RIP Brett Ewins

Very sad to hear the news today that Brett Ewins has died after a short illness. He was a master of his art and a huge influence in British comics in the 80’s and 90’s. Starting out with Brendan McCarthy and Pete Milligan he bought the sharpness of the ska movement into comics, slowly working his way up from one-off Future Shock stories in 2000AD to full-on national treasure status in the comic’s first golden age.

Judge Dredd, Bad Company, Rogue Trooper, Judge Anderson, Johnny Nemo and more, he made a huge impression on me as a kid. As the 80’s ended he co-founded the music and comics magazine, Deadline with Steve Dillon and they launched Tank Girl into the world among many others. I’m pretty sure I draw skulls the way I do because of Brett’s depiction of them as biochips in the Rogue Trooper stories. I remember copying at least one of his characters in a graffiti piece I did in my teens and also being shit-scared of a particular character he and Brendan McCarthy drew for a story called ‘The Day of the Phoenix’.

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The one page ‘Encounter’ from a very early issue of 2000AD freaked me out as an 8 year old, mostly because of the leering face of the creature about to do something unspeakable to the human who had just teleported into its world. Back in 2011 Air Pirate Press published ‘The Art of Brett Ewins’, a collection of a lot of his best work from the start of his career up until that time. It’s an excellent book and came as a timely reminder of Brett’s achievements as he’d disappeared from the scene amid rumours of health issues. The book is even more important now that he is now longer with us and nestled inside was the ‘Phoenix’ page which triggered a deep nostalgia in me. I made some inquiries and got a message to Brett asking if he still had the page and was it for sale? Luckily he did and it was, so one summer afternoon I found myself visiting him in his West London home, looking through various classic Dredd stories and chatting about his career. He still had the table that he and Brendan used to sit at and draw on when they were first starting out and he told me he loved listening to Brian Eno when he drew.

He was very humble about his own work and forthcoming with answers to the many questions I had about it. I bought the page although, unfortunately, most of the lettering had fallen off over time (it was drawn in 1978). Brett said that it was around somewhere and that he’d find it and send it to me although that wasn’t to be. Just a few months later there was a news story that he had been arrested and sectioned after an incident outside that very house late one night and soon after he was imprisoned for stabbing a policeman. He had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and served several months in jail before being released in late 2012. Since then he had been under psychiatric care and even made a few appearances at comic events as many rallied round him to offer support. I feel very lucky to have met him for the hour I was at his house, he certainly won’t be forgotten.

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I urge you to buy a copy ofThe Art of Brett Ewins’ to see how much great work this man gave to the comic world, Titan have also recently released a Johnny Nemo compendium collecting all the old strips and adding new work by artists like Rufus Dayglo, Ashley Wood and more. Air Pirate Press have collections of his Bad Company work and the US series, Skeemer. 2000AD have various Dredd collections available with Brett’s work in them but I don’t know the exact volumes that feature him. Lastly here’s some rarely seen early work that he did for a British poster company in the late 70’s, these are hard to find now but sometimes crop up on eBay.

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Judge Dredd – The Mega Collection

So, say for instance, you’ve heard of Judge Dredd, maybe you saw the Dredd film on DVD a year or so ago, you’ve read the odd graphic novel or seen high praise for certain stories kicking around the internet? Maybe you’ve read a few from the Top Ten Essential Dredd epics lists that periodically do the rounds on the web but want more? Where do you start with 38 years worth of stories, characters and continuity? Here is where, The Mega Collection: a fortnightly series of hardback story collections of the essential must-read tales spanning 80+ volumes (I read somewhere but can’t find now).

