Thursday, May 17, 2018

No. 113 Colin Wilson

First Prog: 207
Latest Prog: 1771 (but before that, 1263)

First Meg: 3.56 (aka 160)
Latest Meg: 286 (cover and interior strip)

Total appearances: 80

Classic Killing Norts action!
Words by Gerry Finley-Day

Creator credits:

Other art credits:
Judge Dredd
Rogue Trooper
Tor Cyan (who isn’t Rogue Trooper, honest*)
Various one offs

Notable character creations:
See, I really want to list the two female leads of Rain Dogs as ‘notable’, but I can’t remember their names…
On a technicality, Wilson was also the first to draw the Traitor General – although he’s in disguise in that story, or rather, he’s not wearing his classic ‘burned-up villain’ face quite yet.

One of these men is a Souther Traitor! But the next time we see him, under the pen of Cam Kennedy, his face has been half burned off.
Words by Gerry Finley-Day
Notable characteristics:
Grimaces. Cityscapes. Characters running, jumping and vehicle-stunting into action. Incredibly crisp, sharp and thin lines. Large blank spaces that are also filled with little tiny details. Immaculate production design and costume design.

Something about the clean whites and thin lines makes this overpass look both futuristic and run-down. It certainly draws you into the world of Mega City 1.
Words by Wagner and Grant

Nu Earth, on the other hand, is all hell all the time, the only relief from poison gas and empty wasteland being the burnt-out husks of military vehicles and bomb shrapnel.
Words by Gerry Finley-Day

Gritted teeth and general grimacing.

You can practically see Dredd squishing up his face underneath his helmet.
Words by John Wagner

On Colin:
Colin Wilson burst onto the scene as one of the first wave of new artists helping to fill gaps left by 2000AD’s ‘original artists’ (for want of a better term), who were either slowing down or being given more and more work by American competitors. Specifically, Wilson began working on Dredd just as Mike McMahon and Brian Bolland were doing their final episodes (for a long while, anyway),

The shininess of Bolland meets the dynamism of Smith - move over, there's a new art droid in town!

 and then took the baton from Dave Gibbons on Rogue Trooper.

Dunno what those robotic pointers do, but I bet it's nasty.
Of course, this tactic didn’t work out too well for Tharg, as Wilson himself moved out of British comics all too rapidly** (he was a bit good, after all), after being a steady fixture for a mere hundred Progs. And that was the end of that – until incoming Tharg Andy Diggle headhunted him to come back to the Prog twenty years later, for a much longer stint.***

Anyway, let’s take a look at Wilson’s early work on a Future Shock...

Colin Wilson is one of the few who has drawn an honest-to-goodness 'trapped in a virtual reality prison' Future Shocks.
Words by Kelvin Gosnell (one of the first Future Shocks writers, so he's allowed!)

...before moving to the main event, his explosive pencils on Judge Dredd .


More beautiful run-down future cityscapes. This one's right out of the Katsuhiro Otomo playbook, but this is like a year before he even started on Akira. SO MANY LITTLE LINES!
Words by Wagner and Grant

The look of the man getting soused with acid has a real Euro comics feel to it, if you ask me.
Words by Wagner and Grant

Shockingly good, right? But the main things for me is that it added a layer of urban grit to Mega City One that hadn’t quite been there before, in the whacked-out future look from the really early Ezquerra images, to McMahon’s hyper-stylized architecture. I suppose you could argue that Wilson’s MC1 is almost too close to real city structures from the present day – a little more movie Dredd than comics Dredd. But in the context of the rather old-fashioned Mega Rackets cycle, that actually fit pretty well.

Wilson’s people are great too. There’s the down-at-heel look of the man visiting the body sharks, contrasted with the intense craziness of the ‘mad citizen’ who just can’t take it any more.

You can just tell all those people haven't been able to buy new coats for ages - but how does Wilson do it?
Words by Wagner and Grant
Behold the clenched fist of crazed righteousness!
Words by Wagner and Grant
But even more than on Dredd, Rogue Trooper is where Wilson really made his mark. Dave Gibbons did so much to create the world and setting of Rogue Trooper, but most of his stories took place out on the open wild of Nu Earth. Wilson had the chance to put Rogue in different contexts, including military HQs, satellites, and on tour of battlefronts.

