Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Lowlife: Creation Part Five: All The Joy I See Through These Architect's Eyes

The parting of the waters from Lowlife: Creation Part 5
I was quite pleased with this until I started researching this post
Lowlife © 2009 Rebellion Developments/2000AD
Lowlife created by Rob Williams and Henry Flint

Working on Lowlife, with its Mega-City One setting freed from the presence of Judge Dredd, I found myself thinking about the city and its place in the Dredd/2000AD franchise. And it occurred to me that, really, the city is the actual star of Judge Dredd. I mean, Dredd himself is a man of limited attributes and predictable reactions. His value is giving us a fixed point, a window through which to explore the endless fountain of new phenomena that is the Mega-City. It's the Mega-City that powers Judge Dredd, and Judge Dredd that has powered 2000AD for the last 30 years. It's no coincidence that 2000AD's spin-off is called The Megazine.

And it begins with Carlos Sanchez Ezquerra.

in 1977, Ezquerra is brought in by commissioning editor Pat Mills and writer John Wagner to produce concept art and a pilot episode for a future cop story for the planned new comic 2000AD. Called Judge Dredd, the concept was essentially Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry set in 1990's New York. Ezquerra drew a far more futuristic setting for the pilot strip, Mills decided to go with it, and Mega-City One was born.*
*The Judge Dredd Story, The Judge Dredd Annual 1981, page 10, and David Bishop, Thrill Power Overload: Thirty Years of 2000AD, page 22.

Now at this point, I want to make sure that I'm clear about what I'm claiming. I'm not simply saying "Carlos Ezquerra invented Mega-City One." Judge Dredd and his world are the work of many hands, and even at the early planning stages many different people made important contributions. Mills recognized the potential in Carlos' drawings and carried the concepts forward. Doug Church introduced the notion of a vast "Mega-City" to Pat Mills after reading about the idea in Life magazine.*
*Thrill Power Overload: Thirty Years of 2000AD, page 23.

Mega-City One as we know it was developed by a number of writers and artists. Pat Mills helped to define Mega-City history and wider geography in The Cursed Earth, and John Wagner (often in collaboration with Alan Grant) shaped the city and introduced most of its key features and landmarks in a series of stories from about prog 110 onwards. In particular, they shifted the city from a 1950's-model where citizens lived a life of leisure served by robots, to a mass-unemployment scenario that parodied Thatcher's Britain of the early 1980's.
Nevertheless, Carlos Ezquerra planted the seed from which all of this grew.

Ironically, Ezquerra left the strip over the decision to give newcomer Mike McMahon the first published episode. I'd like to look at the artists who helped to define the look of the city during the years he was away; his return to Dredd with The Apocalypse War in Prog 245 is a useful stopping point.

I'm not going to try and talk about all the artists who drew Dredd in this period, just the ones who made contributions to the design of the Mega-City. This leads to some interesting omissions; for example, Brian Bolland, who is one of the all-time great Dredd artists, won't be discussed here as his talents lay in the direction of figure drawing and character expression rather than city design and world building.

Carlos Ezquerra

Carlos Ezquerra's seminal Mega-City pin-up from Prog 3
Judge Dredd © 2009 Rebellion Developments/2000AD
Judge Dredd created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra

The co-creator of Judge Dredd (with writer John Wagner), Ezquerra came to 2000AD from sister publication Battle, where he'd been drawing WWII strips such as Major Easy. His dynamic drawing style, with its gritty rendering, along with his organic-looking "bubbly" future architecture, suggests a certain influence from French comics maestro Jean "Moebius" Giraud, and though I can't say for certain, it is fair to say that his work has a great deal in common with other Moebius-influenced European artists including Enki Bilal, Philipe Caza and Juan Giminez. Ezquerra was certainly the first to bring particular style to British comics.
It's hard these days to realize the impact that Ezquerra's designs had at the time. Though his Judge Dredd pilot strip was never published, the last page (a full-page view across the city) was used as a back-cover of Prog 3. I remember seeing this aged about eleven and it absolutely blew my mind. The sense of scale, the strangeness of the designs, the feeling of the future as a gritty, exotic place formed by unguessable processes, all of this generated an excitement I've rarely felt from comics or any other medium. Along with Italian Massimo Bellardinelli, Ezquerra dragged 2000AD away from the comfortable visual tropes of the 1950's and, importantly, gave it a signature visual style that distinguished it from the blocky, industrial designs of the recently-released Star Wars. That one page set a visual and imaginative standard for later creators to aspire to; ironically, as a leftover page from a rejected strip, it may be the most important piece of work Ezquerra ever did, and in its influence it may make him one of the most important artists in British comics in the last 30 years.

