Saturday, September 24, 2016

No. 84 Steve Parkhouse

First Prog: 580
Latest Prog: 1470

Total appearances: 106
-with double points for writing and drawing, although he has generally done or the other one rather than both at once

Creator Credits:
Moon Runners (as co-writer)
Happenstance & Kismet (as artist)
Kola Kommandoes (as writer)
Big Dave (as artist)
Tiger Sun, Dragon Moon (writer and artist)

Gearing up for action!
Words and pictures by Steve Parkhouse

Other art credits:
Judge Dredd
The Journal of Luke Kirby
Slaine (in a Yearbook once)
Sinister Dexter
A handful of one-offs

Slaine + Ukko funnies
Words by Pat Mills

Other writing credits:
Ro-Jaws Robo-Tales

Notable Character Creations:
Big Dave

Design + art by Parkhouse and Rian Hughes

Notable characteristics:
Broad caricatures, big noses, fuzzy hair / moustaches; on his colour work, some lush painterly textures that offset the cartooning. I’m struggling to pick up on particular writing tricks, beyond the same ‘broad caricatures’ motif.

On Steve:
One of a very rare breed of true comics all-rounders, who has worked for Tharg extensively as a writer and as artist, only once doing both. Yet for some reason, I suspect most 2000AD readers would instinctively think of him as an artist first and foremost. He certainly has a very distinctive art style that is, to me, much more in tune with traditional British humour comics along the lines of the Beano and Viz - certainly why he was ideally suited to draw Big Dave.

Whereas his writing style is a little more chameleonic. If there’s anything that sticks out, it’s perhaps his commitment to writing episodically. Which is to say, making sure that each 5/6 page episode is satisfying in its own right, rather than being merely part of an ongoing story. Something of a lost/abandoned art in comics generally.

Just to make a point, let’s take a trip through his work in chronological order, so we can see quite how well he has flitted between the two disciplines.

1. Writer: on a single Ro-Jaws RoboTale in the 1982 Annual, which I no longer have and cannot recall!

2. Artist: stepping in to complete the final two episodes of Judge Dredd: Full Mental Jacket, which Ian Gibson didn’t complete for who knows what reason. Parkhouse’s work here sticks out as not being his usual fluid cartoony stuff, which I suspect is because he was trying to ape an imagined house-style for Dredd. Of course, there never really has been such a thing, but I do see elements of Cam Kennedy in Parkhouse’s work here, and he’s as definitive as it got on mid-1980s Judge Dredd.

art duties shared with Brendan McCarthy; both attempting to keep an Ian Gibson flavour
Words by John Wagner

This is all Parkhouse (I think), and has something of the Kennedy about it.
It's also a devastating and brutal sequence!

3. Writer: helping Alan McKenzie with the script (and maybe the plot + general character creation?) on Moon Runners. I feel as if I’ve read somewhere, likely on his own website, that McKenzie specially called on his friend Parkhouse for help. Parkhouse was at this point already a seasoned comic pro, while McKenzie, rightly, felt that he hadn’t really learned the comics scripting ropes as yet.

With all due respect to the creators, Moon Runners didn’t work. There’s a lot of good in the intention (Dallas meets Smokey & the Bandit…IN SPACE!), the settings and the characters were well realised, as you’d expect from Belardinelli, but the soap operatic plotting, and a fair bit of the dialogue, were poor.

4. Artist: stepping as far away from space opera as possible with Happenstance and Kismet, a comedy serial that ran in Revolver – and, sad to say, was hands own the worst thing in it. Not really for the art, though. It’s something of a period piece, evoking the likes of Miss Marple or Jeeves and Wooster, and drawn in a style that Parkhouse fans may know from The Bojeffries Saga. Nice to look at, the slapstick is expertly carried off, but it’s not much fun to read.

Lovely bit of scene setting, just don't ask me what they're on about.
Words by Paul Neary

Classic British slapstick
Words by Paul Neary

5. Writer: Kola Kommandoes. As I think I may have said before, this is something of a noble failure, with a wonderful opening episode, a handful of great puns, some neat characters, and, unfortunately, ends up a hot mess. I can imagine Parkhouse would have done a neat job on the illustration side, and I’d be curious to know why he didn’t do that as well – although Anthony Williams, an artist not a million miles away in style, did a creditable job.

