Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Interlude: shared obsessions

I'm away on holiday, so no new posts this week. Instead, here's a little snippet from the 2000 AD Sci-Fi Special 1987, an early and much-thumbed part of my big brother's 2000 AD collection.

Logos are awesome. One day I hope to create a version with newer thrills represented, too.
As for updating the Hit List itself, I'm thinking about going one better and breaking it down by characters...

I'm sure I'd have found my own ways to express my obsession with 2000AD, but this piece of work by Alan Thomson was a specific inspiration. The pencil ticks are my own addition, checked off carefully as my growing back-prog collection covered all the stories listed.

(For those who haven't read it, Colony Earth! does not live up to its rather striking logo. Although it does at least have the decency to be about aliens who are attempting to colonise the Earth.)

Anyone who wonders why I've put so much time into tabulating 2000AD data, I blame Alan Thomson.

See you next week.

Friday, May 22, 2015

No. 20 Gerry Finley-Day

First Prog: 1
Final Prog: 449
Comeback Prog: Prog 2011 – the end of year special from 2011, not the upcoming standard weekly Prog. I guess it’s unlikely he’ll come back again, but you never know.

Total appearances: 382
- inlcuding his stories for Tornado, but not including his staggeringly vast array of credits across Battle, Action and perhaps above all the 1980s Eagle comic.

Co-Creator credits:
Ant Wars, BlackHawk (the Tornado version), Invasion/Disaster 1990*, Fiends of the Eastern Front, The VCs, Rogue Trooper, Harry 20 on the High Rock

Wealthy industrialist get eaten by ants in Ant Wars. Commited goofiness.
Art by Lozano

Other writing credits:
Judge Dredd
Dan Dare
Wagner’s Walk, published in Tornado - a sequel to Hellman of Hammer Force, an older Battle / Action strip Finley-Day had written. Wagner’s Walk  (That’s Vaaagner, not Wagg-ner, presumably) tells the tale of a German PoW escaping from a Soviet camp in Siberia and making his way to India, and is perfectly decent. (Not coincidentally (I suspect), the basic concept is similar to the true story of a Polish escapee from the 1955 book ‘The Long Walk’, recently turned into the film ‘The Way Back’.)

Notable character creations:
Steve Smith and the VCs
Rogue, Helm, Bagman, Gunnar, the Traitor General, Venus Bluegenes, Bland & Brass; I’ve got a lot of time for Major Magnam and Colonel Kovert, among various one-off characters.
I don’t think it’s fair to credit Finley-Day with the character of Bill Savage, but perhaps Peter Silk was his?
Harry Thompson (he’s not a number any more!); The Big Red 1; Ben 90
Bland and Brass, the Body Looters. Art by Brett Ewins
Colonel Kovert. He's a shady and mysterious officer who organises secret (or 'covert') operations.
Picking up the idea and running with it, Cam Kennedy on art duties.

Notable characteristics:
Crazy ideas, war jargon, straight up non-stop action storytelling, exemplified by rather tight plots. In 4-6 pages, Gerry Finley-Day would routinely throw a his characters into a very particular situation, come up with some bizarre bit of kit, set up a problem, resolve it using said kit, and maybe even get some kind of irony out of the ending. And he made it look a heck of lot easier than it actually is.

Danger, solution, joke, set up for next episode - it's not ground-breaking, but you gotta admire the funcitonality.
Art by  Mike White (or possibly Alan Willow)

On Gerry:
Finley-Day was part of a very small pool of old-guard British comics writing talent that Pat Mills deemed good enough / smart enough / irreverent enough to be a major part of the original 2000AD line-up. He contributed at least one story to virtually every Prog for the first 450 issues, and the popularity of those stories was always up there with contributions from Wagner, Grant and Mills himself. He was no slouch, on work rate or on ideas! And yet, it’s not entirely surprising that he dropped out of rotation in the mid 80s. At the time, he was a mainstay of the revived Eagle comic, squarely aimed at 8-12 year olds, while 2000AD of the time was more openly courting a 20+ readership.

However, it’s not fair to dismiss Finley-Day as a children’s writer, partly because writing for children is every bit as complex a job as writing for teens or indeed adults, but also because his story ideas were as weird, if not weirder than anyone else’s – weird in a way that younger readers would easily embrace, while adults might occasionally think was a step too far from realism. 

Child-friendly yet pleasingly weird
Art by Cam Kennedy
Or maybe the difference is that Finley-Day really only worked in one tone – playing it straight - and that he wore his themes on his sleeves. Unlike, say, Pat Mills, Finley-Day didn’t make a feature of this. Instead, he got along with the task of telling a story that had an imaginative plot, lashings of violence, and a bit of a message, too. 

