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Author Topic: Oh no not another re-read thread (progs 336 to 729)  (Read 2821 times)

Steve Green

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Re: Oh no not another re-read thread (progs 336 to 729)
« Reply #45 on: 21 June, 2019, 06:19:02 pm »
Same here.

Much as I like Ortiz, he didn't seem a good fit for Rogue.

I think it was mainly down to Rogue, at least during the Traitor General Arc, being suited to artists with a good handle on tech and vehicles.

It wasn't a bad idea to replace them with something more like bioweaponry and weird aliens to mix it up a bit, but Ortiz seemed more suited to creepy period or near future horror than far future war and the aliens were mostly of the Meltdown Man variety in the Horst run.

Funt Solo

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Re: Oh no not another re-read thread (progs 336 to 729)
« Reply #46 on: 22 June, 2019, 01:27:48 am »
I wonder if it would have worked better if it hadn't been Horst.  It was such a poor move (in hindsight) to remove the tale from Nu Earth (which was as much a main character as Rogue himself).
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Steve Green

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Re: Oh no not another re-read thread (progs 336 to 729)
« Reply #47 on: 22 June, 2019, 08:28:41 am »
Maybe - it's one of those things that's tied to Rogue so closely, it's what he was created for - removing that, or the biochips in the reboot shifts things a bit.

I'm not sure if a Regene storyline set on Nu-Earth would have been much better though, to borrow Space Spinner's description, would readers get pissed off with a whole new set of side-quests to stretch out the resolution of the main task.

MumboJimbo

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Re: Oh no not another re-read thread (progs 336 to 729)
« Reply #48 on: 24 June, 2019, 12:08:22 pm »
Prog 500 (Dec 1986) - Prog 543 (Oct 87)

Before I start, I should say that in the middle of this I go off on one about the changing nature of 2000 AD and the UK comic industry as a whole. I wrote this originally for some friends, who weren't as into UK comics as me, so bear that in mind. Also a lot is conjecture as I haven't read Thrill Power Unleashed etc., so I imagine those on this forum will have a lot better insight than I do! Anyway, with that out of the way - let's get going.

Prog 500! I still remember the excitement of getting it, and having to finish my paper round first before I could settle down and enjoy its wonders. That wonderful wraparound cover with 20 different characters drawn by 20 different artists. But that was nothing compared to the joys to be had inside. I've talked before about when 2000 AD hit its peak for me, and the early 500s could definitely be a contender. It is, for me, where 2000 AD as a (mostly) black-and-white publication hit its artistic peak. Of course, for full colour art we've still got the sumptuousness of Bisley's Slaine to come, but Glenn Fabry's Slaine The King one of the best looking b&w strips ever to grace the prog. And to rival it we have the return of Talbot's Nemesis and Ewins & McCarthy's Bad Company. It's a simply gorgeous prog from start to finish, and we have the rather indulgent but fascinating one-off 'Tharg's Head Revisited', full of private in-jokes, digs at other artists, rants against the industry and so on.

Sadly Nemesis was only back for 5 new episodes, to finish off Book 6 and that was the last we were to see of Bryan Talbot's excellent artwork in the prog. Nemesis book 6 is a weird one - I remember reading somewhere Talbot describing it as "the one where all the characters stand around on a beach and talk to each other" - which is fairly accurate, but it's better than that sounds. Nemesis, Torquemada and co. have tracked Thoth to the far future where humanity has returned to the primordial ooze from whence we came. This gloop (called Primords) can take a humanoid form by pouring themselves into what looks like deep-sea diver suits. The Primords are benign and wish to cure Torquemada of his hatred, only there's a spanner in the works: the terminators have been using the ooze as fuel and spirit of the dead Primords have morphed in the evil monads. Anyway, it's all very nightmarish and trippy, and Talbot's depiction of the Monads is terrifying, but once the dust has settled, the only thing that's changed is Torquemada is now back in charge of the Terminators. And Candida has gone mad.

