Tuesday, July 24, 2018

No. 117 David Roach

First Prog: 558
Latest Prog: 2080

First Meg: 2.08 (aka issue 28)
Latest Meg: 327

Total appearances: 76
-including a bunch of inking credits

Art credits:
Judge Dredd
Nemesis the Warlock
Anderson, Psi Division
A couple of one-offs
-and inking duties on Killer, Rogue Trooper and Synnamon

Notable character creations:
Judge Corey

Notable characteristics:
Dude likes drawing long-legged ladies, sometimes in what you might call sexy poses. Many of which one feels were photo-referenced. To be fair, he has toned that side of his work way down in recent years, and has become noteworthy, in my eyes anyway, as one of those artists who really goes to town on loading up the backgrounds with all sorts of meticulously-rendered details. It really makes his recent strip work shine!

Scantily clad ladies fighting? Call Mr. Roach! Bonus point, mind, for the hilarious knee and arm pads, and for that cool black line effect to show facial impact on the ground.
Words by Alan Grant

He’s also improved his action panels, so they have more flow and a little less of a stilted look that marked his early work.

Roach possesses one heck of a brushstroke, put to good use as an inker for a while, with some really lush lines that can hug a curve and also mark out a straight-edged piece of machinery.

Roach fleshing out pencils by Staz Johnson
Words by Gordon Rennie

On David:
Way back in the early days of 2000AD, 1977 and all that, Pat Mills and Co have remarked on the influence of a certain French comic on the look and feel on the Galaxy’s Greatest. We’re talking Metal Hurlant, or ‘Heavy Metal’, in its translated version. That comic was notable for some seriously cool artists, who delivered astonishingly imaginative and downright weird Sci-Fi and Fantasy worlds. Which 2000AD absolutely embraced right from Prog 1. Metal Hurlant also delivered topless ladies with a fair amount of frequency, which 2000AD did not deliver until somewhere around Prog 1066.*

What’s all this got to do with David Roach? Well… for better and for worse, Mr Roach is indelibly associated, in his early 2000AD work at any rate, with what has been called ‘good girl’ art. Or, to put it another way, drawing strips that lean heavily on the female characters but with the male gaze in full force. Roach didn’t actually show any topless ladies at this time, but he didn’t shy away from using some, shall we say, specific, poses.

Purity tackles a Terminator
Words by Pat Mills

Anderson enjoys bantz with a fellow judge while, er, relaxing on her lawmaster
words by Alan Grant

Anderson and Corey get dressed for work
Words by Alan Grant
Now, this kind of thing is not all he’s done, by any means, but it’s such a glaring feature that I have to lead with it. I don’t know what then-editor Richard Burton was thinking, but he clearly wanted it and asked for it. To be honest, it’s kind of in line with the late 80s style of 2000AD that aimed to appeal to a more grown up readership – and what’s more grown up than a comic with sexy ladies in?**

Certainly I saw Roach’s art as being ‘for grown-ups’. It’s not just the long-legs and twisting torsos – it’s his meticulous rendering of people. It’s the kind of art that looks really difficult to do, frankly, and can be super impressive, even as it occasionally struggles to have that quality of movement that action comics often need, and, especially in the early days, when he put so much effort into the people there wasn’t always time to do much in the background. Overall, Roach felt like a new direction for 2000AD art, finally embracing the sexy side of that old Euro-comics influence. It’s not a million miles from Glenn Fabry, just put to very particular use. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a bit of sexiness.***

Gratuitous shower scene alert!
Words by Alan Grant

Right, that’s enough of that, not least because I don’t want to denigrate Roach, an excellent artist. Let’s not forget, he was alternating art duties on Nemesis with the mighty John Hicklenton, and on Anderson with the even mightier (your mileage may vary on that) Arthur Ranson. To an extent, his Nemesis work was an intense example of learning on the job, although with flashes of greatness, but he'd pretty much got good enough to hold his own even with the likes of Ranson on his Anderson work. No mean feat!
Much like Redondo on Nemesis Book II, Roach’s Book 8 of Nemesis provided a bit of a breathing space between slices of extreme weirdness. Purity’s Story is a mostly a flashback to a setting shortly before the events of Nemesis Book I, with occasional interludes of Purity and Nemesis in the ‘present’ day. And it’s pretty straightforward stuff, with young Purity pretending to be in love with Torquemada in order to spy on him. Roach’s style delivers all this very clearly, bringing Purity to life as a person, fleshing out the rather simple goody freedom-fighter character that she had been before.