Mick (formerly Mike) McMahon

Left: a slightly primitive Ezquerra-style Hall of Justice from an early McMahon Dredd.
Right: a more developed "McMahon organic" style from
The Day The Law Died.
Judge Dredd © 2009 Rebellion Developments/2000AD
Judge Dredd created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra

Possibly the pre-eminent Judge Dredd artist, McMahon came up with the "big chin, big boots" look that defines the character to this day. He also had an aptitude for drawing the Mega-City environment, so his Dredd strips were notable for their inventive, richly detailed urban scenes and cityscapes. Of all the artists working on Dredd during its early years, McMahon is the one most responsible for carrying forward the distinctive environmental design ethic initiated by Carlos Ezquerra, and his city design - particularly his pepper-pot-shaped City Blocks - has become the "standard model" for later Dredd artists.

Classic late McMahon "pepperpot" cityblocks from The Judge Dredd Annual 1982.
Judge Dredd © 2009 Rebellion Developments/2000AD
Judge Dredd created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra

McMahon's drawing style changed radically from year to year, so there are technically several versions of "his" Mega-city one. But I think it is possible, broadly, to talk about McMahon's Mega-City as follows: his earliest strips were strongly influenced by Carlos Ezquerra, and while McMahon's own drawing style begins asserting itself from Prog 12 (his first contribution to the Robot War storyline), his Mega-City architecture retains a certain amount of the Ezquerra "organic" look up to his final contributions to The Day The Law Died (Judge Cal).

Mid-Period McMahon from Judge Dredd Year 3
Judge Dredd © 2009 Rebellion Developments/2000AD
Judge Dredd created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra

After that story, possibly as a result of a stint alternating with Kevin O'Neill on Ro-Busters, McMahon's Mega-City tends slowly to become more rectilinear, as does his art style. In his last episodes of Dredd* (the first two episodes of Block Mania), even McMahon's signature curvaceous "pepper-pot" City Blocks give a sense of being bolted together out of metal or concrete plates in a recognizable fashion - the earlier Ezquerra-style architecture just seems to have somehow grown out of the ground.
It's worth repeating that in terms of his influence on Dredd, McMahon is second only to Carlos Ezquerra. He rebuilt the character and his world so thoroughly that both his contemporaries and the generations of artists subsequent have followed his lead - even Carlos Ezquerra changed the way he drew Dredd when he returned to the character. As his entry in Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files states: "...his importance to the comic (2000AD) cannot be overstated."
For further examples of McMahon's world-building (including better examples of his more rectilinear design), check out his work on Ro-Busters and The A.B.C. Warriors.

*When I say "last episodes", I mean that McMahon's tenure as a regular Dredd artist ceased after Block Mania. He has drawn a few episodes since, but a combination of dramatic changes to his art style and his apparent lack of interest in the character mean that these later episodes have been much less popular with the 2000AD readership. However, his long-term influence on the development of both Dredd and the Mega-City cannot be overestimated.

Ian Gibson

An amazingly detailed Gibson cityscape from The Robot Wars.
Judge Dredd © 2009 Rebellion Developments/2000AD
Judge Dredd created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra

Now remembered mostly as artist on Robo-Hunter and 2000AD all-time high-point The Ballad Of Halo Jones, Ian Gibson was one of the most prolific of the early Dredd artists - he provided nearly half of all the Judge Dredd episodes between Progs 14 and 55 (20 out of 41 episodes*). Gibson's city design is distinctive and difficult to describe - his work has none of the Ezquerra "organic" look, but instead uses complex angles, multiple levels and a proliferation of detail to create rich and exciting future environments. His clean, elegant drawing is balanced by a lively, "bouncy" inking style that lends life to even inanimate objects (making him a perfect choice to draw robotic characters in Judge Dredd and later Robo-Hunter).
Gibson's work was a perfect compliment to McMahon's and from Prog 22 they alternated on Dredd, confirming the strip as the most visually exciting in 2000AD and setting a standard for the other strips to follow. This was the point where Dredd's popularity began to take off, so I think it's fair to say that Gibson was instrumental in helping establish Dredd as the stand-out strip in 2000AD.
If you want to see the very best of Ian Gibson's world-building though, I thoroughly recommend the first series of Robo-Hunter, where he really lets rip on the robot world of Verdus.
Ian Gibson continues to contribute occasional Dredd episodes to this day, making him the second longest-serving artist on the strip, after Carlos Ezquerra.

*total count and Prog numbers obtained by counting episodes in Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files volume one. I'm prepared to stand corrected.

Ron Smith

Ron Smith's beautifully-rendered frontispiece to the Judge Dredd Annual 1981, with typical "tower block" style cityblocks.
Judge Dredd © 2009 Rebellion Developments/2000AD
Judge Dredd created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra

An interesting one, this; Ron Smith is a veteran comic artist whose career goes back to the 1940's, and his city design is typical of the whole "future as the present with fins tacked on" approach that normally feels so dull and unimaginative in the Judge Dredd universe. Working against the revisionist vision of Future technology supplied by Ezquerra and McMahon, Smith's Mega-City is filled with Cityblocks that are 1970's skyscrapers on steroids; his citizens wear 20th Century suits with kneepads strapped on over the top; his cars are like 1950's automobiles with extra wheels (or none at all). Where the other Dredd artists show us an exotic future filled with strange sights, Smith's future parodies the world we know.
What makes it all work is the sheer exuberance with which Smith approaches his subject matter; where fellow comics veterans John Cooper and Barry Mitchell are obviously a bit out of their depth in the complex environment of The Big Meg, Smith dives in with gusto, piling on the detail to an extraordinary degree. That's why he's included here; although he's not really part of the new 2000AD future vision, he's created his own "evolutionary branch" of Mega-City design that's well worth a look.
Smith's drawing style is lively and energetic, and the streets of his Mega-City one seethe with activity in the way a big city should. His technological designs are a little old-fashioned looking, favouring 1950's-style details such as chrome headlights, metallic trims and fins, but are nevertheless imaginative, beautifully crafted and lovingly rendered. He's also a bit of a magpie; everything from Chris Foss concept designs to American supehero costumes are borrowed to add to the mix. Yet despite the complexity of his drawings, the storytelling is always clear. It's an astonishing technical feat.
What makes this all the more amazing is that Smith was also one of the most prolific Judge Dredd artists ever; for example, between his first appearance in 2000AD in Prog 104 and the start of The Apocalypse War (Prog 245) he drew just over half of all Dredd episodes (72 out of 140*). He also drew the Judge Dredd newspaper strip in The Daily Star. The sheer volume of his work means that he contributed many key episodes to Dredd's history (Cityblock 1-3, The Day The Law Died, The Judge Child, The Blood Of Satanus, Otto Sump and Chopper (Unamerican Graffiti) spring to mind).
Unfortunately, because of his rather retro approach, Smith has left little in the way of a lasting legacy in the world of Dredd, beyond individual characters (Otto Sump probably being the most frequently referenced). His work was shamefully under-represented in the old Titan Books Dredd reprints, though the new Complete Judge Dredd Case Files from Rebellion are finally making his work accessible to a new generation of readers.
*calculated by counting episodes listed in Smith's Wikipedia entry, 2nd April 2009.

Colin Wilson

Clean lines and European style: Colin Wilson's Judge Dredd
Judge Dredd © 2009 Rebellion Developments/2000AD
Judge Dredd created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra

Though he worked on a relatively small number of Judge Dredd episodes in the period in question, Colin Wilson made a big impression. Also a devotee of French comics master Jean "Moebius" Giraud, Wilson took inspiration from the precise brushwork of Giraud's Blueberry western series.

