Sunday, January 10, 2021

No. 141 Garry Leach

First Prog: 58
Final Prog
: 1449, but before that 558.

Megazine credit: 214 (inking), and two covers: 219 and 227

Total appearances: 61
-including his work as an inker, his illustrations for Slaine: Tomb of Terror, and a handful of star scans.

The cover to the Titan collection (Vol 2); looks just like a 50s SF novel cover
-only way better because there's COMICS inside!

Art credits:
Dan Dare
The VCs

Judge Dredd

Various one-offs

Notable character creations:

The 50 Foot Woman. I mean, once seen, you can’t unsee it…
Brother, the physical manifestation of the VCs shipboard computer

Brother Mark 1: looks like a clown but talks straight

Brother Mark II: looks and talks like a hippy.
Words by Steve MacManus - and one can't help but imgine this gag was inspired by the
'genuine people personalities' bit in the Hitch-Hiker's Guide.

Notable characteristics:
I’m going to say hyper-realism, but I don’t know if I’m using the word correctly. Certainly on a Garry Leach comic you know you’re going to get meticulously rendered illustrations of people, clothes, vehicles and, this being 2000AD, things that couldn’t possibly be real but LOOK real, y’know?

Looks like it's drawn from reference - but the only reference for this stuff is a person's imagination.
Words by Kelvin Gosnell

He's got a way of showing faces in mid-expression that is super intense. And definitely he's fond of well-defined cheekbones (aren't we all). I want to call his style Bolland-y, but he was playing his trade at basically the same time as Bolland – were they both influenced by someone else? And yes, he did ink/mimic Bolland himself on a handful of Dredds. 

Capturing a character in mid-expression, this is Leach all over.
Words by John Wagner


These are some delightfully well-posed people here. I kind of assume he used photos,
but the devil only knows he he took them!
Words by Gerry Finley-Day (or maybe Steve MacManus?)

Oh, and for some reason I’ve been struck by a handful of panels he drew of heroes running away from danger. I do love an artist who tackles a scene from a really weird angle…

MACH One, up your bum.
Words by Gary Rice

A spaceman is chased through the corridors of a spaceship - yup, it's the late 1970s alright.
Words by, no lie, Garry Leach.

On Garry:
Garry Leach feels like a classic 2000AD artist to me, only he never quite had a series or character to really call his own. But he’s someone who cropped up sporadically over the first, what, 600 Progs? He's worked as an inker as well as full artist, and even produced some superb full-painted work.


This cover is like a million miles the best thing about the 1987 Sci-Fi Special

His longest association was the VCs, where he tag-teamed with Cam Kennedy, and even wrote his own episode (published after the series finished as a Future Shock). But he’s actually done more Dredd overall. He was definitely part of the UK comics scene in the late 70s / early 80s, working on Warrior and that. I have to assume that he was, shall we say, not as quick as some artists, and that’s the main reason he mostly crops up on one-off episodes and in Annuals. Because, frankly, he classed up some stinkers of Annuals in the early days. When people talk of early 2000AD having a Metal Hurlant sensibility, it’s Leach’s work I immediately think of. It’s more prog-rock than punk-rock (no pun intended…), mind, but he really delivered on grown-up looking science fiction stories.


Insert 'Death Planet' joke here if you must - but based purely on this cover that story
is 100% a Heavy Metal comic!

Part of this association is also to do with the work Leach delivered: Dan Dare, the VCs, various Future Shocks – they’re all quite Space Opera-y; the kind of sci-fi that certain adults really latch onto with all seriousness - even if the versions Leach was working on were absolutely NOT to be taken too seriously!

Scary robot, mostly serious.
Words by Gary Cruden?

Nose-sucking plant - not serious.
Words by Kelvin Gosnell

Space soldiers on a jungle planet - serious
Words actually by Garry Leach

Planets turning out to be eggs - not so serious
Words by Alan Hebden

Toddler God on a rocking horse -
I guess this one's not remotely serious...
Words by Alan Moore

These one-off jobs aside, Leach had an occasional slot on the roster of Judge Dredd. His first job there was inking Brian Bolland, and then filling in for him on one episode of ‘The Day the Law Died’.