Up close and personal with Purity Brown
Words by Pat Mills

Artwise, 10/10 for Purity and the deeply horrible alien outfit; 5/10 for Torquemada looking fidgety in the background.
Words by Pat Mills

He also renders the nightmare world of Termite as a scary place, with the haunt of  thought police everywhere, and the desolate atmosphere of smooth, metallic tube walls with no greenery or anything organic around.

Bringing the backgrounds to life this time!
Words by Pat Mills

Roach's Nemesis, in close-up at least, is at his most overtly evil.

Nemesis has always, kind of, been the actual devil. Rarely has the sentiment behind this been so visually explicit.
Words by Pat Mills

Pretty soon after he was a regular on Anderson, Psi Division, alternating with Arthur Ranson and playing around with a couple of different styles, depending on whether he got the colour pages or not, and just generally getting better as an action strip artist with each new story, as with so many 2000AD greats. The Prophet is fine and all, but you can sort of tell Roach at this time was far happier working in black and white.

This scan taken from the greyscale repro in Anderson Psi Files Vol. 1
In some ways, this shows off even better the ultra early 90s baddie design, complete with robot motif, blades and saws!
Words by Alan Grant

Helios, the story that introduces Empath Judge Corey, was classic black and white, at the time a better fit.

Cass 'n Corey bop their troubles away, in an example of Roach using his affinity for drawing pretty ladies to enhance the emotion and tone of a scene.
Words by Alan Grant

I do especially admire the thing he does where, when showing faces in close-up, he renders them in a super-detailed portrait-study style. It’s kind of the opposite of cartooning, but because he uses the style sparingly, it has a cartoonish effect of making a panel really stand out emotionally.

Panel 1: H'mm. Not sure you'd do that if it were Joe Dredd, hey? Panel 2: using portrait power to full effect!
Words, and, just maybe, detailed panel descriptions by Alan Grant

It's as if he's drawn every bristle on the beard. Masterful.
Words by Alan Grant

I don’t think it’s controversial to say that Roach built up to a peak with Engram, a story that he co-plotted with Alan Grant. Sadly that story had to be split into two parts, with part 1 ending on a hell of a cliffhanger, and a part 2 that didn’t run for more than a year,

One of my all-time favourite and indeed most memorable panels from 2000AD.
It's so grimy and upsetting, amazing work with shadows and texture and geometrical arrangement.
Truly haunting. 

The wait was interminable, I can tell you! And I fear this wait slightly took the shine off that story. Briefly, it all kicks off when Cass runs a crazy-powerful psi-baby in the Cursed Earth. This baby unlocks some Psi-blocks hidden inside our Cass’s mind, which temporarily drives her insane, land ultimately leads her to learn some dark truths about her pre-Judge childhood days, and a level of manipulation by Justice Dept to hide them from her.

Roach's use of models and/or photos really pays off when drawing children, so rarely done right in 'grown up' comics for some reason.
Words by Alan Grant

On the one hand, it’s classic early 90s ‘comics are all grown up and miserable now’ stuff. On the other hand, it’s actually a well-told story, with most of the emphasis on how sinister Justice Dept is, very much drawn out in Roach’s meticulous artwork.

But just as Engram finished, Anderson moved over to the Megazine, and Roach disappeared from 2000AD for some years, returning as an inker, for the most part.
(And indeed he’s devoted quite a proportion of his career to inking duties in the world of Doctor Who).

Roach brings his nib/brush talents to work on Staz Johnson's kinetic pencils.
Words by Steve Moore

Perhaps inevitably, his return to full pencil duties was yet another sexy lady series, Synnamon. And yes, there are more legs. But there’s also a lot of attention to the expressions of the characters and the general tone of mistrust / spyworld shenanigans baked into that series.

Synnamon: never knowingly under-boobed.
Words by Colin Clayton & Chris Dows

Synnamon also delivers some hard-hitting emotions, too.
Words by Clayton and Dows

Since then, Roach generally pulls out a new Dredd one-off every year or so, mixing up action with comedy and tragedy ably. And, occasionally, fleshing out the backgrounds to an almost Chris Weston like level of detail.

