Something for the Weakened

Archive for July, 2012

Convention Sketches – Part Three

July 18th, 2012 by Alastair

Here we are again for another delve into the small selection of sketches I acquired from comic artists at the couple of conventions I attended back in the mid ’90s. Should you be interested in more details about my experiences at them, I refer you to the first post in the series (and the second one, if you’re interested). I’m going to try not to repeat myself or bore you any more than my general waffle normally would. Except with this paragraph, which I’m going to be pasting into all th other posts anyway. Ignore it in the next one you read and just move down to the sketch. Here it is.

Judge Dredd by Greg Staples

Judge Dredd was created by John Wagner & Carlos Ezquerra and is copyright 2012 Rebellion.

This was the first sketch I received that was actually drawn directly in ink (had I mentioned I was putting these up chronologically? Well, I am and the first two are both in pencil). Looking at the original, it actually appears to be drawn using a biro or some flavour of ballpoint pen. I might just about recall him fishing around for something better to draw with, though that could just be a false memory that’s implanted itself from staring at the thing. More fascinating anecdotes to follow. I find this piece kind of fascinating as there’s still so much of the working visible in the fainter lines behind the heavy crosshatching. The sketched in cross that denotes approximately where the nose and the bottom of the visor are going to run. The number of times the pen’s gone round the chin, almost giving Old Stony Face a little wispy beard. The outline of the helmet, which he seems to have gone over at least half a dozen times to give it the right sort of weight, yet still keeping the curve consistent. And of course, the massive jutting chin that was something of a signature of his work on the character at the time.

Rising to prominence when he did and with a spiky painted style, many dismissed Staples as just being a Simon Bisley clone (more faintly relating to The Biz in two parts time). There are obviously some similarities between the two, though working with a lot of the same tools, on a lot of the same characters, in the same comic, the criticisms seem a little harsh. Especially as it was Bisley who brought Staples to the attention of that period’s Tharg in residence. I was fairly familiar with Staples’ work by this point, his first works appearing in 2000AD shortly after I first started reading it. As his work there had been almost exclusively on Dredd, it was a bit of a no brainer as to what I’d request him to draw. His tenure at the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic pretty much coincides with the first period in which I was reading it regularly, appearing pretty regularly up until around the turn of the century. His style evolved over that period, moving away from the fully painted work on strips, to a more refined inked outline (not dissimilar to the style of this sketch) with painted colour washed over. Personally I found this a bit jarring when I first saw it, spoilt as I had been by the painted comics boom of the early ’90s, but I’m quite fond of it now and can see the logic of the choice – more spontaneous, tighter storytelling and so forth. Unlike many of his peers, Mr. Staples didn’t drift off Stateside to provide work for US comics publishers, save for a few covers here and there, instead firmly sticking with the 20000AD stable. I think I’ve therefore read all of his sequential output thus far in his career. Which is nice.

Come the new millennium, Staples strip work sadly stopped appearing, but he didn’t drop out of the comic world entirely. He still produces occasional covers for both 2000AD and The Megazine, in a painted style that often seems more based in portraiture than those early works. His paintings have also graced a fair few book covers and apparently a number of Magic: The Gathering cards. My research tells me that he’s also done his inevitable tenure working in the computer games industry and, most surprisingly to me, did some sort of War of the Worlds based work with Jeff Wayne, but I’ve failed to find out exactly what. The internet, you have failed me. He┬áhas done some concept work for films, including Solomon Kane and Doomsday and apparently worked on music videos for the Scissor Sisters, Muse and, um, Shaznay Lewis? From that list I’ve only seen Kane, which was fairly awful, but sort of fun in a switch your brain off and let it wash over you sort of a way. His blog mentions a return to actual comic work for actor Thomas Jane’s Raw Entertainment, but I don’t believe that ever materialised. The blog’s not been updated since 2010, and I don’t recall hearing of anything coming out from that particular publisher in the past couple of years, or possibly since 2005, when the series Staples was supposed to be drawing the sequel to originally appeared. Shame really. The world would be a better place with more Staples comics in it.

