Matt Cowan’s handle on DeviantArt is “Matt Can’t Draw”, which isn’t necessarily true. Sure, he is more of a designer, a conceptual artist, than a straight-up “drawer.” His latest series, “Sounds Like,” is possibly a thinly veiled dig at the lack of imagination of Hollywood casting departments. Or is it just an excuse to draw his favorite characters together?
In any case, check them out below. And if you harbor some irrational prejudice against DeviantArt, Cowan’s work is also posted to his Tumblr.
Badgers, those humble burrowing mammals, are big news right now here in the United Kingdom, where there’s a controversial cull going on in the southwest of England in an attempt to curb bovine tuberculosis in cattle herds. While other areas like Wales and Northern Ireland trial expensive attempts at vaccinating badgers, England is employing teams of marksmen to shoot the cute little buggers. I’m from a rural area where the local economy depends on dairy and beef production, so I know exactly where I stand on this subject. Not wanting to sound too heartless here, but it costs £600 to vaccinate a badger, while a bullet costs a few pence. And I do like a nice rib-eye steak washed down with a glass of milk.
Oddly enough, badgers seem to be having something of a moment in comics and pop culture these days, too: There’s Brock Blueheart in Fables, and Archie LeBrock in Bryan Talbot’s ongoing Grandville series, for starters. Depending on who you ask, the badger in book two of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was either Bill from the (90-plus years old, and still ongoing) newspaper strip Rupert the Bear or Mr. Badger from Kenneth Grahame’s classic children’s novel The Wind in the Willows. Grahame’s Mr. Badger is being reimagined in Dave Elliot and Barnaby Bagenda’s “Weirding Willows” in A1 as Victor Stoker. The gossip service Popbitch has its ongoing Baboon vs Badger debate (and recently posed the question to Bryan Talbot, with obvious results).
Readers of 2000AD already know the writer Gordon Rennie as a go-to guy for comic strips expertly merging the fields of action adventure, the supernatural and horror. He’s the man who brought us “Necronauts,” “Caballistics Inc.” and “Absalom,” all strips that gleefully cross genres, and share something of a Wold Newton-ian outlook. “Necronauts” was the strip that introduced many of us to the work of Frazer Irving, and told the tale of a team-up of sorts between Charles Fort, Harry Houdini, Arthur Conan Doyle and H.P. Lovecraft. The much-missed “Caballistics Inc.” featured a team of supernatural investigators forced to migrate from the civil service to the private sector, and featured casual references suggesting it shared a universe with Doctor Who, Quatermass and 2000AD’s own “Zenith.” “Absalom” was an indirect spinoff of “Caballistics Inc.,” fusing classic cop-show DNA into the mix. At one point, Inspector Harry Absalom lists Jack Regan of The Sweeney as an old colleague.
Rennie worked with artist Paul “PJ” Holden on the 2000AD strip “The 86ers,” which, while set in the world of Rogue Trooper, still managed to have allusions to Lovecraft lurking in its backstory. You may well know Holden’s work from the critically acclaimed Numbercruncher, being published by Titan Comics. Others will know him as one of the men who essentially invented digital comics as we’ve come to know them, working on comics that could be distributed as apps way back in 2008 (as well as being the first to run afoul of Apple’s censorious streak then, too). He also occasionally finds the time to be one of the trio of presenters of that most uproarious and vulgar of all comics webcasts, Sunnyside Comics.
Their upcoming comic together at Renegade Arts, Department of Monsterology, shares a lot of influences with these predecessors, while being notably less dark and cynical than Rennie’s work for 2000AD. There’s a great five-page prequel at USA Today that goes a long way to revealing the tone of the first issue: While the debut features pitched battles against Lovecraftian undersea creatures and Chinese vampires, the more playful emphasis reminds me of the Indiana Jones movies. Like Indy, the cast members of DoM are ostensibly academics who just happen to find themselves in the unlikeliest of high-stakes adventures, all in the name of science. We spoke to Rennie and Holden to ask them about Department of Monsterology, its influences, and their hopes for its future.