A dab hand at the old perspective, our Colin.

Judge Dredd © 2009 Rebellion Developments/2000AD
Judge Dredd created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra

His technological styling is post-Star Wars, possibly borrowing to some extent from Jodorowsky and Moebius' Incal Saga). The result was a striking and believable Mega-City, drawn in a precise, clean style that nevertheless implied plenty of grit and grime.

Wilson balances clean linework with a dramatic use of silhouettes
Judge Dredd © 2009 Rebellion Developments/2000AD
Judge Dredd created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra

It's also well worth checking out Wilson's Rogue Trooper strips from the same period - in terms of envrionment design, these are, I think, stronger than the Dredds. Wilson went on to work in the French market, including working on several Young Blueberry Westerns, before returning to 2000AD with Rain Dogs and more Dredd in the late 1990's. There was a compendium of these later stories issued along with The Megazine a couple of months ago.

Steve Dillon

Dillon's double page spread of Orlok the assassin spreading Block Mania remains one of my favourite ever Dredd spreads.
Judge Dredd © 2009 Rebellion Developments/2000AD
Judge Dredd created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra

Now better known for his work with Garth Ennis on Preacher, Steve Dillon came to Dredd following runs on SF strips such as Absolom Daak: Dalek Killer for Dr. Who Weekly and Laser Eraser and Pressbutton for Warrior magazine. A superb natural draughtsman who can turn his hand to just about anything, Dillon was careful to include definitive Mega-City details in his strips, such as Ezquerra's looped overhead roadways and McMahon's late-period "pepperpot" Cityblocks. His own future design shows a gritty post-Star Wars influence, and is convincingly realised. Dillon is important because his approach - of taking the wilder flights of Mega-City architecture and toning them down to fit a more conventional style of design while maintaining an integrated futuristic feel - has become one of the more popular approaches over the last twenty years or so, followed by artists as diverse as Colin McNeill and Paul Marshall.

Full Circle

Following Carlos Ezquerra's tour-de-force return to Judge Dredd with the twenty-five part Apocalypse War epic, the wheel had come full circle regarding Mega-City design. Writers John Wagner and Alan Grant had established the city as the urban Hell we know and love today, and a range of artistic models for Mega-City One had been tried. In short, all the big stuff had been invented, and for subsequent artists it was not so much a case of starting from scratch as picking an existing approach to work from.

Many artists have worked on Judge Dredd since, far too many for me to even do highlights, but the current generation of practitioners contain what, in my opinion, are two of the most exciting "city builders" of the last 20 years:
(Note: when I relate these guys to Ezquerra or McMahon, I'm identifying them with a style of design, not saying that they're copying that particular artist. As an example, I'd describe my own work as "post-Ezquerra" in this context)

Henry Flint

A typically magnificent cityscape from Henry Flint.
Judge Dredd © 2009 Rebellion Developments/2000AD
Judge Dredd created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra

Following in the grand tradition of Mike McMahon, Flint's future design also shows a certain hyper-detailed Kev O'Neill influence, tempered by a sensibility all his own. His renderings of cityscapes and urban spaces are superb, with dramatic compositions and a terrific understanding of perspective and lighting. One of the few 2000AD artists whose work recreates the thrills of my childhood progs. His terrific Mega-City is to be found in Judge Dredd and early episodes of Lowlife, though for his greatest world-building efforts, try Shakara!

Dave Taylor

Who's the daddy? Spreads like this are the reason I rate Dave Taylor as the best current Mega-City artist.
Judge Dredd © 2009 Rebellion Developments/2000AD
Judge Dredd created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra

Dave Taylor's Mega-City is another country; they do things differently there. He's taken the post-Ezquerra "bubbly" look and pushed it to its logical conclusion, then added a dash of William Gibson super-technology and some magic all his own. Delineated in clear line and lovely subtle European-style colouring, Taylor's Mega-City is an organic-looking techno-purgatory with streets full of bizarre citizens and weird phenomena, mapped out in bold compositions and cinematic lighting. His is the first version of the Mega-City to give me that same thrill of strangeness that I got from the original Ezquerra Dredd back in the 1970's.

