Saturday, 31 December 2011

The Clock is Ticking...

Nearly the end of another year!

From the 1966, Black Bat series of Topps bubblegum trading cards by artist Norman Saunders.


Another beautiful tome of Japanese Manga that someone gave to me, many moons ago.
Lone Wolf & Cub.

Approved by the Cosmic Code

I've just found a proof that designer, John Tomlinson had signed for me back in the day. As for which day, I can't seem to be able to find a reference to it anywhere online. Whether it was a test proof I just can't remember. It's American comic-book size but I can't imagine it being published with an 'Approved by the Cosmic Code Authority' stamp on it. I'll have to check with Mr Tomlinson and add an update. Perhaps it's more scarce than I thought!

UPDATE: John Tomlinson solves the mystery...

Wotcha Steve –

The proof is a one-off and was the result of a plot by Richard Starkings and myself to persuade the Marvel US editor-in-chief at the time, Jim Shooter, to release Captain Britain (then a Marvel UK monthly) in the States. It wasn't intended for publication – I cobbled it together in US size and format using existing Captain Britain artwork by Alan Davis. Richard supplied the 'IN HIS OWN FULL COLOUR COMIC AT LAST!' caption. Mr. Shooter regarded the proof with polite interest and no detectable display of enthusiasm (maybe we should have spelled it COLOR), and that was the end of that. Or at least, it was until 1987 when the Captain actually did debut in the US with Excalibur, the X-Men spinoff by Alan Davis and Chris Claremont. So we hadn't been the only ones trying to crack the States. The 2008 copyright line is a mystery though. I can only assume it was an in-joke – you know, like 'maybe in 2008, eh? >SNORK!<'. A pointless and terrible gag to be sure, but the most likely explanation. In 1988 Richard edited and designed a full colour Captain Britain trade paperback, collecting the UK stories and featuring an original Alan Davis cover that bore a more than passing resemblance to the proof (see above). I'd like to think it wasn't coincidence! Great to see it again anyway.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Reed's Wrong Dimension

Another great Jack Kirby page with unbelievably wrong colours from the classic, The Fantastic Four - A Full Colour Comic Album. Pictured: Reed Richards with yellow pants?!?!?

Cosmic FOOM

A battered copy of FOOM #9 from 1975 (cleaned up a little) and on the back, vintage John Byrne art.
Click to enlarge.

Beware The Moon!

I was given this print by the very talented French artist Inès Dassonneville way back in '98. I really like her art style and I still find this piece incredibly powerful and atmospheric.

Batman Nemesis

From the UK Comic Art Convention Souvenir booklet of 1985, an nicely odd combination piece by Kev O'Neill.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

The Planets All Stand Still...

My Barbarella book from 1966. I know it's that old 'cause it has a sticker for 12 Shillings & Sixpence (12/6) on the back, though I've brightened up the scan of the aged yellowing cover - a lot!

More Steranko

I haven't posted any Steranko art for a while, so this should remedy that. The front of a wraparound cover for The Steranko History of Comics #2

'Tis (still) the Season #13

Just when I was contemplating taking the Xmas decor down, this 'stuck in the post, late arrival' lands on my doormat. Another great 'Happy Holidays' card from DC Entertainment. Love it!
Concept by Andy Price & Artwork by Sean Galloway

All Star

I was just looking for something else to scan and I pulled this off the Shelf. Antonio Solinas kindly sent me a copy after I'd contributed a couple of things and although I can't read Italian it's a great book to own, not only for its fabulous cover art by Francesco Biagini and some of the great illustrations inside but obviously for the writing itself. I hope that it gets a translation at some point because I know that it had great reviews by those who can speak the lingo!

For those who can, I'm going to post the info for the book in Italian as well as English alongside scans from Marvel Boy and one of my all-time favourite pieces of sequential storytelling ever!