Dig those shards of shattered glass.
Words by GF-D

Bold use of deep black shadows, wicked.
Words by GF-D

The details on that marauder outfit is exactly why I loved Star Wars figures as a child. It's just cool.
Words by GF-D
Crazy big future war guns! Secret bases with lots of little boxes and lines on them! It's cool!
Words by GF-D

Rogue proved too popular a strip to allow any one artist to do the job, so Wilson rotated with a solid team including cam Kennedy and Mike Dorey, but he felt like the series’ main artist after Gibbons left.

Specifically, tackling what you might call the ‘myth-arc’**** of Rogue Trooper, where he almost catches up with the Traitor General (Marauders being the best of that sequence), or the long-form rollercoaster of All Hell on the Dix-1 Front (although he didn’t quite manage all 12 episodes himself), an action romp that feels as if it's telling part of the wider story of the Nort-Souther war, complete with an untrustworthy female lead.

Swoopy hair to rival Alan Davis!
Words by GF-D

But it was not to last! I don’t know what happened, but I can only assume that Wilson found more profitable work at that point, and may never have been seen in these parts again…

…if it weren’t for incoming assistant editor Andy Diggle, some 15 or so years later, who set about finding this lost favourite, and putting him to work as much as he could, on Dredd, on one-off delights, on the latest version of Rogue, and even on his own all-new series, Rain Dogs.

Also, some Pulp Sci-Fi, back when Tharg was trying that thing of doing Future Shocks that weren’t required to be defined by their twist endings. I suppose the major selling point of the series was to have super SF-y Science Fiction, as in proper futuristic spaceships and such. As someone with a gift for environments and hardware, Colin Wilson was a good fit, although I have to say it struck me that leaning too much on this end of his work revealed that he’s actually much better as selling emotions with his people, even if he uses their environments to help communicate said emotions.

The spaceship design is classic Wilson, but the space setting, immersive as it is,
doesn't quite have the intensity of classic Wilson.
Words by Robbie Morrison

Always fun to see an artist tackle a character they're not normally associated with.
Wilson's Nemesis is way more Redondo than O'Neill, for both good and ill.

Phase 2 Colin Wilson has to deal with colour, at a time when digital colouring was the way to go, but at a moment in time when it hadn’t quite got really good yet.

Perhaps as a result of this, Wilson’s return to Judge Dredd didn’t have quite the same impact as those earlier efforts. The grimaces are all present and correct, but the backgrounds don’t have the same lived-in feel. Maybe it’s just that the Mega City One of this era was a shinier place, or that these stories were more about the upmarket ends of town, as opposed to the seedy parts where one might go to find an organ legger.

Keep those teeth clenched tightly, Joe!

Such an awesome angle to show flying cars chase in a future city.
Words by Robbie Morrison

More Manga by way of Euro-comics set design amazingness.
Words by Robbie Morrison

There's fun in Wilson's giant monster design, but it's not quite at the level of his technological stuff.
Words by Robbie Morrison

Grizzled men fighting smooth-skinned ladies.
Words by John Wagner

Wilson, deservedly, had a key slot in the major epic of the era, Doomsday. There’s some robot rampage action,

but, more importantly, there’s some political machinations involving Volt, Herhsey and the ever unpleasant Jura Edgar.

Hershey and Edgar, head to head. More expert use of negative space.
Words by John Wagner
Rain Dogs makes the best of a slightly washed out look, suggesting a world that is faded compared to our own. I really want Rain Dogs to be better than it is, but there’s not quite enough going on. The characters are fine, the setting is excellent, and the art sufficiently moody, but it’s all a little too by the numbers grim action movie stuff, down to the perma-scowls.

The sky is pretty key to this post-apocalyptic society.
Words by Gordon Rennie

Also crossbows.
Words by Gordon Rennie

No nonsense meet-cutes in Rain Dogs.
Words by Gordon Rennie

Tor Cyan was a definite step up in ‘nu-Wilson’ terms – perhaps he has some strange affinity for war-torn alien planets, and burnt-out super soldiers?

