Thursday, April 2, 2015

No. 8 Steve Cook

First Prog: (as designer): 555
(as cover artist): 600
Last Prog: (as designer): 1273
(as cover artist): 1615 [at this point it’s unlikely we’ll see him again, but you never know!]

Total appearances: 733

-derived from the extent of his tenure as 2000 AD's designer, meaning he'll have had a hand in pretty much every Prog and special from that time, although the 'true' number may be greater.

Creator credits:
Steve Cook exploded onto the 2000 AD scene with the first redesign of the comic’s logo the Prog had seen in 8 years. Bolstered by a witty cover on Prog 555...

Art by John Higgins
(although perhaps Cook, maybe McManus or even Burt outlined the basic idea?)

...this logo has stood the test of time more than any other, and continues to appear on 2000 AD branding to this day. Cook presumably created the full-headline logos that graced the Prog from 950-1233 as well:

Art by Dermot Power
(face by Sylvester Stallone)

I believe this new look was partly the result of a request from on high to get 2000AD to look more like a magazine. These headline-style logos now have their own nostalgia value, too. Everything takes on a new tinge after enough time has passed!

On Steve:
An overview of the Cook design era is best encompassed by flicking through the covers from his time in the job – including the 15 covers he produced himself – and, perhaps even more so, the nerve centres and reader letters pages of those progs, not to mention all sorts of 2000AD peripheral stuff.

Here’s a very badly photographed set of examples. First, Tharg's Nerve Centre as it evolved:

Tharg by Brett Ewins

Tharg still by Brett Ewins, I think?
I miss reader art.

One of many in-house ads that always added flavour:

The changing face of Tharg on the new 'input/output' phase of the comic:

Tharg now by Cook himself, I think
(Massive apologies for the poor focus on this one. I might redo it at some point)

Dig those crazy hexagons
(which might be Rian Hughes
rather than Steve Cook?)

Remember that time Tharg came back to kick out the Men in Black?
Art maybe by Steve Cook again?

There were plenty of other variations across the years, too. A designer's job is never complete!

Spare a thought, too, for this snippet, where Robo-Cook becomes perhaps the first in a long line of designer droids to slip a little something into the copyright indicia…

From Prog 1185
What, you guys don't read the small print?

It’s important to point out that Cook was hired as a designer, and specifically not as an art editor – meaning, I gather, that he didn’t have time or budget to do any bodging of the artwork that was printed, in the manner of earlier art assistants including Kevin O’Neill, Colin Wyatt and Robin Smith.

According to this little inside joke, Cook was too busy sorting himself out anyway!
Art by Eric Bradbury
That said, he surely made his mark on the Prog. Along with editor Alan McKenzie (coming soon to a blog post near you), Cook seems to me to be part of Tharg’s early 90s move away from the punk/rock ethos towards the rave/dance ethos, which history may or may not agree was a zeitgeist-matching attitude by The Mighty One.

Cook the artist was the brainchild behind most of 2000 AD’s photo covers, featuring various actors/models in some really rather incredible cosplay.

See also a more straightforward early job as a photo-reporter, for example capturing the flavour of the apparently quite good stage play of Halo Jones:

From the left, that's Halo Jones sitting down, then Rodice, Toy, an actual Toby and Brinna (I think?) on the end.

The cover relates to the Devlin Waugh story inside, in case you're wondering
 (actually, according to this Covers Uncovered post, some of the costuming was provided by Cook’s own computer trickery), ranging from top level stars such as Judge Dredd and Durham Red all the way to a bit-part character from Devlin Waugh.

If you grew up in the 1990s, as I did, Steve Cook is the man to thank for defining and unifying the look of the Galaxy's Greatest Comic!

Time now to mention:Hero No. 8 1/2,  Kevin Brighton
Total appearances: at least 600 (but I'm guessing wildly to be honest)
- a hero so unsung I can find out virtually nothing about him, other than that he was the art assistant on 2000AD during much of Cook’s tenure, and likely the designer on Crisis, Revolver, and much of the Megazine - presumably working closely with designer Steve Cook on many of these jobs.

Steve Cook mantains his own excellent blog, Secret Oranges, which delights readers with hidden gems from the 2000 AD vaults every now and then.

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