Leach inking Bolland
Words by John Wagner

Leach inking Leach
Words by John Wagner

Some years later he delivered a small number of one-offs, but they’re super memorable ones, basically because his art was exactly the right fit.


How do you mark a decade of Dredd? Have him kill an old perp in the least
subtle way possible!
Words by Wagner and Grant

Leach was part of some sort of collective of artists on early episodes of Oz.
His style is unmistakable here I rekcon! The hands, the face, the cheekbones - the pose itself...
Words by Wagner and Grant

His longest continuous run in the Prog is technically not on strip work at all, but delivering the incidental illustrations that came with You are Slaine in: the Tomb of Terror! that delightful experiment in solo-gaming.

I wonder if Leach also created the illuminated border, which is rather lovely.
Words by Pat Mills


Ukko's eyes are super-Leachy somehow.
Words by Pat Mills

A proper page of 'choose your own', complete with
small panels of bodily mayhem.
Words by Pat Mills

His meticulous style also graced some cracking front and back covers…


That's young Purity, from Nesmsis Book VIII

A propos of nothing in partiucalr, Leach delivered a series of Dark Judges star scans.
Mortis, of course, is the best.

Before Leach disappeared from the Prog, presumably to pastures greener. He did get lured back for a single inking job in the Prog and the Meg, and lush they were, too.

Inking on top of Rufus Dayglo's pencils;
Words by Al Ewing

  and a couple of covers:


A slightly more refined style than his early days, but still super slick!

Will he return one day? I guess it's possible.

More on Garry Leach:
These days, Leach is one half of Atomeka Press, publishing as well as making comics. There's an interview with his publishing partner, not the man himself, on Down the Tubes, in which you can see some pages from a recent graphic novel series Leach has been inking on about Cyberbullying. Interesting stuff, and he’s lost none of his touch.

Personal favourites:
The VCs
Judge Dredd:
Attack of the 50ft Woman, The Comeback
Future Shocks
: They Sweep the Spaceways, Scrambled Eggs

Yup, no un-seeing this piece of work. You'll be forgiven for not noticing the exquisite
details on the citizenry at the bottom of the page...
Context by John Wagner and Alan Grant

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

No. 140 Alan Davis

First Prog: 287
Final Prog
: 588

Total appearances: 61

Creator credits:
Harry 20 on the High Rock
DR & Quinch

Other art credits:
Judge Dredd
Various one-offs

Cute aliens with wicked smiles, or cute aliens sporting looks of terror? Davis delivers both!
Words by Jamie Delano

Notable character creations:

Harry Thompson

-your mileage may very, but frankly every minor character created for his two signature series ended up notable in my mind - even down to the one-prog wonders such as Magnifico Loco or Judge Thorkwung.


A Harry 20 who's who: You don't need me to spell out who is who, do you? That's part of his skill!
Words by Gerry Finley-Day

Notable characteristics:
This is hardly the stuff of scholarly critique, but I find a bounciness and swoopiness to Davis’s style, which was present in these early days and is still there in his work today. I suppose, above all, he comes across as someone who loves to draw, and is at his happiest drawing crazy weird things going on.


Swoopy hair; sweaty brow; unmistakable emotions
Words by Alan Moore

He's also very good on backgrounds and clutter – as one supposes you’d have to be if you throw in your lot with Alan Moore early in your career!


Crowd scenes! Movement! Palpable movement!
Words by Alan Moore

And, somewhat notoriously, Davis was thought of from the very start as a 'superhero' artist - and as such almost didn't get work from 2000AD. One wonders how Dave Gibbons got himself so much work in those early years... :)

On Alan:
As I’ve said too many times, my first exposure to 2000AD was in the mid 400s, which included, pretty early on in my time, this spaffingly good cover by Alan Davis:

Not to mention reprints in that mightiest of magazines, The Best fo 2000AD Monthly, in which I read most of D.R. & Quinch, The Hyper Historic Headbang, and the whole of Harry 20 on the High Rock. The point is, Davis looms pretty large in my early days as a 2000AD fan.

Although I wasn’t really reading the Prog properly at the time, I did notice his brief return to D.R. and Quinch on the back cover, with the short-lived Agony Pages. By the time I was properly into the weekly, he’d long gone, never to be seen round these parts again. Sad times.