Gritted teeth, check. Wrinkled clothing, check. Crazy future gun, check. Washed-out landscape, check.
Still cool!
Words by John Tomlinson
Fittingly, Wilson’s last outing for the Prog was a) written by Andy Diggle, and b) a return to the world of classic Rogue Trooper, I imagine still the strip the artist is most strongly associated with in the minds of readers (even if, technically, he drew more episodes of Dredd overall. Just.)

This was some three years after he’d been a regular feature of the Prog and Meg, a little hit of nostalgia called What if Gunnar had survived the Quartz Zone Massacre? – basically, a one-off showing what early Rogue Trooper strips might’ve been like if the leads character had been a trigger-happy psycho. Wilson plays ball, combining his newer way of drawing faces with his classic black and white super detailed costume work.

Gunnar's face - meaner than Rogue.
Words by Andy Diggle
More on Colin Wilson:
There’s an interview from 2015 with Alex Fitch on Panel Borders
And a neat career overview (well, up to c.2001) from
Sadly his own website seems to be down at the moment, but it may go live again one day? 

Personal favourites:
Judge Dredd: Body Sharks; Diary of a Mad Citizen; Volt Face; The Cal Legacy; Hellbent
Rogue Trooper: All of it
Tor Cyan

*I’ve actually forgotten what the link is between Cyan, Rogue and Friday. But there definitely IS one!

**Not on American comics, though, but into the altogether classier field of European albums.

***Of course, Diggle promptly brought Wilson with him to the US when he left to write for Vertigo. See also Jock.

****An X-Files reference for you there, showing my age as a 90s kid.

Friday, May 11, 2018

No. 112 Rufus Dayglo

First Prog: 1359
Latest Prog: 2072

First Meg: 216
Latest Meg: 297

Total appearances: 81
-including his run on Tank Girl in the Megazine.

Creator credits:

Counterfeit Girl

That is some funky costume design right there.
Words by Peter Milligan

Other art credits:
Judge Dredd
Tank Girl
Bad Company
Various one-offs

Notable character creations:
Dan Francisco
Libra (or whatever the correct name is for the Counterfeit Girl…)

Notable characteristics:
Well, the man wears his influences on his sleeve, quite literally.* He’s something of a 2000AD superfan, or at least, a superfan of 2000AD art and artists, which isn’t that uncommon in creators who started working for the Prog at any point after the early 80s, but not many have curated exhibitions of the stuff!

In terms of Dayglo’s published styles, it’s Mick McMahon and Brett Ewins that shine through as his favourites. I mean, I thought I liked Ewins’ art, but my love’s got nothing on Rufus Dayglo. It is utterly appropriate, but also deeply sad, that he drew the official 2000AD memorial tribute.

But Dayglo has his own thing going, too. Pop Art. Going big. In your face. 

A little Cam Kennedy going on here, n'est-ce pas?

Attitude. Chunkiness. Embracing the artistic worth of empty space.

This, for me, is pure unfiltered Dayglo.
Words by Rob Williams
On Rufus:
Now, Pop Art is something of a dirty word** in the world of comics, since it originally applied to so-called fine artists who appropriated comics panels, either copied or redrew or them, or used them in collages, and presented them to a ‘refined’ world of art lovers who didn’t read comics and thought of them as trash. But, for all that, the likes of Roy Lichtenstein in particular added a hint of style that emphasised the heightened, fake reality of most comics, most obviously by drawing out the little coloured dots that were, once upon a time, the way that comics were printed. And, speaking for myself, I encountered this art at an age far too young to know or understand the troubling backstory, and loved it from the word go.

So, it’s with great admiration when I say that I find Dayglo’s art (on some stories more than others), has something of that style about it. He’s not afraid of his comics looking like comics, and of his characters looking like people who live in a world of comics, rather than in the real world.

The faces, the stances, the explosions, the glorious dots - it's all so COMICS.
Words by Alan Martin

One of those glorious melanges of action, sound, emotion and such that you can really only achieve in the comics medium.
Word by Peter Milligan

And boy howdy, is this ever my kind of thing!

