Creating Comics: Behind the Scenes on Cutaway Comics “Omega” with artist John Ridgway

Out now from independent publisher Cutaway Comics is the first issue of a four-issue mini series Omega, written by Mark Griffiths and drawn by John Ridgway, a new take on the villainous Time Lord created by Bob Baker and Dave Martin, first seen in the Doctor Who TV story The Three Doctors.

Omega is a four part US style mini series, encompassing 24 pages of strip, the package completed by a backup strip, “Demons of Eden”, written by Ian Winterton and drawn by Doctor Who Magazine artist Martin Geraghty.

Cutaway Comics Omega #1 variant cover by John Ridgway

A stellar engineer and revered figure in Time Lord history, it was Omega who gave the Doctor’s people the power of time travel. However, at what should have been the moment of his triumph, an accident condemned Omega to an eternity of loneliness trapped at the heart of a black hole in an anti-matter universe. With near limitless powers Omega will stop at nothing to escape back into our universe, whatever the cost…

John Ridgway - 2006
John Ridgway

John Ridgway, best known for his fantastic realisation of the Sixth Doctor’s many comic strip adventures in Doctor Who Magazine, but whose career also encompasses 2000AD, Age of Heroes, Commando, Hellblazer and more, takes us behind the scenes on the project, spotlighting one early page and revealing his comic creative process, which also offers an invaluable guide to anyone creating comics digitally…

Publisher Gareth Kavanagh first contacted me to draw the mini-series Omega for Cutaway Comics around March 2020. I had previously worked for him indirectly on Vworp Vworp magazine, and knew that I would be paid reliably (That doesn’t always happen with publishers).

The publication was to be in American size format, running for four issues with 24 pages per issue, and the original idea was for the pages to be in black and white, in a style similar to my work on Doctor Who Magazine. Gareth had been impressed by my work on the Voyager story, and was hoping for something similar. I arranged for the pages to be supplied digitally at 600 dpi resolution, and continued in that format, even when it was decided to colour the pages (I normally would have supplied pages at 300 – 450 dpi for colour work).

My first task was to create a template for the page in Photoshop. The size was to be standard American size (green line). plus a trim allowance of 3mm on each side to enable pictures to bleed off the edge of the page. Within the page area I allowed a margin of 1cm all round (red line). This is the area pictures would occupy if there was no bleed – and it’s also the area within which any text (in captions or speech balloons) should be confined.

With that agreed upon, I could start to get to draw.

Although delivered digitally, I still drew the pages on board first, then scanned them into computer. I use a smooth surface 3ply Bristol board and I draw as large as I can, to reasonably fit on a standard sheet. This means I’m drawing roughly 1.8 times the size at which the pages are printed. Using 3B leads, I mark out in proportion on the sheet the areas (those that are shown as overall, green and red on my template) .

The script for the page featured her calls for three pictures, so deciding on layout for the page is easy. The first picture shows the arrival of the “Gods”. This is, therefore, the most important and I gave it a half page. The picture could have been composed as a mirror image, but I decided to draw it as shown using the arms of the “cave-men” to direct the reader across the page. The dotted background behind the cave-men accentuates the “Gods”.

You will notice that second picture appears to be “stuck over the first and third picture. This gives the impression that pics 1 and 3 are bigger than the area they actually occupy.

John’s template for the Cutaway Comics Omega project, and an early page from #1
John’s template for the Cutaway Comics Omega project, and an early page from #1

I had already decided on appearance of the cave-men for page 1, so I sketched out the area they would occupy and then concentrated on the Gods. I needed their appearance to be similar to Gallifreyan, but different. For their headdress I tried for a sort of ice-covered twig-like structure, running down into the collar and down the gowns front and sleeves.

First, I sketched out the Gods, then detailed each head in turn, in pencil, and inking it. In the old days, I used to use a pen with a crow-quill nib, but these do not work so well on Bristol sheet, so these days I use a 0.1 or 0.2 Staedtler pigment liner pen. For more expressive lines,

I use Tombow Fudenosuke pens (both soft and fine line versions). For large painted areas, I use a Pentel brush pen – this is a cartridge pen, but I use it as a dip brush with Aristo drawing ink (the cartridge and the drawing ink are both fast drying with good covering qualities).

My general drawing method is to work on one picture at a time, sketching, pencil-detailing parts, inking them and finally adding anything extra that is needed.

John’s page for Omega as published, coloured by Andrew Orion and lettered by Colin Brockhurst

The general flow of the pictures is always to lead the reader from left to right and top to bottom. There is no dialogue on this particular page but when there is, speech balloons will be positioned in order of speech left to right and this will determine where a character is situated. Where a conversation is continued across several pictures, the characters will probably not change their relative positions.

Once the entire drawing is completed, I scan it into the computer. This has to be done in six parts and then the parts matched up. Inevitably, this calls for some touching up and adjusting of using Photoshop’s “Curves” function to eliminate grey tomes and strengthen the blacks. For scenes in space, I will dot in the stars.

All that remains then is to e-mail the page to all concerned!

John Ridgway

Omega #1 is available direct from us at www.cutawaycomics.co.uk or via your local Diamond stockist in the UK, EU and US

Each issue of Omega ordered direct from Cutaway Comics includes an exclusive extras DVD, with this edition containing a brand new audio commentary on the 1978 Doctor Who story Underworld with Louise Jameson (Leela) and BAFTA winning writer, Bob Baker, together with an interview with Omega’s writer Mark Griffiths and Publisher Gareth Kavanagh. Also included are archive video interviews with Bob Baker and Louise Jameson

OMEGA

The people of the planet Minyos are in revolt against their alien gods. This chaos is being stoked by the rogue god Omega, who longs to free himself from his black hole prison and wreak revenge. But brave Princess Malika, last of the Minyan royal family, is determined to fight back…

Writer MARK GRIFFITHS
Artist JOHN RIDGWAY
Colourist ANDREW ORTON
Lettering COLIN BROCKHURST

• Panini Comics UK has collected the Sixth Doctor story Doctor Who: Voyager and other stories written by Steve Parkhouse, Grant Morrison and others drawn by John Ridgway – all available from your local book or comic shop, or AmazonUK here (Affiliate Link)

Omega #1 is available direct from us at www.cutawaycomics.co.uk or via your local Diamond stockist in the UK, EU and US

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The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.



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