Grant Morrison: All Star 
di Giovanni Agozzino, Nicola Peruzzi e Antonio Solinas

Grant Morrison: All Star è un libro che, per la prima volta al mondo, intende esaminare e inquadrare in maniera critica la carriera di uno degli sceneggiatori simbolo del fumetto di lingua anglosassone e uno dei più grandi innovatori di sempre del medium.
Il volume, che intende colmare un evidente vuoto critico a livello internazionale, è stato pubblicato sul mercato di lingua italiana dalla casa editrice Double Shot, debuttando nei giorni della fiera Lucca Comics & Games 2010, alla fine di ottobre 2010.
Scritto da Giovanni Agozzino, Nicola Peruzzi e Antonio Solinas, tre dei maggior esperti dell’opera morrisoniana in Italia, il libro copre in maniera schematica e ragionata la tutta la produzione di Morrison, a partire dalle prime storie pubblicate su Near Myths fino agli ultimi exploits di Batman & Robin e Joe the Barbarian, con un approccio al contempo divulgativo e d’approfondimento, e riservando il giusto spazio a opere seminali come i primi fumetti pubblicati in patria e l’essenziale saga di The Invisibles.
Il libro è corredato da una copertina inedita di Francesco Biagini (Dingo, Dead Run, Elric - The Balance Lost for Boom! Studios, Terra Inferno for Soleil), una introduzione da parte di Michele Foschini della BAO Publishing (che publicherà la versione italiana di SuperGods di Morrison) e include approfondite interviste a collaboratori chiave di Morrison quali Frank Quitely, Chaz Truog, Steve Yeowell, Richard Case, Chris Weston, Paul Grist, Rian Hughes, Steve Parkhouse, Frazer Irving etc,  oltre a un apparato iconografico di immagini rare o inedite tratte dai più importanti comics di Morrison.
Ogni capitolo è accompagnato da una estesa serie di riferimenti e note a margine, allo scopo di facilitare la comprensione del lettore e la capacità di approfondire le fonti originali.
A corredo, il libro presenta una serie di box che affrontano in maniera stuzzicante aspetti poco conosciuti e/o curiosi della carriera e della produzione di Morrison, fornendo un “gancio” per l’approfondimento di argomenti importanti non solo per quanto riguarda la poetica dell’autore, ma fornendo anche aneddoti di sapore “colloquiale”.

Just one of the great illustrations in the book. Superman by Frank Quitely
Grant Morrison: All Star
by Giovanni Agozzino, Nicola Peruzzi and Antonio Solinas
Grant Morrison: All Star is the first book which aims to provide a critical analysis of the entire career of Scottish writer Grant Morrison, one of the most important innovators in the comic medium ever.
The book, which intends to fill an evident void in comics criticism worldwide, has been published in the Italian language by publisher Double Shot and made its debut at the Lucca Comics & Games 2010 convention at the end of October 2010.
Written by Giovanni Agozzino, Nicola Peruzzi and Antonio Solinas, three of the biggest Morrison experts in Italy, the book spans the writer’s entire career, from his “independent” beginnings to his latest major exploits, such as Batman & Robin and Joe The Barbarian, putting particular emphasis on the appraisal of early Morrison comics published in the UK as well as the essential The Invisibles saga. The book features new cover art by Francesco Biagini (Dingo, Dead Run, Elric - The Balance Lost for Boom! Studios, Terra Inferno for Soleil), an introduction by BAO Publishing’s CEO Michele Foschini (who will publish the Italian version of the SuperGods book by Morrison) and includes in-depth interviews with key collaborators such as Frank Quitely, Chaz Truog, Steve Yeowell, Richard Case, Chris Weston, Paul Grist, Rian Hughes, Steve Parkhouse, Frazer Irving and more, as well as an extensive gallery of unpublished and rare artwork from Morrison’s most important comics.
The book also includes a chapter on the writer’s extra-comics work, a thorough Morrison bibliography, the comic The House of Heart’s Desire, which represents the first “Barbelith” appearance (so far unpublished in Italy),  and an extensive interview with Grant Morrison, covering all the most important themes and topics in his work.
Suited both to readers with a deep knowledge of the Morrison oeuvre and to novices, the book is aimed at the same (apparently wide) audience that has been so responsive to Supergods: Morrison fans, superhero enthusiasts, comic readers looking for “alternative” ideas, as well as comics scholars.
Written in an accessible style able to convey complex ideas to the general public, Grant Morrison: All Star presents many interesting bits of trivia and less-known angles to Morrison’s bibliography. Ideally, it will find its place next to Grant Morrison: The Early Years by Timothy Callahan and Our Sentence Is Up by Patrick Meaney and constitutes an ideal companion to Meaney’s movie, Grant Morrison: Talking with Gods. While Meaney’s movie deals more with Morrison’s biography, Grant Morrison: All Star, with a similar approach, instead analyses his body of work.
Grant Morrison: All Star has been well received by the Italian national press, and the reader reaction so far has been very positive and enthusiastic.

