my feet, and David came up with what has to be one of the best Strontium Dog designs I’ve ever seen, with the villainous Gil Gilman.

“From my perspective, it was an interesting experiment, trying to tell these two stories like that; it pushed me out of my comfort zone in more ways than one, and I learned a lot from trying it – mainly that I should never try it again…”

Strontium Dog Character design by David Broughton

Strontium Dog Character design by David Broughton

Rough Designs and Page Layouts

“As usual before starting the finished page artwork I read the script a couple of times and then go about creating rough page layouts and character designs,” David says of his approach to drawing the strip.

“Nobody can draw Johnny Alpha as good as his co-creator Carlos Ezquerra. In fact (in my humble opinion) artists hoping to get anywhere close drawing a good Johnny Alpha need to almost mimic Carlos’s style… at least for the face. This is something that I had stuck to when drawing Johnny for previous Dogbreath scripts. This time, I decided to have a go at a little redesign on Johnny’s helmet, his clothes and try and put a little more of my ‘take’ on Johnny’s face.

Strontium Dog "No Choice At All"  Rough 1

Rough page layout for page one.

Strontium Dog "No Choice At All"  - Pencils 1

Finished pencils with adjusted panel layout for page one.

Strontium Dog "No Choice At All"  Inks 1

Finished inks and greytones for panel one of page one.

Strontium Dog "No Choice At All"  - Rough 01

Rough page layout for page two

Strontium Dog "No Choice At All"  - Pencils 2

Finished pencils for page two with adjusted panel layout

Strontium Dog "No Choice At All"  - Inks 2

Finished page inks using Rotring pens for outlines. Then Brush and ink for blocking.

Strontium Dog "No Choice At All"  Greytones and Inks 2

Finished page with greytones which were added digitally.

Strontium Dog "No Choice At All"  - Rough 03

Rough page layout for page three.

Strontium Dog "No Choice At All"  - Rough 03A

Second rough page layout, this time with more detail to make sure that I could get the dynamic poses that I wanted in the panels

Strontium Dog "No Choice At All"  - Pencils 3

Finished page pencils for page three

Strontium Dog "No Choice At All"  - Rough 4

Rough page layout for page four

Strontium Dog "No Choice At All"  - Pencils 4

Finished page pencils for page four with slightly adjusted panel layouts

Strontium Dog "No Choice At All"  - Rough 5

Rough page layout for page five. “I really wanted a larger splash panel for panel four so that David could do justice to the action,” he says.

Strontium Dog "No Choice At All"  - Rough 5B

David decided to have another go at designing the panellayout for page five – this time with a more dynamic panel popping panel five.

Strontium Dog "No Choice At All"  - Rough 5 Panel Detail

Rough layouts and designs for panel five

Strontium Dog "No Choice At All"  - Pencils 5

Finished pencils for page five. David dropped the dynamic panel five idea as seen in the second rough page layout.

Strontium Dog Workers

Original page pencils for the sex workers

Strontium Dog "No Choice At All"  - Rough 6

Page layout for page six

Strontium Dog "No Choice At All"  - Rough 6B

Second rough page layout with adjusted panel designs

Strontium Dog "No Choice At All"  - Pencils 6

Finished pencil for page six.

Strontium Dog "No Choice At All"  - Rough 7

Rough page layouts for page seven

Strontium Dog "No Choice At All"  - Rough 7B

Second rough page layout with adjusted panel designs

Strontium Dog "No Choice At All"  - Pencils 7

Finished page pencils for page seven

Strontium Dog "No Choice At All"  - Rough  8

Rough page layout for page eight

Strontium Dog "No Choice At All"  - Pencils 8

Finished pencils for page eight

“This was a great script which was fun to draw,” says David. “Lee really knows his Johnny Alpha thats for sure – no matter what he claims.”

Web Links

Dogbreath 31- Cover

The amazing cover art by Steve Green. Featuring Matthew Simpson as Johnny Alpha & Kevin Horsham as Wulf Sternhammer who star in the Strontium Dog fan film. Link to the trailer here

David Broughton

David Broughton

• Strontium Dog ‘No choice at all’ appears in Dogbreath #31, which can be bought online via the Futurequake online shop here 

• Visit David Broughton’s blog (where this article first appeared) for more information and illustrations at dbroughton.blogspot.co.uk email him at dbroughton@hotmail.co.uk tweet to him on twitter at @DbroughtonDavid or visit his online comic shop at comicsy.co.uk/dbroughton

• You can find Lee on Twitter @lee_robson, and his web-page Imaginary Stories is here

• For more about FutureQuake titles on the Quaequam Blog or go straight to their web site to buy both current and back issues: www.futurequake.co.uk

Strontium Dog and 2000AD © 2016 Rebellion Publishing Ltd.

About John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a "freelance comics operative" who is currently working as a freelance editor for TITAN COMICS, as Creative Consultant on the new DAN DARE audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the LAKES INTERNATIONAL COMIC ART FESTIVAL and LANCASTER COMICS DAY. John has worked in British comics publishing for over 25 years, starting out at Marvel UK, where he edited a number of the Genesis 1992 books with Paul Neary, including DEATH'S HEAD II and WARHEADS. At Marvel he wrote strips for THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS, THUNDERCATS, DOCTOR WHO and co-created SHADOW RIDERS with Brian Williamson and Ross Dearsley. His numerous credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines, where he was Managing Editor. He also edited STRIP Magazine and worked as an editor on several audio comics for ROK Comics, including TEAM M.O.B.I.L.E. and THE BEATLES STORY. He has written comics for Marvel UK, Judge Dredd Megazine, Lucky Bag Comic, CGL (an Italian publisher), STRIP Magazine and ROK Comics; and edited some of Titan's British comics collections including Dan Dare and Charley's War. Most recently he is writing CRUCIBLE as a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and DEATH DUTY and SKOW DOGS with Dave Hailwood for the digital comic 100% Biodegradable.
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