First Prog: 647
Latest Prog: 1948
First Meg: 3.66 (aka 170)
Latest Meg: 230
Total appearances: 126
-including the ‘Funeral for a Friend’ poster strip bagged with a Megazine one time.
but not including the IDW Judge Dredd: Year 1 series (although it’s worth noting that’s the best thing yet to come from the IDW Dredd-iverse).
|Embracing the trope of Dredd as proper bastard|
Words by Garth Ennis
Other art credits:
Rogue Trooper (both versions)
The Simping Detective
Notable character creations:
Rafaella Blue (I think he drew her first?)
Characters of glorious ugliness. Sideways slanty mouths. Action that draw the reader across the page. There’s surely a better word for it, but his current style brings to mind the word ‘gnarly’.
Oh, and having a super-recognisable somewhat plasticy old style:
|Well-defined lines, straight up cartooning|
Followed by a years-later, recognisable but super-different grizzly style:
|Moodier, darker, more morally ambiguous.|
Simon Coleby has proved the longest-serving of a great wave of Simons* who joined 2000AD in the late 80s / early 90s. He’s also undergone perhaps the most radical re-invention of the all. Basically, there’s early Simon Coleby, who is chunky and garish and angular and action packed (and a ton of fun). And mostly in full colour.
|A very simple face design that conveys all you need to know about this dude right here.|
Words by Alan McKenzie
Then there’s contemporary Simon Coleby, who’s equally action-packed, but also super-detailed, scary, moody, and kind of amazing. And mostly in black and white.
|The new style - requires 150% more ink. This time, character is conveyed in clothing and body language as well as the faces.|
Words by Rob Williams
(Arguably not quite as big a shift as his contemporary Carl Critchlow, but that’s mostly because Critchlow started out painting, so it’s much more obvious how different it is. Still Coleby’s new stuff has a whole different bag of tricks from his old stuff.)
It’s not fair to speak ill of an artist in their early days, but I will say that I found something about Coleby’s early stuff, along the lines that it felt like I might just be able to draw like him. Not to say that he wasn’t a good draughtsman, but I found his style unintimidating; his storytelling very straightforward. This is probably most apparent in his very first story, Universal Soldier II. Where the first book by Will Simpson was rain-soaked, a bit grimy and sometimes tough to follow, Coleby’s Book II was refreshingly easy. In all honesty, I hadn’t a clue about the back story when I first read it, but taken on its own as a sort of post-Robin Hood pre-Braveheart war story, it was jolly fun.
|Check out how everything slopes a little bit down and to the right. Basic dynamism, or a wonky desk?|
Words by Alan McKenzie
Coleby started pushing the boat out when he moved to Dredd and FrIday-era Rogue Trooper. He started pulling faces this way and that, unafraid to embrace the old cartoonist standby of exaggeration. If it sometimes erred too far into silly, so be it. I mean, what else do you do when the story calls for a character with a detachable jaw big enough to swallow a fat man whole?
Actually, what really stuck out to me as a young reader were Coleby’s faces. Particularly the mouths. Even more particularly, the constant downward slope.
You could also argue a case for Coleby following contemporary fashions for mega-muscled body-builder types, along with endless spraying bullets. Coupled with grimaces. Certainly Dredd at the time was falling into this pattern. Coleby I think fit the bill well, not least with his facility for drawing moronic cits (and arguably a few not-too-smart bureaucrats, too).
|So many bullet cartridges! More sloping foreheads!|
Words by Michael Fleisher
|Who you callin' fish lips, lady?|
Words by Dan Abnett
|Rogue Trooper: cool, original flavour.|
|You want an angry bad guy face? I'll give you an angry bad guy face!!|
Words by Gordon Rennie
|Chunky guns, thick-soled boots, massive zip - yup, this girl's ready for a career in 2000AD.|
Words by Gordon Rennie
Over in the Meg, and still with Rennie for much of it, Coleby made a return to the world of Dredd. Sticking with the new style, it’s perfectly made to capture old, grizzled Dredd. Something about the way Coleby adds in shadows and wrinkles everywhere. It’s not that his Dredd is super-aged looking (as some artists have it), more that everything about him, from chin to boots, is gnarled.
|Just a deliriously fun angle to highlight a comedy chase.|
Words definitely by Gordon Rennie
BUT Rennie I think knew what he was doing. He’s working in a Wagner/Grant tradition of equal opportunities laughing at everyone, and in fact bringing some diversity of character in. Above all, Bato Loco as a story is a comedy effort, with the hero’s own attitude (and idiocy) being the point, coupled with absurdly convoluted plot machinations not some suggestion that this is in fact endemic to all Puerto Rican New Yorkers or what have you. I hope.
Coleby, of course, was along for the ride of drawing pictures to sell the character and his womanizing ways, which he does very adeptly.
On to Malone, in which a man with a past attempts to rescue a troubled waif but is haunted by visions of an especially terrifying clown. We all know what it means now, sure, but at the time it was pretty odd. It read like a standard noir story, but the clown, and indeed a heightened atmosphere added by Coleby, gave it something of the horror. It all clicked together especially well.
Coleby next clicked well with Rob Williams on Low Life. I’m not sure if it was either man’s intention or desire, but as a pair they moved the strip from a serious action story that investigated doubt into a comedy action story that investigated the depths of weirdness of MC-1, with unusual characters being the order of the day – characters that dominate the plot, to be frank (pun intended, I guess).
|Babies that actually look like babies! Not often as well-handled as Coleby manages here.|
Words by Rob Willaims
Crucially, all these outings were in black and white. It’s a good fit for Coleby, but something about his heavily inked style can occasionally make the foreground and background blend together, losing a modicum of clarity. I don’t think this was a direct cause, but since then we’ve seen first the odd splash of colour in Simping Detective,
and then full-on mood-enhancing cover on Jaegir, Coleby’s fourth outing into the world of Rogue Trooper (which I guess makes him the artistic curator of that Universe at this point).
Jaegir is inhabited by monsters of all stripes, both physically and emotionally. That gnarliness is front and centre. Coleby does an especially standout job on showing the characters’ inner turmoil.
Comedy and Tragedy, Action and Emotion - he makes it look easy!
More on Simon Coleby:
An IDW-hosted interview mostly about his IDW Dredd
iFanboy has a piece, opening with the question of whether this 25-year career artist counts as an upstart…
Judge Dredd: School Bully; The Flabfighters; My beautiful career
Friday: I retain a soft spot for the Saharan Ice Belt war.
Rogue Trooper: all Coleby’s episodes in the Rennie series were spectacular
Malone: probably my all-time fave of Coleby’s work.
Bato Loco: always a treat
Low Life: Rock and a Hard Place
Jaegir: I’m not 100% on board with this series, but the art is stellar.
*Harrison; Bisley; Jacob, Davis, and, a little later, Fraser. And perhaps the mysterious SMS. (Not to mention writers Geller, Furman, Spencer and Spurrier)