Satire from the Third World War school of subtlety
Art by Anthony Williams
As the writer, it’s perhaps easier in this strip to tease out some personal themes for Parkhouse. The story is largely focussed on downtrodden uber-white guy lead Hector Doldrum. It also features a duo of (also very white) inept vigilantes. Alongside them are two hyper-competent characters: a young asian girl and a sort of genetically engineered super soldier, with blue skin and white hair (but otherwise, no connection to Rogue Trooper). Meanwhile, there’s an evil corporation to fight against. So there’s something going on in there to do with the push not to be ordinary, and to assume that anyone with too much power is not to be trusted. It is also playful and a deliberate comedy, quite a rare thing the themes, but I’m not entirely sure I want to.

This thesis is, of course, actually true.
Art by Anthony Williams

Out of context, this could be a very sinister ending to a light-hearted tale...
Art by Anthony Williams

6. Artist, and this time for a long, sustained period, covering two big jobs: Big Dave, and Luke Kirby. And it’s during this period that Parkhouse really shines. Say what you like about Big Dave (and I have), it’s well drawn. Parkhouse especially lays on the grime and sleaze with a trowel, making all his characters ugly and stupid, but also with distinct personalities.

Remember when it was OK to make jokes about Princess Diana?
Words by Morrison & Millar

Caught up in the chaos; just a delightful panel in itself, really

Now this might actually be a clever bit of satire. Or it might just be offensive. I CAN'T TELL!
Words by Morrison and Millar

His work on Luke Kirby might well be his best for pure art alone. At first, I’ll admit it jarred quite a bit as it’s very different from John Ridgway, and I never warmed to his Luke in the way I did to Ridgway’s version. But I would say both artists aim for a very-relevant feeling of the past; Ridgway’s version of the 1950s/60s puts me in mind of Enid Blyton, while Parkhouse is more classic era Dandy/Beano.

Luke is in a spot of bother.
Yelp by Alan McKenzie

If there’s a hidden thematic concern to Luke Kirby, it’s the countryside. Our boy is always going for walks in the woods or meadows with older men, caught in that pull of wanting to grow up fast, but also enjoying how slow long school holidays can feel. Parkhouse, like Ridgway before him, keeps that focus clear.

Luke encounters lurking dangers in the countryside.
Note also Parkhouse's luscious lettering at work
Words by Alan McKenzie

Parkhouse’s first Kirby story involves meeting the devil. Unlike the gas mask fetish fiend of Cannon Fodder (a strip that ran around the same time), here we get a Lucifer of the more subtle variety – an obviously nasty piece of work, but with just enough cool to lure you in.

7. There followed a good few years with no Parkhouse, before he delivered a handful of Dredds, some Future Shocks and the obligatory Sinister Dexter. No themes here, just good old fashioned fun, and old hand showing off, as it were. No warning at all, then for the strip that has proved to be the man’s swansong for Tharg:

A delightfully chaotic shootout
Context by John Wagner

Joking around with Sinister and Dexter
Words by Dan Abnett

8. Writer and artist on Tiger Sun Dragon Moon. And I’d say it’s definitely his best work for the Prog, too. Once I got over the fact that the title was such a direct lift from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon*, I got into it. (Also ignoring the minor distraction that while the film is all about ancient China, this tale is set in future Japan. Sort of.) It’s super dynamic, as often as not an exercise in fight choreography, comics style. You could argue that films do fights better than any other medium, but comics has a place in the conversation for sure, specifically because it allows you to observe discrete moments, a punch here, a kick there, a messy stab wound or so.

There's a LOT of blood in this strip

Plenty of dismemberment, too

And a touch of flesh

The story, set in the world of Dredd but not really much to do with it, is fairly simple but in a good way. You root for the hero, you get to understand her emotional path, and you look forward to the ass-kicking.

You don't mess with Sukonami!
An elegant end to an eclectic Thargian career!

More on Steve Parkhouse:
A potted (very potted) bio on Alcehtron
Here’s very old interview on Sequential Tart, mostly about Angel Fire, Parkhouse’s collaboration with Chris Blythe
And if you’re wondering what he’s doing now, here it is, Resident Alien, a collaboration with fellow 2000AD alum Peter Hogan

Personal favourites:
Judge Dredd: Full Metal Jacket; Dinner at Shapiro's
Big Dave: I’ve never really got on board with the story, but Parkhourse’s art is one thing is got unequivocally right
Journal of Luke Kirby: Old Straight Track
Tiger Sun, Dragon Moon

*Lest we forget, an absolutely monster mainstream success that dominated the media landscape in 2001.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

No. 83 Dylan Teague

First Prog: 1060
Latest Prog: 1982 (on the cover)

First Meg: 3.37
Latest Meg: 353

Total appearances: 106
-including a whole bunch as inker, and lately working as a colourist, too.