Starting with the classic tale of ‘America’ written by Dredd co-creator John Wagner and painted by Colin MacNeil at the incentive-inducing price of £1.99 it’s a no-brainer of a purchase if you’ve never read it. I can confirm that it’s a bonafide classic all right, centering around the subject of ‘democracy’ in Dredd’s world although it’s an odd choice to start the collection with. Maybe it sets the tone more than anything else and is a hard-hitting jump into how the Judges meter out ‘justice’ in the future?.
After the first issue the price jumps up to £9.99 per issue but there are subscriptions available with all sorts of free gifts and a free issue as well. Another incentive is that the complete collection will display this scene across the spines once finished. If you’re still not convinced then here’s a review of the first issue from the Everything Comes Back To 2000AD blog. This post reads back a bit like an advert unfortunately but it’s a perfect jumping in point and, for the same price of a vinyl 12″, a hardback collection every two weeks is a very good deal indeed.

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2000ad Free Comic Book Day cover

2000ad free 2015Pretty great line up for this year’s free comic, it’s been years since Kevin O’Neill graced the pages of the Prog (not getting my hopes up, it could be a reprint). The great Henry Flint on the art again, that’s the third year running, not sure Dredd should be firing inside the shop like that? Speaking of which – Henry returns to Dredd later this year with a follow up to the excellent Titan story that was running this time last year.

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Interview with ‘Future Shock’ doc director Paul Goodwin

(Quick disclaimer to avoid confusion: ‘Future Shock’ – the documentary about 2000AD – is completely unconnected to my own ‘Future Shock’ DJ mix sets. This is a happy coincidence but both stem, in part, from the short one-off tales in the comic called…‘Future Shocks’. I can see that it might get confusing as I’m now interviewing the director but it’s a small world and great minds think alike and all that. With that cleared up, let’s get to the interview which I conducted for the Front Row Reviews website.

I run into Paul Goodwin – director of ‘Future Shock! The story of 2000AD’ – outside the green room where I’m due to interview him at the BFI. We’ve never met but I recognised him from the many photos he’s posted on the Future Shock documentary blog, enviably posing with various legendary comic creators, looking like a kid in a sweet shop. Like any nerds of a similar age with a common love of a subject it’s easy to break the ice and I’m eager to find out what drove him and producers Sean Hogan and Helen Mullane to make a documentary about the Galaxy’s Greatest comic, the wonderful weekly dose of Thrill Power that is 2000AD.

(Paul with legendary artist Brian Bolland and producer Helen Mullane)

What made you think 2000AD was a good subject for a documentary, what sparked the idea?

Paul Goodwin: Like all good things it started in the pub! Sean and I go way back and we’d been talking about working together on a serious project for a while.  We were both 2000AD fans in our wayward youth and I just said, you know, it’s crazy that someone hadn’t done this yet, and it’d be something that I’d drop everything to go and see!  Sean immediately said he’d help make it happen if he could.  He suggested bringing Helen on board and once we hooked up and Helen agreed to co-produce it became a real thing.

How old are you and when did you start reading 2000AD?

I’m 40.  I picked up the odd random prog in the late 70’s when I was really young (for those of you not familiar with 2000AD ‘speak’ – prog = program i.e. issue). There was a huge choice of British comics at that time, but I never saved those or anything.  Years later, the first stuff I actually remember reading was the Judge Child Quest, which a school friend showed to me.  I specifically remember Fink & Mean Machine from the Angel gang, and trying to understand why Dredd had such enormous boots!

I just chewed up all the old progs like immediately, the Titan volumes and those Eagle collections (80’s reprints of older strips collected together before the term ‘graphic novel’ had even been invented), mostly bought from Forbidden Planet on Denmark Street or the little shop up Paradise Alley, remember that guy?.

Alas that was before my time, I lived outside of London and would come up at weekends but I definitely went to the Denmark St Forbidden Planet and remember the cramped little space before it moved.


Progs were like 20p or something.  Then I started buying it weekly from prog 500, which was the first jump-on prog that came my way.  So my era of buying it regularly featured the John Hicklenton Nemesis, ‘Oz’ (Judge Dredd story involving skysurfer Marlon Shakespear aka Chopper), Bad Company and Slaine the King, stuff like that.

