Wednesday, March 23, 2016

No. 63 Greg Staples

First Prog: 761
Latest Prog: 1961

First Meg: 2.44 (cover) 2.47 (strip art)
Latest Meg: 330

Total appearances: 148

Staples has earned a serious rep as a creator of iconic Dredd artwork.

Art credits:
Judge Dredd
The Clown
Mean Machine (technically a Dredd story, but it’s basically Mean Machine)
Sinister Dexter / Downlode Tales
Rogue Troopers*
Brigand Doom (in a Sci-Fi Special one time)
A couple of one-offs

Notable character creations:

Oola Bint
Jonni Kiss (although Peter Doherty did the cover - not sure which artist got there first)
The Whack Pack (although I can’t be sure if he was the first to draw each individual member. Where’s the dedicated SinDex wiki when you need it??)

Slick and stylish; costume design made to look easy.
Words by Dan Abnett

-and I believe he helped to create Witchworld, although he never actually drew any episodes, just this one cover. 

Staples does good sexy, also this is an unusually gratuitous example
(as opposed to his cover for the Prog 1066, the Sex issue, where it's thematically relevant)

Did he design the look of Caitlin, maybe? Is she a notable character?

Notable characteristics:
Master of a variety of styles, somehow combining paints that tend towards photo-realism alongside extreme cartooniness. Absurdly lush painting. Extremely beautiful people – but also absurdly grotesque people (not usually shown in the same style, mind you). Lavish textures. Drawing himself into his strips.

Staples (left) and Ennis (right) cameo as two doomed perps in a Dredd outing.
Words (and Pixies love) by Garth Ennis

Staples finds himself trapped on a bus full of perps.

On Greg:
When people complain that the early ‘90s in 2000AD was “full of Simon Bisley clones”, I suspect one of the specific names they mean is young Greg Staples. Heck, in his own Nerve Centre interview, he himself cites Bisley as the man who helped him get his foot in the door with Tharg.

90s hair! Staples started out young, didn't he.
But I’ve never really seen it myself. His early stuff was nothing like Bisley, except that, like all 2000AD, it revelled in the funny side of violence.

There's something delightful about the super chunky, super garish cartooning in this very early effort.
Words by Garth Ennis

I suppose you could argue that Staples's painted but also cartoonish work has a Bisley vibe to it, in that he was one of the first people to get famous for doing it. (And he did do it bloody well, too!)

Confident cartooning.
Words by John Wagner

I guess Staples’s first painted work on Slaine was a bit more similar, but only superficially. And you have to imagine than on that specific strip, he was probably editorially mandated to draw in a Bisley-esque fashion.

Making an effort to be lush
Words by Pat Mills

Of course, Staples back then wasn’t yet up to his best standards – he sure has come a long way since.

Making lush look effortless.
Words by Pat Mills
That’s one of the great joys of 2000AD fandom - getting to see new artists (and writers) figuring out their style on the page, and watching them get better. Frankly, by the time Staples took over on The Clown book II, in which he does an extraordinary job mimicking not Bisley, but Robert Bliss (series creator), he’d turned into his own thing.

Two contrasts in one: amazingly real painted art coupled with cartoonish goings on in panel 1;
straight up cartoony cartooning in panel 2. Nice lettering, too.
Words by Igor Goldkind
And the funny thing is, Staples doing his own thing turns out to mean Staples doing whatever he damn well pleases. The man has turned in a huge variety of art styles over the years, and you never know what to expect from story to story.

A moody flashback (with help from colours by Pete Doherty)
Words by John Wagner

Showing off his pencil and ink skills.
Words by John Wagner

Mixing up pencils and painting (and crazy cherubs)
Words by Steve White & Dan Abnett
His most recent work, Dark Justice, took him a notoriously long time to produce. The story goes that he wanted to put his all into it, cerate a truly stunning work of art. And it is quite something to behold! It also suggests that this hyper-real lush painting is what Staples himself sees as his ‘best’ work.

Judge Mortis is everyone's favourite sidekick, right?
Words by John Wagner
I’m not going to argue with that, but I do absolutely love his more comic-y, ligne claire-ish inking on some of his earlier strips, such as Rogue Trooper…

Such a lovely blue
…and Dredd efforts including Mad City, most famous for introducing Oola Bint, a serial killer who, I think, continues to evade Dredd.

Another fine example of European comics corgeousness coupled with Brit comic foolishness
And also Chris Evans cameoing as Fritz Shakespeare (that's him to the right, getting his head cut off). As the character is written, I can’t quite believe John Wagner specified the look – but it works overall, and singles Staples out as the assort of artist who puts that bit of extra thought and effort into his work to make it come alive.
Greg Staples is known and indeed adored internationally as a regular artist on Magic: The Gathering**. A card game based in s fantasy setting, where each card is adorned with more or less amazing artwork showing magical realms, beasts, warlocks and that sort of thing (not a million miles from the aforementioned Witchworld and Slaine, in fact).

As a master of iconic single-panel imagery, you’d think Greg Staples would be a legend at covers over on 2000AD and the Megazine. You’d be right! He's one of the top covers contributors, with at least 75 cover credits across various formats. A small selection...

This one is rather Bisleyish, I'll admit.

Equal opportunities sexy times

Love those veins

You know who has a back like that? Sylvester Stallone, circa The Specialist.

I miss Nikolai Dante's mecahnical flying chess knight

Staples would be amazing on ABC Warriors.

None more Dredd

It’s mostly through his covers that Staples has maintained a regular presence in the Prog since he got his first break. I guess within the pages he’s forged a place for himself as a Dredd artist, but he’s turned his hand to plenty of other strips, too, and it always seems to fit. I'd love him to him work on Strontium Dog one day. Obviously not going to happen, but he'd be a fun way to go if Carlos decides to quit.

With Greg Staples, you know you’re going to get something gorgeous, with fun poking in from all sides.

More on Greg Staples:
His own website
A dissection of his art on Dark Justice
Covers uncovered had him on for one of his all-time best ever covers
An old interview on House of Betty
An a super-old interview about his Magic the Gathering work

Personal favourites:
Judge Dredd: Rough guide to suicide; You are the Mean Machine; Mad City; Dark Justice
Slaine: Name of the Sword; Beyond
The Clown: his parts of Book II look amazing. I can’t in good conscience claim I enjoyed the story overly much. (Book I, on the other hand, that’s a classic)
Sinister Dexter: Drop Dead Gorgeous; The Whack Pack;
Rogue Troopers

The DC/Rebllion reprint years weren't great but this one cover suited the glossy look perfectly.
*The final series featuring Friday and Venus Bluegenes, wrongly credited to Alex Ronald over on Barney. An incredibly rare error from them!

**A game I found myself playing with a few colleagues at work for the first time about a year ago. It’s surprisingly fun, although I get the impression you have be something of an obsessive to have hope of getting good at it. And yes, the art is pretty fantastic, with Staples one of the better contributors.

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