Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Covers Special - Who's the McMahon?

This week saw the triumphant return of the legendary art droid Mick McMahon to the Prog with the fantastic cover above. Mick's story is very well documented so I won't go over old ground. Needless to say, I'm sure everyone reading this is aware that Mick was the artist on the first ever published Judge Dredd story (in Prog 2) and is responsible for much of the look of Dredd and his world. His work is also cited as an inspiration for many, many big name artists working in the industry today.

This blog post is going to celebrate his return by ogling at some of his past covers, star scans and oddities as well as looking at some of his wonderful character designs and considering the ever evolving nature of his art. Please note, many of these images are quite Hi-Res, to get the best out of 'em, right click and choose 'Open in a new tab...'

Before we start, let's kick off with a Star Scan of 'Art Robot McMahon' by Robin Smith...

Below is Mick's first ever 2000AD cover , that of Prog 59. It heralded Dredd's return to Megacity-One after his stint as Judge Marshall on Luna-1. This strange tale saw Dredd seemingly ignoring various crimes as well as actually smiling at times. Naturally, as soon as the law man is served his reinstatement papers he is back to his grim self, immediately arresting the perps he'd ignored moments before...

Note the wonderful city blocks in this cover and Dredd metaphorically towering above the city. This is a theme used several times by the artist, with devastatingly effective results as you'll see throughout this post. Brilliantly composed, this is one of many stone cold classics for me...
Aaand, from one classic to another, the often imitated Cursed Earth cover of Prog 61...
The Cursed Earth saga gave us many, many memorable covers including Dredd versus the terrifying Satanus...
A familiar sound-bite (I'm looking at you, Alex Murhpy!) as Dredd faces off against alien slavers....
Culminating in the absolutely unforgettable cover of Prog 85...
Here's an early Star Scan from prog 95...
However, McMahon is not only synonymous with Dredd, he is very, very fondly remembered for his work on Ro-Busters, The VCs ABC Warriors and Slaine too. Below are two cracking ABC Warriors covers...

Mick returned to Dredd to provide some amazing visuals for the Judge Child saga. Among his many covers was this iconic stunner...
As well as this eyeball meltingly amazing poster cover of Prog 169 showing (a rather old) Dredd fighting at what I assume is 'The Battle of Armageddon.' (see EDIT 1 at the end of this blog to correct mistake no 1!)
The very same issue had the bonus Star Pair Up shown below, which I love. It's mind boggling how productive the artists were, this issue is sandwiched between two issues which also carried McMahon covers and the star scan, plus I assume he was working on strip work too...
Of course, the Judge Child Saga introduced us a a variety of weird and wonderful characters, including the evil Murd the Oppressor who actually killed (then reanimated) Judge Dredd!
Servant's of Murd, 'The Watchers'. This is the cover of a Titan graphic novel, I adore the colouring here, truly ingenious...
The absolutely wonderful Buggo the Brave...
And, perhaps most famously, the dreaded Angel Gang... (with a little help from DAve Gibbons and Cam Kennedy, see EDIT 2 & 3 at the end of this blog to see where I've messed up!)


Though, of course, Fink (and indeed Ratty) came later...


Here's a suitably big booted cover for Prog 178...
And an all time classic from Prog 148. I still remember that image on the Spectrum 48k game box...
The next cover always annoyed me as a kid as I was convinced Mick had drawn Dredd with a moustache. Ah, the folly of youth...By this stage, the level of detail in Mick's artwork is staggering. The cover below never fails to blow me away both in terms of design and the sheer amount of work that's gone into it...
Another huge favourite below, this image always reminds me of Lord Kitchener's famous 'Your Country Needs You!' poster...
Another iconic Dredd watching over the city image, superb...
And carrying on the theme of Dredd dwarfing the city is this Star Scan from prog 172...

The cover for Prog 229 has a look of that of Prog 61, however it shows just how McMahon's style developed. Although it's less of an action-based image, it still seems more measured, less frenetic in it's style...
And here is Mick's final Dredd cover (from the first golden age of 2000AD), from the classic Starborn Thing story which saw Dredd become a dad!
After Mick's much publicised frustration providing the crowd scenes for Blockmania, he quit Dredd and went on to work on Slaine, developing the sinewy, scratchy style hinted at in the Starborn cover above. After Slaine, he left 2000AD for a while working for other publishers, ever evolving and changing his styles.

He popped up from time to time at the house of Tharg, dividing opinion with his joyously minimal style. Here's a Megazine cover from 1994 which caused a storm...
Followed by a cover from the controversial Howler which people still debate today! I've uploaded Mick's original image plus how it was printed on the Meg, I much prefer Mick's original...
Here's the artwork for the Best of 2000AD Special 1993 featuring three of Tharg's big hitters...
And finally the Judge Dredd Mega History from 1995...
So there we have a potted, very patchy history of some of Mick's cover work for 2000AD - believe me, if I had more I'd show 'em!

Surely Mick is the very bravest of artists. A true visionary who is never afraid to develop, surprise and most of all challenge his audience. I was truly delighted to see him back on the cover of 2000AD this week, and I hope we see an awful lot more from him.

Let's hope the words in the beautiful image below come true...
To see more (and even buy some) of Mick's work, go to tuggingyourcoat.com. Thanks also to Rufus Dayglo who's amazing comicartfans gallery I've shamelessly plundered for this article!

EDIT 1 - Thanks to Steve Green for clearing up that the Dredd Civil War picture (prog 169) was from a post atomic wars spat that MC1 had with MC3/Texas City. It's come flooding back now!

EDIT 2 - Thanks to Jim Campbell for pointing out that The Angel Gang poster was inked and lettered by someone called Dave Gibbons (never heard of him!) The only time Dave inked Mike's pencils. As Jim points out, possibly the most thrill powered artwork in existence!

EDIT 3!!! - Thanks to David Rees for getting in touch with Cam Kennedy to do some detective work on the other Angel Gang picture which was apparently done by Cam and not Mick. Cam said "From this old fuddled memory I seem to remember the editor askin' me if I could adhere to Mike's style. I have vague memories of Mike bein' ill for a period of time and I suppose they were obsessed with continuity..."

5 comments:

  1. I own one page of McMahon art, it's the one inanimate thing that gets out of my house before I am overcome with the smoke inhalation from my burning apartment.
    Rufus ain't gettin' it! You hear me Dayglo! NEVER!

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  2. Comics Genius! His stuff used to freak me out when I was kid, but i slowly realised he was probably the finest, cleverest, 2000AD artist. Oh man, that Slaine with the flying viking longships...

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  3. You need to add another edit, Pete! The Angel Gang pin-up was one of Cam Kennedy's, done in full-on McMahon=style... Regarding drawing this (and the Slaine covers) Cam says: "From this old fuddled memory I seem to remember the editor askin' me if I could adhere to Mike's style. I have vague memories of Mike bein' ill for a period of time and I suppose they were obsessed with continuity." Straight from the horse's mouth!

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