Originally seen as a double-page spread in Marvel Boy, by Grant Morrison and JG Jones.

Nuff said!

Watchmen, 1986

A nine panel grid of characters from Watchmen by Dave Gibbons for the Birmingham Comic Art Show booklet, 1986. This was the same year that Watchmen began publication by DC Comics.

Largin' it #8

Pulchritudinous, premium panels, presented prodigiously for your perusal.

#8. The Amazing Spider-Man #42 - The Birth Of A Super-Hero! (1966)
Script: Stan Lee
Art: John Romita, Sr.

I know, I know! I already posted about this before, but the scan I showed then was from a British reprint title and although it had a monochrome charm of its own, this is such a clean and colourful printing of that comic-book panel.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011


Here's one of a selection of rather beautiful Manga publications that someone was kind enough to bring back to London for me from Japan, sometime around 1986. I just love that logo!

Chromatically Challenged

Way back, I promised more excerpts from the The Fantastic Four - A Full Colour Comic Album. The one with the totally bonkers colour scheme. Well, today I give you, he who wields the Power Cosmic, the one and only Silver?!? Surfer!

Judge Dredd vs. The Big Two

Item: A 2000AD ad from 1978 by McMahon & Bolland. I can't imagine this would have been approved by either DC or Marvel!

Comics & Music #3

Artist: FreQ.Nasty.
Title: Freq's Geeks & Mutilations.
Design: TJ.

Largin' it #7

Pulchritudinous, premium panels, presented prodigiously for your perusal.

#7. The Amazing Spider-Man #43 - Rhino On The Rampage! (1966)
Script: Stan Lee
Art: John Romita, Sr.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Hot Property

This is the first of the 2000AD annuals that Alan McKenzie and I worked on together. I loved this cover by Brett Ewins and Jim McCarthy so much that I bought it from them. The only problem was, that some '@$&*!' stole it from the old 2000AD office one night and we never saw it again. Brett was kind enough to give me another great painting of Kano to make up for the loss, but it still irks me! If anyone ever spots this on ebay, please call Crimewatch UK... or let me know :)

Going Dotty!

From Issue #1 of Crisis (1988)
It was Spring, 1990 and having already designed the New Statesmen pages for the fortnightly CRISIS comic a couple of years earlier, the deadline for the collected graphic novel was now looming, and I had to start designing the book and illustrate the extra pages that Steve MacManus had commissioned from me. I had a fascination with how Jim Baikie had portrayed the Meridian character and thought it would be an interesting experiment to try and find a model who actually looked like her to photograph for the first of the pages. Knowing the time constraints and budget, etc; it wasn't really a very practical idea, then with one of those coincidental events that always seem to happen at the right time, I spotted a small photo of just such a person on a piece of discarded newspaper.

From The Complete New Statesmen (1990)
What seemed to be a real artistic challenge at that moment in time, turned into complete h:a:l:f:t:o:n:e: madness when I decided to enlarge the part of her face that looked like Meridian with the pmt machine, then recreate the rest of her with hand drawn halftone dots of various size and spacing. The plan was to reduce her back down to the size of the original clipping once I'd completed the task, so that she once again looked like an actual photograph.

I think I nearly lost either my mind or my eyesight that night with the continuous squinting and deliberate blurring of my vision to see how big or small the new dots had to be. Once I'd started I just couldn't seem to stop and I think it was at least four o'clock in the morning when I finally decided that although it wasn't perfect, I just had to let it go and call it finished. As it turned out, I decided to leave it big, because it looked kind of abstract. I know that I could manipulate an image like this so much better and ten times faster using Photoshop or Illustrator these days, but this was still the analogue era and the only digits involved were my aching fingers.

David Hine and the Marvel UK Migration

Continuing with the New Statesmen thread, here's a terrific piece that David Hine did for the title in 1988. Dave seems to be known primarily for his writing skills these days with The Bulletproof Coffin, Spider-Man Noir, Spawn, District X and the forthcoming The Darkness under his belt, though he was originally known more for his illustration work. This was up until his universally celebrated graphic novel Strange Embrace, which he wrote and drew. This has recently been included as one of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die publication by Paul Gravett.