Slaine the King starts off great with Slaine finally returning to his home tribe, only to find them starving under the yoke of the evil Famorians. Only, 9 episodes in the strip disappears for 8 issues, to come back for a final 3-episode ending that felt rushed. And, like Talbot, we won't be seeing much more of Fabry's work in the comic. He comes back for a one-off Slaine and then a 3-episode story about 18 months later, and then an 8-episode story in 1993, but that's it. I wonder if Fabry and Talbot's work just took too long to do, and it wasn't cost effective for them to stay as 2000 AD artists given how much detail they put into their art. But that's all conjecture.

Bad Company Book 1 really is the tits. You can tell they put a great deal of prep into this series - all the character designs, including clothing etc. are very detailed and well realised, especially considering that many of the Bad Company members only last a few episodes into the series. It's a startlingly bleak story, with the look of recognition Danny Franks sees in zombie Malcolm's eyes still shocking all these years later, and I love how Franks gradually turns from the fresh-faced recruit to the unkempt, battle-hardened member of the company. Just a great strip, both artistically and in its story, and as every bit as good as I remember it to be.

Nemesis gets replaced by the rather long Strontium Dog story 'Bitch', which is memorable for its introduction of the character Durham Red. Does she fancy Johnny or just want to drink his blood? Who knows, but it's more fun than Twilight. Although the Ronald Reagan shenanigans get a bit tiresome, there is one very funny moment though when Alpha decides to join Durham Red in the shower only for Ronnie to join in too, which actually made me laugh out loud.

Prog 510 brings Millgan's third major story in the prog - The Dead, a strip I never bothered to read back in the day. I enjoyed it, especially Belardinelli's artwork - it's nice to see him tackle something a bit more weighty and high-concept than Ace Trucking Co. It is a story that does ultimately break under the weight of its complex cosmology of the Afterlife, which gives the Catholic Church a run for its money. It's very different in tone from both Bad Company and Sooner or Later, showing Milligan to be have quite a range as a writer.

Prog 520 is 2000AD's 10th birthday issue, and also the issue where everything starts to change. IPC gets bought by Robert Maxwell of all people. The paper 2000 AD is printed on changes to a better quality stock, and a taller, thinner shape. Editor Steve MacManus is now in charge of a new initiative to extend the 2000 AD brand into a range of periodicals, and assistant editor Richard Burton (no relation) is promoted to editor.

I don't think any of these changes though, momentous as they are, sufficiently explain the huge transformation 2000 AD goes through in the next few years. The comic goes from a trusted brand that seems comfortable with its own identity to a no-holds-barred experimental training ground for new talent. New writers, artists and stories would come and go, seemingly without much thought as to how their work would sit with the current readership. It's almost as if 2000 AD was not 2000 AD but a new sister comic whose remit was to give a voice to new up-and-coming talent, some of whom would prove to be successful enough to feature in the real 2000 AD. Only this was the real 2000 AD.

Richard Burton has been sub-editor for years, and was portrayed in the occasional Tharg stories as Burt - the well-meaning but dull and subservient drudge who Tharg gets to boss about. I've seen clips of him on YouTube where he talks about how his time as editory and how he had to pander to his bosses and work with the diva-like nature of some of his creative talent, but nothing about having a distinct, new creative vision for the prog. It seems, therefore, rather unlikely that 2000 AD should go under such a radical makeover during his stint as editor.

How much, I wonder, of the changes in 2000 AD at this time were actually due to the new sub-editor, Alan McKenzie, who would eventually succeed Burton as editor in the mid-nineties? McKenzie was young and liked House music, about which he would write about in the comic under the female pseudonym Roxilla. He wrote a fair few of the new strips, which we'll get to later. I think it's fair to say McKenzie is not always a well-regarded figure in the history of 2000 AD; he did after all edit the comic in the mid-nineties which is widely considered the Dark Age of 2000 AD. However, I wasn't reading it then so I can't comment. I'm quite excited to get to this era of 2000 AD in the my re-read. Things change fast, and say what you like about the quality-control, there's no year-long run of Ace Trucking Co. to have to read!

Anyway, things don't actually change overnight. It's prog 555 when the comic has a complete makeover, including a logo-change where things really start to move. The 520-554 period is a kind of transitory phase before the storm. It's maybe the case that 2000 AD had to change. A lot of writers and artists were leaving the comic as they'd had enough of not keeping the copyright to their work, and looked to America, or setting up their own rival publication (see Deadline and Toxic). So new talent was certainly needed. Also the UK comic market was rapidly contracting at this point. Long running titles like Battle and Tiger had become defunct and the market for girls' comics had basically vanished. 2000 AD's lifeline was that it was now appealing to an increasingly older audience. If it could continue to cultivate that, and still appeal to its original 10+ readership, then it could buck market trends and continue to be a strong seller.

