Brian Lewis

Until recently I knew very little of Brian Lewis’ work, but the handful of pages I did know are etched in my brain as some of my first ever sci-fi comic experiences.

In 1978 I was in a newsagents and spied a comic called 2000ad, it was into its second year and the issue was no. 61. On the cover was their most popular character, Judge Dredd, roaring towards you on his bike, guns blazing. Lucky for me I’d stumbled upon the very issue that the comic decided to begin the first ever ‘epic’ in Dredd’s world – ‘The Cursed Earth’ – now, quite rightly, considered a classic. Opening the cover however, the first strip I was confronted with was an updated take on the old Eagle character Dan Dare. More so than the front cover, the page set fireworks off in my eight year old brain as a spaceship happened upon a huge space monster, the likes of which I’d never seen before. The detail was incredible, every tiny pore of the beast and panel of the ship was rendered meticulously. I’d only read ‘humour’ comics and some of the UK Star Wars weeklies up until then and I couldn’t believe this kind of art existed in a kids comic. I was sold and asked my mum if she could buy it, showing her how amazing it was (to me – I doubt she liked it very much). I loved this comic so much, I even took it to school and showed everyone who would listen how amazing I thought it was, it was ragged and ripped in a very short time but I still have it in a box somewhere.

Around the same time, issue No.1 of Starburst magazine arrived, a new monthly title concentrating on sci-fi in the movies, heavily capitalising on the previous year’s Star Wars fever and sporting an eye-catching wrapround cover of said film. Being mad on SW I picked it up, inside it was very text heavy, which, for an eight year old, was a bit of a no-no but the cover was so beautiful I had to have it. This time I pestered my dad (who was a much harder sell than my mum) and finally got a copy after a number of attempts. On the inside cover was a weird little one page strip where an astronaut is wandering about outside his ship in space, he hears a rumble and flees back inside, desperate to make it as quick as possible. The last panel sees him hooked up to a toilet in his suit, relieved to be relieving himself. Juvenile, sure, but beautifully drawn (and written) – by Brian Lewis.

A recent urge to revisit this issue (long since binned or given away) had me hunting around on eBay and a few days later it popped through the letter box. Most of the magazine was as fresh in my mind as when I’d read it years before, the cover still as great, Darth looking a little tired and droopy-mouthed in this rendition. Then I noticed the signature on it, L E W I S, my god, he did the front cover as well! You’d never know this from comparing the two, one being black and white line work, the other being fully painted colour using photos as reference. Doing some research online I found that he was one of the old school and had been in his prime in the 60’s and 70’s drawing Gerry Anderson comics and later Hammer House of Horror strips and covers for Dez Skinn. He’d also contributed a couple of covers to 2000ad as well as a three part Dan Dare story – you guessed it – the one I saw when I first opened the first issue I bought! How I’d never linked this with the Starburst one-pager I’ll never know but the similarities are obvious now.

Sadly, at the same time I was experiencing these revelations, Brian’s time was almost up and this was some of the last work he did, he passed away in 1979. There are a few pockets of information on him around the net but he’s not remembered as widely as the younger artists who were just starting out when 2000ad was the new comic on the block. He was very much the old school passing over the baton to the new, fresh-faced upstarts like Mike McMahon, Brian Bolland and Dave Gibbons. To me his style is very British, very considered, not overly flash but hyper detailed. Even though I only know a few pieces of his work I’m sure they will stay with me forever.

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