Real golden era stuff :)

Basically I think there’s a real lack of decent behind the scenes material for the comics world, and I had always felt that 2000AD had inspired so many and influenced so much over the years that I really felt that the comic needed to be recognised for its impact.  So that’s what we did, hopefully..!

Are the others involved in the production (Sean, Helen etc.) big 2000AD / comics fans too or did you have to bring them up to speed?

Yup, we’re all 2000AD readers, Squaxx I guess you’d say (more 2000AD speak – ‘friends of Tharg, the comic’s alien editor).  Naturally we’ve all read the classic ‘golden era’ strips, but the variation in our ages meant we had all read it ‘full time’ at different points.  So actually there’s quite a fun spread of our favourite characters and strips.  This is very much a passion project for all of us.

Were 2000AD on board from the start and did they help with contacts or were you completely independent?

We are completely independent of Rebellion, who own the comic today.  We did, however go and meet Matt Smith (current editor) and Jason Kingsley (owner of Rebellion) before we had shot a frame, it was crucial that we had their blessing to use their artwork, otherwise this would’ve been a very difficult story to tell.  Like one of those shitty music docs about Zeppelin or whatever and they can’t play any of the band’s actual music!  So Matt & Jason were very cool, laid back about the whole thing and thankfully gave us their blessing – further to that, Matt has really helped us out by sourcing high res artwork of some of the more tricky to get hold of stuff.  Plus of course they appear in the doc!


How did you plan to fit 37 years into 105 minutes?

Ha ha yeah, that’s a funny question. Well, I figured there’s the basic chronological story of the creation of the comic, then I wrote questions that I thought would make interesting discussions and then it kind of expanded outwards from there.  From the outset we knew it was vital to get an interview with Pat Mills in the can (veteran writer who helped start the comic and still writes for it today) – no Pat, no doc. Thankfully Pat is a real gentleman, he welcomed us into his home for an entire day and gave us so much fantastic material that we left there knowing we had the spine of a very cool story!  So then we chose creators that best represented the various eras of the comic and proceeded to tour the country, the world in fact, sitting down and chatting with some of the world’s finest comic book talent.  It’s been a pure joy to be honest.  And we do actually have almost 37 years of footage backed up for special features!

Was there anyone who you couldn’t get or who refused to be filmed that you felt would have given a unique perspective on the comic?

Yes, it’s a shame that Alan Moore is not involved, being one of the most celebrated of 2000AD’s creators.  We asked, and he politely declined to be interviewed, so that was that.  It seems that Alan, along with a few other people would rather discuss their current projects, which I completely understand and accept.  It’s a shame that some voices are missing from the conversation but in my opinion the documentary itself doesn’t suffer for it too badly.

What did you think of the new Dredd movie and do you think that it helped interest in the project?

I enjoyed Dredd very much!  I love the way they resisted having Dredd deliver some James Bond shitty line after he pushes Ma Ma off the ledge and instead just says “yeah”.  That felt very 2000AD.  And I think what’s great about it is that no matter how you judge a film’s success, what you’re left with there is a cool, hard little film that will last forever to engage & inspire people long into the future.

As far as helping us in the production of ‘Future Shock‘, the film has now become an important chapter in the 2000AD story, so we have covered it as such.  It seems that right now there are a fair few 2000AD projects being discussed, a potential Dredd sequel is always in the news, not least the celebrated period the comic itself is having and doing well in the US now, as well as our film so yeah I think it’s a good time to be involved in it all.  It feels good, like there’s a real buzz around 2000AD right now!

Will there be some sort of DVD or Blu-Ray with extras that didn’t fit in at some point?

I hope so!  There was a 3hr40 work print at one stage of the edit!  We interviewed over 40 people for the doc ranging from 30 mins to a few hours each.  There is TONS of stuff man, and if I was a fan waiting for this doc to be released, I’d want to see all those interviews too!  We are looking for distributors right now so I hope that we can get all that stuff out to the hardcore fans one day.