The swine can even make back alleys look interesting.
Judge Dredd © 2009 Rebellion Developments/2000AD
Judge Dredd created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra

You won't be surprised to hear that Dave's my current favourite designer of the Mega-City; every time I see his stuff I'm torn between outright admiration and utter jealousy that I can't come up with anything that cool.

(And with that, I'm stopping. This article isn't so much finished as abandoned; it was way more work than I expected, and despite omitting so much, it's eating into my working time and I've got to let sanity prevail. All I can say is, if there's an artist I've missed who you feel deserves recognition here, please leave a tribute to them in the comments.)


Anonymous said...
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PJ Holden said...

A couple of things:

1) This makes me look at my own work with shame. (And a consequent urge to pick up my game)

2) Please finish this!

3) You should really pitch the entire blog post to Matt - THIS is the kind of feature I'd love to see in the Megazine.


Mangamax said...

Wow. That was great stuff indeed. And, like PJ says, deserves to be put into print.
Agree totally with your views on Dave Taylor's version of the Meg - i've a page from his Anderson strip that i got mainly for a panel of the gal herself, but the detail on the background buildings in the self-same panel just blew me away.

Rob Williams said...

Great post, Matt. Makes you appreciate the level of talent.

Richard said...

Seconding the above comments (though I'm not sure I can entirely agree with liwo) this deserves to be published as a scholarly resource. It's terrific.

Rufus Dayglo said...

Matt...Great article..To echo PJs sentiment..I'd love to see you expand these in print..You're so eloquent..

the new Low Life is stunning...Dang yer eyes... ;-)

Pete Wells said...

Your Low Life work is amazing sir! I adore your work as you can always see the love and effort that's gone into every panel. The same can be said about your blog, it's wonderful, thank you!

Jim Campbell said...

A determined, learned and thoroughly splendid essay on a subject that I have mulled over many times.

Superb work, Matt.

I must, however, highlight the omission of Cam Kennedy, who picks up the McMahon baton on a transfer from Rogue Trooper at a time when Dredd was being swamped under a sea of constipated Bolland clones and runs with it.

For me, Kennedy's MC-1 is distinct enough from McMahon's to be worthy of mention, and has always made the city live and breathe in a way few other artists have even approached.



Kerrin said...

A wonderful essay Matt. I would echo the sentiments of those before me and say, finish it and get it in the meg young man. Cam Kennedy and possibly John Higgins also deserve inclusion. Cam for the reasons Jim gives above and John for depicting the city on an epic scale and reinvigorating the wow factor of a MC1 cityscape.
Congratulations on Lowlife sir, looks like you had fun drawing it. Beautiful stuff.

Cheers Kerrin.

Matt Badham said...

I agree with Rufus and PJ. Pitch it, Matt. Pitch it.

Craig Grannell said...

Like others, I totally agree that THIS is the kind of text feature the Meg should be doing, rather than unimaginative and largely irrelevant movie reviews. I'd love to see this over six pages, with full-quality artwork (and *ahem* the inclusion of Cam Kennedy).

mike kinsella said...

Hi Matt,
That was an excellent and thoroughly researched article that (as others have rightly said) deserves a wider audience through print.

It is amazing to see the evolution of the city artist by artist. I think theres another artist that also could be included here-yourself.

Good to see you back blogging-your insights into comic creation and its history is always an entertaining and enjoyable read!
Best wishes with Lowlife.

Rob Davis said...

Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes. Great piece you've written here, Matt. I'd go a tad further on McMahon's Mega City, because he made the fashions of the people reflect the style of the city, a complete world, and as i said in a much shorter piece on my own blog - what's a city without people?

Also I came to the same conclusion, namely that Dave Taylor has taken the whole thing to a different level. Dave's stuff just makes me glad I'm not having to draw Dredd at the same time. Frightening.

I recently saw a Dredd strip in 2k that had virtually no backgrounds whatsoever. I felt cheated.

As you say, the city is the star. Anyone who wants to draw Mega City should realise the company they're keeping and rise to the occasion, something I feel you have done!

