Thursday, 31 March 2011

Ro-Busters & Carlos Pino

Just started reading the complete collection and its a terrific read of course.
Must mention though Carlos Pino.
He had the daunting task of taking Kevin O'Neil's initial designs and creating the first two episodes.
Completely over-looked when the stunning work by McMahon, Gibbons and O'Neil shortly came along, he does some brilliant work here.
Not only did he excell at hardware and robots, he drew them incredibly dynamically in places, with some unusual, very cinematic angles.
Carlos, you were great.

World Wide Weirdies

Henry Flint citing these bizarre, utterly brilliant one-offs by Ken Reid had me go back and have a look at them again.
Here's five of my favourites, which i just stare in awe at.
That's now.
Back then it was a case of staring in morbid fascination.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

GIMME FIVE! - Dave Taylor

True gent and brilliant artist to boot, Dave been bringing his European style to the likes of Judges Dredd and Anderson for a while now, making jaws drop in unison as folk pour over his hyper-detailed cityscapes and hardware.
Long out of print now, his Tongue Lash comic series is crimingly over-looked and well worth tracking down.

The first books I remember reading were the Giles collections, which were always present at Christmas, and Billy the Cat in the Beano. Those are my earliest fondest 2D memories. The Rupert annuals I read at my cousin's house were amazing to see at a tender age, probably my first psychedelic experience!! But then I probably owe my career to IPC for introducing me to science fiction comics via Starlord and 2000AD. I can hand on heart say that my life path changed when I first read Starlord! I have to mention, for clarity's sake, that outside of British material I soaked up a lot of European books such as Tin Tin and Asterix. There, I've said it.
I can only pick a favourite because of the later impact it had on my entire life, that being 2000AD. I picked up a sense of freedom from those early pages, a realisation that anything was possible in comics. That's powerful Voodoo!
That's a really hard question because so many characters played a part in my overall experience in British comics. That was the point. There wasn't one but many. That's part of the thrill I remember, being constantly introduced to new and interesting characters. OK...Billy the Cat or Dredd. I should draw them fighting it out!!
I still love Giles. I think the thing that struck me about his art was how he captured real life. His world reflected my own in some way. He may be responsible for me taking such an interest in studying life and all it's oddness, as an artist. Other than that, all, and I mean all the 2000AD artists were a joy, and many of them still are!
If all the copies of The Cursed Earth (Judge Dredd) in the world mysteriously disappeared and the book had to be re-drawn then that would be my ultimate "job"! It doesn't answer the question properly but that's the first and thus the best answer I could come up with...other than Billy The Cat!!

Monday, 28 March 2011

Biog - all done

Here he is then. Tried for moody lighting - but the gloss has made it flare up no end...

GIMME FIVE! - Boo Cook

Today we have Boo Cook, all round top bloke and fantastic visualist, producing some brilliantly original art for Judge Anderson just lately. Yep, i'd love to see him work on Halo Jones too.
Go Boo:

Ever since i was really young, my Grandpa decided to send me a comic each week from Stevenage - he figured he wouldn't have anything much to leave us in way of a Will so he gave us this cool gift while he was still around to see us enjoy it. He basically ended up leaving me a massive stack of comics and an unbridled passion for the medium, which i'm sure you'd agree is worth way more than dosh!
I started off with him sending me Toby Comic when i was 4 - my older brother consistently got sent Tiger Comic, which had it's moments but was a tad 'sporty' for me. From Toby i think i went onto the Beano comic, and onto Look-In from there, which i got for quite a while. Then on my 10th christmas i got the 1982 2000AD annual which turned my appreciation of comics upside down. After a brief dabble with Starlord, i moved onto 2000AD full time and have been getting it weekly ever since.

So, my favourite childhood comic would have to be 2000AD hands down - Eagle and Scream had their moments, and Look- In even ran some tasty/weird strips, but nothing could match the crazed imagination evident in 2000AD - my brain sucked it up like a sponge.

My favourite character in 2000AD has always been and still is, Johnny Alpha. Sometimes i wonder if it should really be Wulf Sternhammer, but i think i'll stick with Johnny. 'Sandy sci-fi' is my favourite genre and nobody does it better than Carlos. Plus the sense of design in Strontium Dog, the outlandish characters and immense scope for story telling made it a bottomless pit of epic brilliance, which i'm very pleased to say, is still in evidence in the Prog.

