Tag Archives: Pat Mills

Great news, chums – new UK comics-related blog The BRISTLE launched!

As part of a slowly-unfolding plan to hive off different aspects of this blog to more focused efforts, I am pleased to announce the launch of my new venture, The BRISTLE!

Devoted to all sorts of stuff connected to UK comics, The BRISTLE will be a handy resting place for musings on the peculiarly British anthology titles – both of yore, and contemporary efforts too.

So whether you were a fan of DC Thomson’s perennials like The Beano and The Dandy, or IPC’s more off-the-wall funnies like Whoopee!! and Oink!; or a boys’ adventure paper junkie revelling in The Victor and Valiant; or a pure child of the 70s with your Battle and Action and 2000AD, I shall endeavour to root around my boxes of delights for rare strips, odd titbits and aged newspaper cuttings to share with you.

Already I have posted up a ‘Judge Dredd’ six-pager by John Wagner and Ian Gibson that was exclusively published in Sinclair User magazine to tie-in to a Spectrum ZX game – so keep your eyes peeled on The BRISTLE for more such treats in the future!


In tangentially-linked news, British comic writer par excellence Pat Mills has endorsed on of my posts about cop-spook-turned-academic Bob Lambert MBE!


The unsung engineer of British comics: Pat Mills – welcome to the blogosphere!

Just a quickie: Pat Mills – probably the comic writer who most inspired, influenced and guided me – has taken up blogging, and his first post, on the genesis of 2000AD and ‘Judge Dredd’, is a corker…


And comic artist John Hicklenton has died, too…

I’ve just noticed that the comic book artist John Hicklenton is also being reported as having died:

According to several news sites including Forbidden Planet, artist John Hicklenton has passed away. As you may know, especially if you watched the award winning documentary about him Here’s Johnny, he had lived with MS for many years.John Hicklenton came to the notice of 2000 AD readers as the new artist on Nemesis the Warlock during the late eighties. His work was striking, challenging and subversive. As you will see if you look back over The Slog covering that period, I had difficulty adjusting to his style initially. However, his comic strip work improved at a rate that matched my adjustment so that by the end of the eighties he had become one my favourite artists of the expanding 2000 AD line. His Judge Dredd work for The Megazine during the early nineties was both fresh and expressive.

Via Paul Rainey at 2000AD Prog Slog.

I remember John Hicklenton’s work on Nemesis being very different to everything that had come before, and when Paul says it was “striking, challenging and subversive”, he hits the nail dead centre. This was dark, scary artwork that evoked a bleaker world than that of Kev O’ Neill or Bryan Talbot, though always with a hint of humour.

His stint on ‘Third World War’ in Crisis was the first time I got to see him working on a ‘realistic’ strip, rather than fantasy, and he rendered the racist cop in the storyline incredibly well (Angie Mills'(?) colouring boo-boos aside).

He took a similar sensibility with him to Toxic, where he had a run on ‘Fear Teachers’, which never got a chance to be finished, thanks to the comic’s early demise. But again, his bent towards the grotesque – and his propensity for unpleasant, bald, stubbly men – was full of interest, regardless of the script, his skilled style of rich line draughtmanship adapting well to the then up-and-coming trend for painted panels.

Rest in piecework, John!

» Here’s Johnny film website
» Here’s Johnny IMDb page


There’s now a report on John’s death on the BBC News website, confirming that he went to Dignitas, the assisted suicide clinic in Switzerland:

Mr Hinklenton’s agent, Adrian Weston, described him as a “clear-sighted and visionary” person.

…”He was one of the most clear-sighted and visionary people I have ever met.

“Having worked with him was one of the greatest privileges of my professional life.”

He said that Mr Hinklenton completed his last book, 100 Months, the day before he travelled to Zurich.

The MS Trust said: “John was best known for his work on comic 2000AD and for illustrating characters such as Judge Dredd, but he also led a high-profile campaign for better rights for people with MS.

…”The fact that John Hicklenton was prepared to use his fame to raise awareness of a condition so often overlooked by the media, and to wage his personal war on MS so publicly is something that is greatly appreciated by people in the MS community.”

