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Saturday, December 07, 2019

Illustrators Special #6: Brian Bolland

Brian Bolland should need no introduction. He made his name in 2000AD drawing Judge Dredd, including some of Dredd's biggest hits: Judge Death, Judge Death Lives and episodes of The Judge Child and Block War. Then, a stroke of fortune... Joe Staton was in the UK for a convention and needed to find somewhere to complete some work. Bolland's had a drawing table spare at his flat and Staton told his editor on Green Lantern that he knew an artist who was interested in doing the cover.... and Bolland was offered his first US work.

Camelot 3000 (1982-85), The Killing Joke (1988) and hundreds of covers have followed, all exquisitely drawn. While you may disagree with some of the sentiments in his Mr Mamoulian strips, and think that perhaps his seeming obsession with bondage is a bit much, you will never find a bad page by Brian Bolland.

Reading the interview that threads through this current volume, you can see why. He had diverse influences as an artist, but you can see from his work that he took most of his influence as a comic strip artist from the likes of David Wright (Carol Day), Sydney Jordan (Jeff Hawke) and Jesus Blasco (The Steel Claw). All three strove for realism even when faced with alien characters and weird, menacing enemies. His main American comic influence was not Jack Kirby but Gil Kane and Carmine Infantino.

The book begins with his first creative efforts working in collaboration with Dave Harwood, the elder brother of a schoolfriend, and takes its readers through early professional work (Powerman), into 2000AD and beyond. A comprehensive look at Bolland's work appeared a few years ago from Image, but there's plenty here that is new—pencil roughs show how Bolland is able to nail an idea, to the point where you could almost publish the rough. Over time and with the advantage of nowadays drawing and colouring on computer, he has even more control, especially of the colour palette that he uses on more recent covers for  Jack of Fables, Zatanna and Dial H.

There are glimpses of Bolland's much-anticipated autobiographical book made up of montages of illustrations, images, drawings and photos which promises to be very revealing. In the meantime, the interview here is a delightful and tasty aperitif ahead of the main course, and the artwork a trip down memory lane for old fogies like myself who have been around for as long as Bolland has been active in comics. That some is taken from original boards and the printing is superior to anything IPC or DC managed in the 20th century means you can look at it with fresh eyes and appreciate its beauty all the more.

Illustrators Special #6: The Art of Brian Bolland is available from Book Palace now. For more information on Illustrators and back issues of the regular quarterly title, visit the Book Palace website, where you can also find details of their online editions, and news of upcoming issues. The latest issue of Illustrators (#28) will feature articles on  Frank Kelly Freas, Yvonne Gilbert, Laurent Durieux and Heinrich Kley. During 2020, issues will feature Charles Addams, Lawson Wood, Roy Wilson, JJ Grandville (#29), Mort Küntsler, Earl Norem, Norman Saunders (#30), Jason Edmiston and Cornillon (#30), with specials on Pirates, Warren artists and John M. Burns also coming up in Spring.

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