Thursday, April 19, 2018

No. 109 Glenn Fabry

First Prog: 411 (cover and interior)
Latest Prog: 2000 (cover) 1847 (interior strip) – last interiors before that Prog 858

First Meg: 1 (on the cover)
Latest Meg: 360 (also on the cover – in fact, he’s not done any interiors for the Megazine)

Total appearances: 83
-including all his covers, even the ones he did for Preacher that were re-used on the Megazine


-not including the super-cool Speedball 2 computer game promo that turned up from time to time…
Yup, that's Mr Fabry drawing the angry ball-holding man.
(and not Simon Bisley as I had previously been led to believe...)

Art credits:
Judge Dredd
Batman/Judge Dredd
One Future Shock and a one-off story for Crisis

Notable character creations:

Fabry is to scowls as mustard is to hotdogs. Necessary and perfect.
Words by Pat Mills
Notable characteristics:
Ultra-meticulous and realistically rendered people, whether in pencils or paints. Grimaces and gurns. Leather. Never letting any detail, foreground or background, go unrendered. Drawing in a way that looks like it’s really difficult to do and impossible to copy…

Words by Pat Mills.
On Glenn:
Fittingly for an artist who has gone on to international renown as a covers legend, Fabry’s first work for Tharg – that we got to see, anyway! – was on the cover of Prog 411.

Colour reproduction was not great on the original Prog or on various reprints, sadly...
Better than that, he also drew the episode of Slaine actually inside that Prog.* And it was good. So good, in fact, that he arguably ended up producing what feels – to me, at any rate – like the definitive version of the character Slaine himself. Kincaid, Belardinelli and McMahon had worked wonders with the setting and the atmosphere of muck, but apart from the spiky hair, their actual Slaines were not so distinctive to me. Fabry’s Slaine design, on the other hand, leaves a lasting impression of a tough, smug, and not all that nice brawler.

Slaine in his element

How does he do that hair??
Words by Pat Mills
 Fabry's version of Ukko, too, added a new level of both scummery and realism.

Ukko scores a kiss off Nest, and doesn't he look smug about it.
Words by Pat Mills

Time Killer, the Slaine epic that launched Fabry into the Prog, is a very particular beast. It continues Slaine’s saga of slowly going home to his tribe in Ireland after wondering around in France - while also being a massive sidetrack into a sort-of sci-fi adventure that is very clearly inspired by Dungeons & Dragons (the role-playing game, not the cartoon that I was into in a big way before discovering 2000AD).

Fabry delivers some truly excellent work exploring Slaine’s character arc through this adventure. He really nails the facial expressions. He also engages in some immaculate world-building, setting the scene for Cythrawl. In theory he has a part to play in deepening Slaine’s mythology, as Time Killer introduces a whole host of new characters and concepts that would last for years, not least among them big bad villains Elfric and the Guledig.

Elfric the glam-rock elf with 3 eyes
Words by Pat Mills
But it’s worth pointing out that Fabry’s co-artist David Pugh actually ended up doing a lot more of the episodes with these characters in, including their first appearances – which I assume means he designed those characters, too.**

Fabry did his fair share of new designs, of course! Not least the Cythrons, a whole team of sci-fi inspired villains who have troubled Slaine ever since

Attention to costume detail is the way to impress readers
Word by Pat Mills

and their reptilian minions, the Diluvials.

I like the leyser guns, alright? Especailly when they tear through bony diluvials.
Words by Pat Mills

And in fact Fabry would go on to more or less re-design a bunch of key characters, including Nest, Niamh and Medb (and Slaine's whole tribe, really).

Tomb of Terror, the follow-up saga, was basically more of the same but with even more D&D about it. 
See also Dice Man, for which Fabry provided the opening cover art:

I love how this cover is basically telling all readers that they are ugly ogres.
Also, want that dice!

Back to the world of Slaine, mucking about in dungeons...


Someone's been reading some issues of Metal Hurlant featuring the art of Phillippe Druillet.
(seriously, look him up, he's totally awesome at drawing).
But that doesn't take away from just how badass this design and execution is.