Well worth the wait to get this kind of sumptuousness!

Reining in the catfight temptations to deliver simple action beats.
Words by Alan Grant

At ease with western trappings
Words by Michael Carroll

Equally happy delivering poingancy with a touch of horror
Words by Michael Carroll

And some good old silly comedy, too.
Words by Al Ewing

Also the odd one-off here and there, typically making use of Roach’s skill with a portrait.

This story is literally called 'Warts and all'. Roach doesn't shy away!
Words by Si Spurrier
and also tapping into Roach's sort-of status as an old-school artist. For all that I lumped him in with the shock of the new in the late 80s, he's actually a rather classical illustrator, very much able to capture the swoosh of 1970s girls' comics, if that's what the story demands.

Focussing on the emotion to tell the story. Also note the aptness of a story's very title forcing the imagery to focus on a leading ladies back, not her front!
Words by Alec Worley

Channeling 1977 era Dredd for a 'Lost Case'
Words by Arthur Wyatt

A long-time reliable artist, Roach kind of took everyone by surprise when, for the Prog 2000 anniversary spectacular, he emerged as the fan’s favourite on a long overdue return to Anderson, Psi Division. He put together a genuinely excellent fight sequence between Anderson and Death,

Roach out-Bollands Bolland, and delivers one of the very best Anderson triumphs. Cathartic!
Words by Alan Grant
and absolutely won the right to return as a series regular artist, where he’s really pulling out all the stops!

Super detailed faces and hair, coupled with mind-blowing cityscapes.
Words by Emma Beeby

So much beautiful detail on display in the set dressing, the textures, and an unreproachably posed sexy lady to boot.
Words by Emma Beeby

More on David Roach:
Outside of his role as a 2000AD/Megazine artist, David Roach is something of a legend in the world of comics history. He’s written/edited/contributed to a whole raft of books on comics, including superheroes, war comics and a certain long-legged sexy lady vampire. Check out his ‘books’ page:

But perhaps of greater interest of readers of this blog he’s worked on the important project of identifying and celebrating the uncredited creators of British comics, especially the Spanish artists who found work through IPC:

and indeed he’s still working hard to get credits for the creators of many girls comics:

Check out the rest of his website, too!

Seems like there ought to be some interviews somewhere talking about his actual artwork, though, especially the Anderson stuff.

Personal favourites:
Nemesis the Warlock: Purity’s Story
Anderson, Psi Division:  Engram; A Dream of Death
Judge Dredd: A whole New Dredd; Inversion; Witch’s Promise
Synnamon:  Arc of Light
Tales from the Black Museum: Girl with the Gila Munja Tattoo

*If someone wants to chart a history of all the nudity in 2000AD, they are most welcome. I’m just picking on the ‘Sex Prog’ because it’s an easy target. In fact there had been boobs (and a whole lot of wang) before that, and plenty of both since, too.

**This is sarcasm. But also not?

***Although it is best if it manages to either not objectify people, or at least objectify people of multiple body types and genders.

Friday, July 6, 2018

No. 116 Trevor Hairsine

First Prog: 993
Latest Prog: 2003 (not the Xmas Prog for the year 2002, the actual 2003rd prog); but, before that, Prog 1836, and, before that, Prog 1177)

First Meg: 2.55 (cover and interior strip)
Latest Meg: 3.67 (cover); 3.39 (interior strip)

Total appearances: 77
-including a handful of colouring gigs

Creator credits:


Getting your first piece of work right on the cover is always awesome!
Other art credits:
Judge Dredd
Strontium Dogs
Mercy Heights
Missionary Man
Downlode Tales
Anderson, Psi Division
One Pulp Sci Fi

Notable character creations:
Harmony Kreig

Notable characteristics:
Big anatomy – not out of proportion, but the kind that fills up a panel and puts people in dynamic positions. Especially people charging towards the reader at high speed! 

Words by Alan Grant

Words by Gordon Rennie

Words by John Wagner
Action and drama – the kind of pacing and pose selection that got him plenty of gigs in the world of American superheroes for many years.

Beautiful action choreography, and I do love an artist who draws in background sound effects.
Words by John Wagner
There’s also no getting around the fact that, for the early days at least, Hairsine’s work was notable for looking kinda a lot like early McMahon. Don’t get me wrong, it’s powerful stuff, but the comparison is, well, notable.