But back to the stories. We get a new Nemesis 5-parter called Torquemada the God marking the brief return of original artist Kevin O'Neil. I absolutely bloody loved this, far more than I did when I originally read it. Kev's anarchic artwork perfectly captures the bug-eyed fanatical fervour and insanity of Termight, and his S&M stylings of Sister Stern (replete with flat-top and tanga briefs with suspenders) is hilarious. Rogue Trooper comes back in Hit 1, and still a bit below par. I think the dull setting is partly to blame - a rather generic Nort base is no match for the choking chem clouds of Nu Earth. It's Steve Dillon on art duties though, so that's cool.

The new Judge Anderson 12-episode 'Hour of the Wolf', on the other hand is corking, even if Anderson spends most of it unconscious. A very well plotted and paced story of assassins and subterfuge with a surprising ending. And Barry Kitson doing sterling work on the art front. Mean Team comes back (finally), now written by Alan Hebden. I preferred it to the first story, although it's not particularly memorable.

We've already had Bad Company, and Prog 535 gives us the second of this era's big hitters - Zenith! Yowel's artwork is like nothing we had seen so far in 2000 AD - kind of impressionistic and not as detailed as, say, Fabry or Talbot, but incredibly effective at imparting mood. And also 2000 AD's first superhero story - a genre they had purposely avoided, but I guess Zenith is such an anti-hero, that it kind of subverts the genre. He's a bit of a cowardly, moaning nob in the first story to be fair, but it's more of an ensemble cast anyway, so it doesn't detract too much. It's also tied into the Lovecraft Mythos which I never realised at the time. Ace.

We also get a couple of minor new mini-series: Universal Soldier and Freaks. Universal Soldier is, I have to say, not to my liking at all. The story is skeletal, the art is a bit meh and it feels rushed at the end. Milligan's Freaks is better but it's basically a longer Future Shock, but that's OK. Anyway, until next time!

AlexF

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Re: Oh no not another re-read thread (progs 336 to 729)
« Reply #49 on: 24 June, 2019, 02:00:22 pm »
Boy, that's an awful lot of content and background info covered in one post there, impressive stuff!
I'm getting quite the kick out of reading these alongside SpaceSpinner 2000's near-contemporary reviews of the same period - although you're about to jump a big step ahead - fascinating to see how your opinion diverges from theirs, and, of course, my own!

I'd love to get more behind the scenes info from Messers Burton and Mackenzie about the ethos of 2000AD, but I suspect your analysis is the correct one - they were too busy just getting the damn comic out every week they had little time to do any more high-level planning.

With that in mind, it's a bit of a shame you haven't more space to talk about the development of Judge Dredd week on week. Wagner and Grant, along with Pat Mills, were probably much more of a guiding voice about 2000AD at this time. They'd been in it from the start, and were both good enough at their job and senior enough that the editors probably asked for very few changes. But you can definitely see the stories they write getting more and more sophisticated and more appealing to older readers.

MumboJimbo

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Re: Oh no not another re-read thread (progs 336 to 729)
« Reply #50 on: 24 June, 2019, 05:35:00 pm »
With that in mind, it's a bit of a shame you haven't more space to talk about the development of Judge Dredd week on week.

I'll have more to say in tomorrow's instalment about Dredd, as Oz is about to start  :D

Colin YNWA

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Re: Oh no not another re-read thread (progs 336 to 729)
« Reply #51 on: 24 June, 2019, 09:21:18 pm »
The sheer quantity of great thrills list there makes me wonder why I rated 1986 ahead of 1987 in my recent re-read (I actually go for 1999 being the best year to date (well up to 2000) but this is a glorious period.

Anderson Hour of the Wolf has one of my all time favourite episode with the masterfully timed ambush that takes out Cass.

Funt Solo

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Re: Oh no not another re-read thread (progs 336 to 729)
« Reply #52 on: 24 June, 2019, 10:32:30 pm »
Anderson Hour of the Wolf has one of my all time favourite episode with the masterfully timed ambush that takes out Cass.