Death by acid, and 10 years before RoboCop.
Art by Mike Dorey
I find a Finley-Day tale demands the work to be taken at face value, and is not at all camp, or knowingly funny. Even the disco scenes of Fort Neuro are weirdly un-camp (at least from Finley-Day’s perspective, if not Brett Ewins’s…)
Silliness by Finley-Day;
Knowing smile by Ewins
Certainly there are jokes from time to time (and as often as not these are fairly childish), but mostly these are of the 1970s B-movie nihilist kind. Pretty much 2000AD stock-in-trade really, especially in the early years. But also not really fashionable with a readership that likes to be more self-aware.

Finley-Day’s most beloved creation was of course Rogue Trooper, the genetically created soldier who exists only to fight a war, but whose moral compass leads him to strive for justice more than victory. More than any other long-standing 2000AD hero, Rogue is, for me, an unambiguously ‘good’ guy. Sure, he fights for one side against another in a war, but he’s been known to take down evil Southers and help out kindly Norts in equal measure. Even his ‘revenge’ agenda often seems less important than him just striding over the next hill and finding out what situation he’s going to be in next.**

And therein lies the charm, because there’s no one like Gerry Finley-Day for coming up with a bizarre situation for a hero to find themselves in. He’d been working on war comics for goodness knows how long at this point (and continued to produce them alongside his 2000AD work, too, of course), so I wonder if he made an extra effort to throw weirdness into his plots for war strips Invasion, the VCs and Rogue Trooper precisely to make his scripts feel more right for 2000AD – a science-fiction comic, but also a home for downright weirdness. Fiends of the Eastern Front being the zenith of this approach, and it remains a cracking horror. That said, each of these strips, and not forgetting the Roman soldier action with BlackHawk, managed to fit their share of wartime accuracy into 4 pages of story.

Just look at the fear on Hans Schmidt's face as he sees the Fiends in action.
Art by Carlos Ezquerra
Random facts that expose traitors -
a staple of boy's mystery comics.
Art by Azpiri

It has been discussed before that Finley-Day had a reputation with the editorial department for needing a lot of work to tidy up his scripts. The specifics of what this meant remain mysterious (Alans Grant and Davis have alluded to certain logic problems / inconsistency here and there on his Harry 20 scripts), but at the very least I suspect he had a level of craft that was worth the pain. And I for one admire his creative ethic at always looking for the new idea with each story, rather than endless visits to the same old characters and settings that seem to be the province of superhero comics.

As I only came to 2000AD after Finley-Day had essentially been dumped as a writer, I read his works in big chunks in back Progs and reprints, rather than on a weekly basis. I suppose it was probably editorial mandate rather than anything else, but I was always deeply impressed that he developed these stories that clearly could have run endlessly, but in fact always built slowly up to an actual ending, often a satisfying one, plot-wise. Spoilers ahoy in the next paragraph!
Well-choreographed violence.
Art by John Richardson

Invasion ended its first run with Bill Savage set up a proper channel to the US for help, and the clear hope of pushing the Volgs out of Britain; Disaster 1990 sees a definitive end to the flood and the defeat of some evil dudes***; the VCs sees an end to the war with the Geeks; Harry 20 conquers the High Rock; Rogue Trooper gets his revenge on the Traitor general, and then goes on to see an armistice for the whole Nort-South war! Only poor old BlackHawk was abandoned mid-story, cruelly kidnapped by aliens and transported to Belardinelli-land when Tornado merged with 2000AD.

That’s a lot of loose ends tied up, and indeed the final chapters of many of these sagas were amongst the most exciting. I could have done with seeing more mid-period VC weirdness before it all came to a boil (and maybe less mucking about in boats in Oxfordshire…), and of course the original Rogue Trooper need not have ended quite when it did. Re-gene was fun enough, but everything after that felt too much like a character in search of a story, despite some neat Jose Oritz artwork.

The old 'feigning madness' ploy
Art by Alan Davis
I would like to single out Harry 20 on the High Rock for special praise at being a long story (20-odd episodes in the Prog) that had exactly the right pace, the right number of plot twists and story beats, and such a perfect ending. I can well believe that Alan Grant (who sub-edited the scripts long before the series saw print, I believe) and especially master story-teller Alan Davis fixed things here and there to make it work on a panel-by-panel basis, but I’m betting the overall story was all Finley-Day all the way. Sure, it’s clich├ęd as anything, but perhaps because it was the first prison break story I encountered, it’ll always have a special place in my heart.

Personal favourites:
Invasion! (although I'm hard pressed to pick out specific stories)

The VCs (the first series is pretty much one long ongoing saga, and, racial stereotyping aside, there’s not a dud episode in the series to my mind)
Rogue Trooper: The Dreamweavers, Body Looters, Bio Wire, Major Magnum, The Gasbah, Colonel Kovert
Harry 20 on the High Rock

More on Gerry Finley-Day
David Bishop posts his two-part interview with the man himself here and here.
There's a neat round-table discussion about GF-D's return to Rogue Trooper in Prog 2011 on the Forbidden Planet blog.