Trying to nail down one favourite artist from my childhood is pretty impossible - i'd have to give the accolade to a conglomerate of artists acting as one, and it's probably no big surprise to discover that the many headed art beast would consist of : Carlos Ezquerra, Brian Bolland, Mike McMahon, Cam Kennedy, and Brendan McCarthy. These are the artists who have probably influenced and inspired me the most, and i'm still blown away by their efforts now.

Well, the Strontium Dog strip is thankfully still going strong and remains firmly in the capable hands of it's creator (and his son), so much as i would love to draw Johnny and Wulf, i would have to respectfully leave it to the master! That said , Judge Dredd has always been a close second favourite in my mind, and it's been an immense pleasure to have worked on him from time to time, and is something i will never tire of.
If 'they bought it back' i would be more than happy to help Alan Moore wrap up the Halo Jones saga...

Strip Magazine - almost with us

Looking like the magazines getting its big launch soon at Bristol and i can't wait. Any new British publication has to applauded but this one, with its reprints of European titles, Hookjaw and Dredger, nothes it up massively.
I usually buy a couple of GN's when i'm in France and they're brilliant stuff - but my translating each panel sure does make them a lengthy read. So it'll be nice to have the English version to speed things up.
Interesting to see that they're going to be re-colouring Hookjaw. As i've said in the last couple of Action posts, the later stories suffered from appalling colouring - but at least it helped cover up some equally appalling art. Will bettering the coluring improve things? We'll see.
And, i take it just the original colour spreads will be done, not the whole strip? Hope not. The B&W of the Sola art made the violence and the gore that much more disturbing and effective. Splashing some Kensington Gore around would be the comic equivilant of colouring the Laurel and Hardy shorts.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

The Party's over - Action 18th Sept 1976

Here it is then, the infamous issue that started the snowball that lead to the "banning".
What to make of it after all these years?

Starting off with the cover and the "policemans going to get a hiding" thing. Okay, its depicting "Kids Rule OK!", where there are no grownups left. And that's patently an older bloke being - sort of - menaced by the youth. And there's a policemans helmet nearby. So the assumption is that its a Bobby that's about to get a kicking. And i can sort of see where folk would think that.
But, consider: ALL the background folk are coloured blue. So the oldboy's clobber might be just be more of the same.
And that "youth" isn't even looking at him as he swings the bike chain.
And that helmet could be anyone's.
Figure it's a cover that's whatever you want to make of it. Which is plenty for the detractors, not helped by what's inside:

Dredger has a barking mad, make no sense, tale in which he and Breed are sent to South America to get back some plans. They're up against a couple of Dredgers old mercenary friends, but our heroes beat them - only to give the plans back to them in London so they can sell them to the British goverment. What? Bredd, quite rightly, asks why go to the bother of getting the plans from his friends if only to give them back to them, Dredgers frankly stupid reply is "Make sure they went to the right people". Makes no sense. At all. a piss-poor tale. But nothing here to create waves yet...

Kids Rule Ok is a whole kettle of whatnots - teens opening fire on teens, pretty clear instructions on how to make molotov cocktales and the Hells Angels turning up at the end. Very gritty stuff with some suitably nasty, grim artwork. Even now, fancy a shower after reading.

Death Game 1999 is as lame now as back then. Only death by flipper does anything to amend the tedium.

Hell's Highway. Here's a thing. Never read it when it first came out as i had it down as a cashin on the CB radio craze that was all the rage back then and couldn't have cared less about a couple of truckers. But this is the first episode and i hadn't realised that it was actually borderline horror story. Even now, these shots of the inhabitants of the town and the truck are pretty darn creepy. Will have to go back and re-read as soon as i can.

Hookjaw. Last issue was noticible for the unheard of device of having the hero killed by the bad guy. So here we have Rick Mason's severed head on display in the first panel, only to be forgotten straight away as folk try to leave the island that's torn apart by the volcano. Here we have such oddities as "sharks being able to sense fear in the water up to five miles away", Great White's in the English Channel and Hookjaw knowing how to upend a hovercraft. Odd stuff, with even odder art. Sola's magnificent run had been long gone and here we have this duff replacement. Kind of glad the awful colouring covers so much up.

Hellman's MUCH better, despite equally poor art. The fella's having to recruit a bunch of convicts for his new tank crew and he does in a typical Action way - enter the prison yard driving a King Tiger Tank alone, cover it oil so folk can't climb up it to murder him and deflect knives with a handy door. In the nd, he's got them on his side and they await the coming Russina army alone.