Rian Hughes' CRISIS cover design
Back in 1988, with the advent of Fleetway's new title CRISIS, the editor Steve MacManus had hired Rian Hughes and myself to design the comic between us. Rian designed the Third World War half and I designed the New Statesmen half. It's interesting to note that it was originally going to be called 50/50, to tie in with the numerical nature of 2000AD's title (I still have a logo rough for that somewhere). Rian designed the CRISIS front cover and logo of the title itself, which still stands up today as an outstanding piece of comic-book design.

Having gladly accepted my New Statesmen duties there were a few things that I suggested to Steve that he liked the idea of. One of them was to hire two renowned fashion designers to design costumes for some of the 'Optimen' in the strip, (which I'll talk about later). Another was to ask David Hine to illustrate the fortnightly short story page. 

At this time Dave was mostly working for Marvel UK and a few of their contributors had managed to migrate to 2000AD, namely Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell, who Dave had collaborated with whilst inking the Zoids strip. Steve Dillon and Barry Kitson were other Marvel UK artists who'd crossed over and were both working on Judge Dredd as was John Higgins, though he had always worked for both companies. In the years that followed it's quite interesting to see the pattern of migration from Marvel to Fleetway. Richard Burton, editor of 2000AD, Alan McKenzie the associate editor and myself had all worked for Marvel UK and then the migration continued; Kev Hopgood, Will Simpson, John RidgwayNick Abadzis, Dougie Braithwaite and John Tomlinson. With John initially writing and then being asked to do editorial work on the 2000AD annuals, yet more Marvelites followed. Geoff Senior, Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Anthony Williams, Gary Erskine and Henry Flint.

Anyway, having gone off on a bit of a tangent there, I will be posting some of Dave's illustrations from both, CRISIS and 2000AD as and when I find them. If you want to keep up with what he's doing right now though, check his Waiting for Trade blog, right here...

Dalton: Georgia

A photocopy of one of Jim Baikie's character designs for the New Statesmen. This is Dalton from the State of Georgia.

Monday, 26 December 2011

New Statesmen

I'm a big fan of Jim Baikie's art style and here are four of his panels from the aforementioned, Fleetway's New Statesmen (1988). Click to enlarge.

Justified and Ancient

Another forgotten file and inside, loads of items relating to Fleetway's The New Statesmen series, written by John Smith. I also found pages and pages of typewritten text that I'd marked up, ready to fax or send by courier to the typesetters.

Type mark-ups are destined to become yet another ancient art, now that computers are forever in our midst. It's easy to forget how long the design of a page used to take before desktop publishing.

The writer would either mail or fax their script to the editor, who in this case was Steve MacManus. He would check everything through, making any editorial changes or suggestions if they were needed. This was then given to me to figure out what type style, size and leading would be needed for the page layout. Whether it would be ranged left, right, justified, indented, etc, etc. I would mark it up like this (above) and then it would be faxed over to the typesetters. Before I could properly start on the page paste-up itself, I would be waiting for the text proofs to arrive by motorbike courier. Heaven forbid if I'd marked something up wrongly or the typesetters had mis-typed something! If this was the case, the whole process would start over and I'd have to wait for the next bike delivery, which depending on the typehouse and courier's workload could easily be the following day. It's incredible how quickly this all became superseded by the digital process.

I particularly remember the page mark-up to the left, because this was for the first of the American format editions of the series. Steve MacManus had asked me to design the title pages and had given me free rein to illustrate them myself, which was an exciting prospect.

For inspiration I had this sheet of text alongside John Smith and artist Jim Baikie's prologue to the story, which began in a refugee camp site in a forest. With this in mind and knowing that Alan McKenzie had celebrated November the 5th with a bonfire in his back garden the night before. I dropped by his house and asked if I could scoop up some of the charred remains to take back with me. Having done this, I rearranged it in my studio, and photographed it using the light from my tungsten photo lamps. I had the typesetting for the Golden Bough quote, so I set fire to this and managed to put it out before it all went up in flames. The finished page proof is below.

