A bonus interview transcript, this time with artist John Ridgway. It opens with the 2000 AD artist recalling how he came to illustrate Luke Kirby...
I was approached to draw it. I think I was approached because of the type of work Alan knew I’d done in the past. I’ve got a feel for the countryside and old world things. In the 60s I was in my twenties, I’ve got quite a good recollection of what the 60s were like. I’d done something slightly similar for the Transformers comic, a Luke Kirby style of boy. Alan knew what sort of work I could do.
I’ve always preferred a more natural scenery, trees, mountains, fields and animals to the confines of Mega-City One. Having drawn Hellblazer for a while, I was sick of cities!
You did Twister, a Dredd story that covered the transition from the strip being black and white to full colour…
That was fun. Again, I think it was quite an unusual story for Dredd. That had a fantasy, fairytale element to it. It takes me back to the sort of stuff I would really like to do in comics. Again, you’ve got the natural scenery, the fantasy element. It was the gritty bitterness you get with the Dredd stories a lot of the time. It was a completely different atmosphere.
You also drew iconic Dredd story The Dead Man…
I’m not sure whether I knew in the first episode, but I certainly knew very early on the Dead Man was Dredd. It was set out in the wilds of the radlands, all natural scenery. It was nice to be able to draw that. I’ve always wanted to draw a western and that’s about as close as you could get to Clint Eastwood and a western –duster coat, the same sort of hat Clint used to wear. The attitude was the same too, don’t say much and shoot the feller if he looks the wrong way at you.
The Mike Fleisher-scripted space drama Junker – 95 pages long…
It felt like a hundred and 95! I always took it as being serious. But there was never any real detail as to what you were looking at in there. I remember talking to Richard Burton when I got the first script and asking him about the spaceship, what sort of size it was, Junker’s ship. He’d no idea. He gave me Mike Fleisher’s number and a time to ring him. I rang him and apparently got him out of bed. He was a bit irate about this. I asked him about the details of the ship and he said make it any size you want.
In those first episodes it was a ship that towed in a wreck for salvage. I saw it as a space tug. Later on it became sufficiently sophisticated and large enough to hold all these machines that could cut up a battleship and store it inside somehow! It was sort of like the TARDIS. There was no real description of his pal, Razzamatazz. I had no idea how tall he was or what sort of build he was. I need he had tail, I knew he had teeth. But he suddenly developed spikes in a fight! It was this sort of thing that was going on.
I had no idea what I supposed to be doing with it. I would have loved to have drawn a real space opera. I was trained as an engineer. If I do anything about spaceships, I like them to look like they’re going to work. That story just rumbled on. I was given no description of the female character in it, who turned out to be the villain. I drew her in a skin-tight costume. Near the end she was supposed to be hiding about her person this jewel! The only place I could think of was in the helmet she was wearing! There was a design on the front of the helmet that could conceal the jewel. It was just chance she happened to have that, otherwise I’m not quite sure where she might have hidden it!
It was really quite disappointing to work on that. I thought at the start it was going to be something which could really work. If you look at the first page, one of the spaceships floating around in that junkyard, is the Anastasia from Dan Dare. Dan Dare is the love of my life as far as comic strips go. It carried on, just disintegrated.
I think if I’d got all the story at once, and been able to go through it and understand what was going on, I could have played it better. I was flying blind on that story, all the way through, no idea of where it was going or what was happening next with it.
Nick Abadzis. (Bit of a Vertigo story?) I suppose it was a bit. It didn’t seem out of place to me, there was quite a wide variety of stuff in 2000 AD – Luke Kirby, Brigand Doom. I was never keen on the Hellblazer stuff I did for Vertigo.
Luke Kirby – anything you want to add…
I think Alan’s wrong claiming he was sole creator. He set it in the 1960s, but he didn’t create the 1960s. He didn’t create the backgrounds, the scenery – he suggests them in the script, but that’s what a writer does, they suggest things for the artist to go and create. The Luke Kirby character was the same as the little boy in The Iron Man story written by Transformers by Steve Parkhouse. If you say photographs of my eldest son at that age, you’d know where the figure of Luke Kirby came from. To suggest he was sole creator is a little bit naïve, really.
I liken it to Pope Julian the Second claiming that he’d created the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I don’t know how writers think along those lines. The creative process is very involved for artists.
I was disappointed I couldn’t carry on doing Luke Kirby. I didn’t mind if Steve drew it, I’d worked with Steve in the past. I loved the stuff Steve did for Doctor Who and Warrior. I thought he was one of the best writers of comics I’d ever come across – it’s a crime he doesn’t write more, he ought to be castigated or something!