Friday, May 15, 2015

No. 18 Ian Gibson

First Prog: 4
Final Prog: 1576. Although there’s been a bit of a campaign on the 2000AD forum lately to get Gibson back in the Prog. Go on Tharg, you know you want to! (perhaps I should really be entreating Mr. Gibson himself.)

First Meg: 2.37 (aka issue 57)
Final Meg: 203 (aka issue 203)

Total appearances: 421
- including his work on those Daily Star Dredd strips reprinted in 2000 AD and the Megazine, but not the ones that weren’t.

Creator credits:
Sam Slade Robo Hunter*, Project Overkill, The Amazing Maze Dumoir, Halo Jones, I was a teenage Tax Consultant, Samantha Slade 

Gibson takes Sam Slade from age 60 back to age 25.
Words by John Wagner

Other art credits:
Judge Dredd – in fact, he’s one of the most prolific Dredd artists of all time.
Strontium Dog (in a couple of StarLord episodes)
The Mind of Wolfie Smith
Ace Garp (I know? Weird, right?)
Return of the Taxidermist
Banzai Batallion (because how could Tharg have a comedy series about robots and not ask Gibson to have a turn at it)
Various Tharg stories and other one-off tales

Notable character creations:
Hoagy and Stogie (and Cutie?)
Jim Kidd
Samantha Slade
Stookies – the amazingly cute aliens that Dredd villains sometimes kill for their anti-aging hormones.
Halo Jones
Maze Dumoir – sometimes billed as a precursor to Halo Jones, but she’s more of a Modesty Blaize, no?
Agnes ‘laser gaze’ Bolton (from Return of the Taxidermist)

Olympic staring - John Wagner's gift to Megazine readers, brought to life by Gibson

Notable characteristics:
Just the best at drawing comedy robots of all shapes and sizes. Curvy hips. Pouty lips. Wavy hair. Does a mean line in shocked and surprised faces. Not afraid to exaggerate and caricature for comic and indeed Sci-Fi effect. (Just think about his clothing choices in RoboHunter and Judge Dredd). Occasionally deciding not to draw the rest of a story if it’s not up to much ( I'm looking at you, Project Overkill, Wolfie Smith and Samantha Slade...).

Tiny robots stabbing people: nobody does it better.
Words by John Wagner

On Ian:
Another of Tharg’s mainstays, Gibson was a regular fixture pretty much from the get-go all the way until the late 500s, and even then, he has gifted the readers with a story or two most years up until the recent past. For reasons I don’t fully understand, he’s less celebrated than some others (McMahon, Bolland) as a Judge Dredd artist, but in fact he was on hard rotation along with those two legends from the beginning, and carried on well after they’d got bored with / too expensive for Tharg. 
Glorious, playful black and white
Words by Wagner & Grant

Gorious full-colour work
Words by John Wagner

 As well as presenting a curvier Dredd, Gibson deserves credit for putting a lot into some properly weird futuristic building and vehicle design. Indeed, I think it was mostly his background designs used for the fondly remembered Judge Dredd board game.
Mega City 1 as rendered by Gibson

But where his Dredd is less talked of, Gibson is rightly revered for his years of work on Sam Slade: Robo Hunter. Slade himself is a fine character (basically a Bogart-version Sam Spade rip-off), but really he’s a foil for a bizarre world populated by robots with more-than-human personalities. The thing is, Gibson seems to have a unique way with robot character design. It’s maybe to do with a lack of fuss about the engineering behind how a robot might be constructed (although they do work, mechanically speaking), instead focussing on how to convey body language and facial expressions that are both mechanoid and humanistic. That, and the fact that his brush work has a real sense of flow, which imbues inorganic robots with a very organic-looking movement. (The same trick works just as well on dead bodies, as seen in Return of the Taxidermist.) It’s graceful and it’s often hilarious, too.

Because the world needs robo-goons as well as Robot Marx Brothers
words by John Wagner

Because a robotic cocktail dispenser has to be called Molotov.
Words by John Wagner again

Oh Hoagy.
Words by Wagner & Grant

Gibson’s style has matured and developed a lot over his 2000AD career, but if there’s one thing that didn’t really change it’s this sense of grace (and the facility with robots). He’s a rare breed of art droid who’s had a go at mimicking wildly different styles, called in to sub on both an Ezquerra joint and a Belardinelli – which means not only testing your own imagination to come up with new background characters, but also using pen and ink with incredibly different techniques.

Just Like Joe Dredd, Johnny Alpha has a secret niece, too.
I’ll wager that the world at large - if it knows Ian Gibson’s work at all (and how sad to think that he’s not more widely known) – knows it from Halo Jones. A character he properly co-created and developed plot-wise, I believe, not just acting as a pencil-jockey for notoriously detailed scripter Alan Moore. Heck, he even helped present the Amazing Maze Dumoir as part of a plan to persuade Tharg that a female-led series was exactly what 2000 AD needed.** 

Words by Alan Hebden
For a set of three books that were printed within a two-year stretch, it’s amazing that both Moore, and especially Gibson, managed to develop the mood and style so much. Book 1’s Halo has never left her home town, and certainly hasn’t had a huge variety of life experiences. Book 2’s Halo is in a new world, with a new attitude and look to match but still very much in a single setting. And then by the time Book 3 rolls around, Moore and Gibson have chucked her all over the galaxy, and the life experience that brings shows in the very art. I’m not the first person to point out how lush Halo Jones Book 3 is, but by God it’s worth saying again.