*Invasion was originally set up by Pat Mills, but Finley-Day was on scripting duty right from the off, and presumably had a strong hand in defining the tone of the series, as well as inventing vairous characters along the way.
Spin-off prequel Disaster 1990 has all the hallmarks of being a Finley-Day joint, with no Millsian input whatsoever…

**He’s not a million miles from the TV version of the Incredible Hulk, come to think of it.

***Of all Finley-Day’s strips, this one is the real stinker. I mean, there are some nice bits but for a Bill Savage story it’s just too tame.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

No. 19 Steve Yeowell

First Prog: 535
Latest Prog: 1902 (More Black Shuck to come? I don’t know. But we’ll definitely see more Steve Yeowell in the Prog on something or other)
First Meg: 8
Latest Meg: 357 (I’m guessing more DeMarco, PI is as likely as not?)

Total appearances: 419 and counting

Creator credits:
Red Razors, Maniac 5, Red Fang, the Red Seas, Pussyfoot 5*, Detonator X, Black Shuck

Other art credits:
Zenith**, Judge Dredd, Tyranny Rex, Devlin Waugh, Sinister Dexter, Nikolai Dante, A Life Less Ordinary,
DeMarco PI, Cadet Anderson, Black Light
Various one offs / three-offs

Notable character creations:
The Lloigor***
Jack Dancer and his crew (although Dancer himself is by far the most notable)
Orlando Doyle and Karel Toten, Dancer's main antagonists, linger in the memory, too.
Maniac 5 (the robotic casing that hides the consciousness of soldier Frank Drake is notable, if the man within is less so)
Those dangling bangs, man.
Words by Steve Moore
The Herod

Notable characteristics:
Simple lines; widescreen vistas; people looking shocked and awed; cocky facial expressions; motion; distinctive hairdos (and don’ts); great use of flat black ink – and indeed he’s more often a black-and-white artist, although his coloured-in pages are great, too; He’s worked across a lot of genres, but if I’m honest I think at heart he’s best at horror.

Oh, and he’s noteworthy for homaging his own pun twice…

The original

Homage 1

Homage 2 (and a second pun for good measure)

On Steve:
I’m just old enough to remember the first series of Zenith appearing in the weekly Prog, so I still think of Steve Yeowell as a ‘new’ artist. But he’s been on the scene for nearly three decades! Yeowell is one of those reliable artists that churns out quality work with barely a hint that he’s ever struggled to meet a deadline. So much so that for a while, he seemed to get double-length episodes to do as often as not, and still it didn’t faze him.

Weirdly, I remember Yeowell hitting the gate running with a set of cracking covers, but for a 30 year veteran he’s not actually that prolific as a cover artist. It’s possible he was experimenting more in the early days with different materials, especially paint, before settling into his incredibly recognisable and always delightful work with deftly applied outlines and brushwork – great for storytelling and stripwork, not always so suited to striking cover work.

First and foremost one associates Yeowell’s art with Zenith, a series that was hugely popular in its day and remains very much loved today, finally back in print. His art developed and improved over the first three books, but his storytelling and facial expression chops were astonishingly strong right form the off. Books I and II have plenty of action in the 2000AD tradition; Book III adds a touch of extreme horror, while Book IV pushes into more Sci-Fi territory with its incredibly realized empty city.

Zenith I - surprisingly gory.
Words by Grant Morrison

Zenith II - Bursting with action
Zenith III: veering into pure horror
Words by Grant Morrison
 But it’s a testament to his artistic prowess that Yeowell is not just known as the Zenith artist – nor even just as the Red Seas artist, a strip he actually poured more years and ink into than Zenith. Simply put, he has a unique and recognisable style that isn’t like anyone else’s, but is exactly right for 2000 AD. Yeowell has produced plenty of work for other comics (perhaps most famously on Grant Morrison’s Invisibles), and lovely it was, too, but 2000 AD feels a more natural fit.

One of Yeowell's first jobs for 2000 AD - a Neil Gaiman Future Shock
Awesome doubling-up on both character design and pose for the writer to match each one.
Yeowell blends straight-up fantasy with real-world characters so well that he has managed to straddle the difficult bridge between ‘safe’ adventure stories for children and gritty adventure stories for adults. There’s a magic to it that means adults can enjoy his strips completely unironically, with room for some of the awe that comes with a child encountering wild ideas for the first time. 