I came across my new favorite Tumblr via Richard McAuliffe’s Everything Comes Back To 2000AD blog: Dreddheads, wherein Owen Watts (of such UK small press anthologies as Dr WTF and The Psychedelic Journal of Time Travel) regularly posts caricatures dressed in uniform as Mega City One judges, taking his design cues from the 2012 movie version. Sure, your affection for the site will vary based on your knowledge of British comedy, with assorted satirists and sitcom characters prominently featured, but there’s plenty of examples familiar to an international audience. Clint Eastwood, whose Dirty Harry Callahan is often cited as a key influence upon Dredd, finds himself included; as does Carlos Ezquerra, the Spanish co-creator of the futuristic lawman.
Remember the sound that resonated around the world on July 24? The unison gurrrr-klap! noise made by thousands of readers groaning and slapping their foreheads simultaneously, accompanying the release of Constantine #5, and the eponymous warlock usurping the powers of Shazam? Yeah, you’re bound to. That earth-shaking racket was the first thing I thought of when I saw this the other day at Sean Phillips’ blog, drawn for the 1995 UKCAC convention booklet.
We’ve been taking an active interest in James Jean’s post-comics career in fine art, covering the multiple-Eisner winner’s exhibition Parallel Lives at New York City’s Jack Tilton Gallery in January, and featuring the innovative e-book created from that show’s catalog in June. However, a worrying interview with Juxtapoz magazine designed to publicize the show makes it clear Jean’s head was in a very negative place, preoccupied with the details of a messy and painful divorce that was on the verge of leaving him bankrupt and at the end of his tether.
Jean’s response to the situation appears to have been to disappear for a while, but he’s reemerged in Asia, seemingly never being too specific about his location, and posting this message via his Instagram account:
Those newfangled social networks have been heaving with all manner of Breaking Bad-related nonsense over the past few days, and I’ve been trying to avoid all of it, for fear of spoilers. I did, however, come across this in my RSS feed and chuckle. It’s by mash-up king PJ McQuade (we’ve featured his Wolverine/Quint and his Walking Dead/Star Wars pieces recently), and it is so tonally pitch-perfect that I had to share it — my qualms that it’s maybe not really comics-related faded as I remembered that Star Wars has existed as a comic for essentially as long as it has as a movie franchise. So there.
Anyway, ladies and gentlemen: Darth Heisenberg. He’s available as a print (and as a vinyl sticker) from McQuade’s Etsy shop.
I still don’t know if this is a real thing, or if he’s gone completely unilateral on this, but I didn’t have a problem when Chris Weston recently declared it was “Kurt Russell Week.” In fact, I have Elvis playing on a loop constantly on the TV in my Winnebago. Yeah, that would be the same trailer with the Death Proof skull and lightning bolts stenciled on the side.
Weston seems similarly enamored with America’s Greatest Living Libertarian©, having designed a triptych of posters paying tribute to three of Russell’s iconic roles (“They’re a private commission for a collective of film poster fans,” he adds). Weston describes these pieces as “roughs,” a term which usually causes paroxysmic laughter among his peers. Or weeping.
Duncan Fegredo has been known to post all kinds of process art on Twitter while he’s been working on various Hellboy projects: thumbnails, layouts, sketches, pencils, inks, gray washes (and sometimes he compiles them at Storify). Knowing that he’s a serial documentarian of every stage of an image, I asked if there were any previous stages to his variant cover for Kick-Ass 3 #2. This cover is the first fruits of Fegredo’s partnership with Mark Millar, as they gear up to creating their new series MPH for Image Comics. Of course, Fegredo answered my question with a virtual folder full of art, showing just how much work the artist (and his editor, and his colorist) put into producing one iconic image.
Fegredo: “Amidst much ongoing talk of MPH, Mark asked if I could turn around a Kick-Ass 3 variant by the end of what was already a short week. This was whilst I was finishing the last few Hellboy: The Midnight Circus pages, so not the best timing! The brief could not have been briefer, “It should feature Kick Ass!” was pretty much it. So here’s my initial and only sketch, Kick-Ass playing with action figures of himself and a bad guy. Kick-Ass literally playing with himself if I need make it any plainer!”
If you’re in the United Kingdom and subscribe to the print edition of 2000AD, you’ve already read the first installment of “The Book of Scars,” the opening chapter of the storyline celebrating the 30th anniversary of Slaine, the Celtic hero who was the magazine’s first foray into the fantasy genre, and who quickly became one of its key recurring characters. In its time, the strip has teamed writer/creator Pat Mills with some of the most influential artists ever to work for 2000AD, and many are returning to provide sequences of art for this celebratory storyline.
The first part quickly establishes how Slaine is being bounced around through his own timeline, with the strip’s current artist ending the six-pager with a tribute to the art of the late Massimo Belardinelli, who worked on many of the character’s early arcs. As Slaine lands in key moments from other storylines, the art for those sequences will be handled by the original artists from those eras: Glenn Fabry is returning to draw some “Time Killer”-set pages, Simon Bisley is drawing a return to “The Horned God” period, and the great Mick McMahon is revisiting the “Sky Chariots” adventure.
We do love a good GIF here at Robot 6. I could make all sorts of bold claims for the format, like it’s one of the first great digital native art forms. I could quote the nerds at the Oxford American Dictionaries who, after making it their 2012 word of the year, announced “the GIF has evolved from a medium for pop-cultural memes into a tool with serious applications including research and journalism, and its lexical identity is transforming to keep pace.” Or I could just point you to the Tumblr blog of the pseudonymous GIF creator ABVH, clearly someone who loves comics.
In the last few weeks he’s posted animated versions of images by Kevin O’Neill and Yale Stewart, but the clear winner is this unsettling adaptation of Jock’s instant-classic cover to Detective Comics #880.
I’ve been a fan of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion since I first heard the late radio DJ and tastemaker John Peel play “Cowboy” from the LP Orange. It sounded amazing, like Exile On Main St.-era Stones being deconstructed by a bunch of punks raised on Elvis and Captain Beefheart. Due to the miraculous powers of the Internet, I can even tell you that this was on Friday, Nov. 18, 1994. I remember turning the radio up, and grabbing a pen and paper to make a note of who this was, and probably had to wait while Peel played several other tunes before he put a name to it. This was a regular occurrence, I don’t think I ever made it through a Peel show without the same thing happening once or twice a night, right up until the man’s death in 2004. Every now and then I might still find a notebook with a list of band names or song titles somewhere in it.
The JSBX is currently on tour, and approached Alex Fugazi’s Texas design powerhouse Nakatomi Inc to produce a gig poster for its July 18 concert in Williamsburg, Brooklyn Fugazi engaged Deadline Magazine/Bulletproof Coffin artist Shaky Kane, who produced this glorious work of pop art.
Loath as I am to go back to the well that is Dave Johnson’s social-media output so soon again after last week, he’s been celebrating reaching 10,000 followers on Twitter by sharing art from an undeveloped Micronauts animated television series, and it’s pretty special work.
Of course, anyone producing any sort of Micronauts license these days does so without the characters originated for the 1979 Marvel comic, which is why that line-up above doesn’t feature Bug or Marionette. The Bug role went to a new character called Dit-Dat (third from left, the most Ben 10-ish looking design there). The solution to losing Princess Mari was to make the Time Traveler female.
There’s always a steady flow of new art to be seen at Chris Ryall’s Tumblr. The editor-in-chief of IDW Publishing recently saw a Jack Kirby tribute by Brendan McCarthy accompanying a ROBOT 6 story about soaring sales of the Dredd DVD, and contacted the legednary 2000AD artist to secure the use of that image, and to commission a series of covers in the style of other Silver Age greats. These will run as cover images — variants, I’d guess — for issues 13 to 16 of IDW’s ongoing Judge Dredd series:
Even before Vertigo was Vertigo, it had a distinct policy of signing great cover artists for the long haul for ongoing titles. I fondly remember Dave McKean on The Sandman and Hellblazer, Simon Bisley on Doom Patrol, Brian Bolland on Animal Man and Brendan McCarthy on Shade, the Changing Man. This is a policy that has continued on to the present day: Yuko Shimizu has produced amazing covers for The Unwritten since its debut; king of the good girl artists Adam Hughes has been providing Fairest with the best work of his career so far; and Fables had a long outstanding run by James Jean, before he ceded the job to Joao Ruas. As much as I love the work of J.H. Williams III, it was seeing McKean’s cover for The Sandman: Overture #1 that made the project feel real.
In terms of total commitment to a book, however, no one can match Dave Johnson on 100 Bullets. He drew covers to all 100 issues, shifting styles for each story arc. He drew the covers to all 13 trade paperbacks, and now he’s providing the ones for the eight-issue sequel-of-sorts Brother Lono. On Tuesday he posted this image to his assorted social media feeds: the covers to the five omnibus editions, which together create an extended frieze.