So finally, some fun, personal questions for you: who are your favourite writer / artist / characters from the comic? You can choose more than one if it’s too hard a choice :)

Agh!  That’s a killer…

As a writer surely John Wagner‘s contribution to the world of comics is second to none.  The sheer amount of crazy ideas, sci-fi prescience, comedy and deep political satire in Dredd alone represents a staggeringly high quality body of work.  Also I personally think that Peter Milligan is one of the most underrated comic writers, it was a joy to interview him.

I agree, Wagner’s high turnover and hit rate are incredible and few can write Dredd’s dialogue like he can, something I think they got pretty spot on in the film version.

Artist?  Hm, I’d probably say Steve Dillon drew my favourite Dredd, with that crazy jawline!  I love artists that can communicate story with very few lines, and for me Cam Kennedy & Mike McMahon are masters of that kind of simplicity.

As for the strips, I really love Slaine for a couple of reasons: firstly because I used to skip over it before I realised how fantastic it was!  I couldn’t get with the whole Conan thing or the magic or any of that stuff at all and then I actually read one, and it was brilliant, and of course I had to go back and raid my own back issues because they were so addictive!  I love Pat’s crazy battle cursing, “I’ll bathe my axe in your blood” and all that stuff.  And of course Mike McMahon‘s art on the ‘Sky Chariots’ story is breathtaking – that one page with the ships in formation and the eagle bringing a fish to the nest in the foreground.  Genius.

But, Nemesis the Warlock is the one that has remained my favourite over the years.  Totally unique, I have never read or seen anything like it.  Pat Mills is just letting it all go with that book.  It’s brutal and disgusting, epic, violent, funny and just fucking cool all at the same time.  All the artists that drew Nemesis over the years needed to have such a bizarre unique style to make it work, but of them all I do think that Kevin O’Neill is one of the most important comic artists of all time.  The designs for the characters and that world of Termight are unbelievable, where does it all come from?!  Just brilliant, brilliant stuff. Credo!

I agree on that one too, there’s no one like Kevin out there and Pat has created so many memorable characters over the years as well as helping start the comic obviously. Well, I’m really looking forward to the premiere and, as a fan of the comic for 35+ years it’s clear that it’s in absolutely safe hands here.


Review of the UK premiere

I saw the film last night (after having refused a preview before the interview above as I didn’t want to spoil the occasion) and all I can say is that my suspicions were correct, Paul and his team were absolutely the people for the job. They managed to fit a huge number of creators and history into the film and yet cover a lot of ground in a very entertaining way.

Pat Mills is the binding element which, along with John Wagner and Alan Grant, is how it should be being that they where there at the start and are still writing for the comic today. The comics industry in the UK in the 70’s is covered and the scene set, the troubles that beset them all gone into, the ‘dark years’ of the 90’s and the saving of the publication when Rebellion stepped in to buy them are touched on too. They don’t pull punches and it definitely isn’t all a love-fest, the original Dredd movie is given short thrift as are the copyists who have ripped off characters wholesale.

One of the highlights of the film is Mills railing against ex-editor Dave Bishop, who readily admits his failures in a smart bit of tit for tat editing. There are many glimpses behind the scenes of what went on, how rights were bandied about with little renumeration and creators seen as just grist for the mill. All this is wrapped up in glorious artwork to remind you of exactly why the comic is such a British institution and the rock and synth-heavy soundtrack is perfect to underscore the whole thing. A few creators are conspicuous by their absence – Alan Moore refused to speak (no surprise there) as did Mike McMahon and, despite several instances of their artwork there was little mention of Ian Gibson, Ron Smith, Simon Bisley, Massimo Belardinelli, Brett Ewins or Steve Dillion.

But considering they had to fit three and a half decades into 1hr 45 minutes they did a wonderful job and the abiding message that came across is that 2000AD is a very British institution that once kicked against the status quo and has now become a part of popular culture. Tellingly Mills reveals that the nearest role model at the time was the French anthology Metal Hurlant and that he has always been loath to see the comic as a stepping stone to America. The Q&A afterwards with director Paul, producers Sean and Helen alongside Mills and Kevin O’Neill was further illuminating and I left happy that the legacy of the comic had been faithfully and entertainingly laid out for both fans and newbies alike.