Look Out For lefty is where Martin Baker in his excellent Action book reckons they pushed it too far - an opposing player is bottled mid game and the inference is that its Lefty's girlfriend what did it, thanks to a "Good old Ange!" thought bubble. You don't actually see here do it, but its pretty clear she did. Pretty near the knuckle for a title of its time, aimed at the age group it was aimed at.

Finally we have the end of Green Grudge's War and its very strange. After week in week out of Green seething about Bold but never actually doing anything, here he gets a perfect chance. And shoots him with a German rifle. But the guys not dead and, somehow, gets to the rescue boat before Green. And when Green wades out to it, he's so stunned that his nemesis is still alive, he freezes and gets shot in the back and dies. That's it. No build up, no offbeat payoff to the tale. Its like the powers to be wanted it stopped and stopped it they did. Nice Belardinelli art though.

Summing up, yep they sure seemed to be pushing it with a few tales. If only editoral had decided to just have one strong tale and the rest pretty regular, maybe things might've turned out different.
A rather spectacular "AYIEEEEEEEEGH!" from that guy getting fried in Death Game 1999.
A short "AAAEEE!" from a bloke tipped into the sea in Hoojaw.
A slightly overlong "AIEEEEE!" from Big Max in Hellman.
And a perfect 100% "AIEEEE!" from a rap across the knuckles with a bullet belt in same.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Happy Squaxx, me

The latest issue of the really rather spiffing Zarjazz will be out very soon now, this time an ABC Warrior themed one sporting a truely, er, zarjazz, cover by genius artist Clint Langley.
I'd be excited at the best of times but am even more so 'cause my favourite Warrior, Blackblood, gets a solo story written... by me.
What a bizarro world.
Thrill Power Overload big time for this Squaxx and Dunk has done a fabulous job on the art, seemingly being able to see inside me noggin and put down on paper exactly what i have in there.
Here's an exclusive page preview for you, courtesy of Bolt 01.

Operation Black Death

Thought i'd take a look at an episode of this while flicking through issues of Battle.
This one's from March 1977 and, boy, its grim.
Not only do we have scenes that could be out of The Godfather or Once Upon A Time In America (Nelson hanging onto the side of the car and spraying the driver with machine gun fire at point blank range), a guy being dissolved in acid, but the art matches it too.
Can't remember Pat Wright being this gritty in earlier adventures of Mike Nelson, but boy he does here.
Look at the two top right panels on the second page, along with the final one of same.
Dead hard or what? You'd wouldn't mess with this guy, not exactly your clean cut British hero.

Monday, 21 March 2011

GIMME FIVE! - Henry Flint

Chuffed to bits to have Henry taking part in this. He's, quite rightly, regarded as one of THE premier artists, who's imagination and talent seems to know no bounds.
I have to tie my jaw shut with an old napkin before reading each episode of Shakara in the Prog right now as having it hanging open as i study each panel is becoming painful and i keep getting looks.
So, so nice to see he's such a fan of the comics from the era of this Blog and its been hard to restrict the images to just five.
Over to you Henry:

Honorary mention to Rupert Annuals and Jack and Jill (Trippy psychedelia probably written and drawn by hippies).
Beano, Dandy, Whizzer and Chips, Whoopee (world wide weirdies), Buster, Warlord, Starlord, Starblazer, (80's) Eagle, Mad Magazine, 2000ad. (Too young for Cor, too old for Jackpot.)
Desperate Dan, Face Ache, Roger the Dodger (Very disappointed when I didn't get a Dodge book for Christmas.) Old One Eye from Flesh. Ro-Jaws and Hammerstein...
Ken Reid, Jack Davis, Alfred Bestall, Kevin O'Neil, Massimo Belardinelli... to list artists I liked in the 70's early 80's, I could go on and on.
A year ago I'd have said Flesh but that's up and running. I'd like to do Nemesis (again) and I keep plugging for a return of Blackhawk but it's never going to happen.

