Friday, October 19, 2018

No. 121 Mike Collins

First Prog: 372
Latest Prog: 2086

First Meg: 331
Latest Meg: 388

Total appearances: 75
-spread across both writing and art, but not including his stint on the Daily Dredd strip

Creator credits:

American Gothic

Other art credits:
Judge Dredd
Rogue Trooper
Hondo-City Justice
Anderson, Psi Division
Future Shocks

Writing credits:
Future Shocks

Words by Mike Collins; Art by Simon Harrison (who needs to drink more pina coladas)
Collins sending himself up (and using that most beloved of 1980s literary punchlines, Jeffrey Archer)
Art by Simon Jacob
Notable character creations:

Notable characteristics:
Lightness of touch as an artist, and lightness of tone as a writer. Mike Collins comes across as an all-around fun guy. 

Words by Alan Hebden; Art by Mike Collins

Hard to put my finger on exactly what it is about his art, but it’s kinda super-hero-y. Something in the dynamic posing of the characters, the extreme emoting and such. Or maybe it’s my bias because I know Collins has drawn plenty of super-hero comics!

Slaine is, arguably, a super-hero with the power to turn into a berserker...
Words by Pat Mills

Let's not have the debate about whether or not Judge Dredd is a superhero.
Let's just enjoy a manly chest-exposed pose.
Words by John Wagner

Also, he's drawn a surprising number of animals, especially the toothy, clawy kind. I wonder if it's because he's prepared to tackle this, something many artists shy away from. Not like you can get a ton of life-drawing experience of wolves and bears attacking you!

On Mike:
Although Mike Collins has had a long and fruitful association with 2000AD, he’s rather unusual in that the Prog has never, to my knowledge, been his main outlet of comics creativity. He’s had long associations with Marvel UK, DC in the US and even more so with Doctor Who comics. I guess for a while in the mid 80s he was getting close to being a 2000AD regular - but then he kind of disappeared from the Prog, returning every now and then across the decades, and still appears to this day. Frankly, Tharg needs him more than he needs Tharg, if you get my meaning!

One early Future Shock aside…

Silky smooth inks by Mark Farmer; dig that subtle hint of polychromy in the eyes on the right-hand panel!
Words by Alan Hebden

…Collins launched into 2000AD on no less a character than Slaine, teamed with inker Mark Farmer for a memorable if tangential adventure that was a riff on the 12 Labours of Hercules.


Slaine takes on the stand-in for the Nemean Lion

At that time I was only an occasional Prog reader, leafing through my big brother’s copies and only reading stories that hooked me in, art-wise. Which mostly meant reading strips drawn by Belardinelli and Ezquerra, and, as it happens, this Slaine series, but not the one to follow drawn by Glenn Fabry.**

Bored Slaine; haughty Nest; disgusting Ukko - all present and correct!
Words by Pat Mills

As with all the best Slaine work, it’s earthy and fleshy and even a little bit ugly. Collins has heaps of fun gurning his way through various facial expressions on the trio of Slaine, Ukko and Nest, who all take turns being haughty, smug and disgusted in equal measure.

Taking your heroes down a peg or two the slapstick way - tripping over a branch and falling into mud.
Words by Pat Mills

For some reason a sequence that stuck with me especially was the evil Hobby Hoss. Mills dipping into a bit of English folklore there – and indeed the Spoils of Annwn story is kind of Welsh.

The Hobby Hoss as a child in disguise...

...the true Hoss revealed!
I'll be honest, the panel on the left isn't the best-drawn thing, but the panel on the right sure makes up for it by delivering the sinister goods.
Words by Pat Mills.
For the next 100 Progs or so, Collins popped up as an occasional artist on Dredd, but actually more often as a writer of Future Shocks. Mostly funny ones, rather than horrific or shocking ones. There’s a vast imagination on show, and also one steeped in British genre offerings of the Douglas Adams variety, ie clever and funny, but also a little bit slice-of-life, even in the most outlandish contexts.

Proper silly SciFi, brought vividly to life here by Chris Weston.

You were expecting maybe the secrets of the Universe?
Art by Dave D'Antiquis

Collins on Collins! And yes, you can bet that punchline came before the story attached...

For his first Judge Dredd effort, Collins was given a super-hero riff. Not just me that associates him with that kind of art, then! In the way of superhero comics, Collins mixes up the occasional hyper-detailed portrait with some panels that are much looser, the better to highlight the action. It’s worth noting that it’s him alone on art duties, rather unusually.

Compare the lush greytones on the close-up with the cartoon basics on the bottom middle.
Conveying tone through art style!
Words by John Wagner and Alan Grant
Bringing the old ultraviolence, in the first of two "my hand!" panels from Collins...
Words by Wagner and Grant
 Alongside a hit of Rogue Trooper role-playing,

Classic hero posing right there.
Words by Pat Mills

and a special on Anderson, for some wolf-fighting action,

Classical action choreography
Words by Alan Grant
further Dredd work followed…

Gotta admire an artist willing to draw a crowd scene peopled with so many individuals!
Words by Wagner and Grant
Collins pencils covered by paint from Pete Venters, a classic example of a sure hand on storytelling giving a young new artist the chance to shine.
Words by Alan Grant

…but then that was it for quite some years, until Tharg decided to resurrect an old classic character, the original Rogue Trooper. Collins, inked by David Roach for the most part, shared art duties with newcomer Staz Johnson. I’m pretty sure both were asked to keep the feel classic, and indeed it’s good stuff all round.


