Friday, July 3, 2015

No. 30 Cam Kennedy

First Prog: 142 (but Tornado issues 9-22 came before that)
Final Prog: 1479

First Meg: 1
Final Meg: 239

Total appearances: 249
-and sad to say that due to failing health it seems unlikely he’ll be contributing again, although one can but hope.

Creator credits:
Kenny Who?; Zancudo*

Other art credits:
Judge Dredd
The VCs
Rogue Trooper
Batman / Judge Dredd
Banzai Battalion
A couple of Future Shocks
Storm (a sort of Stig of the Dump riff that ran in Tornado)
The Bogie Man (Kennedy’s version ran in Toxic! magazine, not counted towards his total, but still worth a read if you can find it!)

Storm discovers the 1970s diet
Words b y Scot Goodall

One of my first ever progs!
Notable character creations:
Two-Ton Tony Tubbs
Kenny Who?
Jacob Sardini
Bland & Brass
Colonel Kovert
 -and was Kennedy the first to draw the full face of the Traitor General? Or was it Colin Wilson?

This man is a bad guy.
Words by Gerry FInley-Day

Notable characteristics:
Swarthy figures; gritted teeth; spiky hairdos; cheek bones; masked raiders

Words by Gerry Finley-Day

Only bad guys have eye holes.
Words by Gordon Rennie
 On Cam:
Although he got his start much earlier, in my head Cam Kennedy will always be the artist who drew a run of amazing funny/weird/hard-nosed Judge Dredd stories from the mid-80s, at the time when I was old enough to read my big brother’s Progs, but only the stories with art I liked the look of and could follow. Kennedy (along with Ezquerra, Belardinelli and Gibson) epitomized that. And for a lot of people, he’s drawn the strongest sustained period of Judge Dredd ever published (not counting the mega-epics). So, as one of the artists who first drew me into 2000 AD, I’m massively predisposed towards his style.

Comic violence
Situation by Wagner & Grant

Dramatic violence
Words by Wagner & Grant

A little romance
Words by Wagner & Grant
On a worldwide level, I’d guess Kennedy is most famous for a run on some of the better Star Wars comics in the 1990s, back when the idea of new Star Wars material seemed genuinely exciting rather than eye-roll inducing. And, based on his 2000 AD work before that time, it’s easy to see how he got the gig. Before he embraced the absurdist humour of Mega City 1, he was a steady hand on spacewar epic the VCs, and then one of the longest-serving artists on Rogue Trooper, another future war series - some might dare to say, the definitive future war comic series.

It's war... in space.

Kennedy has a seemingly effortless talent for designing and drawing weapons, vehicles, aliens and robots. In particular, versions of these things that seem like they could actually work, and also that seem like they’re a bit old and battered, while still being definitely based on some future tech we haven’t invented yet.

Words by Gerry Finley-Day

Words by Gerry Finley-Day

Improvised weapons!
Sound effects by Gerry Finley-Day

Crazy English toffs!
Words by Gerry Finley-Day

His human characters are perhaps a little less versatile, but when he’s matched to the right stories – i.e. gritty action-pieces – it’s perfect. He’s yet another of those 2000 AD creators who seems steeped in the exploitation / no-nonsense cinema of the 1970s, before it morphed into the steroidal/smug excesses of the 1980s. At any rate, you can see the musculature under the relatively svelte figures of Kennedy’s Rogue or Dredd. And he does a great line in gritted jaws and looks of determination.

Let’s not forget that he came up with the signature look of Chopper in the much-loved micro-epic ‘The Midnight Surfer’, one of the top 5 antagonists in Judge Dredd history. Just a year later, his work on ‘The Taxidermist’ helped make it such a memorable tale that Jacob Sardini became a recurring character. It’s tenuous, perhaps, but noteworthy that Chopper and Sardini remain two of an incredibly tiny number of citizens who have technically broken the law and got away with it, sometimes more than once. Whatever look that kind of character needs, Kennedy found it.

Chopper - the original sympathetic perp

 At one point, it seemed as though Kennedy was another in long line of greats who had moved away from 2000 AD to work for the Americans. Luckily, this didn’t happen. Never quite as prolific as he had once been, Kennedy was welcomed warmly back into the world of Dredd to help kickstart the Judge Dredd Megazine. Somewhat ironically, it was with a new story about semi-autobiographical character Kenny Who?.

The hapless Mr Who? first appeared in a Judge Dredd story that was a direct response to Kennedy’s experiences with Marvel and DC (or one of them, at least). First, Kennedy is told that they love his work – then they forget his name.** Then, they decide not to hire him, but do hire other artists who can work in a similar style. This last bit may not be entirely true in the real world, but it informs the story, a searing indictment of the ability of mainstream comics to force its artists to work to a house style, something utterly anathema to 2000 AD.

Kenny Who?
Words by John Wagner

Faceless robot editor
Words by John Wagner

Anyway, whatever the circumstances, Kennedy was once again a regular(ish) recurring artist on Judge Dredd again, and every bit as accomplished as before. He even got his first work on a Dredd Mega-epic, with the opening chapters of the saga that would eventually be collected under the name ‘Doomsday’.

His art style had chaged a little, but the same dependable highlights remained – strong poses, exciting action, clear panel-to-panel storytelling, and some wonderful haircuts.

Orlok the Assassin: a sinewy hardman Kennedy was born to draw.
Words by John Wagner

Judge Anderson: a shapely telepath Kennedy was not born to draw.
(although actually that first pic is kind of great)
Words by John Wagner
In time, he moved a little bit away from Dredd for more fun with robots on Banzai Batallion, and then the unclassifiable lunacy of Zancudo. 

Carumba indeed.
Words by Si Spurrier
Very sadly, failing eyesight has made it incredibly unlikely that he’ll draw for the Prog again, but Kennedy can perhaps take some comfort that his signature style continues to be a part of 2000AD, thanks to artist Nick Dyer.*** And virtually all his work has been collected and will live on and on.

Poignancy by Cam Kennedy
Words by Gerry Finley-Day

Personal favourites:
The VCs
Judge Dredd: The Suspect; Midnight Surfer; Magnificent Obsession; The Falucci Tape; The Warlord; The Big Sleep; The Taxidermist; Return of the Assassin; SABs; Big Deal at Drekk City
Rogue Trooper: Body Looters; Bio-Wire; Milli-Com Memories; The Gasbah; Colonel Kovert; You Only Die Twice
Banzai Battalion

More on Cam Kennedy
A short interview from Eircom

*Kenny Who? first appeard in a Judge Dredd story, but did have a solo outing, too.
Zancudo is sort of a spin-off from both Ant Wars but also set in the wider world of Dredd. It’s pretty much its own thing, though!

**A tale much better told in Thrill-Power Overload and elsewhere!
***No slight intended – I love Dyer’s work – but he’s clearly a Cam Kennedy fan (aren’t we all?)

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