I LOVE that series.  I felt it suffered a bit from the artist change part way through. 

These were interesting days for the comic, with prog 520 clearly being a standout as it was the 10th Birthday Prog, and it changed paper size and stock.  That prog is just full of great art: Barry Kitson on Anderson, Steve Dillon on Rogue, Garry Leach on Dredd, Kevin O'Neill on Torquemada the God and Carlos on Strontium Dog.  Wow! 
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Frank

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Re: Oh no not another re-read thread (progs 336 to 729)
« Reply #53 on: 24 June, 2019, 10:57:50 pm »

It's the only really good Anderson story, or at least the only Anderson story that works as an action thriller in its own right.

I started reading at 511, so every single strip is golden, to me. This was the first Rogue Trooper and Nemesis (Torquemada) I'd ever read, so I thought the former (which is tosh) was great and the latter (which is fantastic) was the level of quality I could expect every week.

Great retrospectives, OtherJimbo. I've never spoken to any 2000ad creator, but the fact most who left at this point went to work on comics that offered better pay but not much else suggests copyright wasn't the deal breaker Alan Moore's principled* rhetoric suggests.

We'd probably have had Halo Jones Book Four if Cap'n Bob had thrown some of that Mirror pension money Moore's way.


* And, in my view, correct

sheridan

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Re: Oh no not another re-read thread (progs 336 to 729)
« Reply #54 on: 25 June, 2019, 12:40:15 am »
I wonder if Fabry and Talbot's work just took too long to do, and it wasn't cost effective for them to stay as 2000 AD artists given how much detail they put into their art. But that's all conjecture.


Fabry is not the fastest artist - especially when everything went colour.  Talbot went off to do Batman, One Bad Rat, a sequel to Luther Arkwright, etc.

sheridan

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Re: Oh no not another re-read thread (progs 336 to 729)
« Reply #55 on: 25 June, 2019, 12:45:05 am »
Anderson Hour of the Wolf has one of my all time favourite episode with the masterfully timed ambush that takes out Cass.

I LOVE that series.  I felt it suffered a bit from the artist change part way through. 

That's what I thought at the time it came out too - glad Will's art got to the stage that he was painting full-colour Dredd not that much later!

MumboJimbo

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Re: Oh no not another re-read thread (progs 336 to 729)
« Reply #56 on: 25 June, 2019, 11:27:28 am »
Progs 544 to 585

Wham, bam - it's John Hicklenton! John Hicklenton's coming for you with his world of gurning, preening insanity where everyone suffers from a cricked neck. John Hicklenton's here and Nemesis, and indeed 2000 AD as a whole, would never be the same again. Of course, Mike McMahon and Kev O'Neil could be pretty "out there" at times, but Hicklenton's Nemesis Book 7 is in a whole different league. You feel slightly dirty after reading a Hicklenton strip, as if the arterial spray that fills many of his panels has drizzled out of the page and coagulated on your lap (ugh!). I remember hating it when it first arrived - how could they replace Bryan Talbot with this? - but growing to love it by Book 9, when I was a bit older and more receptive to new things. Looking back on it now, Hicklenton's work is absolutely mind blowing - unique, single-minded and brave. He goes to town on showing the exotic, alien otherness of Nemesis himself, and the gurning insanity of his, er, nemesis, Tomas de Torquemada, but shows admirable restraint with his depiction of the original, medieval Torquemada, who is drawn very closely to his depictions of the time, as a seemingly gentle monk with large, doleful eyes and a prim, pursed mouth. His take on Purity, with thin pointy eyebrows, is a bit WTF though - it's looks as if Sister Stern has taken her place, and Nemesis hasn't noticed yet. (He probably wouldn't notice to be fair - it took him ages to realise his wife had died.) There's also at least one panel each episode, that try as a might I have no understanding of what's meant to be depicted. I was very sad to learn Hicklenton died of MS back in 2010 at the age of 42, and used Dignitas to end his life. I intend to track down some of his other work, particularly his final work - 100 Months - completed the day before his trip to the Dignitas centre in Switzerland.

