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Welcome to “Cheat Sheet,” ROBOT 6′s guide to the week ahead. It’s only Monday, but our contributors have their eyes on Wednesday releases, ranging from John Wagner and Arthur Ranson’s Button Man: Get Harry Ex to a new jumping-on point for 2000AD to … well, it’s not exactly a comic book but it does involve two comics creators.
To see what we’re looking forward to this week, just keep reading.
Next week sees the release of Judge Dredd Megazine #340, featuring the debut of “Ordinary,” a creator-owned strip by writer Rob Williams and artist D’Israeli, the creative team behind the acclaimed 2000AD strip “Low Life,: I’ve been a big fan of both their work for quite a while now — in Williams’ case, since his first published work, the great Cla$$war, in 2002; in the case of D’Israeli, scarily enough, it’s been since his “Timulo’”strip ran in Deadline in the late 1980s. I managed to grab a word with Williams about the new series, and he happily obliged, and sent along a veritable mountain of preview art to boot.
Robot 6: So Rob, the last ordinary man in a world of the super-powered, eh? But what’s Ordinary really about?
Rob Williams: I’m a little wary of frightening people off by talking about themes. “Ordinary” is filled with spectacle, big-Hollywood action set pieces and outlandish characters that are, hopefully, quite memorable, This is a world where everyone gets a different superpower, after all — no two people are the same. But, at its heart, it’s about emotionally allowing yourself to come to terms with fatherhood, really. Out main character, Michael Fisher, is a divorcee who very rarely sees his son when we first meet him. And then the world starts going to hell and it’s up to him to try and find this boy he hardly knows even though there’s a super-powered danger around every turn. And, for Michael, it’s coming to realise the real reason he never sees his son. The book’s called “Ordinary” for reasons that aren’t just about super powers and explosions and giants and talking bears and huge battles. There’s an emotional arc for our lead that is pretty unusual for modern comics, I think.
Welcome to “Cheat Sheet,” ROBOT 6′s guide to the week ahead. Although the U.S. Postal Service is closed today for Labor Day, UPS is going full steam ahead, which means comics arrive on Wednesday as usual. And so some of the ROBOT contributors took a break from the long weekend to make their top picks for the week. Keep reading to see what they chose …
Although a new profile of Grant Morrison closes with the promise of the third and final volume of Seaguy in 2014, his collaborator Cameron Stewart cautions excited fans that “It’s still a long way off.”
Published ahead of Morrison’s appearance at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the Guardian article focuses primarily on the newly retitled Wonder Woman: The Trial of Diana Prince, and touches upon some recent personal losses, his dispute with Rebellion over the Zenith rights and — seemingly out of nowhere — his, let’s say, complicated history with Mark Millar before ending on the long-awaited conclusion of Seaguy.
“It’s honestly the best I’ve ever written,” he says of the saga that began in 2004. “It never sold well, but it’s my thing. I want Seaguy to remain as my statement about life and death and the universe.”
But while The Guardian asserts the final miniseries, presumably still titled Seaguy Eternal, is “due out next year,” Stewart suggests that timeline is a bit optimistic.
“INB4 everyone assuming Seaguy 3 is done or even a work in progress, when I have still not even received a script,” he wrote this morning on Twitter. “Which isn’t to say I’ve been sitting around waiting for a script that isn’t coming — I’ve been busy, so has Grant. It’s still a long way off.”
Also of note from the Morrison interview:
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.
Like many, I first encountered the art of Edmund Bagwell in 2005, in the first issue of Liam Sharp’s extremely short-lived but influential anthology Event Horizon. Sharp introduced lots of new talent in those two issues, but it seemed that Bagwell was to be the book’s breakout star. Here was an artist with many strings to his bow, producing lushly rendered digital paintings and linework to accompany prose short stories in the first volume, and also illustrating Rich Johnson’s role-playing satire “Chase Variant” in the second.
U.K. comics history is full of instances of well-intentioned anthologies eventually failing, leaving that great survivor 2000AD to cherry-pick their best talent. This was again the case, with Bagwell soon working on some memorable short stories with writers Al Ewing and Arthur Wyatt. Short one-offs such as “Future Shocks” and “Terror Tales” are usually seen as dues-paying exercises by the editorial staff at 2000AD, and Bagwell was rewarded by being commissioned to draw the series “Cradlegrave,” written by John Smith.
As the date of 2000AD/Rebellion’s limited release of The Complete Zenith draws near, the publicity campaign for the book also reaches its, uh, zenith.
No matter where you stand on the ethics of the release, or on the matter of the material’s ownership (and I’m sure there will be plenty more claims and counter-claims on that issue to come), it must be stated that the final cover is a great-looking design, strong and bold and graphic.
Chris Weston doesn’t blog that often — the perils of working more and more in a business where your projects are accompanied by non-disclosure agreements — but he recently posted a big update featuring art he’s created for his own amusement, some commissions and convention sketches, and some recent 2000AD covers finally seen without intrusive trade dress.
He also updates us on the fate of the “Carry On X-Men” poster we featured in December, stating that he was going to produce a silkscreen print but changed his mind in the post-Friedrich litigation landscape. Weston responded to a question about this image on Facebook this week: “I have asked Marvel three times for permission and offered to pay for a license to do a limited-edition print, but they haven’t bothered replying to me.”
The Nosferatu piece is a good example of the insanely complicated rendering Weston can bury in the background of an image, unnoticed at first glance. Hundreds of rats, thousands of bricks, each one hand drawn. And that’s before we even get to the ornate etching on the ship or the likeness of Max Schreck. Really, I’m dumbstruck by this.
In its 36-year history, the venerable U.K. comics anthology 2000AD has only ever featured a handful of superhero strips. Of those relative few, most commentators would say they’re a pretty strong bunch — one cold classic (“Zenith”), and a couple of neglected psychedelic gems (“Storming Heaven,” “Zaucer of Zilk”).
Darkest of them all is Rob Williams’ post-apocalyptic “The Ten-Seconders,” an ongoing tale that sets humanity against a race of superhuman aliens, the self-styled “gods.” When mankind decides to resist against the rule of their new super-powered overlords, the rag-tag group of surviving guerrillas dub themselves “The Ten-Seconders,” as 10 seconds is the average time a human can expect to last in a confrontation with a god.
During its previous two runs in 2000AD, “The Ten-Seconders” has been drawn by four artists: Mark Harrison, Dom Reardon, Sean Thomas and Ben Oliver. Now, after a five-year absence, the strip returns, revitalized by Williams’ pairing with Edmund Bagwell, an artist whose work effortlessly traverses from scenes of ordinary human life before the invasion to the graceful arrival of the gods, to their violence and terror, and onto hints of oncoming cosmic threats. Basically, Bagwell was born to work on this scale. In previous arcs, the threats were analogs for the Justice League and then the Vertigo anti-heroes. This time, we have Galactus/Celestial-styled creatures looming over the planet. Bagwell is one of those few artists whose work has a clear Kirby influence without that fully overpowering his entire style. I’ve been championing Bagwell’s work since 2006, and I literally cannot wait to see what he has in store for us this time.
2000AD has provided ROBOT 6 an exclusive first look at the full opening chapter of the return of “The Ten-Seconders.” It works as an introduction, a recap and as a secret origin for the series’ protagonist Malloy, and leaves us on a doozy of a cliffhanger. As such, it packs a hell of a lot into just six pages!
“The Ten-Seconders” returns July 3 in 2000AD Prog 1839.
Hey, you know who’s a seriously underrated artist? Matt “D’Israeli” Brooker. Let’s take some time to embarrass this mild-mannered Englishman with the type of fulsome praise the British, as a nation, handle so badly. The folks at 2000AD have sent along a video profile of the man (below), revealing an artist of rare intelligence and dry wit. He’s also one of the few artists I’ve seen taking full advantage of the freelancer lifestyle — you’ll see what I mean after watching the clip.
Few artists emerge with a fully developed style of their own, but D’Israeli certainly did, and I think if you showed someone unfamiliar with his work a page of his earliest strips — a “Timulo” from Deadline in 1989 or a Lazarus Churchyard from 1991 — and then presented them with a more recent page, from 2000AD‘s “Lowlife” or “Leviathan,” or from the amazing “XTNCT,” they would recognize it all as being produced by the same hand. Brooker may have constantly evolved and refined his line to its current slickness, but there’s an easily spotted commonality, an essential D’Israeli-ness, to it all. It’s hard to think of many of Brooker’s peers that you could say the same for.
After a period of screenings at festivals and conventions, the Judge Dredd fan film Judge Minty has finally been released in full online. Packed with Easter eggs for long-term 2000AD fans, it proves that these days it would be entirely feasible to produce an authentic and faithful version of the futuristic lawman on a small-screen budget. As much as I enjoyed last year’s Dredd 3D, it’s hard not to watch this short and list the things that this production did better. For starters, this budget effort manages to properly get the Lawmaster bike, a street judge’s preferred form of transport, something the Stallone and Urban films got wrong in their different ways.
Free Comic Book Day is once again upon us, the day that current and hopefully potential comic fans flock to their local comic shop to sample a buffet of comic choices from publishers large and small. There’s a lot to sink your teeth into this time around, from previews of new or upcoming stuff — like Marble Season and Superman: The Last Son of Krypton #1 to first issues of brand new comics — like The Strangers #1 and Aphrodite IX #1. There are original comics, licensed comics, kids comics, anthologies … basically something for everyone.
Some retailers will offer all-you-can-eat options, while others might have limits on what you can get … so if you have to make a choice, here are six comics we’re particularly looking to sink our teeth into.
There was a tantalizing, small, tightly cropped snippet of this image as a house ad in last week’s 2000AD, but here is the cover to Prog 1830 in all its insane glory. Available May 1, it’s a very retro effort by Elephantmen artist Boo Cook starring the cast of his new three-part miniseries “Gunheadz.” Tharg’s regular spokeshuman Michael Molcher explains:
Looks like the 2000AD publicity department are starting to take its Youtube channel seriously as a promotional tool: Alongside the trailers for various strips and some goofing around by creators, the magazine just posted a couple of videos with Simon Davis, one of the more under-appreciated artists in its stable for the past few decades. The videos quietly cover some news that will be seen by some as a big deal — that Davis is taking over as regular artist on the classic thrill “Slaine” (well, it’ll be news to most, though not those who listen to the ECBT2000AD podcast).
Davis broke into 2000AD during the 1990s “brown period” of muddily reproduced watercolor art. Davis’ work stood out by a mile as created by someone who understood how to paint comics that looked crisp and detailed on newsprint, often by making novel palette choices (becoming notorious along the way for using blue as a skin tone and giving the assassin character Finnegan Sinister the brightest of red noses). Davis is rare for a U.K. comics artist in that he’s never made any prolonged attempt at breaking into the American comics industry (I can only remember him producing a handful of pages for the JLA: Riddle of the Beast Elseworlds graphic novel alongside a dozen or so other painters). Instead, Davis’ work outside of comics has been as a storyboarder and as a fine-art painter of no small renown (his awarding-winning portraits can be seen at his website).
I’ve been writing about the Judge Minty short film since 2010, when after seeing the first teaser trailer I made the observation “these days Judge Dredd would be totally do-able on a BBC budget.” I still haven’t managed to see the bloomin’ thing yet, despite it becoming a U.K. comic convention staple since it premiered at the Leeds Film Festival last November.
Well, the wait is nearly over, as the production team has announced that it’ll soon be free to view on YouTube and Vimeo, without giving us an actual date yet (“in April/May” they vaguely state, the teasing sods). They’ve released a new extended trailer for the project to whet our appetites.
One thing this trailer adds is some great music. I’m no soundtrack expert, so for all I know it might be borrowed from elsewhere, but I do know that it reminds me of Jerry Goldsmith’s avant garde score for the original Planet of the Apes. And I still think that with a little ambition and imagination, Judge Dredd could work better on TV than in films.