It also ended with a suitably epic warp-off between Slaine and multi-dimensional monster Grimnismal, rendered in a way that nowadays would seem like a photoshop effect, but must have actually just been amazing art skillz in 1985.

If you stare at this picture too long, you may actually start to go mad.
Threats by Pat Mills
 Fabry is quite simply a perfect fit for the character. Slaine is all about connections to the Earth; he’s gritty and mucky and doesn’t care, except in those moments when he really cares. He lives in a world full of impossible monsters and beasts, but they feel real. Fabry can do real, but crucially he can do the unreal and make it seem plausible. He also does people especially well - and ultimately, Slaine is a story about people, how they interact, and how they change.

I’m sad that David Pugh didn’t get more work after his two Slaine stories (and one Future Shock), but frankly although he was a perfect fit for that material, he wouldn’t have been right for Slaine the King. This time, Fabry was given a chunk of time to do it all himself.

When the story came out, I admired the art but found the story itself a little boring. It’s soap-opera territory, which was not my thing age 9. Looking back on it, the grins, the scowls, the double crossing, the straight-up anger, it’s stunningly gorgeous.

Kissing - not the sort of thing I wanted to read about aged 9!
Context by Pat Mills
Scheming Medb (rhymes with Niamh)
Words by Pat Mills

More scowls, more hair. It's Dynasty, Slaine style!
Words by Pat Mills

2000AD is the all-time best comic for delivering on the promise of showing horrible things;
Glenn Fabry one of that tradition's finest exponents.
Words by Pat Mills)

Too gorgeous?

Some expert painterly composition going in there, with the patent Fabry tongue firmly in the cheek.
Plus, it's a bold amount of flowers to have on the cover of a so-called boys' action comic.
Looking back on it now, it's all very Game of Thrones. If you like that show and want a comics version of it, go with Glenn Fabry's Slaine! Sadly, after chaining himself to his desk to deliver all 12 sumptuous episodes of that saga, he was somewhat broken. Fabry ended up taking the next three years to deliver a handful of pages of the ongoing Slaine storyline (and a little-seen newspaper strip spin-off, Scatha) – stunning quality, and indeed fantastic comics, but Slaine: the mini-series doesn’t half live up to its title. One suspects perfectionism was partly to blame, and it must be something of a burden for an artist to be celebrated for his realism and attention to detail. But boy, are those worth celebrating!

There's a whole mound of bodies, every single one rendered in minute detail. Mental!
Context by Pat Mills

This is ART
Words by Pat Mills

And let's not forget that he was also released from Slaine duties to tackle some other art. For example, he was hard at work painting a bunch of politically-charged covers for Crisis:

 And some rather bizarre pin-ups for the back pages of 2000AD:


Luckily for Fabry strip art fans, he had a go at a Future Shock, to try something completely different,

Excellent horror.
Words by C. Smith (not a typo for J. Smith)
and then a handful of Dredd episodes, which played up his comedy. It’s very much focussed on gurning and grimacing, often by idiots. 

Words by Alan Grant

Dredd doesn't get made to look foolish often; Fabry makes it believable.
Words by Wagner & Grant

It's irritating pest...

...vs Romanesque Dredd.
Words by Garth Ennis

Fabry really works wonders with a Dredd forced to adopt a smiling visage.

Also, more idiot citizens.
Words by Alan Grant

...which provides a neat counterpoint to the full-on snarl Fabry gives Dredd to sell the character on the cover of issue 1 of his solo comic:

"Make him scowl MORE, Fabry. More!"
By the time Fabry was ready for another series, painted comics were the thing, and naturally he had a go, and naturally he excelled. It’s back on Slaine again, only this time in Roman Britain. Good news if you like the story of Boudicca; perhaps bad news if you’re an artist who is a stickler for detail, when painting a story from an era that is brimming with historical artefacts and other reference material that you really want to get right!