 However, even in that brief burst of Thargian activity (if you call 2 years and 2 major ongoing series ‘brief’), there’s an evolution to Alan’s work. Not least in that his very first piece, a front cover no less, shows both greatness and room for growth:


The composition is superb, but the way he's drawn the faces and figures doesn't quite have the simple confidence his work would come to enjoy. Harry 20 is a gung-ho action thriller, a classic slice of 1970s B-movie nonsense played mostly straight, with twists and turns that can leave you laughing out loud while also gasping and even fist-pumping the air in delight. Davis’s work here is kinda gritty. You know, to match the context of a run-down space prison where life is hard and there are precious few people to trust.

It's the guards evil face in the shadows that really makes this panel.
Word by Gerry Finley-Day

This one page sets up all you need to know about life on the High Rock
Words by Gerry Finley-Day


Look at all that lovely, fluid movement!
Words by Gerry Finley-Day

Davis has to design a LOT of individual characters, and he’s skilled enough to do it so we always know who’s who, even with various costume changes. And for my money, he leans just far enough, but not TOO far, into the ‘comedy’ racial stereotypes that are part and parcel of the cast. There’s plenty of room for Davis to deliver the full range of emotions and expressions, from grimacing to smiling to sneering to cowering. I like the plot of this strip quite a bit but it’s definitely a story that is elevated by the art.

Bags of charm in this 'hold my breath in the vaccuum of space' pose.
Words by Gerry Finley Day (with a little help from Alan Grant, if the dropped 'g' is anything to go by...)

It's worth noting that Davis has already made a name for himself on both Captain Britain* and Marvelman aka Miracleman before getting the 2000AD gig, so this wasn't quite his earliest work, but it's still super impressive.

D.R. & Quinch is perhaps the literal opposite of dark and gritty – it's a comedy about students filled with aliens and set neither on nor near to planet Earth (well, apart from that first story). It, too, evokes American B-movies of the 70s, although it’s more ‘Animal House’ and less ‘Escape from Alcatraz’.

The first 2000AD strip to show a character waking up with a hangover?
Words by Alan Moore

Frankly this series is so well-loved and so oft-reprinted that there seems little point me throwing more words into the mix. People can and do argue that the stories are either dated or crude – not sure I agree, they tend to make me grin and chuckle even today – but I’ve never heard anyone argue that the art was a problem. Again, it’s the sense of glee, of D.R. menacing grins, or Quinch’s implacable happiness, and the joy of just seeing so much stuff lying around, whether it’s guns or books or general detritus.


Or bars of soap. You can do a lot with soap, it turns out.
Words by Alan Moore

Set up and paid off! A classical three-panel gag here.
Words by Alan Moore

Are the obscure examples of set dressing a reference to Fellini? Maybe.
But mostly we're focussing on those oranges, man.
Words by Alan Moore

Some years later, Davis was first in line to draw a proposed Batman/Dredd crossover. He’d already been working on Detective Comics, and had a go at a Dredd strip as a warm-up. It’s decent enough but the story told didn’t really give him much of a chance to show off Mega City 1 or its crazed citizens.


A superhero pose if ever there was one.
Words by Alan Grant and John Wagner

I believe it was purely a matter of scheduling conflicts that meant he didn’t end up doing that crossover. It’s surely his wild success with American superhero comics, including delivering all-new series that he wrote as well as drew, that kept him away from 2000AD. I’ve not heard of Davis specifically as a creator who fought for better rights, but certainly he comes across as an artist who only draws material that he really wants to draw.

His style and energy have, I think, informed a number of 2000AD heroes who came after him, although there’s no one out there who draws in quite the same way. Neil Googe perhaps comes closest, but I can see hints of Davis in Paul Marshall and Nigel Dobbyn, too.

More on Alan Davis:
Some interesting tidbits on a Captain Britain fansite about Davis's very early days, including the transition to 2000AD.
Some rare artwork visible on this Davis celebration page from a designer's blog.
And best of all a longish interview with David Bishop preserved for posterity on Vicious Imagery.

Personal favourites:
Time Twisters:
The Hyper-Historic Headbang
Harry 20 on the High Rock

DR & Quinch

*I don’t typically bring up non-2000AD work in this section, but I can’t help but note that Alan Davis’s work on Captain Britain, both before, during and after Alan Moore as writer, is my single favourite version of a superhero comic.