On Trevor:
Trevor Hairsine got his break in 2000AD introducing a whole new character, indeed the cover star twice in her opening series: Harmony. I’ll get back to her later. Rather rapidly after that, Hairsine became something of a star Dredd artist, for example drawing the Megazine episodes of Dredd epic Wilderlands, and then immediately delivering new serial Three Amigos, designed to be a classic story that would draw in new readers with the relaunched Megazine volume 3, itself timed to coincide with the enormous popularity of the 1995 film Judge Dredd (except it ran a tiny bit late).

So, the Mick McMahon thing. Not only was Hairsine using that look for his Dredd work, his very first gig on the Megazine came through exactly in time with McMahon’s own triumphant return to Judge Dredd for the first time in decades with Howler.

It’s a little as if editor David Bishop knew people would be scratching their heads at mid-90s McMahon, perhaps expecting him to draw in the same way he did back in 1981. And to temper that reaction, he found a McMahon-ish artist to draw for the magazine.

I mean, if you've been asked to recapture the spirit of classic Dredd epic the Cursed Earth, you can't ask for better!
Words by John Wagner
As it is, Howler came in for a bit of a kicking on its initial run (as I recall from the letters pages, anyway), but is now seen as something of a classic Dredd tale. Hairsine meanwhile found instant popularity – as he deserved! – although time has been a little less kind to the stories he drew, with Wilderlands and Three Amigos both seen as lesser Dredd.

Dig those McMahon-style giant boots! Also the classic 'hunched' pose, the better to fit into a small panel.
Words by John Wagner

Atmospheric action with a spooky bent.
Context by John Wagner

Crucially, Hairsine is not and never was a McMahon clone – it’s more that, for a specific gig, he chose to draw in McMahon’s style, (much like McMahon himself was once explicitly attempting to ape Ezquerra). As you can see pretty clearly by going back to the beginning, he has his own thing going. Check out Harmony: Blood & Snow.

Sure, you could argue that big boots are a McMahon thing, but the composition, the inking style, the chunky thighs
that's all Hairsine.
Words by Chris Standley

This style, to me, is a) it’s own thing, and b) VERY much of the mid-90s. It’s both sketchy and detailed, cartoony and serious, with hard action, visible sound effects and motion lines, and combining that action with both horror and comedy. It’s actually quite a lot more Simon Bisley than Mick McMahon, if you want to make artist comparisons.
Look, Hairsine has even drawn Mr Bisley into this page!

That's him with the sunglasses, yes? And in general, the goofy bystanders and background comedy is, for me, an example of the sort of Viz-esque / grown-up Beano look of 1990s funny stuff as popularised by the Biz (not to mention Jamie Hewlett).
Words by Chris Standley
Of course, Hairsine is also just meeting the script head on. For my money, Harmony as a series got more interesting when she left the wilderness and went back to the city (when the series rotated between other artists), but Hairsine remains the most accomplished comics creator to work on the strip, wild and weird as his opening series was. I mean Blood and Snow is sort of a bounty hunter thriller with a revenge plot going on, but then it turns into a ‘The Thing’ riff, only set in a Benny-Hillish nudist colony instead of a spooky research station. The shifting tones ought to be super weird, but somehow Hairsine (and writer Chris Standley, of course) keep it amazingly consistent, with the humour setting at sardonic meets deadpan meets ‘expectation of OTT action at any moment’. In other words, totally 2000AD.

Where the heck did a scary alien monster come from in this tale of Bounty Hunters?
Context by Chris Standley
It did get a bit bogged down in having too many characters, and to my mind it was a shame that the villain, Havoc, had a more consistent and indeed simplistic design than Harmony herself. It’s kind of a rule that in the first series with a brand new character, you need to show your hero front and centre as many times as you can, ideally with the same hairstyle/clothing/weaponry, so that readers will get to know her. Sadly the requirements of costume and setting changes in this story made that impossible.

Can't remember if Havoc is a mutant, an alien, or just a dude with a squished nose, but he's a classic 2000AD antagonist.
Context by Chris Standley

That said, if you like a bit of comedy in your visuals as well as your text, this first book of Harmony is for you. (The rest of the series is somewhat darker and more serious in comparison, although there’s humour running all the way through.)

