Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Behind the scenes at Rebellion

Here's a page from the Bookseller magazine, dated  6/11/2015, featuring a short interview with Ben Smith, Rebellion's current head of books & comics publishing.

Comics and grpahic novels have been getting more and more play in the magainze in recent years. The editors try very hard but it does feel patronising at times - 'OMG! Real books are having a hard time but people seem to be spending money on graphic novels. Maybe we should care about them more'.

And, because it's fundamentally a sales magazine, they are obliged to champion some godawful crap, especially Marvel's Civil War (by far their biggest seller, i the UK at any rate). The latest sensation is Joe Sugg's (ghost written and drawn) Username: Evie. I haven't read it, so have no idea if it's any good, but it does seem to be a comic being bought by people who like Sugg's Youtube channel, who seemingly have a very small overlap with people who aread a lot of comics. So it's great that a new demographic is being tapped, I'll give it that.

Anyway, Rebellion get a fair bit of play in the Bookseller, and it's nice that they can back that up with a) good sales and b) cracking good product!

Friday, May 08, 2009

The eyes have it

I've recently rediscovered the series 'The Dead Man'. At the time it came out, it was very much a mystery story that focused on the question 'Who is the Dead Man?' I certainly didn't guess the answer, and was suitably blown away by the reveal in the penultimate episode. Don't worry, I'm not going to give it away now!

The point is, I hadn't really expected the story to carry much weight without that mystery element, but it turns out I was dead wrong. It is in fact one of the finest horror stories ever printed in 2000 AD, largely down to terrific artwork from John Ridgway.

Ridgway has always had a way with faces. He's quite into lines and wrinkles and expressions generally, which sometimes make me feel that his drawing is less polished than other artists, or even a bit childish if I'm being bold. But it also really draws you into the characters, and hits you round the face with their emotions - and that's a hell of a source of horror.

The other genius thing about the Dead Man is that writer John Wagner tells the story through the eyes of young Yassa Povey, a teenage boy who for me represents the average 2000 AD reader (you know, back in the days when comics were for kids, and not for 20-30 somethings). He's adventurous, cocky, loved by his parents and when it comes to it, a bit of a scaredy cat. Wagner puts Yassa through his paces alright, and it's his personal arc that generates the horror, and makes the story endlessly re-readable, even when the 'mystery' angle just seems obvious. His fate is properly nasty, and I'm afraid I am going to spoil that in a minute. Although, as with all great horror, it's my contention that knowing his fate makes it all the nastier when it happens...

Ridgway's taking centre stage for this quick flick through the series. I don't know if it was him or Wagner who decided on the trick of focusing on eyes throughout the series, but it sure works a treat. We begin with the boy's discovery of the Dead Man - large white eyes giving life to a burnt-out husk of a man:
The Dead Man is brought back to the village to recover at Yassa's house. A lot of the villagers don't like it. I love the difference Ridgway manages to get across between a frightened child and bigoted adults.

And then Yassa starts having nightmares.

And nightmares upon nightmares. I still struggle to look at the last panel here without feeling a mixture of terror and disgust.
The classic 'wake from a nightmare into another nightmare' - an oldie but goodie.

And with that, The Dead Man decides he must leave. Of course, brave, foolish and still very scared Yassa goes with him. All too soon, they're in the woods, surrounded by beasties, Yassa's bright eyes a beacon in the darkness:

And then he runs into real trouble, the very source of his nightmares.
And just when you thought he couldn't open his eyes any wider:
Leading to the inevitable, haunting finale

What a great series. And, it looks like it'll be reprinted in time for Christmas, along with a certain sequel...

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Plagues of Necropolis

What's the worst series ever printed in 2000 AD / The Megazine?
Personally, I've got no idea. But I tell you, the Hipster Dad (neat new-look blog, by the way!) sure has got it in for one series in particular - Si Spencer's 'Plagues of Necropolis', a short set of one off tales printed at the end of Volume 2 of the Judge Dredd Megazine.

I've just re-read them. They're ok. Nothing special, mind.
What's the deal? Well, these are stories set during 'Necropolis', a time when Mega City 1, home of Judge Dredd, was overtaken by Judge Death and his cronies. Each focuses on a citizen, or group of citizens who are hiding from Necropolis, only to find that death (if not always Death) will get to them come what may, often in a poetic manner.

I say 'poetic', but it's more of a vaguely apt death rather than terribly poetic. But, on the good side, a bunch of new artists got to try out their stuff, and at the very least, each episode ends with something suitably nasty, which is the whole point.

I'm not a huge Si Spencer fan. He wrote Harke and Burr, which was excellent - but mostly thanks to Dean Ormston's artwork. He also wrote The Creep, which I think had a reasonable central premise but never really worked, I think because the Creep himself was too ill-defined. Pretty much everybody hates 'The Creep'.

In Plagues, he has this annoying habit of starting each episode with a quote from 'The Book of Exeters', which is 'clever' because Exeter is a British city, and sounds a bit like 'Exodus', a book from the Bible. I wouldn't have minded if he'd have thought of a different Biblical pun for each episode, you know, like 'The Book of Hastings' or 'Macclesfield' or anything at all, really.

Enough being mean, here are the good bits. By which I mean the bits where the people suffer horrible things. To my mind, it's all exemplary 2000AD stuff, lacking only in humour. Can't go wrong with severed heads raining down from the sky, I say...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Over the top!!