Feast upon the giganticness of Judge Dredd’s face as he bursts out of these two covers…

Marvel as Aimee Nixon dares you to judge her self-destructive impulses…

Words by Rob Williams

Taste the blood on crazy Mac’s machete as he prepares to strike you down…

As with so many artists on this tribute blog, Dayglo’s work has markedly improved over time. I think the first time I noticed his name in the credits box was on the experimental 2005 Winter Special, in which Tharg made a point of commissioning relatively untried writers and artists. Here’s a sample of Dayglo’s work on the story Earth War.

It's raw, but it sucks you in, in a good way. War is hell!
Words by Jaspre Bark
So it reminds me a lot of VCs / Judge Child era Mick McMahon. AKA big ‘effin boots to fill! If it doesn’t quite have McMahon’s impeccable layout skills, it does, I think, capture his no-holds barred attitude putting emotions and weirdness front and centre, not trying to hide anything.

In fact, Daylgo had illustrated a Future Shock a couple of years earlier, very much the work of an artist in training, but with that bold body-language already in place:

Words by Jaspre Bark

 More McMahoniness followed this in Whatever happened to Giant, in which the original John ‘Giant’ Clay meets Judge Giant (Jr), a poignant tale set largely in a care home.***

A genuinely touching story.
Words (if you can read them through the blurry scan; sorry) by Gordon Rennie
Dayglo’s first Dredd story came not long after, and it’s a cracker, introducing no less a major character than Dan Francisco. There’s still a McMahon thing going on (and why not, if you’re tackling Judge Dredd), with maybe a hint of Cam Kennedy creeping in (again, why wouldn’t you). But, more than those influences, there’s that big, bold attitude again. The one that says, ‘yes, I will draw a MASSIVE eagle badge with a 9-letter name on it’, and that isn’t afraid to have its hero bleeding out in the foreground of a giant panel.

This time Dayglo is channeling a touch of late-period McMahon
Words by John Wagner
For his first longer run, Dayglo tackled one of the serious, Aimee Nixon focussed episodes of Low Life, the Megazine story War without Bloodshed. I relished the opportunity to wax enthusiastic about it with Eamonn Clarke on his glorious podcast, but it’s worth repeating: this story is awesome! And it’s THE vital link in the chain that gets us from the Aimee Nixon of the first Low Life strip to the Aimee Nixon of Titan.

This panel really communicates what it feels like to have Dredd getting up in your face - and he's meant to be on the same side as Nixon!
Words by Rob Williams

An emotional turning point for Aimee Nixon? The negative space, man, it's all in the negative space.
Words by Rob Williams

Having got well into the good graces of 2000AD fans, Dayglo accepted the gig of drawing all new episodes of Tank Girl for the Megazine. 

He brought with him an all-new style – multiple styles, indeed, to match the series. It’s not so much Jamie Hewlett, more classic Beano/Dandy art but tailored for adult readers. And the art is, on the whole, very good. The stories, sadly, were not. I liked the one that showed Tank Girl’s school days (which look back not just to the Beano, but also to Ronald Searle's St Trinian's cartoons and Molesworth books)

Kids rool OK
Words by Alan Martin

Is there anything more British than a church fete?
Also, that helmet may reference Terry Gilliam, but it puts me more in mind of The Dandy's own Caning Commando, 14th century schoolmaster/knight 'Whacko!'.

and there was some goofy fun in the giant Death Race 2000 / Wacky races bit

I used to get the Number 19 bus to work when I lived in Finsbury Park. Fun fact.
Words by Alan Martin
 – but frankly, the humour wasn’t even slightly of the Wagner/Grant school that we’ve perhaps got a bit too used to. OK, that's not entirely fair - this exchange between Booga and a psychiatrist is epic:

Simple but effective, and sold strongly by the layouts. Nifty.
Words by Alan Martin
Readers (or at least, a small but vocal group of online commentator readers) did not care for it (to put it mildly), and, for a time, meant that Dayglo was somewhat soured on all things 2000AD. I can’t imagine a feeling much more heartbreaking than having fans who share the same passion as you hating on a project you’ve spent months (years?) of your life on.****

It would be five long years before Daylgo returned to the Prog, with a glorious in-your-face cover, and not for the most obvious of stories…

…and then, the unexpected return of those old future war favourites, Bad Company. No Brett Ewins to draw it, so Dayglo took on his friend and mentor's role as penciller, with original inker Jim McCarthy adding the classic Bad Company touches.

