The Mutants

6 February 2011

'The Mutants' is notorious for seemingly having had few photos taken during its production so I knew from the outset this was going to be a tricky one. If you want to have anything more than a great big Mutt taking up the whole cover (and that would be fine as it's such a gruseome design - hey, it worked for the Target book), then good luck. Some colour shots taken in the caves, which are horribly red-biased and very soft, and a few black and white shots of the Skybase set don't give one many options. Even the DVD's photo gallery was disappointing for once, missing out many well-known shots, some of which were used on the packaging, so someone had copies. I can see why Lee Binding had to resort to combining multiple photos and screengrabs for his official cover (his colourising of the Doctor's face from a black-and-white photo is first class, however).

So what to do? As usual, before the disc had been released I looked at what was available from Tragical History Tour and my own collection of books and DWMs. I was particularly on the lookout for a photo of the Marshal as I really needed the main villain to appear. The story's Archive in DWM230 had some rare colour shots taken on the Skybase set, including one of the Marshal after he's shot the Mutt in episode 6, but printed too small to be usable. Hoping the disc's photo gallery would provide a bigger version (vainly, it turned out), the only alternative was a black-and-white shot of him emerging from the caves, taken on location by the local paper. Short of something unseen turning up on the DVD, I also knew I'd have to use the familiar photo of the Doctor carrying a flambeau in the caves. I wasn't keen on the torch, however, but a quick playaround with the image convinced me that he could be made to carry the message box that Ky is holding in the original photo.

It was with these images floating around my head that I began to cogitate on what kind of illustration I could cobble together from them. The impressive set design (particularly Jeremy Bear's subsequently ubiquitous triangular wall pattern) could have provided a structure for framing separate characters, but in the end I decided to go for the surface of Solos with Mutts in various stages of mutation emerging from the fog. This would allow me to have the classic (and good quality) shot of a Mutt in the foreground, with lesser quality ones fading into the fog, and hand-drawn silhouettes of half-mutated humanoids in the background, all surrounding the Marshal.

I began by finding images of bare trees in winter to replicate the foliage on location in the story (not an exact match but it gives the right impression) and found a good photo of a cave mouth taken from the inside with which to frame the scene, and allow me to add some colour to what I knew would be an otherwise very grey illustration by giving the rocks inside the cave a red radioactive glow. The good-quality colour picture I had of the foreground Mutt had his claw at on odd angle so I substituted it with one from a black-and-white shot that showed it off better, and I later had to foreshorten this arm so the claw didn't disappear behind the Doctor (as I didn't want it in front of him, despite the perspective of the composition, as the Doctor is always in front of the illustration on my covers). Luckily the Marshal's costume is black and silver, so I mainly had to colourise his face. I did add some tint to the silver areas of his jacket, but later desaturating of the image to fit in with the fog made it even more subtle. In the end I only drew one half-mutated figure (based on a shot of Ky) but made it fairly pale and half-hidden as it looked a little clumsy.

Finally, for the Doctor I properly copied over the message box from Ky's arms to his, plus Ky's hand blackened to look gloved. For once the DVD photo gallery did come in useful by providing a slightly different shot of the same scene which had the Doctor's left arm at a suitable angle, saving me having to add a frilly cuff to Ky's sleeve. And the black cloak made painting out the original torch-holding hand easy. Finally, I was really struggling to get enough detail into the Doctor's face in the original image, so scoured the DVD and found a close-up at just the right angle with which to replace it. It was such a close match, I like to think you wouldn't have realised it was a swap if I hadn't told you!

Download the final MUTANTS cover here

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