In my Dreams, I was an Engineer

When i was a little kid, i was crazy for those amazing cut away books. I would read them all, pour over the illustrations, and they really are a genius way of getting across how complex systems and machines are put together, and unraveling the mysteries of modern living. They also had books on Ancient Rome, Ancient Egypt, and old medieval castles and warships. Really, you could be a kid genius with those things. You still can, since they sell for cheap on Amazon.

Everyone always goes on about their favorite comic book artists, but this guy, he was it for me. Stephen Biesty, Wayne Douglas Barlowe, and Frank Asch, those were my prime movers. They put a seed in my head, that has grown into a vine that effects everything i do.

Frank Asch – This Sequence is all you need to know to draw comics
Wayne Douglas Barlowe – everything you need to know about World Building, he’ll teach you.
Stephen Biesty – best way to learn how anything works, is to take it apart and look inside.

One of the things i wanted to do when drawing Mega-City 2, is to absolutely define it. I didn’t want to just make a pastiche of other cities i’ve seen before, i didn’t want to do an uninspired by-the-numbers sci-fi metropolis, i wanted to build it from the ground up. I wanted to take things apart, and show you the insides. So in the final issue, i really wanted to stop the action, in the biggest action sequence of the comic, to just say “LOOK AT THIS”. So for an even closer look, here is a behind the scenes look from pencils to finished art, on the Titan Megatrain.


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Colors by Ryan Hill
Colors by Ryan Hill

I had a lot of fun making up the various bits of techno-babble that helps the ship operate. You try to have every function be directly tied to some other function, imagining if one thing broke down how would it affect everything else. Everything has its purpose. If you’re wondering what the Blue Matter Diffuser Array is, I can tell you. Blue Matter are subatomic particles that are time displaced only a fraction of a nanosecond into the future. The Diffuser Array allows quantum entangled computers to measure the changes that the Blue Matter goes through in the future, and allows for limited predictive reactions. When disasters begin from the smallest of impacts, fractures, or mechanical failures, the Megatrain’s automated systems can prevent terrible accidents. As you can see above, none of this made it into the comic, but that’s the joy of making comics. Half your job is just making things up for fun.

The most difficult part of this drawing then was not coming up with the detail work, but deciding what not to show. Keeping the form of the entire structure readable, and not just a random collection of slices and chunks, was a challenge, because you want to show it all! This was probably the most detail heavy, and complex cutaway i’ve done, and its really just a straight up box. Compared to the wide variety of forms and volumes that Stephen Biesty, and other similar artists work with, when i was done i really appreciated the level of imagination, patience, and expertise that goes into these cut aways. In the end, I’m left feeling like the below image, but i hope you enjoyed Judge Dredd – Mega City 2, by Douglas Wolk and Ulises Farinas and Ryan Hill.