Here comes the Herod. Awesome in the original sense of the word.
Words by John Smith

Here comes a Samurai robot made of gold.
Awesome in the modern sense of the word - but no worse for that.
Words by Steve Moore

It’s a little bit old fashioned, but still works – not entirely unlike Ray Harryhausen’s stop motion effects, which are still inspiring even in today’s CGI cinematic world. Not unintentionally, I’m describing a feeling that I’m pretty sure writer Ian Edginton was going for with his sprawling Red Seas saga. Although, if I’m honest, there are times when a bit more ink wouldn’t have gone amiss to set a different tone for the various different world that Dancer and his crew find themselves in.

Vikings hordes - attack! Yeowell in hyper-detailed awesome mode.
Words by Ian Edginton

What larks, Jack. Yeowell in hyper un-detailed but still awesome mode.
Words by Ian Edginton
It’s not all swashbuckling and awe. Let us remember that Yeowell has, for the longest time, flown a flag for ultraviolence. His earliest works were scripted by Grant Morrison and Mark Millar, who love a bit of red, and Yeowell was happy to oblige, from the burnings and extra-dimensional dread of Zenith to the fistiguts action of Red Razors and the extreme bullet-count of Maniac 5. I’ve a soft spot for Maniac 5 in particular, and, given that the story is pure tosh, it’s basically ‘cos Yeowell drew it so well.

Maniac 5 not in the suit. Exposed brains are always cool.
Words by Mark Millar

Maniac 5 in the suit. Giant robots leaping out of a comics panel - also always cool.
Words by Mark Millar (likely with no apology to Stan Lee...)

Yeowell really nails the nasty tone of Red Razors here.
Words by Mark Millar again.
Yeowell coloured by Blythe
Words by Dan Abnett
Being a 2000AD stalwart, he’s had ample opportunity to lend his talents to a variety of long-running strips. Judge Dredd, obviously, but he was always one of the better guest artists on Sinister Dexter and Nikolai Dante.
Yeowell painting; more please!
Words by Alan Grant

He worked so well with John Smith’s constant demands for artistic imagination on Devlin Waugh (how would you tackle characters with names such as ‘Jack of Mice’ or ‘Jack of Knives’?) that I’m somewhat surprised they’ve not worked together again. He could slot perfectly happily into Indigo Prime, I’m sure.

If I’m honest, Yeowell’s work in recent years can have a frustratingly hurried feel. Red Fang, Detonator X, Black Shuck, and rather too much of the later Red Seas were a little underwhelming – but a share of the blame lies with the story. For all that Yeowell can still produce the goods with widescreen vistas, sometimes his foregrounding of figures leaves little room for the background details that generally mark 2000 AD as a cut above other comics, artwise. On the other hand, Yeowell is a master at conveying a lot with a little, so it's understandable. 
Glorious figure work; less exciting room design
Words by John Hodge via David Bishop

Economic style employed to amaziong effect - you can feel the rain, the period and the setting with ease.
Words by Ian Edginton

A minimalist touch used to bring out the theme of the story eloquently.
Words by Grant Morrison

Sometimes a skull in a bag says all you need to say.
Words by Leah Moore and John Reppion

The two recent DeMarco, PI stories in the Megzine were great, though. Perhaps the man is so reliable that he’s been coasting a little, and needs a proper challenge to bring out his best.

Personal favourites:
Zenith phases III and IV (Nothing wrong with the first two books, in fact book 2 is my favourite as a read, but I feel the art really came alive in the later books)
Future Shock: What’s in a name?
Maniac 5 (and 6)
Devlin Waugh: Chasing Herod
The Red Seas: Twilight of the Idols; ‘with a bound he was free’ (aka the one that brings in Isaac Newton); Chimes at Midnight (more Newton goodness); Old Gods (aka the one where they meet the Norse Gods, hewed from some delightfully textured wood)

More on Steve Yeowell
A recent interview with Multiversity Comics tied in to the the long, long awaited re-release of Zenith
Alex Fitch interviewd him for the Panel Borders podcast
Or you could dig out your copy of Megazine 257
And you should immediately listen to the two-part interview from the Thrillcast
Masterman revealed as the host for Iok Sotot, a Lloigor

*Pussyfoot 5 as a concept emerged in Yeowell’s Devlin Waugh epic; but in practice I think 3 of the titular 5 were designed by artist Nigel Raynor, who drew the first solo outing for the team.

*Zenith himself was designed by Brendan McCarthy, as were many of the other main character. According ton the recent (and excellent) Yeowell interview on the Thrillcast, Morrison designed most of the rest of the characters himself. No doubt Yeowell did come up with a fair few of his own designs along the way, especially for Boooks II and beyond.

***The Lloigor are derived from the work of HP Lovecraft, and likely some more specific description Grant Morrison, but Yeowell's end result was a stunning piece of design, don’tcha think?

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!