Words by Alan Moore

Words by Alan Moore

Perhaps a large part of my fondness for Gibson’s work is that he drew the cover to the first Prog I ever read.***
Sam Slade is old in this story.

I don’t know if it’s considered a classic, but I love it to pieces. Sadly not long after that he more or less disappeared from the Prog, apart from the occasional Dredd piece, I think largely to share the burden with Ron Smith drawing daily episodes of Judge Dredd in the Daily Star newspaper. For whatever reason, it’s Gibson’s episodes that have been reprinted most often, firstly in the Prog itself in the late 1980s, and then again in Volume 3 of the Megazine (and, presumably, very soon again in the new Daily Dredds hardback collections!). He draws a great animated buttin’ Mean Machine:

Words by Wagner & Grant
Gibson made a glorious return in the mid-90s with Return of the Taxidermist, one of the very highest points of Volume 2 of the Megazine. Hilarious and poignant at once, and of course, the first outlet for the sport of staring, a surprising spectator delight. Also, delightfully posed dead people.

Yes, Lotte is stuffed. Amazing work from Gibson - it's a series of still pictures showing one living being in motion, and one dead person captured forever in a single act of motion.
Words by John Wagner

I had high hopes that Teen Tax Consultant would be just as good. Sadly, it wasn’t, although Gibson does an excellent job capturing the tone and look of the 1950s B-movies that Wagner is homaging in his script. I've a suspicion that Gibson was sometimes more interested in drawing what he wanted than in faithfully following Wagner's script. Where they were on the same page with the mad tax consultant bits...

After morphing into a tax consultant, out 'hero' desperately seeks a calculator
Words by John Wagner
...he was less bothered about drawing teenagers. I mean, I know they're meant to be Marlon Brando 'the Wild One' style biker teens, but still.

That's hero Jimmy Root traipsing through the aftermath of a 'really good fight'. He's 17 like a Rolling Stone...
Words by John Wagner

Washing away the memory of Mark Millar’s Robo Hunter revamp, Gibson returned to the series, some years later, with Samantha Slade. Honestly, for an artist renowned for his drawings of women and robots, this series should have been an winner. Some readers love it, of course, but it has rather sunk without trace, basically because Gibson didn’t want to work on it any more and for whatever reason, no other artist has quite managed to capture the Slade spirit, despite some valiant efforts to be explored in other entries.

Samantha Slade, a chip off the old Slade block.
Words by Alan Grant
When Gibson puts the effort in, we get glorious pencil paintings. Amazing!
Words by Alan Grant

It seems increasingly less likely that we’ll see new work from Ian Gibson any time soon, but thanks to his extremely long association, I can’t believe we’ll never see his work again. It’s even in the realm of just about possibility that the mythical untold tales of Halo Jones will one day appear in Tharg’s inbox…

Personal favourites:
Judge Dredd: Stookie glanders; Bob’s law; It pays to be mental; Paid with thanks; Full Mental Jacket (even if he gave up half way through, I still love this story, not least for his glorious creations of Dog Deever and Slime); After Hours; Judgment
RoboHunter: Verdus, Day of the Droids; Beast of Blackheart Manor (where my Blogger avatar is from, fact fans); Football Crazy (racism aside, I have a soft spot for his footballing droids and commentators, too); Farewell, my Billions
Halo Jones: all of it.
Return of the Taxidermist

Favourite covers:
154, 413, 439, 442, 451, 578, 1334, 1374

Couldn't end without a nods to Gibson's nudes - he's got life drawing skills, that droid.
Words by Wagner & Grant

More on Ian Gibson
Here he is on Facebook
An interview on Amazing Stories all about Halo Jones
Something of a rant on an old Den of Geek interview

*Robo Hunter was in fact drawn by Jose Ferrer in its first episode, thereafter inked and almost immediately entirely drawn by Ian Gibson, one suspects because Ferrer couldn’t manage the pace of a weekly comic. It seems mad in hindsight to imagine Gibson wasn’t given the gig in the first place, really. So anyway, while he didn’t conceive the look of Sam Slade, he basically created, visually, everything else about the series.

**and in fact consistently has had ever since, albeit not as often as it could, and not often enough with multiple female-led strips in the same prog.

***As I suspect is the way with a lot of readers, it was actually my big brother’s Prog. I dipped in and out of his collection for the next few years before becoming a true fan and weekly devotee around Prog 650 and the start of the Dead Man / Necropolis saga. The good thing about older brothers is that I didn’t have to take out my own personal 2000AD subscription until I think Prog 1279 or thereabouts!

No comments:

Post a Comment