Creator Credits:
Rose O’Rion

Given that this was one of Teague's earliest published efforts, he's goot good pretty quick, no?
Words by Kek-W

Other art credits:
Judge Dredd
Carver Hale (inks)
Chopper (inks)
Inspector Inaba
Mean Machine (inks)
Rogue Trooper
Wardog (inks)
Young Middenface (inks)
Aquila (colours)
Various one-offs

Notable character creations:
Rose O’Rion

Notable characteristics:
Super smooth, super clean. There’s something about his work that puts me in mind of the classic adventure end of Science Fiction, but always with Science Fiction at the fore (I mean, this is 2000AD we’re talking about, but still).

For the life of me, I can't remember which strip this is from, or if it's Dylan solo rather than Dylan inking over another artist. Still an awesome bit of spaceship design, though, right?

On Dylan:
First of Tharg’s great inkers to make the list, although he’s had a few shots at full-on art duties over his long years of service, and in fact lately he’s providing colours working with Cliff Robinson (by coincidence one of 2000AD’s all-time great inkers). By his own admission, as a youngster he felt he was simply too slow an artist to really make a go of it solo, so he taught himself inking and drawing, under the guidance of 2000AD stalwarts (who will get their slot here soon enough!) Mike Collins and David Roach.

The simple overview goes something like:
Gets his break on Judge Dredd: Lawman of the Future – the first issue, no less. (Haven;t seen it myself; this here's a cover from later in that series shownig his work)

In time, he earns a slot doing a handful of strips one-offs here and there for the Prog, and a few things for the Meg.
That central panel hides some serious terror.
Words by Gordon Rennie

Most notably, creating Rose O’Rion:

In fact, he was so good at the sexy lady in space motif that he was also called on to deliver this corker, featuring O’Rion alike Synnamon:

In my eyes, the hyper-detailed spaecship panelling and wires make up for the cheescake on display.

Finds himself on inking duty in a fruitful partnership first with Laurence Campbell, but then much more fruitfully with Patrick Goddard, especially on the Megazine: Inaba, DeMarco, Young Middenface, Wardog, more Dredd.

That's some silky smooth inkwork right there;
on top of Patrick Goddard; Words by Alan Grant

Solid blacks to convey stirring sadness

Teague on Goddard having a jolly time smashing up robots.
Word by Dan Abnett

This one's a Teague solo effort. Can you tell the difference from the panel above?
The face is a little dofter and shinier, maybe.

Teague on Goddard again, going for a grittier look
Context by Robbie Morrison, I think

Along the way, he turns out to be something of a covers legend (in my book, anyway),




 Including a bunch of covers on some of the more peripheral outlets of the Tharg stable that have stuck in my mind, even though they weren't in the public eye for nearly as long.


Rogue Trooper in particular is worth dwelling on, as it’s a rare example of seeing his earlyish work on total art duties. As you’d expect, it’s super-clean. But we also get to enjoy some character design. Teague it is who gets to visualise two major players in Rennie’s ongoing tale: a disgraced Souther General and a ‘rogue’ Gene Genie, who go off books to help find and cure our hero of a case of built-in obsolescence. 

More lovely attention to background detail, coupled with super-thin lines and deliciously solid blacks.
Words by Gordon Rennie

Here’s a much more recent Teague solo effort, in a rather busier style, and showing off his colouring skills, too. I've an idea this may be a style he's been developing as part of his work in Europe, Teague being a rare example of a 2000AD regualr who went on to work in France rather than the USA. Nice!

The colours add a lot of weight to everything, and there's a clear Euro-feel to it as well.
Words by Rob Williams

But, in the last few years, it's as inker and/or colourist on covers that Teague finds time to fly the flag for the House of Tharg, with belters like this:

Colouring over Cliff Robinson

and, of course, this:

Colouring over Cliff Robinson
More on Dylan Teague:
Here's his blog
And his Deviant Art page
 -neither of which have been updated especially recently
A recent interview from Judgement in Cardiff
And another on Jonathan Green's website

Personal favourites:
Pulp Sci-Fi: False Profits
Judge Dredd: Hard Day's Night; Hong Tong; Meat
Young Middenface: Parcel of Rogues; Brigadoom!
Rogue Trooper: Weapons of War

...and then there's this, one of my all-time fave Megazine covers.