Continuing series tradition, Kano has a further facial hindrance to cope with  this time having half his face - and half his brain (but which half?!?) blown off.
Words by Peter Milligan
As much as anything, First Casualties was a love letter from Milligan and especially Dayglo to their old pal Brett Ewins. And as such it’s a roaring success. There have been some (valid) complaints that the storyline here does not seem to line up at all with the events of previous books of Bad Company. But for some reason, this hasn’t bothered me. The creators managed to recapture that essence of lunacy combined with the politics and emotional cost of war that feels like Bad Company used to feel. Sure, the plot isn’t as compelling as the original, glorious run, but it’s a treat in its own right.

Those de-lovely dots again!

If I didn't know otherwise, I'd swear this was a scene right out of the first book - but it's no copy, just a perfect recreation of style and tone.

Terrorists, while once again not tying up the plot part, hews even more to the feel of the old days, partly thanks to Dayglo’s art now being splashed with the most insanely vivid colours courtesy of Dom Regan. Plus, Mac’s back! I love Mac. But it's also much more Dayglo's own thing, following Ewins's original designs but not his drawing style. Dayglo's slightly looser, almost plasticine body textures getting their due.

You feel that Kano could literally squeeze Thrax into some sort of paste here.
Words by Peter Milligan

Mac's back to save the day.
Words by Peter Milligan
I’m hoping the revived Bad Company has proved popular enough, twice now, to merit further adventures of the Old Soldiers, but you know what I really want from Dayglo? More Counterfeit Girl.

As expressed by Tharg, this series, which debuted in the almighty Prog 2000, was designed to showcase 2000AD’s commitment to new stories, as well as old favourites. For his part, Dayglo had quite the task to achieve, creating a future Britain that had familiar trappings but was also gonzo weird, and also dreaming up Libra, a character that we know we can’t trust, but also that we have to feel sympathy for. And, more than that, Dayglo had to make her get more and more ill with each passing episode, a narrative trick that could stand to be used more often in comics, it’s quite a nifty visual. (With a special mention again for colourist Dom Regan, going bold with his choices to match Dayglo's ever-bold layouts)

Barely time to pause for breath in the frantic life of a girl on the run.
Words by Peter Milligan

One way to make a protagonist more sympathetic - pit them against dastardly villains.
In this case, a Judge right out of Spitting Image (a noe-more Britihs reference point), and, for my money, channelling caricatures of both Margaret Thatcher AND Tony Blair.
Words by Peter Milligan

This is the part where I usually talk a little about what a story is actually about, and how the art builds on that. The task might be beyond me. I mena, clearly the overt text is about identity theft down to the genetic code, married to Sci-Fi staples of ‘mind-as-information’, and ‘identity as data construct in an uncaring bureaucratic world. And I guess there’s a bit of subtext about teenagers struggling to develop their own identities, in part through running away from loved ones and in part through copying other people.

But I don’t know that I really understood everything that was going on. I just know that it looked damn cool! 

You just don;t want people who travel with floating eyeballs looking for you.
Words by Peter Milligan

And I could do with more – g’wan Tharg.

More on Rufus Dayglo:
His blog
His Twitter
Talking to Molch-R about Bad Company on the Thrillcast

Personal favourites:
Judge Dredd: The Streets of Dan Francisco
Low Life: War without Bloodshed
Bad Company: Old Soldiers, Terrorists
Counterfeit Girl

Art by Cliff Robinson - but, based on those arm tattoos, Mr Dayglo himself was the artist's model...
*Rufus Dayglo has more 2000AD tattoos than you.

**Two words. You know what I mean.

***A consistently good setting for 2000AD stories, bizarrely.

****For my money, the major sin of this Tank Girl run was that it went on too long – if it had had like 5 separate 3-4 month stints it might’ve gone down a lot better. That said, it just wasn’t weird or funny enough, and I can’t put my finger on why.