Best 'XXX a robot!' reveal EVER

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

No. 139 Eric Bradbury RIP

First Prog: 10
Latest Prog
: 838, but a year later the 1994 Winter Special and 1995 Yearbook*

Total appearances: 62
-limited entirely to his 2000AD input (well, and one Tornado cover). If we covered the man’s work for Eagle, Battle and all the other ‘Treasury’ titles he’d be WAY up on the list of most prolific!

Matt Tallon comin' through!
Words by Tom Tully

Art credits:
Rogue Trooper
Tharg the Mighty
Mean Arena
Various one-offs

Notable character creations:

The fella in the flat cap may not agree, but he's basically God in this story.
Words by Alan Moore


Shakespeare always did love a 'comedy double' drama.
Context by Chris Lowder

(Just my little joke, although he did deliver memorable renderings of both)

Notable characteristics:

One of the Prog’s more recognisable talents, if you ask me, although I’m struggling to pin down exactly what marks out his work. There’s a lot of black, and it has a certain busy-ness, as if he doesn’t mind his ink pen flicking little splots of the stuff around the edges of his work. Except I imagine it’s far more calculated than that.

Lots of thick, spooky black ink at work
Words by Tom Tully

Extreme cross-hatching AND inky splodges at work!
Words by Kelvin Gosnell

He’s one of the best at drawing horror reaction shots – you know, when a person has just seen or experienced something too shocking to wrap their mind around. A useful skill for telegraphing a Future Shock, that! 

The spooky and the spooked, in one handy panel.
Those are coat hangers,
in case you're wondering.













I’d say that Bradbury was also possessed of that rare talent, being good at drawing just about everything. Buildings, people, machines, animals. I used to think anyone who could draw could draw anything, but I’ve learned that, in fact, most artists do a few things well, and other things not so well, and tend to avoid those things. Horses, typically. Not sure whether Bradbury was naturally gifted or naturally hard-working (or both), but he’s rarely delivered a duff panel.


All the vehicles, and a sense of foreboding, too.
Words by Kelvin Gosnell

On Eric:

A horror artist who never really got the chance to do any horror stores for 2000AD, Bradbury is more or less notable for being the artist who drew Tharg’s own adventures for the longest time. Poor bastard.

So it took me a while to work out why he was so well-loved by 2000AD fans. The answer is, he was busy drawing all the other comics that informed so many childhoods! I wasn’t old enough to be there for Von Hoffman’s Invasion or Leopard of Lime Street, and reading the wrong comics to discover Invasion 1984, and that’s just listing three strips that have been reprinted recently. The point is, people who grew up reading a range of British adventure comics would have been as familiar and fond of Eric Bradbury as 2000AD devotees knew and loved Carlos Ezquerra. At least, I think that’s an apt comparison. Two giants of the medium that non-UK-comics readers have likely never heard of.

But, you know, I’m using this blog to explore and dissect all things 2000AD, so that leaves us with a very specific set of work to look at in celebration of Eric Bradbury: fill-ins, Future Shocks, and of all long-running stories, Mean Arena. Very early job on Invasion shows how well-formed Bradbury already was at this point. He knows what he’s doing.

He'll draw you dogs, water, boats, a psycho with a shotgun - no problem.
Words by Gerry Finley-Day

 The same skills allowed him to fill-in on a single episode of Rogue Trooper to equally solid effect.

Gnarly monsters! It's kind of sad there aren't more straight up horror stories in Rogue Trooper overall.
Words by Gerry Finley-Day

But really, when I think of Bradbury I think of Future Shocks. I don’t know if his work was reprinted more often than others, or if perhaps he made these short stories look better than they perhaps were. But if you see a Future Shock with Bradbury’s name in the credits box, you know it’s going to be a solid ride – and you can’t say that for a LOT of them.