Thursday, September 15, 2016

No. 82 Jim Baikie

First Prog: 306
Final Prog: 1309 (but before that, 927)
-and note that he has the curious distinction of being the cover artist for both his first and last Prog. A neat little calling card.

First Meg: 1.01
Final Meg: 1.05

Total appearances: 109
-including run on New Statesmen in Crisis, and double-dipping for the two series of Skizz he wrote as well as drew (which ups his total count quite considerably)

Creator Credits:
New Statesmen


Other art credits:
Judge Dredd
a couple of one-offs

Notable character creations:
Roxy, Loz, Cornelius
-and if I’d read New Statesmen more than once, I bet I could name some of them here, too.

Notable characteristics:
Small but very expressive eyes. Exceptional cartooning, with a great line in subdued exaggeration, to coin an oxymoron. Always conveying a sense of place.

Van Owen, the original piggey-eyed monster.
The 'eccent' is South African, by the way -
remember when go-to bad guys came from apartheid-era South Africa?
Words by Alan Moore

On Jim:
Aside from three series of Skizz, Baikie has never really been a 2000AD mainstay, yet he was an extremely welcome presence for the years he was around. It’s worth noting that he was held in high enough regard to secure work on the launches of two 2000AD spin-offs, Crisis and the Judge Dredd Megazine. Everyone* remembers New Statesmen, usually pretty fondly, but I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone mention Midnite’s Children, the only official** ‘Judge Dredd’ story that actually ran in the first few issues of the Megazine. 

That there is some hardcore scene setting and character design.
Words by Alan Grant

Now, arguably, it’s not a Dredd epic to set the world on fire, but a) the art is cracking, and b) it’s the one story from that first Megazine that 12-year old me could relax into, as it felt like the sort of strip I knew from the Prog, and that’s all down to the art.

A sitcom character trapped in a phone booth while juve-y mayhem goes on around him.
This is my definition of safe, relaxing Judge Dredd comics...
Words by Alan Grant

Putting it crassly, Jim Baikie has always drawn comics properly – as in, pencilling it out, then inking it, with recognisable characters that have consistent features and haircuts, just cartoony enough to project my own ideas of character onto, but realistic enough that it feels like a step above Tintin and the Beano and that sort of thing. I realize this is a very personal definition of ‘properly’!
Crucially, it’s got that edge of humour to it.

Simple, comic cartooning
Words by Alan Grant

 Even when he’s dealing with an utterly horrible character, such as the blubber-lipped hitman.

Evil as described by lips
Words by John Wagner

Even scarier in colour!

Or Spuggy, the most repellent man in Mega City One. (Thought I had a scan handy, but you'll just have to imagine a hobbity fellow, only instead of a cheery smile he's got piggy eyes, a bulbous head, and looks like he's ogling you).

Instead, here he is jenning up excitement for the finale to Dredd epic Oz:

You'll have to buy this Prog for yourself to find out!
(Or read Judge Dredd: Oz in one of various collected editions)

By the time he delivered his Prog swansong, his tendency to cartoon had really come to the fore. It’s both weird and delightful at the same time.

The art of drawing without drawing. So much still conveyed even without filling in all the details.
Dredd's heroic/matter-of-fact pose is the key detail, of course.
Words by John Wagner

Let’s dip back in time a little bit to New Statesmen again. Just speaking from my own experience, my overwhelming memory is not the actual issues of Crisis (which I have a small selection of), or even the collected edition that I borrowed from a friend about 10 years ago, it’s the bumper ad that ran in 2000AD featuring the opening sequence from Smith and Baikie’s story.

(Swiped from the website of the lucky bastard who owns this original piece of art!)
That is some badass cartooning right there. I mean, the giant, distorted ‘shot through the eye’ head panel is kind of gimmicky, but it is also inherently fun, and is a prime example, to me, of ‘comics drawn properly’. Even the more straightforward drug sniffing panel at the top drew my attention, partly because of the ‘gosh, I didn’t know comics could show people taking drugs’ titillation, but mostly because the storytelling is just so clear. You can see that the girl isn’t doing it recreationally, she’s doing it because in the moment, she needs something to give her a confidence boost, to help her find that winning snarl that obviously powers her through her human interactions. A picture (or sequence of pictures) tells a thousand words, indeed.