Low Life has given Mega City a kind of texture and weathered quality, the buildings seem to cower and hunch up against the rain. Great stuff!

Rob Davis said...

And just to echo what everyone else is saying, you should turn this into a complete article and pitch it to the Megazine. Fascinating stuff.

Ooh! The word verification is "headbut". Ha!

Unknown said...

A real pleasure reading that, Matt. Took me back to my childhood, when I pored over every pit of Dredd I could lay my hands on, and then educated me on all the good work that I'm not familiar with.

I have to agree with you and Rob, Dave's work is just mind-blowing, that spread is stunning.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to echo the rest of the above comments. I've always enjoyed your blog because it comments on comics less in terms of storyline and more about the craft of drawing comics. You would make a great contribution to the Meg with these articles. The present article about Megacity design is fantastic, but so were your articles about Breccia and your bittersweet commentary on the passing of Toth. My bother and I use the term "Alex Toth Syndrome" because of you.

You have a talent for writing so do us all a favor and make use of it.


Reuben said...

Good to see Ron Smith getting some attention here, he must be the most under rated Dredd artist ever.

Mikey said...

Fantastic piece most of which I agree with though I don't think Steve Dillon really contributed anything to the architecture of MegaCity lasting enough to be listed alongside McMahon and Ezquerra? To me anyway his stuff seemed mostly generic kinda empty roadways and corridors not out of place with his Doctor Who stuff, that's not too say I didn't love his art but that his Meg never seemed to have a life to it like it did in the work of the other artists listed?

I'd definitely stick Cam Kennedy in there and I'd like to nominate Brendan McCarthy whose influence I see in Dave Taylor's stunning Dredd. Mcarthy's Meg oozed with fantastic design and exuded a kinda sleazy rundown well worn future.

Pretty much all of the artists who best rendered the Meg's architecture included the masses of it's citizens/denizens in emphasising it's mass nature (except Dillon IMO). That's why I'd still include Ron Smith whose Meg never really looked like the city Ezquerra and McMahon built but by christ could he draw teeming crowds and levels upon level of traffic!

It's only thanks to the recent collections that I can appreciate Smith, who I didn't much like first time around as a sadly underrated terrific Dredd artist who populated the Meg like no other artist and had a deft touch of lne and lighting that really doesn't exist anymore thanks to computer colouring.


Derek Wisdom said...

What a wonderful post! I can imagine this is a tremendous amount of work, but let me join in the chant of hoping you will have the time and inclination to do more of this.

Let me also chime in with Mikey by saying Brendan McCarthy should be represented. His architecture like everything he did was distinct and fascinating. Mixing the synthetic and the organic, he could present something stark and psychedelic in the same panel. This comes across especially often in the way he'd design interiors; his furniture for instance was marvelous, alongside chaotic wall decorations, and all his brilliant costume flourishes. The way he was able to synthesize McMahon alongside Kirby and Ditko by way of Peter Max, mixed with his own musicality was genuinely radical.

Church said...

Wow. Nicely done.

I was getting progs while growing up in eighties New England, b/c my comics store guy was reselling the ones he ordered for himself. Esquerra was always my favorite, with Bolland a close second (despite that they are so different in technique.)

I lost track of it after I moved away, so please continue.

Matt Badham said...

Heard a rumour (via 2000 AD Review) that there's an interview with Ron Smith in a forthcoming issue of the Judge Dredd Megazine.

By the way, Matt, any chance of you giving us your thoughts on the world-building that went into other 2000 AD strips? I'd love to read your insights into Ace Trucking Co and the various iterations of Slaine.

Stephen said...

Great article, many thanks. I'd echo those who call for Cam Kennedy to be included - if only for Midnight Surfer, Sunday Night Fever and The Warlord, all of which show the working fabric of the city in such an intimate way that you feel like you actually live there - Grud help you.

While agreeing with Smith's contribution is to MC-1 is its inhabitants, I wonder if it's also helpful to separate the fixed architecture of the city from the street furniture and vehicles. Wilson, for example, filled the city with the most magnificent vehicles, rooms and techno doo-dads, but his actual blocks and streets aren't so memorable.

