Slaine Archives | Robot 6 | The Comics Culture Blog

U.K. street art collective pays tribute to comics


We’ve featured street art by the collective EndoftheLine before (this post from July 2012 included murals in the styles of French maestros Moebius and McBess), but it’s recently posted images of some impressive new projects, again making it abundantly clear how much the group is influenced by comics.

Last week EndoftheLine unveiled a piece in London’s Hoxton district celebrating 30 years of 2000AD‘s “Slaine” with this spot-on tribute to the work of Simon Bisley, painted by founder Jim Vision.

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Exclusive: Pages from Mick McMahon’s return to Slaine

BookofScars_SkyChariots header

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.

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‘2000AD’ announces Simon Davis as new ‘Slaine’ artist

Slaine by Davis

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).

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Talking to Kathryn Symes, ‘2000AD’s’ ‘Reprographics Droid’

Prog 44, now with pin-sharp Kev O'Neill art

Prog 44, now with pin-sharp Kev O’Neill art

In comics, just as in television or film, there are countless unsung production staff tirelessly toiling to keep us entertained. To use a sporting analogy, working in the reprographics department of a comic publisher is the goalkeeper’s job: You rarely get the praise for keeping a clean sheet, but you’re the first one to get the blame if it all goes wrong. Meanwhile, the writers and the artists are at the other end, scoring all the goals, and getting all the glory.

Doing this often-thankless task in the skeleton crew that produces 2000AD is Kathryn “Kat” Symes. One thing the small backroom staff at their Oxford, England, base are known to do very well these days is manage the amazing back-catalog of material the title has accrued during its 35 years of continuous publication. If you’re a seasoned 2000AD spotter, you’ll have noticed how they’ve been reprinting a lot of strips from the early 1990s recently, a time sometimes known as “2000AD‘s brown period.” It was an era when a post-Bisley trend for painted artwork coincided with too-absorbent paper stock, and a steep learning curve for the staff as it settled in to being a full-color magazine after years of primarily black and white, which led to an awful lot of muddy-looking comics.

Symes seems to be on a single-handed quest to redeem an era of neglected comics through her work. In this interview with ROBOT 6, she gives a tremendous insight into what now goes on behind the scenes in bringing a comic to print, and provides some great examples of how her nuts-and-bolts work with scanners and image manipulation software can breath new life into the old, the faded and the damaged material in 2000AD‘s archives.

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