This era of Rogue, collected under the name Realpolitik, is in many ways superior to the original run – but is ultimately hampered by its very existence as nostalgia fuel. It’s kind of ‘what if Rogue Trooper was delivered with a more modern sensibility’ – but perhaps for that very reason it felt like no one had as much to prove as the original team.

That said, Collins impressed enough to earn his first, and, to date, only original series for 2000AD: American Gothic. A classic Ian Edginton experiment, it’s a short story testing the limits of what counts as ‘Sci-fi/Fantasy adventure’. In this case, vampires in the old west. Where the lead IS the vampire, and he’s the good guy – kind of. More earthiness in the way of that early Slaine work, and again more chances to show people pulling faces – but sadly this one-and-done story never really caught fire.

This is just plain great comics right here - sets the scene both tonally and geographically,
and quickly establishes character archetypes.
Words by Ian Edginton

Collins' inks are actually rather good, if noticeably thicker than, say, Mark Farmer.
But it's perfect for this sort of old-fashioned, grimy type of tale.
Words by Ian Edginton
Yes, it's the other 'my hand' sequence!
Words by Ian Edginton
Over in the Megazine, Collins had a go on Hondo City Justice, this time partnered with Cliff Robinson, and as with the best Hondo stories, he was able to go to town on some of the more outrageous story beats. It’s cartoonish, to be sure, but also pretty gross in all the right ways.

Scanners-style vein-throbbing gore!
Scream by Robbie Morrison

Collins is always a reliable renderer of explosions, giving space for the thing that's actually exploding
as well as the fire-y gas ball.
Words by Robbie Morrison
I suspect the highest profile work Collins has had for Tharg came during one of the longest-running Dredd mega-epics, Tour of Duty. Art duties were shared out by many, but Collins earned a hefty chunk in the middle, mostly focussed on Dredd’s pursuit of a particularly malicious mutant named Snake…

Spot the bad guy. Clue - he's called Snake.
Words by John Wagner

For me, Collins’s Dredd is very much a man of action, and although he has a bullying streak, he’s more of a hero, albeit one who does a lot of grimacing. Collin’s likes to put his heroes front and centre, bursting out of the page wherever possible.

One of those comics-only tricks - chucking in a big face of your hero to remind the reader who's in charge!
Words by John Wagner

Gotta get in the best angles to show of Dredd's chin.
Words by John Wagner
Collins has resurfaced in more recent times on a 3riller, once again a super-heroish tale of teens with powers. It is both super-charming and also another reminder of why straight(ish) superheroics don’t quite fit into 2000AD – at least, not for longer stories. It’s actually one of the more fun 3rillers, which can skew pretty dour.

How scary can something be when it's made of of lovely little crystal light thingies?
Words by Eddie Robson

Super-hero fantasy escapism writ large!
Words by Eddie Robson

Most recently, Collins has resumed his role as a reliable co-artist, sharing duties on Anderson, Psi Division, in between episodes by old inking pal David Roach. It’s not fair to compare the two as their styles are radically different; where Roach makes a big splash with his incredible details and portraiture, Collins delivers straight-up action storytelling and classic comics.

Perhaps a fitting place to end is on Collins’s Tharg tale from Prog 1977 – one of those periodical histories of 2000AD from Tharg’s point of view. It neatly shows off his classic sensibilities coupled with a refined look that he’s honed in the decades since his first 2000AD work.

Supremely confident inking, combining a retro feel with his more modern style. That's a great Tharg pic at the end there.
Words by Matt Smith (one assumes)
More on Mike Collins:
Welp, yet another great British artist very much under-served by t'internet. Which is to say, I can't find any online interviews or websites devoted to him, beyond his Wikipedia entry.

Massively intrigued to learn that he produced the first ever Welsh-language graphic novel, a version of the Mabinogion (and, I suppose, a link to his Slaine outing).

Words by Alan Grant

Personal favourites:
Slaine: Spoils of Annwn
Judge Dredd: Four Horsemen; Fairly Hyperman; Gorilla/z; Tour of Duty; Sex, Vi & Vidslugs
Hondo City Justice
Future Shocks: the Godfish; the Jigsaw Man
Tharg the Mighty

*OK, so he’s an X-Man and not even slightly a 2000AD character. But he’s exceptionally notable, and I feel that not enough people know that it’s Mike Collins who drew the first issues the character appeared in, and indeed designed the crazy peacockish look for the character that has stuck ever since.

**Corking though it may be to look at now, it just felt off-puttingly grown up to my 8-year-old eyes.

Friday, October 5, 2018

King Carlos - Hero of Heroes

One of the main motivations for me producing this blog is to help fill the internet with pictures that show off the creative genius that infuses 2000AD. The loss of Carlos Ezquerra this week is just about the greatest blow the comic could receive - he's been a mainstay of the Prog from the very beginning, and his worked has graced the interiors and covers every single one of 2000AD's 41 years, not to mention most of the Megazine's 28 years. I don't have any insights or analysis to add, just the hope that there's still some new work yet to hit the printers.

And, of course, a ton of pictures to show off the breadth and depth of Ezquerra's almighty brush, as channeled through 2000AD, StarLord and the Judge Dredd Megazine...