Hewlett Doin' the Boo

From a proof of the back page of the unpublished rarity, Earthside 8 - here's a great illustration of Betty Boo of "Doin' the Do" fame, in space! By the one and only - Jamie Hewlett

In Orbit Every Monday

...and Monday, it is! Here's a production piece from 1981, complete with bonus Sellotape. A cliff-hanger cover by Brian Bolland. 2000AD Prog #213

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Largin' it #6

Pulchritudinous, premium panels, presented prodigiously for your perusal.

#6. Oh, Wicked Wanda! (Panel Detail) First Series (1973)
Script: Frederic Mullally
Art: Ron Embleton

Hunka, Hunka!

Here's something to brighten up the day! Classic Shaky Kane from Deadline USA, 1992

Spidey Remixed

In the plan chest, yet another Seasonal image. With apologies to Lee & Romita, here is an (ever-so-slightly!) modified title page, originally from Amazing Spider-Man #84 - The Kingpin Strikes Back! I think this was used at Marvel UK in 1986 as some sort of internal office Christmas card.

Christmas Unwrapped

Merry Christmas Morning, folks! While sitting beneath the twinkling Christmas tree, having unwrapped all my fabulous gifts, I started to wonder if there were any more festive scans I could put up here. A bit of rummaging in my plan chest 10 minutes later produced a couple of seasonally relevant Chromalin proofs. One from '92 and another from '93. First up, Colin MacNeil's fabulously festive painting of Tharg as the Spirit of Christmas Future, co-starring the Command Module Droids. Asleep on the floor is the Burt droid (Richard Burton). The one with the glasses is the Bish-Op droid (David Bishop). Then left to right Mac-2 (Alan McKenzie), with 'Danger' sign - Automo-Tomlinson, (John Tomlinson), Mac-1 (Steve MacManus), Cyb-Aud (Audrey Wong) and peeking over the ledge at the top, that's me, Robo-Cook : )

The other proof I found was for Prog #772, (which was actually a Birthday, rather than Christmas issue, but it looks seasonal enough). This was one of my own covers from 1992. I originally designed and drew all the character icons on paper, then cut them out of Rubylith film with a scalpel. They were then copied and replicated using a pmt (photo-mechanical transfer) machine, which took up half the space in my studio at the time. All the colours were specified for the repro-house and the ribbon and bow were  printed in a fifth colour metallic gold for the final publication.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Season's Greetings & Happy Holidays to All! - Plus, Big Thanks for Visiting!

Pulchritudinous, premium panels, presented prodigiously for your perusal.

Largin' it #6. The Amazing Spider-Man #556The Last Warmless Day(1999)
Script: Zeb Wells
Pencils: Chris Bachalo
Inks: Tim Townsend
Colors: Chris Bachelo & Antonio Fabela

'Tis the Season #12

Shazam! Captain Marvel gets the guest spot on this 'Happy Holidays' card from DC Comics, with a guest appearance from Alfred E. (What, me worry?) Neuman, Superman & Batman. Illustrated by Jeff Smith, 2003.

Santa Dredd?

From this time 25 years ago, 2000AD prog #502 (Featuring Santa Dredd!?!) cover art by Glenn Fabry

Alien Attack!

I haven't posted one of these for a while, and this is a goodie! 2000AD Prog #196 by Dave Gibbons. As a recap about the process; The black & white line art has been printed onto an acetate overlay and a duplicate of that has been printed onto a separate sheet in blue line. The colours have been hand painted onto the blue line sheet and the two are married together before being sent to press. This is how things were done in the Command Module, circa 1981!

Largin' it #5

Pulchritudinous, premium panels, presented prodigiously for your perusal.

#5. Doctor StrangeInto Shamballa(1986)
Story/Script: J.M. DeMatteis
Story/Art: Dan Green

Friday, 23 December 2011

The Dark Knight Rises

...and how!!! Brian Bolland for UKCAC '85

'Tis the Season #11

Another great 'Happy Holidays' card from DC Comics. This one starring Jonah Hex. Illustrated by José Luis Garcia-Lopez, Kevin Nowlan and Matt Hollingsworth, 2009.


Having just seen the new trailer for Prometheus, which is probably the most anticipated film of 2012; I was having a look at some of the original designs for Ridley Scott's first Alien film and thought I'd scan and put them up here, as an excuse to post the Prometheus trailer itself. Top: Chris Foss, in his inimitable style, originally visualised the refinery as being built on asteroid chunks. Below: The designs for the space suit by Moebius are pretty close to how it looked in the final production.

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