In any given Prog, if it's a good Prog (and most are), there'll be a panel or two that goes beyond what is strictly necessary. An image, an idea, a line of dialogue - or if you're lucky, all three - that put a smile on your face. Garth Ennis certainly learned this lesson well, and has gone on to apply it routinely to nearly everything he's ever written, from True Faith to Preacher to The Boys.

The funny thing is, the examples I have for you today aren't even remotely famous, they're really just routine for the Galaxy's greatest, both old and new.

This first offering has it all, but I think it's the face that really sets it apart.

Even a lesser thrill such as Dead Meat has its moments...

Belardinelli is guaranteed awesome, but spare a thought for the unknown letterer of this early Dan Dare, he really gives it his all!
See, it's not all violence. Often it's violence. Look, here's a ninja fighting a tiger:

One of the most OTT things ever wasn't a true strip, it was a series of adverts for Havoc TM - some kind of role playing game I think. Robbie Morrison surely had a lot of fun being as hardcore as he could. Again, it's all in the faces - I think drawn by Robert McCallum?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Only in 2000 AD part 4

99 posts! Woo. In celebration, here are some of my favourite pictures from 2000 AD. They pretty much speak for themselves:

Here's Gargarax - perhaps the best demon design ever (Brett Ewins on art, Wagner and Grant providing the ideas):

There's something lovely about the detail in this scene here. It's also the only good thing at all to come out of Time Flies 2. Shame artist John Beeston only got to do one episode of it. I've no idea what happened to him.

Finally, this is a strong contender for all time favourite kill scene, by the unbeatable combination of John Wagner and Henry Flint:

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A different approach to superheroes?

2000 AD famously doesn't do strips about superheroes. Which is, of course, nonsense. Most famously there was Zenith, and rather recently we've had the 10 Seconders, and in between there were the Balls Brothers. Of course, all of these were to a greater or lesser extent (mostly greater) mocking the traditions of superheroics, so that doesn't count...

But frankly, the likes of Slaine, Rogue Trooper, Judges Dredd and Anderson and Johnny Alpha are basically superheroes, albeit in a very different setting to your typical Marvel or DC character. I mean to say, they've all got superpowers / neat weapons, and they generally go around dispatching of villains - or at the very least, people who are even nastier than they are.

I'm not going to go on about this. It's really a vague preamble to some pictures in which we can see how 2000 AD approaches the idea of superheroes in some incredibly tangential ways. For example, this one just has the word Batman in it. But it's nothing to do with Batman - it just makes me laugh. And I like the idea that Batman will still be a sort-of recognisable figure in the 27th century.

Here's a little early Mark Millar for you. His best-received 2000 AD effort, Canon Fodder, has superhero written all over it. The Canon himself is an angry buffoon in a costume, on an epic quest to find God. Chris Weston's art (which frankly is what makes the strip so memorable and literally awe-inspiring) adds a bit of superhero as well, with its bright colours and outlandish settings. Here we have the hand of God toying with the Canon and the Devil. To my mind, it's a delightfully twisted version of the endgame of a classic Avengers comic. Which is what Millar's still earning his bread off.

Here's my favourite John Wagner pseudo-hero.

He's got this card, see, which means that he can get into and out of all sorts of trouble with ease. Even bad guys mugging him don't phase him, because he doesn't care. Now that's a super power.

Current 2000 AD writing genius Ian Edginton isn't shy of dipping into the twisted hero pool. His recent opus Stone Island divided readers (I wonder if I'm one of the only people who really liked it...), but I think nearly everyone agreed that lead character Harry is pretty awesome. During the first story, he found himself merged with an alien beastie. Best of all, this stretched out his face a bit like in that scene from Beetlejuice, which looks way cool when Simon Davis paints it. He also doesn't give two hoots about much, which is the way a 2000 AD hero should be.
This isn't him looking in a mirror - this is him being suitably horrified at what happened to his mate...

Lastly today, pat Mills. I mentioned Slaine above as a hero-type. He was never more so than in the Time Killer / Tomb of Terror arc. In fact, these were intended to cash in on the popularity of Dungeons and Dragons (in which they succeed very, very well). But in that vein it's not unlike a Thor adventure. Except that Mills likes to poke fun. He also gets artist Pugh to design a fantastic bathroom setting. Regular heroes spend a lot of time sneaking through sewers - but 2000 AD heroes actually get to crawl through the urinals and into the other side:

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Only in 2000 AD part 3

Here's something else 2000 AD does especially well - mixing the mundane with the bizarre. I think part of the reason for success in this field compared to other comics is the effort on the part of the artists to draw in proper backgrounds, and not to be shy of details. In recent years American comics have turned this way as well, leading to regular delays in publishing. Somehow, the galaxy's greatest has never had this problem. (OK so some series have been split into several sections, but the material that goes in between is always of the same high standard).

Anyway, here's a bunch of sci-fi dudes having a job interview type thing. I've no idea what background setting the writer had in mind, but artist Nigel Dobbyn sure has run with it...

And here's a slice of soap opera melodrama, which just sounds so much more exciting coming from the gaping jaw of a Henry Flint alien beastie...

And then of course there's Brian Bolland, delivering something not at all mundane, but just utterly bizarre: