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The British Library has debuted a trailer — a “Curators’ Introduction” — to promote “Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the U.K.,” the largest comics exhibition to date in the United Kingdom.
Opening Friday to the public, “Comics Unmasked” spans the history of British comic books, from the 19th century to the present, exploring how they’ve addressed such subjects as violence, sexuality and drugs while breaking boundaries. The exhibition kicks off with a screening of the documentary Graphic Novel Man: The Comics of Bryan Talbot, followed by a conversation with Bryan Talbot, Mary Talbot and Kate Charlesworth.
Running from May 2 to Aug. 14, “Comics Unmasked” traces the history of British comic books, from the 19th century to the present, exploring how they’ve addressed such subjects as violence, sexuality and drugs while breaking boundaries.
Jamie Hewlett has already produced work concerned with ecological concerns before: His band Gorillaz’s third studio album Plastic Beach often ruminates on imagery inspired by the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Now he’s taken part as one of a wealth of artists and designers who’ve created Christmas cards as part of Greenpeace’s “Save Santa’s Home” campaign.
One of the funniest insults I’ve heard in recent years was Noel Gallagher’s judgement upon his brother Liam: “He’s the angriest man you’ll ever meet. He’s like a man with a fork in a world of soup”. The two ex-Oasis frontmen now seem to communicate purely through insults traded via interviews with the music press. One of the regular sticking points between the feuding rock’n’rollers is Liam’s ongoing preoccupation with the fashion world. Now Liam’s fashion label Pretty Green have teamed up with the UK charity the Teenage Cancer Trust to bring out a range of T-shirts featuring illustrations by Jamie Hewlett.
Publishing | What begins as a profile of Australian publisher Gestalt Comics dovetails into a brief snapshot of the country’s comics industry — or, perhaps, “industry.” “There are publishers like Milk Shadow Books and Black House Comics, I think we all help to create the impression of there being an Australian industry,” says Gestalt co-founder Wolfgang Bylsma, “but I don’t think we’re established enough to call it an industry yet. There are very few people who are working full time in comics in Australia.” [artsHub]
Creators | Jamie Hewlett chats about art, influences, Gorillaz and whether he might considering returning to comics: “Would I go back to doing comics? I dunno, maybe. It’s a lot of work drawing a comic. [Laughs.] And, you know, I did 10 years of drawing comics, and I really enjoyed it, but I’m kind of keen to try other things that I haven’t done. But I was talking with Alan [Martin] about the possibility of doing something in a comic form together. We haven’t agreed upon anything yet. It’s just a conversation. I’d love to work with Alan again. I really like Alan; he’s really cool.” [Consequence of Sound]
Sometimes, a little curious clicking on a few links can pay off. I recently discovered that the fairly social media-resistant Jamie Hewlett has a public Instagram account, a fact that can’t be that widely known, considering that he has fewer than two dozen followers. There’s not that much to see there, as he’s posted just 17 images so far, but to follow up on our story about Hewlett’s additional designs for the upcoming New York City production of Monkey: Journey to the West, there are a few photos of some character make-up tests. The Lincoln Center’s YouTube account has some footage of rehearsals, and an interview with Jamie and Damon Albarn on the subject.
Between the Gorillaz’s studio albums Demon Days and Plastic Beach, Jamie Hewlett and Damon Albarn created Monkey: Journey to the West with Chinese opera director Chen Shi-zheng, which premiered in 2007. Their collaboration was somewhat written in the stars: Chen had been trying to get a version in production for a few years; the Gorillaz had been engaged to create something for the first Manchester International Festival; and Albarn and Hewlett had a certain nostalgia for Wu Cheng’en’s Ming dynasty-era epic due to their childhood exposure to the camp classic TV version we were exposed to in the U.K. by the BBC.
The opera has had a few productions around the world now, always well-reviewed, and is now returning stateside, running July 6–28 at the David H. Koch Theater of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City. Hewlett has returned to the world of Monkey for this production, adding several new character designs. A couple of these designs have now arrived online: Vulture debuted the River Demon, while MTV Buzzworthy was the first to see Pig Monster.
I’ve never managed to catch a production of this myself, but have been sorely wanting to since seeing the documentary Damon and Jamie’s Excellent Adventure around the time of the original premiere. It seemed pretty much like being dropped into a universe designed by Hewlett for a couple of hours, and what could be more blissful than that?
This week, your favorite U.K. comic shops and online retailers should have received Everybody Loves Tank Girl, the latest volume in the ongoing saga of everyone’s favorite kangaroo-lovin’ chaos magnet (it will arrive in the United States next week). Since co-creator Alan Martin brought the character back in 2007, she’s been drawn by a succession of amazing artists: Ashley Wood, Rufus Dayglo and the elusive, legendary Mick McMahon. For this book, Martin has teamed with the great Jim Mahfood, marking the first time the U.K. comics icon has been drawn by an American.
Mahfood has made no secret of his love for Tank Girl, and he has clearly relished the opportunity to draw her and her extended cast of violence-loving misfits, producing some of the best work of his career. ROBOT 6 sat down with Martin to discuss this project and its unique origins, Tank Girl’s ongoing momentum, and the rumors that he is again working with the character’s co-creator Jamie Hewlett, still the only comic book artist in living memory to have ever quit the business to become a bona fide international pop star.
Publishing | DC Comics may no longer hold the rights to create new stories about The Spirit and other pulp heroes like Doc Savage and The Avenger, but it does retain the license to publish The Spirit Archives for “the foreseeable future,” according to Denis Kitchen, agent for the Will Eisner estate. Most of the hardcover collections are out of print. [The Beat]
Digital comics | Third time’s the charm for retailer Steve Bennett, as he goes through three different tablets (one was stolen, one malfunctioned) on his way to the ideal digital comics experience. [ICv2]
Creators | Tom Spurgeon kicks off his annual round of holiday interviews with a lengthy conversation with Alison Bechdel, creator of Fun Home and Are You My Mother? [The Comics Reporter]
Comic creators come and go, but it’s the ones who stick around and become veterans who tend to make the biggest mark on the industry. Some work continuously in comics while others take a hiatus from the business and then return later: Jack Kirby did it, as did James Robinson, Alex Toth, Brian K. Vaughn and others.
One of the most recent big splashes by a returning veteran has been Greg Capullo, who took a hiatus from comics in the 2000s after making a name for himself on Spawn, X-Force and Quasar. In 2009, he limbered up working on Image’s Haunt and sealed the deal when he jumped to DC Comics in 2011 to relaunch Batman with Scott Snyder. That got me thinking: Are there other creators floating around on the outskirts of comics, or outside of comics completely, who could pose a formidable force if they returned to comics — and more importantly, if the comics industry knew how to use them? It’s with that in mind that I compiled this list.
Simon Bisley’s return to 2000AD after 22 years absence comes in the form of the cover to the upcoming Prog 1800. It’s already dividing opinion. I’ve never blamed Bisley for the worst excesses of his copyists, and this image has its high points — the Judge Death and Mean Machine figures, drawn in Bisley’s mature style, are particularly good — but it is hard to see past the great big unnecessary arse in the middle of this composition (via Comics Alliance).
Much more below, including the Beatles, Shaky Kane, Brendan McCarthy, Jamie Hewlett and Duncan Fegredo.
The anthology Ink + Paper is about to release its second issue, and again has a cracking line-up of contributors, including assorted U.K. graphic novelists, cartoonists and children’s book illustrators. I’ll be getting this, if just for the strip by Will Morris, whose The Silver Darlings will be out soon from Blank Slate, and which I’m anticipating eagerly.
Below: Dredd, Tank Girl, another NSFW Jamie Hewlett watercolor, and more Continue Reading »
Another day, another guest artist on Scotch Corner:Today it’s a massive gallery of work by the underrated Top Cow regular Matt Timson. My favorite is his take on Rom, Space Knight for a Bill Mantlo fund-raiser. As Matt points out, “in the comics, Rom was forever banging on about having given up his humanity to become a Spaceknight, but this was the first time I’d ever thought about what that actually meant – and the horror involved.”
(Plenty more art and links below, not all of which is safe for work.)
The Tank Girl Facebook page curated by Alan Martin is a great place to see some top-quality comic art. Martin regularly posts new work by his many all-star collaborators from over the years — Jamie Hewlett, Mick McMahon and Jim Mahfood included. Tank Girl is a character that’s always inspired a special level of devotion among her fans: Back when there was next to no cosplay culture in the U.K., Deadline magazine regularly featured photo spreads of that certain type of punky proto-Suicide Girl dressed as their heroine. I’ve gotten into the habit of looking through the page’s “Recent posts by others” sidebar to see any fanart that has been sent to catch Al’s eye. A while ago, I spotted the work of Scott Cole, a professional photographer who’s taken the notion of Tank Girl cosplay and fanart to a whole other level with a set of shots replicating classic Hewlett images and poses. Cole put a few minutes aside to discuss the motivations and inspirations behind these pictures which perfectly capture the character’s bad attitude.
ROBOT 6: Love these images. How do you describe your work, ’cause I’m not sure I’ve entirely the right frame of reference, myself?
Scott Cole: Thanks. My work has been described as sexy, edgy, gritty and creative. At the moment I’ve been focusing on tattooed models, mainly because it allows me to shoot more non-conventional shots, or to recreate classic sets (for example my black swan ballet set) from a different viewpoint. My worst nightmare would be to be commissioned to shoot wedding or baby shots. It’s just not my thing!
While some creators spend their entire career in comics, others come and go. Some find greater success outside the field, while others just realize comics just aren’t for them. I recently re-read a brief post I wrote in early 2011 about some of the most sorely missed creators while thinking about artist Jamie Hewlett. He met with early success with Tank Girl (with Alan Martin) but dropped out of comics in the mid-1990s following the cancellation of the comics magazine Deadline and the poor performance of Tank Girl as a motion picture and as a Vertigo series. By an odd set of circumstances he ended up being roommates with Damon Albarn, lead singer of the band Blur, and they dreamed up the virtual band Gorillaz.
In a 2005 interview on Jonathan Ross’s talk show, Hewlett was pretty down on the idea of returning to comics, instead focusing on Gorillaz and animated projects. I’ve enjoyed Gorillaz for its music and the frequent use of Hewlett’s art on covers and in music videos and other parts of the promotional machine, but I’m still
patiently waiting for him to reclaim his place in comics. But it got me to thinking: Is there a place for Hewlett in comics today?
Drawing comics is grueling work with long hours, and I could easily see his current career being more alluring than that solitary life. Plus, the comics industry has changed a lot since the early ’90s. The U.K .comics scene is far different, and the “big money” these days seems to lie in either finding success on your own, a la The Walking Dead, or working for the Big Two. Despite my wishful thinking, I don’t imagine we’d ever see Hewlett drawing an issue of Avengers Vs. X-Men. Tank Girl returned with Hewlett’s blessing in 2007, with Martin and other artists, but not seeing even a cover or pin-up by Hewlett really diminishes any hopes he might return.
But I look forward to the artist proving me wrong.