Stand up comics: Bill Graham reveals all

comic editor extraordinaireThere’s a great interview with Bill Graham over on the comic site Down The Tubes right now.

Bill who? Well, I thought the same when I first heard about it on the DTT blog, but it turns out that he was one of those unsung heroes of British comics. He edited the likes of Warlord, Starblazer library, Spike, The Crunch, Buddy, Champ and Football Picture Story Monthly for DC Thomson, as well as working on titles like The Hornet, Commando library and The Wizard – as he himself says, “At one time it felt like I was editing about half our output!”

It’s particularly interesting to be able to trace the editorial connections between some of these titles, because in comparison with the papers of rival publisher IPC/Fleetway, in the years I was at my comic reading peak, DC Thomson offered no clue as to the writers, artists or editors involved in their juvenile lines. Instead, the ink-smudge fingered fan had to resort to detective work, devouring whatever books on comic art were available (and in those days, there were not many about), and cross-referencing the anonymous work in DC Thomson titles with attributed work in IPC comics.

Encyclopedia Of Comic Characters by Denis GiffordThe baseline for my early days of forensic comics investigation was the work of Denis Gifford, though in later years there were some useful books written by Alan Clark (sadly not the testosterone Tory). However, most of those writing about comics back then were, unsurprisingly, more interested in the papers of their own youth than the slowly imploding trade of the 1980s or beyond. That said, Gifford did provide bounty in the form of his Encyclopedia Of Comic Characters, a thoroughly useful alphabetised and indexed work which logged many of the most important or memorable characters in British comics right through to the (then) present day. Each entry included a brief précis of the character, a thumbnail picture, and most importantly the name of an artist associated with the character. Given the whole situation with companies not creators owning the characters (a situation hardly that much changed to this day), this did mean that there were blind spots, but that book did shine a light onto the otherwise impenetrable world of DC Thomson in particular. I used the book, borrowed from my local library, to develop a series of notebooks. In these I backtracked from the index to create a dictionary of artists, in which I logged the various strips they were confirmed to have worked on, and to which I added those strips which I myself had identified them to have worked on. I can even remember the specifics of how I went about it, down to the type of pens I used (colour coding developing as I expanded my project to include writers, colourists and others) and the notebooks in which I wrote.

But time marches on, I boiled the marrow out of the book, having renewed it to the max on my ticket, and life moved on. The notebooks went away, and it wasn’t until last year, when I finally bought a second hand copy of the Encyclopedia online, that I came to think of that project again. And now more pieces of the puzzle come together: I get into eBay, through which I’ve managed to fill holes in my collection (a complete collection of Spike, which was one of the few titles of the day to completely elude me at the time; the odd copy of The Crunch and Champ – easily two of the best DC Thomson boys’ titles of the 70s/80s), and this fascinating Bill Graham interview. Because for so long the only voices we heard on the subject of UK weeklies were from that milieu of late seventies freelances working mainly at IPC (your basic Pat Mills-John Wagner-Alan Grant axis), it was those voices which underlaid any attempt at a narrative in the development of British mainstream comics through from the sixties into the nineties. Certain opinions became accepted orthodoxy: writing on girls’ titles was superior to that on boys’ titles until the Battle/Action/2000AD revolution, IPC titles were uniformly grittier than DC Thomson ones, DC Thomson was institutionally dour, and so forth. So it’s great to hear such a stout defence of DC Thomson’s output from Mr Graham. That’s not to say that it’s a complete refutation of those orthodoxies which developed, just that it helps develop a more rounded picture to the fan on the outside.

Sorry, rambling. Basically, a great interview to read for anyone with an interest in UK comics. I suppose it’s yet more incentive to pull my finger out and get on with working on my book 😮 And, for that matter, to finish off a blog post on UK comics that I started writing ages back, based around an exchange of letters ages back with (IIRC) Dave Hunt of Eagle. Though both might first require a certain friend to pull her finger out and send me back that book she borrowed… *hint hint*