I think Ewins also did something fresh with the very distinctive block silhouettes from his relatively small number of episodes - something i see echoed in Flint's work,

Rob Davis said...

I think the first few Nemesis books and Halo Jones would be interesting to look at, but, like Ace Trucking, they were essentially developed one artist rather than an ever changing rota.

Slaine is an interesting one, but for a lot of us the interest stopped the moment Mike McMahon stopped drawing it. What followed depressed the hell out of me at the time, but in the spirit of open mindedness I'd like to see someone do a reappraisal of Slaine like the overview Matt has just done of Mega City.

Rafiq Raja said...

Just to came to know of this wonderful article through the Forbidden Plant weblog, and so good to see an insider story from the creator pool of these wonderful rich art, as witnessed in 2000 AD Series background.

I will read the webpost completely at leisure, and will log back my comments again.

Thanks in advance, D’Israeli.


Jim Campbell said...

"Slaine is an interesting one, but for a lot of us the interest stopped the moment Mike McMahon stopped drawing it. What followed depressed the hell out of me at the time, but in the spirit of open mindedness I'd like to see someone do a reappraisal of Slaine like the overview Matt has just done of Mega City."

Slaine's an odd beast ... I have a feeling it might have ended up being a career-defining strip for poor old Belardinelli, had he not been paired up with McMahon entirely re-inventing every aspect of comic artwork!

I think it's unfair to write off post McMahon Slaine ... curiously, it does then feature another oddly mis-matched pairing ... David Pugh does some fine, fine work but he's up against Fabry throwing all his best Moebius stuff at the page.

I still believe that Fabry is a better illustrator than he is a story-teller, but that elegant debauchery, that brutal savagery that he brought to the strip was something new to many of our eyes back then and is worthy of acknowledgement.

After that, we get Bisley fresh from his triumph on ABC Warriors, showing us his Heavy Metal Frazetta and injecting a massive dose of unfamiliar influence into British comics again.

After this, we move into the wilderness years for me -- I know we had Collins, and Tappin, and Staples, but I was barely reading the title during this period!

I think it may be possible to map Slaine's artistic progression to the phases of 2000AD itself, but I confess that I bailed during the late 90s and the gap in my knowledge means that I'm certainly not the person to do it!



mrphoenix said...

Yes, this deserves to see print, Matt!

ps: The ghost of RUSS MANNING hovers over this article: Mega-City One is the red-headed stepchild of North AM, the countrywide city that is home to Magnus Robot Fighter.

pps: And hail Dave Taylor, who draws a Mega-city that actually looks like the future rather than some past-pastiche.

Matt said...

magnificent article. wonder if you've seen this in Building Design, the architecture/construction industry weekly...

paulhd said...

Brilliant article, I agree with everything everyone's said already. Perfect timing for me as I'm atempting to figure out my own version of MC1, and this is incredibly inspirational.

D.TAYLOR said...

Good grief man, what have you started?!
Many thanks for mentioning me and my attempt to draw what's in my head! Very much appreciated sir.

Fact is I couldn't do what I do without the fine folk mentioned in your post, like architectural ghosts over my shoulder. My other driving force is the fact that I've waited to draw the Big Meg most of my long life and have had a file in my brain collecting shapes and ideas all this time.

I too think this would make a fine piece for the long as some of your Meg work sees inclusion!


Anonymous said...

Brilliant article. Far to good for a Blog! I'd love to see it expanded in The Megazine. Carry on your own excellent work!

Mark Clapham said...

Great article. It had never struck me that there was so much variation in the architectural styles used by different artists on Dredd. When so many comics are overly style-guided and restrictive, it's great that artists like Flint and Taylor are given free reign to draw their own versions of the Meg.

Oh, and another vote for more of this kind of thing, preferably in the Megazine for posterity.

Sam Hart said...

Brilliant blog!

em... said...

Like several commenters above, I think Cam Kennedy deserves a mention in the history of Mega City depictions.

I've always been a huge fan of his modification of the McMahon base, which brought a kind of "termite nest" feel that I felt was very appropriate.

Anonymous said...

and now we have the Gherkin building in London which looks to me like they just traced a McMahon drawing and knocked off for the day. Great article.