Thursday, December 1, 2016

No. 89 Jon Davis-Hunt

First Prog: 1600
Latest Prog: 1995 (on the cover); 1989 (interior strip)

First Meg: 266
Latest Meg: 347

Total appearances: 99

Bringing 2000AD into the post-manga world of comics!
Creator Credits:
Stalag 666
Age of the Wolf

Other art credits:
Judge Dredd
A handful of one-offs and 3rillers

Notable character creations:
Rowan Morrigan

Rowan Morrigun - one of the Prog's more sensational character finds of the 2010s.
Co-created by Alec Worley
Notable characteristics:
Explosive gore. Super clean drawing. Bright and breezy colours. Given the first point, this might sound weird, but I find his work to be very child-friendly. Unlike some 2000AD artists, I’d have found it welcoming and delightful rather than scary/weird as a youngster.

On Jon:
One of the more recent crop of droids who has gone on to regular status, Davis-Hunt got his first work in the Megazine, and delightful it was, too*. Which is just as well, as he had one of the more troubled introductions to the Prog in the form of Stalag 666, which is probably in many readers’ bottom 10 worst thrill list (if anyone could be bothered to generate such a list). Yet even here there are plenty of flashes of brilliance.

Let’s go back to Tempest. It speaks to the sheer quality of his drawing that Davis-Hunt was commissioned right off the bat not just to work on a series, but on an all-new character (as he was on Stalag 666, come to think of it). This one had the added wrinkle of being deliberately flat-out crazy. ‘Moustachioed ninja-jimp fights sentient panda bear’ kind of crazy. But mostly what caught my eye was this kind of thing:

What words could I add to this?
Context by Al Ewing
 It’s the sort of unforgettable image that I wanted to stare at for hours and then copy into my school folder (except I was already in my 30s and not going to school any more). The series as a whole isn’t exactly overloaded with this kind of sequence, but this level of imaginative and super-detailed extreme gore comes up reliably in a Davis-Hunt comic, and I for one welcome it with open arms and a wide grin.

Tempest is first and foremost an action comic. Sure, it’s got the twisty plot that one has come to expect from Ewing, with dominoes set in place to topple, or not topple, depending on various hidden pieces. But mostly it has running, jumping and fighting. Davis-Hunt, from the off, emerged as rather good at fight choreography.

Told you there were moustaches and pandas
Words by Al Ewing

There's some brass balls on dsiplay in taking on that famous panel by Brian Bolland...
Context by Al Ewing
On the other hand, he took a while to master the slower scenes, and this brings us to Stalag 666. It’s a sci-fi prison escape tale, with a neat sideline in religious lizard baddies. But it also involves lots of scenes of people sitting or walking around and talking. It’s the combination of stilted/clich├ęd dialogue and static art that kills the strip (hampered too by some rather bland leading men). The actual plot and setting were perfectly good, to my mind.

I mean, there's only so much you can do with the scenery in a prison camp, but across the strip
there's just way too much people standing around talking. Also, sorry to say it, but Davis-Hunt's
face-work hadn't quite come together at this point.
Words by Tony Lee
This is meant to be a major cathartic moment. You can see what the creators were going for, but here the empty space
serves instead to diminish the impact. Never mind
Words by Tony Lee
Enough of the bad, what about the good? Well, it’s back to monster character design and my old friend, extreme gore.

Davis-Hunt's evil nazi lizard design was outstanding.
Bonus points for a bit of face-melting.

Heck yeah! This is what us kids read 2000AD for - child-friendly gore.
Somewhere, Kevin O'Neill is happily chucking his old white-out into a bin because censorship has been vanquished.
Context by Tony Lee.
It’s worth pointing out that despite this 18-rated visual detail, the overall tone of Davis-Hunt’s art – the line and the colours especially – are incredibly PG. It’s not a million miles from the Studio Ghibli look, just sumptuous and enticing and clean. The artist himself namechecks Katsuhiro Otomo in this Transformers interview and by golly anyone who dares to take on that master and even half succeed deserves high praise.

It’s a style that he’s pushed and pushed as his career has gone on.

That's how you do an aerial shot of Mega-City 1!

Having fun with panel layout
Words (and probably panel description) by Tom Taylor

Perfecting the art of scene-setting
Words by Martin Feekins
Despite the incredibly poor reception that greeted Stalag 666, Tharg saw fit to give Davis-Hunt another chance, and the man himself showed a lot of perseverance in working to overcome his ‘faults’. Chiefly, this meant working hard on arranging characters within any given scene. Frankly, the early work had far too much of people’s upper bodies shown from a flat angle. Sure, angles for the sake of it can be distracting, but too much side-on stuff is just a bit wearing.

As with many an art droid, Davis-Hunt had to do his comics-learning on the page. But that’s part of the fun of being a 2000AD reader, I reckon. Besides, his other charms were fully on display in the likes of Dandridge, with its air of lunacy, 

At its best, Dandridge is a combo between classic-era Hollywood screwball AND slapstick combined.
Wish we could get some more!
and especially Age of the Wolf, which is brimming with strong character designs, action scenes and red, red gore.

Rowan transitions delightfully from confused and meek... hardcore.

Insert joke about rush hour on the Tube here

More crumbling face goodness. 80s goo-movie tastic!

I don't know how he managed it, by Davis-Hunt makes the big bad of book III look both menacing
and pompous at the same time. And he's a werewolf!

Now that's how to choreograph a cathartic act of violence!
(with the added of wrinkle of it being cathartic for the baddie against the goodie)
This and all above words by Alec Worley.
If I was being mean, I could say that Stalag 666 was a mediocre story let down by sub-par art (with occasional bright patches), while Age of the Wolf was a mediocre story (mostly because I still find it confusing, even after 2 re-reads) elevated by top-notch art.

So top-notch, in fact, that we’re probably going to get less Davis-Hunt goodness inside the Prog as he gets more work overseas. Covers will see us through, but I hold out hope for an explosive new series from the man when he’s reached the peak of his powers.

More on Jon Davis-Hunt:
His website
An interview on GeekSyndicate
And one with CBR, especially about Age of the Wolf
And, of course, Covers uncovered

Davis-Hunt's natural environment - homaging manga in a 2000AD vein
Words by Tom Taylor
Personal favourites:
Judge Dredd: Blood Culture
Dandridge: A Christmas Ghost Story; The House that Dripped Devilry
Age of the Wolf: I only love parts of the story, but absolutely love all of the art
3rillers:  15
*He’s also a rare example of a creator who started out in video games and then turned to pro comics work, rather than the other way around. Long may the fluidity continue!

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