Ads That Time Forgot - Blobs

On the back cover of one of thos Buster and Cor!!'s was this ad.
Didn't register at first what they were, then saw the panel with the three tubes and the shape with them, along with the name, and especially the font used, set a little bell ringing.
Then read that two of the flavours were "Strawberry And Cream" and "Apple, Pear And Banana" and it all came flooing back how i used to consume vast quantities on the way to school.
Which goes some way to explaining the shocking amount of fillings i'm carrying around in my mouth.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

GIMME FIVE! - Pat Mills

Stunned and amazed to have the legendary Pat Mills gracing this here Blog.
Stunned and amazed too that someone responsible for shaking up and recreating British comics, along with creating such classic, unforgettable characters and strips, actually didn't read many comics growing up.
Here you are then with a very brief "Gimme Five!"

Virtually no comics, I'm afraid. I read the Beano and Dandy annuals and the odd issue of Eagle, plus Express Weekly which starred Wulf the Briton, which I quite liked. But we are talking about very few episodes, so they didn't have any great significance for me.
I was primarily into novels and cartoons. When I started work in comics, I discovered many characters for the first time.

Failing to do a Belardinelli

Over on the 2000AD Forum there's an art competition with a theme of why i love 2000AD.
Thought i'd have a go and, if i have to sum up what had the biggest impact on me when it first came out and what's the most striking image from it, i'd have to go with the Biogs from the relaunched Dan Dare.
I've waxed lyrical before here on the genius of Massimo's art and, up to this point, he'd been doing terrific stuff in Battle.
But with Dan Dare the reigns were off and all his imagaination came pouring out. I'd never seen anything like it and guess next time i'd be that floored by such an original design would be Giger on Alien.
Even though it was only the start of Massimo's work for 2000AD and then Tornado, i really don't think he bettered these. His Warp Spasm in Slaine came very close, ditto his Artie Gruber, but these fellas are the pinnacle for me.
So, thought i'd make one.
Oh dear.
Massimo's insane, joyously barking design may look quite simple but it really, really isn't. Trying to convert just the simple looking bulbous rear of the head is a right sod to try and get right. Those small ears look easy to do. Nope, just look stupid when you make it yourself. But worst are the "flaps" - the hanging down things where the mouth should be. First attempt was rubbish, made in 3D i ended up with a Cthulhu bust.
Here's where i am at the moment, all built and starting the painting.
I've decided to go away from the proper colour scheme as, when they did appear on the cover or centre pages of the Prog, they were an odd blue/white. That looks fine in print, but i'm not at all sure it'd work "in the flesh"

Some unexpected Reid, Baxendale & Colquhoun

Strolling round a Boot Fair yesterday morning, some bloke had a box of comics. Kind of stunned to find that they're all from the mid 70's and in really good condition. He had quite a lot of Marvel UK titles that i flicked through - which really did prove that memory cheats - and a lot of Buster and Cor!!'s from 1974 and 75.
So, got a few out of curiosity sake as i know i had Cor!! back then but don't think i read Buster.
Get them home and, how nice.
We have a lovely simple plot device of Snooper wanting to know what's in a shed. That's it. But with the fantastic, dynamic art of Leo Baxendale it's notched up in to the genius level. Its amazing what an effect he can make with just a few speed lines around things.
Speaking of genius level, there's some classic Ken Reid on Faceache too. I don't need to show you more than this title shot to show that off eh?
Pete's Pocket Army is one of those strips that seems to be a variation of so many others of the time - in this case, loner kid with tiny friends. Whereas General Jumbo had a group of model soldiers, here we have "Pete Parker" being mates with six aliens from the planet Liturnus. It's alright i suppose but Jumbo using tiny tanks and planes is more exciting than breaking a schoolboy out of a room. Lopez's art though is simply stunning, giving the (then) contempery tale a Dickensian feel.
Marney The Fox i've read about but never read and is an oddity to be sure. Part of it is a Lassie style tale of a lone fox up against wicked humans. What makes it distinctive is the occasional thought ballons from the fox himself. Yep, we're given an insight into the thought processes of the foxy lead, which at times are brief and work well: "Many faces! Many eyes! Bright... curious... staring!", but at others he's positively chatty, coming across as the teacher from Kung Fu: "Hated man has the mind of a sparrow! Cunning has worked... now for speed!"
Biggest and best suprise though is on yet another clone series, this time the "Famous Five/Secret Seven On Wheels" variation. I'm used to Jet Skaters over in Thunder but here we have "Sammy Brewster's Ski-Board Squad", which is basically the same except here they wear balaclava's. Doesn't matter though - its Joe Colquhoun on art duties, which INSTANTLY raises it up. Doesn't matter how duff the strip, Joe makes it class and worth reading.
Really enjoyed these issues - hope the guys there again next week.