More madness-inducing art.
Words by Pat Mills

Personally, I’m a fan of paintings of people getting spears and swords pushed through their bodies, so I was all happy to see Fabry maiming his way through ‘Demon Killer’, before handing the baton over to Dermot Power & Greg Staples, the painter-droids waiting hungrily in the wings. 

Of course, painting even book 1 of this latest Slaine took its time – too much to continue with. This left leaving one last big prestige job for Tharg, the Batman/Judge Dredd sequel Die Laughing. It was supposed to be a follow-up to Simon Bisley’s Judgement on Gotham, (a nice touch of baton handing and rehanding), but Fabry’s work ended up being episode 1 of part 4 in a trilogy. But I can tell you, I was pretty jazzed for a few years there in the mid 90s about seeing Glenn Fabry painting the Joker being possessed by Judge Death***.

He's got that ectoplasmy-texture of ghost-Death working really neatly.
Words by Wagner and Grant

Having fun with facial expressions
Words by Wagner and Grant
The actual story of this final team-up comic is fine, with good jokes in places, but it simply couldn't live up to the long wait, no matter how sumptuous the art. 

Since then it’s been covers all the way, with one exception in the form of a Slaine episode. Fabry’s 2000AD cover rate has been getting more frequent of late. He’s had a go at a couple of them for one of the more Slaine-like new series of recent years, Black Shuck.



Yes, it’s more real-world but unearthly stuff, with an old-world setting, so it’s not a million miles from Slaine. Kind of a shame Fabry couldn’t do the strip itself!

And speaking of old-world stuff, he produced a cracker for Western epic The Grievous Journey of Ichabod Azrael (and the Dead left in his wake).


For now, his most recent work was the outstandingly massive wraparound cover for Prog 2000 (the two thousandth prog, not the end-of-year special from 1999…). Which looks fantastic in black and white as well as in full colour – the only sad thing is that he’d clearly added all sorts of details around the edge of the image that didn’t quite fit onto the finished magazine!

Fabry’s connection to the world of Tharg, and especially Slaine and Judge Dredd, its two most successful creations**** means he’s bound to be a part of Progs to come, although one imagines it’ll be covers for the most part. The price of success!

More on Glenn Fabry:
Start at his own website
Including a handy breakdown of his career here
Or read an online interview from 2008 on Jazma
Or listen to an interview from 2013 (I think?) on the Panel Borders podcast

Personal favourites:
Slaine: Time Killer, Tomb of Terror, Slaine the King, Slaine the Miniseries
Judge Dredd: The Immortals, Talkback

and a selection of epic covers:



And, of course...


*It makes total sense to get amazing artists to draw covers for comics so readers are attracted to buy them, but I still find it to be a bit of a con when that same artist doesn’t then feature on the inside at all. Not such a sin with 2000AD, which is an anthology and hence has a mixture of art, but it bugs me on American comics no end.

**I stand to be corrected on this. I’ve a suspicion that in those days it was standard to simply pass each episode on to the designated artist and let them get on with it; nowadays a lead artist may be asked to do a whole bunch of character designs up front, which would then be circulated to all other series artists.

***This is what I assumed was going to happen; in fact, the spirit of the Joker sort of becomes a fifth Dark Judge. With spiky shoulder pads.

****I don’t have any hard facts on this, but I’m pretty sure Slaine is the strip most reprinted in collections across the world, after Judge Dredd. It might even be second on the list of ‘strips with most epsiodes’, but that’s a project for another blog.



  1. It's difficult to write meaningfully about obviously great work - descriptive prose seems inadequate to the task and you just want to scream LOOK AT THE LOVELINESS! - but you do a fantastic job here, as usual.

    In 2014, Glenn Fabry told the Inky Fingers podcast that The Killing Field (582) should have been his first writing credit. Which makes sense when you look at it; what would the scene descriptions have been? A great example of visual storytelling:

  2. Yes, he's quite right! half (more than half?) of comics writing is setting the panel layouts and descriptions, and his work on the Killing Field is superb.
    Haven't listened to Inky Fingers in a while, must catch up!