Official Greg Staples site can be found here a fairly comprehensive list of his comics work is here, while this site has a number of photo’s of him dressed up as Judge Dredd, if that’s your sort of thing. Next time around – more waffle about another artist, this time actually featuring minor details of a conversation that took place nineteen years ago! Keep your fat arse on the edge of that seat!

Convention Sketches – Part Two

July 14th, 2012 by Alastair

Here we are again for another delve into the small selection of sketches I acquired from comic artists at the couple of conventions I attended back in the mid ’90s. Should you be interested in more details about my experiences at them, I refer you to the first post in the series. I’m going to try not to repeat myself or bore you any more than my general waffle normally would. Except with this paragraph, which I’m going to be pasting into all the other posts anyway. Ignore it in the next one you read and just move down to the sketch. Here it is.

John Constantine by Will Simpson

John Constantine was created by Alan Moore, Steve Bissette & John Totleben and is copyright 2012 DC Comics.

My recollection of this being drawn has again vanished into the massive dump of so many memories, eaten away by almost two decades of intoxicants. I feel certain that when I describe Mr. Simpson as being a lovely chap that I am not veering away from the truth in any way. My first contact with his artwork came almost a decade earlier, back when he was illustrating Simon Furman scripts in the Transformers comics my brother collected. Years after I briefly met him, I saw his even earlier work in a couple of issues of Warrior on the Big Ben strip – written, if memory serves, by the comics editor Dez Skinn. The character also appears briefly during Alan Moore’s run on Marvelman, as part of Skinn’s apparent attempt to create an integrated ‘Warriorverse’, but that’s a whole other clusterfuck for another day. By 1993, when this piece was produced, I was also familiar with some of Simpson’s more mature work. His painted art on Dave Gibbons’ Rogue Trooper reboot had been amongst the strips appearing during my first foray into collecting 2000AD and astounded me with its muddy viscera. I had been mildly disappointed by the content of Sex Warrior which he again painted, this time for the short lived anthology Toxic, though that disappointment stemmed from the fact that the strip focused more on the ‘warrior’ aspect than my sweaty fourteen year old palms had hoped. The painting was not at fault.

By this point in ‘93 I had been collecting the DC ‘Mature Readers’ titles that would go on to become the Vertigo line for about six months. The first couple of issues of Hellblazer I purchased from the small Shitney newsagent that stocked these things (walked past it a couple of weeks ago – depressingly it’s a party supply shop now) were the first two during Garth Ennis’ run to contain art from Steve Dillon. The collaboration between the pair would continue through a couple of dozen more issues on the title, before they went off to produce the classic that is Preacher. But prior to Dillon’s arrival, Simpson had been the primary artist under Ennis’ scripting and following those two Dillon issues, returned for a three issue arc just before Vertigo began proper. Thus, I was fully aware of the artist’s connection to the comic and that’s almost certainly why I asked him to draw its protagonist (in case you were unaware who the picture was of).

In the years that followed I remember enjoying his work in the Vamps mini series’, though if I’m perfectly honest the stories never grabbed me in the way that other Elaine Lee projects had in the past. Researching this it appears that he did the art on a couple of issues of Legends of the Dark Knight (again with Ennis) which I would have read but have long since forgotten and a few more painted pages in the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic on Gordon Rennie’s Witch World, a series I remember the name of, but can recall nothing about. Did it start out as one of the million series that Rennie was supposed to be writing for Tundra before that all went to cock, or am I making that up? Dunno. Anyway, around the turn of the millennium, it all seemed to go a bit quiet on the Simpson comics front. According to the aforementioned research, this seems to be down to his moving into the far more profitable world of storyboarding for films. Of the ones listed on Wikipedia, the only two that look familiar to me are Reign of Fire and Puckoon, neither of which I’ve actually seen, nor could I think of two more different films. Now he’s apparently working on the massively successful HBO adaptations of GRRRRR Martin’s Game of Thrones, which I also haven’t seen but am told are quite good. I’m sure in some part this is down to Mr. Simpson’s excellent work.

I’ve failed to find a site for the man himself, but this seems to have the best career overview I could find. Who will it be next time? Wait and see.