A wibbly monster this time, and no skimping on the tentacles or the face bumps.
Words by Alan Moore

The eyes! The eyes!
Words by Kelvin Gosnell

You can forgive a cheap pun (alright, this one's actually rather good)
with this much love and care put into the panel.
Words by Alan Moore

‘Future Shocks’ of course is kind of shorthand for ‘one-off tales commissioned to fill up a slot.’ And for a few years, that often meant an outing for the big cheese himself, Tharg T Mighty. As a character, Tharg has endured remarkably well. He’s arrogant, condescending, and occasionally Right On. As the protagonist of a story, he’s rubbish. In fact, even the writers knew this so he often only shows up at the beginning or end to shout at droids and save the day. Bradbury does what he can to ground Tharg in the specific time and place of Thatcher’s London, early 1980s. 


Nails the key Tharg characteristic of self-importance and grumpiness.
Words by TMO (probably disguised as Alan McKenzie)

But even he can’t do much to make such generic goonish bad guys ‘the Dictators of Zrag’ feel even slightly menacing.**

You could argue they evoke something of the Daltons from Lucky Luke, or just generic bullies from most British humour comics. Or you could just ignore them as characters not worthy of getting like 3 entire 2000AD covers to their name. That’s more than Blackhawk!

Which leaves us with Mean Arena. Specifically, a rather weird period of that story that was designed to let readers in on the action, where they suggested team names (and even costume designs) for Street Football teams that Matt Tallon could compete against. 

You get the design concept, yes? They have blades on their heads, and charge headfirst into things.
Got to hold back your sporting finesse, that. Like, imagine if Arsenal players were contractually obliged to knock goals using only their arses.
Words by Tom Tully, character design by some kid in 1981.

 Plus the usual ‘Tallon commits murder in the name of revenge, sometimes with the aid of a small robot boy’ shenanigans. This future sports story ended up in some WEIRD places.

Robot boy, paranoid hero, wheelchair hobgoblin - your typical sports story, then.
Words by Tom Tully

Bradbury brings all this far more quality than it deserves. His storytelling is immaculate, and at times it really needs to be to make sense of the action in a sport that has nebulous rules, and goals that change from team to team. His stark blacks also keep up the tension, and remind the reader that the word ‘street’ in Street Football is very much code for ‘working class, run-down, unrefined, nothing like the Premiere League’ type game.

Bradbury'd using that ink-flecked trick again to evoke a salt-of-the-earth quality in Tallon's team mates
Words by Tom Tully
Every now and then, we get scenes of the game being played. It's pretty rough and tough!
Words by Tom Tully

And let's not forget that 'hero' Matt Tallon is a crazy-eyed psycho...

Matt Tallon - one of 2000AD's more 'anti' heroes

Presumably hard at work on umpteen other comics, Bradbury slowly disappeared from the Prog, barring a late Future Shock and Terror Tale. But he was a pretty regular presence in the specials for a good long while. It’s worth noting that his style changed a little during this late phase of his career, or perhaps that’s just me not appreciating the difference a little colour makes. And of course it didn’t help him that he was essentially the go-to man for Tharg tales. I don’t know if it was editorial mandate but he has a thing where he loves drawing people (and monsters and even robots) proper warts-and-all style, but his Tharg varied from nobbly-faced to smooth as anything.

Nobly Tharg in uncle mode


Nobbly Tharg in crazy-eyed psycho mode

Tharg in ultra-smooth 'supreme leader' mode

Bradbury is a rare artist of the early era who had the chance to do some proper full-colour work. And for someone SO GOOD as black-and-white, it was a surprise to me how lush his colour work turned out – even if it was generally seen on more of those pesky Tharg stories. At least these ones focussed as much on Tharg’s droids as the man himself, so there’s that frisson of fun seeing some behind the scenes stuff, with droids drawn, one assumes, to resemble the actual background staff.


Except Burt. Burt doesn't look like Richard Burton.

This is not a good comic, but Bradbury is still giving a good go.


When they only came round once a year, these Thargs strips were perfectly welcome.
And boy does Bradbury draw the heck out of a totally gnarled troll-man.

More on Eric Bradbury:
Well, he's one of the rare 2000AD creators who merits his own Wikipedia page!

Personal favourites:

Tharg’s Future Shocks: Fish in a Barrel; 'ang about; Benjamin Blint
Time Twisters
: The Big Clock
(much as I admire his art generally, I can’t bring myself to say any of his work on Mean Arena or those Tharg strips stands out as ‘favourite’)

*The ‘95 Yearbook was published in Autumn 94; the Winter Special a few months later. OBVIOUSLY.


Just time for one last surprise!