As a comic artist at Marvel in the 1980s, Kevin Hopgood had the honour of working with writer Len Kaminski in creating two of Iron Man's most iconic designs cocombatant James Rhodes' War Machine armour, and Tony Stark's own oversized Hulkbuster suit.
And now the artist has found himself working on new versions of the designs he created in the first place.
"The Marvel Fact Files is a partwork published by Eaglemoss that builds up into a complete encyclopaedia of the Marvel Universe," says Kevin. "As part of that we've been doing 'cutaway' style illustrations of just every robot/cyborg/exoskeleton wearing character in the Marvel Universe. They typically fold out onto 3 A4 pages, so they're quite big, poster style illustrations. One of the first ones I did was War Machine."
The interim period between the two Marvel-related projects has been an interesting one for Kevin. A victim of the great comic book crash of the mid-'90s, he moved into the world of videogames for a few years, designing ships for Psygnosis' PlayStation game Blast Radius.
"We were having to work within the limits of the Playstation 2 at the time, so every polygon and texture had to earn its keep," he says.
Although Kevin returned to the world of comics working on Doctor Who and Warhammer 40,000 tie-ins, he picked up enough 3D knowledge to implement it in his workflow for the Marvel fact files.
"I initially did the illustrations in Adobe Illustrator, and treated them as a technical drawing exercise," he says. "The jobs demanded more shiny chrome effects, which can be a pain to draw, but a really easy effect to get in 3D.
"I started off introducing more 3D elements into the artwork, but I wasn't confident that I could pull the whole thing off in 3D. I finally bit the bullet with a cutaway of Iron Man villain The Titanium Man. That one turned out how I wanted, so I've stuck with a 3D workflow for the rest of the illustrations."
The seeds James and Lee sowed in the 1980s are coming to cinematic fruition, too, with War Machine given a pivotal role in Iron Man 2, and the Hulkbuster armour making a dramatic appearance in The Avengers: Age of Ultron.
How does Kevin feel to see his creations rendered in peerless quality? "It was a great buzz to see something I had a hand in designing up on the big screen," he says. "And we managed to get a 'thank you' payment from Marvel so that was the icing on the cake!"
Words: Henry Winchester
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