"The Rammy" is a highly enjoyable Strontium Dog 10-part romp where Alpha and McNulty entrap some crims living in a futuristic version of Marbellas, where they are allowed to live in luxury without having to atone for their past crimes. The Stronts can't touch them in Marbellas, so they have to lure them out by organising a big brawl (the titular "Rammy") where the winner walks off with a large prize money. The whole story is told as a flashback to a courtroom drama, where Alpha and McNulty are being held by the Marbellas authorities, who are trying to prosecute them for entrapment. Nice plot idea, well paced, and probably the best post-Rage Strontium Dog story so far.

Bad Company are back (well, what's left of them) for their second adventure - The Bewilderness, which to be honest is more a bridging story between the first story, and the third - the Krool Heart. Danny Franks is tasked to rebuild the Company, more or less from scratch, and they find a half-insane Kano, presumed dead. Ewins' and McCarthy's art continues to impress.

Just when you thought John Hicklenton's art was a one-of-a-kind, never to be repeated idiosyncratic flight-of-fancy, we actually get a second artist of a surprisingly similar ilk to Hicklenton in Simon Harrison, who furnishes us with a series of one-off adventures of an alien child called Bradley. The premise is simple, Bradley's parents believe him to be a bit of handful, but in reality Bradley is actually a dangerous psychopath and of course Bradley gets himself in all manner of scrapes. Harrison's art work, and alien-ness he brings to proceedings definitely elevate this above its simple premise. As long as Simon Harrison is deployed on such projects, and not something like, say, Strontium Dog, which would be an appalling mismatch with his art style, I'm sure he will do fine and be welcomed by the 2000 AD readership with open arms. Right guys?

After much hinting in the Nerve Centre that we were finally getting an epic Judge Dredd story after 3 years of nothing but short stories that made not a jot of difference to Dredd and Mega-City One, it arrives in the form of Oz. I do remember thinking at the time "for f***'s sake" when this so-called epic seemed to be nothing more than a surf race in Australia. I was not impressed. However, it turned out better than I had feared, and even had some long term ramifications - something unheard of in the Dreddverse since the Apocalypse War. The Oz story breaks down into roughly 3 parts: Choppers escape from the Iso-Cubes and flight to Oz; the Judda; and finally the race itself. The Judda - exiled Judge Judd's army of cloned judges - save the story from being too light and inconsequential, and the race itself is actually tightly written and paced, and rather exciting. Although the Judda are defeated, a clone of Judge Fargo (and therefore also a clone of Dredd) is captured alive, and this will have ramifications further down the line, as will Dredd's decision not to shoot Chopper when he escapes arrest at the end of the race.

And now we come to prog 555, replete with a whole new design for 2000 AD - a new logo, new look Nerve Centre etc. And a brand new ABC Warriors epic, drawn by new recruit Simon Bisley, no less! (And another guy called S.M.S, but everyone seems to forget about him.) I'm gonna be honest and say, I found this story - The Black Hole - a bit meh to begin with. New warrior Terri - hot woman who thinks she's a robot and is in love with Hammerstein - is pretty paper-thin, and maybe it was an admission by Pat Mills that she was a bit crap by the way she is quickly dispatched at the end of the story. The first few parts are not very interesting, and Bisley's art is good, but not as remarkable and shockingly different as Hinklenton and Simon Harrison's recent flights of fancy. Then after the first 4 episodes, S.M.S. takes over, and if anything I actually prefer his work (sacrilege I know). But when when Bisley returns in episode 9, his work is much, much better. Maybe he'd seen that 2000 AD was now printing some fairly far-out artwork, so he allowed himself to go to town a bit more and buckle-down on the weirdness? His version of Mongrol with giant hands is particularly pleasing. The story also ramps up at this point, and although the ending is rushed, it was overall a good story, albeit a little uneven in places. (I know this is considered a classic, and my faint praise may not match your opinion - sorry!)

Straight after Nemesis Book 7 we get Nemesis Book 8 - how exciting! Although this is more of a flashback than a continuation of the main narrative. David Roach takes over the art, and the focus of the story - Purity Brown - is completely changed from Hicklenton's Miss Whiplash to all feminine lines and long flowing locks of hair. Purity's Story is most memorable for two things: firstly, the classic scene where Torquemada gets Purity to wear a dress made out of some kind of alien flamingo, in a scene that I though very much foreshadowed Bjork's swan dress at the Dancer in the Dark premier. And secondly, that Nemesis is actually a total bastard. I mean, we had our suspicions when he killed that busload of kids in Book 5, but now he basically admits it to Purity before erasing her memory with some warlocky spell.

