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…

1 comment:

  1. The Get Sin pages are Hairsine under Barry Kitson inks, I think. Which explains the Bolland.

    Hairsine's art on Skulls (1836) featured inking much closer to his own aesthetic.