Anyway, following up Harmony with those two Dredd epics, Hairsine moved away from the Megazine and into the pages of 2000AD, first helping to finish off the floundering Strontium Dogs series (poor bastard),

He's a great fit for this kind of setting, adding some humour to a dour situation simply through facial expressions.
Words by Peter Hogan.
and then joining a large team on weekly Dredd, with a bit of Anderson, Psi thrown in. This time he’s doing it his own way, bringing back a lot of the 1990s cartoony but sort of realistic action vibe, and dialling back the McMahon stuff.
Still going strong with the full-figure posing. This one captures Dredd's supreme confidence so well!
Words by John Wagner
It’s not all Judge Dredd – he had a go at a Sinister-only episode of Downlode Tales, and tackled the first half of book II of Mercy Heights. For my money, his episodes are on a par with Kevin Walker's work on the original, and It’s arguable that the space hospital saga would have fared better had Hairsine been able to complete the whole thing – or possibly if writer John Tomlinson had been able to structure his soap opera so that different episodes focussed on different characters, thus not requiring each artist to draw each person, and indeed each setting, entirely consistently.

Enough deliberating, let’s bask in some Hairsine storytelling goodness, eh?

More epic sound effects, this time drenched in blood!
Words by Alan Grant

There's surely a word for that trick where the foreground is in colour, and the background is in silhouette,
but I don't know it. Looks cool, though, and it kind of functions as an invisible panel border. Neat.
Words by John Wagner

Hairsine's more painterish style for this one.
Words by John Wagner

If you don;t find this kind of thing funny, I wouldn't recommend Judge Dredd.
Words by John Wagner

Hooray for circular panels!
Words by John Wagner

Mercy Heights is the little tubular spaceship. The big one has baddies on board...
Words by John Tomlinson

Is there a hint of Alan Davis in there, or is it just me?
Words by John Tomlinson

The loneliness of Finnigan Sinister.
Words by Dan Abnett
To an extent, Hairsine suffered from never really having a crack at a great 2000AD series. Some of his shorter Dredds are pretty fun – the final Taxidermist outing, the hilarious tale of Chairman Dilbert – but nothing to rival the top tier of 2000AD, which means I sometimes think he’s not that well remembered amongst the pantheon of 2000AD art legends. And none of that’s his fault, ‘cos he’s damn good.

He kept in touch over the years with some cracking covers, before disappearing into the American comics fold.


Much, much later, Hairsine has turned in a few more pages on Dredd, scripted by his old Cla$$war buddy, Rob Williams. As you'd expect, his style has evolved quite a bit; it's lost that kinda scratchy, thick-lined look he used to use. You could even say that the McMahon influence has morphed more into a Bolland-look, to pick an artist whose style couldn't be further removed! But the dependable action beats are very much still intact, and it'll be a treat if we get some more in the future. Who knows?

So much time has passed, it's almost the work of a different man. But there's something in the linework of that castle
that still retains some of that Blood & Snow feel.
Words by Rob Williams

Hairsine still delivers the posing goods, and those 'pushing limbs out of the panel and into your face' perspective tricks.
Words by Rob Williams

If you're fixing for more Hairsine, I’d recommend his most recent work with Valiant comics, which is kind of a half-way point between superhero comics and 2000AD*. High concept, high-octane action with a thick seam of cynicism, sarcasm and plenty of high-cultural references (and some pop culture, too). That said, I could stand to see more Hairsine in the Prog for sure!

More on Trevor Hairsine:
There’s surprisingly little on the internet – his own website seems to be out of service, and I can’t find any interviews!
You can buy some original art on ComicArtFans 
(scroll down past all the Marvel stuff and there’s a bit of Dredd)
He gets a passing mention in this neat rundown of Judge Death covers on the mighty
...but that's about it. 

Personal favourites:
Judge Dredd: Wilderlands, Rise & Fall of Chair Man Dilbert, Lost in Americana,
No More Jimmy Deans, Get Sin

Downlode Tales: Lone Shark
Mercy Heights: (book 2 parts 1-5)
Harmony: Blood & Snow

and this brace of monsteriffic covers!

*Current creators, as well as Mr. Hairsine, include 2000AD alumni Peter Milligan, Andy Diggle and Dougie Braithwaite. I haven’t read any of this in a while, but there are at least two characters in there who are more or less combos of Rogue Trooper & Universal Soldier…