The next showing is at the Leeds Thought Bubble Festival on November 15th where they’ll have a Q&A afterwards too. Follow their Future Shock blog here.

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Mike McMahon Judge Dredd Cursed Earth commission

These are the pencils for a Judge Dredd commission I’ve been waiting on for between 18 months and 2 years from one of the greats – Mike McMahon.

I asked for a full-on Cursed Earth scene, basically a recreation of either the cover or inside spread of Prog 61, the first issue of 2000ad I ever bought and he’s knocked it out the park.

I’ve enhanced the pencils in Photoshop here as Mick uses a very light grade – you can see the original plus many more commissions both penciled and inked on his excellent tugging your coat blog.

Now to wait for the inked version…

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2000ad Prog 1900

Big ‘jumping on’ issue out today from 2000ad and another milestone reached at Prog (short from programme) 1900. This is to entice new readers to get on board, all new stories begin and to make it even easier for newbies they’ve released a free 97 page pdf featuring primer stories for the characters in the latest issue. Sure enough Dredd swallows half of it but it’s all good material and you can’t complain when it’s free.

I see so many people coming back to this comic after leaving it and after 37 years of weekly issues they’ve got to be doing something right – roll on Prog 2000. I also chuckled at the cover of the recent sister publication the Judge Dredd Megazine which arrived the same week as the Scottish Independence vote – classic Dredd from Glenn Fabry. Actually for all the great press 2000ad gets ‘the Meg’ is actually firing on all cylinders at the moment and well worth a look too.

 

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Future Shock! The Story of 2000AD Teaser


Weirdly another thing with ‘Future Shock’ as a title, must be something in the air – although my mix title takes from both 2000ad and an early 70’s documentary. But anyway, I’ve been meaning to post this for ages but got sidetracked. Someone is finally attempting to tell the story of 2000ad in proper documentary form and they’re really going all out to do it.
So far I think they’ve spoken to anyone and everyone who’s ever been within walking distance of the comic in the last 37 years. Check the trailer above, read the production blog, it will be screening at Beyond Fest and Fantastic Fest in the US in the coming months but there’s no news of a UK premiere yet.

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Kevin O’Neill ‘Twisted Times’ original art

Check out this original Kevin O’Neill painting from the cover of the ‘Twisted Times’ collection – short Future Shock stories by Alan Moore from his old 2000ad days. This is on sale now from Artdroids if you have the hefty £6k that Rufus wants for it and underneath is the original book cover it was used for. “if I was a rich man, la la la la la etc”…

Posted in 2000ad, Art, Comics, Originals. | 1 Comment |

2000ad 2014 graphic novel schedule

Plenty of goodness lined up for 2014 from 2000ad and related publications, but first, out Wednesday is their end of year 100 page issue (or Prog should I say) which is fantastic. They’ve also just released their publishing schedule for the next year including this tasty tomb which is worth buying just for the Henry Flint Deadlock 13-parter alone. It features some of his best artwork IMO, some of which I’m lucky enough to own originals of, can you spot all the visual references to the other Warriors in the artwork?

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Beyond 2000ad magazine

Straight outta Ireland, from Hibernia is the new Comic Archive magazine: Beyond 2000ad by David MacDonald. This 68 page colur and B&W issue is a treasure trove of info and unseen / lost / forgotten art from 2000ad-related creators, lovingly assembled by David with interviews from many involved in the comic over the years. Here’s a list of contents:

Interviews, featuring contributions from Nick Landau, Dez Skinn, Pat Mills, John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra, Kelvin Gosnell, Doug Church, Colin Wyatt, Richard Burton and David Bishop.
It also reprints rare and never-before-seen artwork from Glenn Fabry, Ian Gibson, and Massimo Belardinelli, with cover art from Carlos Ezquerra.
FEATURING:
• A history of Starlord and Tornado.
• An extensive look at 2000AD’s publishing history in the USA.
• The complete Scatha, including an eighth episode that never saw print.
• A history of the Daily Star Dredd strip.
• Interviews with 2000AD art editors, Doug Church and Colin Wyatt.
• Censored art from the final episodes of “Inferno”, reprinted here for the first time.
• Unseen Ian Gibson art for “Mekomania”.