A close-up for you of the sequence in question.
Howl of anguish by John Smith

And so to Skizz, without doubt the series for which Baikie is most known to 2000AD fans. I’ve a feeling book I isn’t quite as highly regarded as it once was, perhaps because Alan Moore’s later work on Halo Jones is now an unimpeachable comics classic. But, you know, page for page I wonder if I don’t like Skizz more. Roxy is every bit as relatable as Halo, but she has the benefit of a more consistent supporting cast, and of course Interpreter Zhcchz himself.

Slkiz and Roxanne O'Rourke, two of the most well-thought out character designs in 2000AD.
Also answered: how to draw an alien/kangaroo hybrid that is on the point of being sick.
Words by Alan Moore

The received wisdom on Skizz has always been that it was a deliberate E.T. riff, but set in England, with a girl. Fascinating to learn from Steve MacManus’s book that this is, in fact, not the case. Presumably Moore and MacManus deliberately contrived the overt E.T. link to stave off accusation so plagiarism, and in fact it was coincidence all along! It was certainly written before E.T. was in UK cinemas – the first batch of episodes at least.

Of course, while Skizz does have a very similar overarching plot to E.T, it isn’t much like E.T. at all in tone. The analysis of family life and blue collar realities of 1980s Birmingham owe a fair bit to Baikie’s artwork, and places it in the realm of soap opera rather than boy’s own adventure.

Describing Birmingham visually
-and at the same time, metaphorically.
Words by Alan Moore

A lovely bit of panel layout/design to bring girl's comics into 2000AD
Words by Alan Moore

And then there’s Books II and III, which were all Baikie all the time, with no link to any prune-faced aliens. Sure, neither of these books pack the emotional weight of book I, which really is a 2000AD story that can make you cry. But both have a neat line in problem solving, and under-used genre in 2000AD, I feel (possibly because it’s very difficult to write).

Book II sees Roxy and Skizz trying to concoct a way to save the Earth from destruction by angry Tau-Cetians. Book III, in part, focuses on Skizz’s efforts to escape from a locked room controlled by a logic-based machine. Baikie (the writer) also continues the hint of socio-political analysis, as we join an older Roxy who has moved to Australia, in a sort-of attempt to drop out of mainstream society, fuelled by right-on sentiments. Good for her! Also, Baikie draws a mean kangaroo:

Lovely colour washes
Words by Jim Baikie

Book II has the benefit of more Loz and Cornelius, although by the end of Book III their tropes have perhaps got a little stale. 

Cornelius has grown old with dignity

Book III pushes for out-and-out comedy. I’ll admit to enjoying the super-Brummy robot that bursts out of the VW Beetle, but I wasn’t a fan of the dastardly Tau-Cetians, either the ones driving the Beetle or the ones on Tau-Ceti itself, play-acting at Roman Emperors.

Baikie hails from the Orkney Isles. Perhaps he styled the thick Brummie on display here
after chats with midlander Alan Moore?

A cackling baddie from teh old school.
But you know, the art is consistently glorious throughout, and Baikie pulls off the trick of ageing Roxy in a convincing way – same girl, looks more grown up, still a relatable protagonist.

I’ve no idea why Baikie didn’t do more work for Tharg – perhaps busy elsewhere, or perhaps his method was rather time-consuming, but I’m glad for what we got. Now come on, Tharg, get New Statesmen back into print, along with a complete Skizz!

Yes, Skizz will make you cry as much as E.T. -and this sequence happens in like episode 3!
Words by Alan Moore

More on Jim Baikie:
All too little, sadly.
Here’s a lovely piece about his work on Jinty, aka what he did before 2000AD
A review of Skizz
(sadly it barely mentions Baikie’s art contributions, but then, it is part of a series on Alan Moore)
A review of NewStatesmen

Personal favourites:
Judge Dredd: The Hitman; In the bath; Little Spuggy’s Xmas; Midnite’s Children
Skizz: books I and II
New Statesmen

*Where ‘everyone’ means the people that might stumble onto this blog.

**Go on, let’s have another argument about whether or not ‘America’ is a Judge Dredd story that should have been reprinted in the Complete Case Files. I mean, clearly it is, he’s on the first page and everything, but it’s not that hard to argue that the story is really about Bennet Beeny, or, if you’re writing an essay on the strip and want a tick in the margin, about the Justice System, and especially life in Mega City One.
(Of course, if you’re going to argue along these lines for America’s non-inclusion in the Case Files, you’re going to end up ditching an awful lot of stories)