Rogue Trooper pops up for 3 episodes, buggers off again, and then pops up again a few months later for another 3. You kind of get the feeling that the editorial staff have completely lost interest in poor old Rogue, but feel he ought to be included every now and then because he's popular with the readership. Also popping up in short, sporadic stories is new character Tyranny Rex, also drawn by Steve Dillon. The least interesting thing about the first two Tyranny Rex stories is the titular character. Script writer John Smith is clearly having fun with the world he had created, full of references to contemporary music (Talking Heads episode titles!), but I got the impression Smith is markedly less invested in his tough-talking lizard heroine.

Something I have no recollection of whatsoever, but is totally ace, is Summer Magic. Reminiscent of A Box of Delights, but a lot darker, it recounts the childhood recollections of a boy being taught magic by his uncle, and they attempt to kill a monster that has been roaming the local woods. The artwork here (by a guy called John Ridgeway) is lovely stuff: a verdant, nostalgic re-imagining of 60s rural England, and very unlike anything else in the prog in this era. Bravo!

Finally - we have Strontium Dog - The No-Go Job, with a new artist - Simon Harrison. If the complete makeover Hicklenton gave to Nemesis was hard to adjust to, then this really was asking a lot from the 2000 AD readership to welcome this jarring change with open arms. I stopped getting the prog for 2 years around this time, and I don't actually remember why, but I'm sure it was to do with how rapidly things were changing at the time, and this may have been the last straw. However, back to the present day, 45 year old MumboJimbo very much enjoyed Harrison's mad take on Strontium Dog, particularly his drawing of McNulty's granny's dog Dougal. There's a lot of humour and creativity going on, and each panel is a treat, providing you can make head or tail of what's meant to be going on. But is Harrison the kind of artist who could pull off the emotional punch of Johnny Alpha being killed off? I have my doubts, but we'll find out soon!

broodblik

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Re: Oh no not another re-read thread (progs 336 to 729)
« Reply #57 on: 25 June, 2019, 02:07:34 pm »
I agree with your take on Strontium Dog with Harrison on art duty. I know a few people like his art but his work I could never get into (even when I recently re-read Strontium Dog). The whole Rogue Hit-saga was a complete mess and it was almost nobody know how to do a proper Rogue story and direction. It felt that when Finley-Day left they should have sunset Rogue.

Greg M.

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Re: Oh no not another re-read thread (progs 336 to 729)
« Reply #58 on: 25 June, 2019, 04:51:17 pm »
You feel slightly dirty after reading a Hicklenton strip, as if the arterial spray that fills many of his panels has drizzled out of the page and coagulated on your lap (ugh!).

You should see his artwork before it was edited for publication - it's even more filthy than you think, with all manner of free-spurting appendages and implied sordidness.

Funt Solo

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Re: Oh no not another re-read thread (progs 336 to 729)
« Reply #59 on: 25 June, 2019, 09:23:48 pm »
I recall that era fondly - and how exciting it was to have some very different art styles come into play.

Hicklenton on Nemesis was like no other art I'd ever seen in the prog: so disturbing!  I mean Judge Death was scary when drawn very cleanly by Bolland: but Hicklenton's work felt a bit like the artist was suffering trauma in realizing their vision.  (I could imagine Bolland settling down for a nice cuppa after drawing Death ... but Hicklenton maybe needed counseling.)

I really loved Bisley's work on the ABCs: but that's not to say that I didn't like the different art style of SMS.  The trouble is that they get naturally compared because they both worked on a much-loved series, and SMS had to go second against the breakout talent of Bisley.  Man: unfair! 

Much as I love the work of King Carlos, I'd started to tire of Strontium Dog because it seemed to be coasting along on too mellow a ride.  Simon Harrison's art, and the fact that The No-Go Job seemed to be shaking up Alpha's world a bit, were exciting compared to the mellow.
fate amenable to change