Those in the know who recognise the names there will be dribbling by now I suspect and the magazine delivers.

Buy it in digital form for £2.50 or physical (recommended) for £6.

Also of interest is the previous Comic Archive: ‘ONE EYED JACK AND THE DEATH OF VALIANT’ which has interviews with John Wagner, John Cooper, Janet Shepheard, Kevin O’Neill, and contributions from Kelvin Gosnell, Dave Hunt and more. Articles include; the relationship between One Eyed Jack and Judge Dredd, John Wagners tenure as editor on Valiant, the new strips he introduced and the craft of Art Editors in relation to the look and logo design of Valiant, 2000ad and much more.

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Jason and Jim at Tribal Gathering

Steve Cook put these photos up last week on his Secret Oranges blog. Above is Jim Murray and below, Jason Brashill, taken at Tribal Gathering in ’97. Both were then working for 2000ad on various projects, with Jim eventually finishing off vol.2 of the Batman/Judge Dredd team-up ‘Die Laughing’ after Glenn Fabry couldn’t commit to it. He then went off to work in the computer games industry but has just put out a gorgeous book with Robbie Morrison called ‘Drowntown’ which is the first of several apparently. Jason followed a similar path but not before he’d painted one of my favourite sleeves for The Herbaliser in the shape of ‘Wall Crawling Giant Insect Breaks’, which I commissioned from him after seeing his work with graffiti artists She One and Req 1 as part of their Brighton crew, The Dusty Knights.

Henry Flint at the San Diego Comic Convention 2013

News hot off the press concerning 2000ad’s line up for SDCC 2013 – the biggest comic book convention in the world: “We are pleased to announce that our very special guest for the event will be Judge Dredd artist Henry Flint, who is drawing the hotly-anticipated comic book sequel to last year’s DREDD movie. He will be signing and sketching at the booth throughout the weekend.

Earthlets should visit Booth #2806 for exclusive limited edition comic art posters by Flint, as well as limited-edition Judge Dredd and Zenith T-shirts!”

Now, that’s good news, Henry finally making a star appearance overseas and being confirmed as the artist on the Dredd sequel comic too! Also check out his stunning cover to one of the stories of the year in 2012 – ‘Trifecta’. The triple-plot whammy that unveiled without warning last year in the pages of 2000ad to massive acclaim. It’s finally collected into one volume with this great *EDIT -LENTICULAR* cover. (Animated gif, stolen from the Everything Comes Back To 2000ad site – check them out, well recommended)


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Ninjas featured in new Judge Dredd Megazine story

Well, this was unexpected! Reading the latest Judge Dredd Megazine (issue 336, out today) with my kids the other day and I open it to find my name splattered on the wall of Mega City 1! Not only am I now immortalised as a minor gang (now sadly defunct) in the tangled history of the Meg but a certain Matt Black (Coldcut) and PC (DJ Food) get a mention as street names in the left hand panel too.

The story is a spin off in the world of Dredd for disgraced ex-Chief Judge Dan Francisco who has been demoted back to street duty after the events that led to the recent Day of Chaos story. Francisco – a Judge who had the rare distinction of being a prime time TV star whose popularity led to him being elected Chief Judge – is investigating multiple murders of The Kev Gang in this scene. It’s a humorous aside but a chance for the writer, Arthur Wyatt, to use my name as the basis for the gang’s rules of entry. Artist Paul Marshall drew the strip and it’s featured in the monthly Megazine which is out today.

Posted in 2000ad, Comics, DJ Food. | 6 Comments |