13 September 2009

My biggest worry when anticipating doing a cover for 'Terminus' was that I had never seen a straightforward shot of one of the Vanir, and I knew I'd want one given they're the nearest this story comes to villains. Fortunately, the DVD's photo gallery presented one usable image of a helmeted Valgard. Hurrah! I knew I wouldn't be able to feature it too large, though, so I began to think about ways to constrain it. 'Terminus' has never struck me as having any strong design iconography beyond the skull images, which I also didn't have and didn't really help me anyway. So it was while watching the story itself that I was reminded of the black and yellow striped line denoting the radiation limit beyond which only the Garm could venture, and decided this could be an eyecatching element to use. At first I thought to have a strip or two running across the illustration but though this might give the impression more of police crime scene tape, and it felt a bit similar in essence to my recent 'The War Games' cover. So I settled on four square panels edged with striped tape into which I could position four characters: the Vanir; the Garm; the Doctor, of course; and the Terminus pilot, mainly because his skeletal face was suitably 'scary' but partly because there was little else (the Black Guardian seemed too peripheral to this story to warrant such a strong cover position).

Initially I was thinking I might do a dark, possibly spacey, background, so getting the size of the stripes right to keep the edges of the panels clear took a little trial an error - for instance, they needed the yellow stripes to fall across the corners to they didn't disappear into the background. A metal texture for the body of the panels and some lighting effects gave a nice industrial feel. With that in mind, I began to wonder if a space background would work (particularly as my 'Enlightenment' cover will have a space scene for the sailing ships) and so chose a second metal texture and began to play around with some wire fencing to give a sense of the confinement on Terminus and the Lazar ship. As well as the classic diamond chainlink I tried a square mesh (of which there is some in the Terminus bridge set), but I felt the former was more instantly recognisable (as a fence and not just a pattern) and worked better for being at a different angle to the square panels. Getting the light source to be from the centre rather than one side took some thought and was enhanced by the drop shadow falling further from the wire the further it was from the centre. At this point I wondered whether to include the skull image given it would largely be covered up. I decided what the hell and spent some time scanning through the DVD for as face-on a shot of the skull as I could find (which wasn't very), distorting this in Photoshop to get it 'flat' and then using this as a template to recreate the image in Illustrator. I was pleased with the result, and even though it is all but impossible to make out, it adds some colour to the background. As a last-minute addition, I placed a smaller copy of the skull over the four square panels, again for some colour and to give more of a hint of the image. Click here to see the full skull image.

With the background completed, the foreground characters were straightforward cutting-out jobs, with the Vanir from a screengrab but the Garm and pilot from scans of photos in DWM. The Doctor took some thought. In the disc's photo gallery there was a nice shot I hadn't seen before of him without his coat, which I thought would make a change (I think 'Terminus' is one of the few times he takes his coat off for any length of time), or there was the classic shot of him trying to hold back the big red lever. I liked the 'action' of the latter, but the only shot I could find (in print or on the disc) had Peter pulling a rather offputting grimace, so I planned to use the former. Then I remembered the Target book had a Doctor-and-lever photo on the cover; digging this out revealed it was a different shot with a better expression, but it was a little more static as he wasn't pushing on the metal pole. With a bit of surgery, however, I was able to transpose the head from this image onto that of him struggling to hold back the lever. Both sources were print, so rather grainy from the film screening, but the final composite was much more pleasing.

Download the final TERMINUS cover here

Return to Updates page