2000 AD Prog Slog

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Prog 211

Once it was clear that 2000 AD wasn’t going to be cancelled any time soon and that its readers expected at least six pages of Judge Dredd every issue, along came art robot Ron Smith.

Ron Smith. You’ll be quite happily reading a multi-part Judge Dredd story, the majority of which has been drawn by Mike McMahon or Brian Bolland, then along comes Ron Smith to draw the next two or three parts, and your heart sinks. Ron Smith was all straight lines, tight vanishing points, zanily positioned bodies and ugly faces. To me in 1981, Ron Smith was code for disappointment.

But Smith’s art isn’t easy for young eyes to like, especially those pampered by American comic art, and it initially appearing in the midst of artists like Bolland and McMahon can’t have helped much. In my case, this opinion I had was confounded even further by the misconception that Smith was getting work at the expense of new and exciting artists like Colin Wilson and Steve Dillon. Because, to me, his style looked old fashioned, I imagined him only getting work because he was established with the publishers from decades before.

By the second half of the eighties, when Smith is established as the artist to have drawn the most Dredd, I realise that there is a reason for this; because he is great. No other Dredd artist, and there have been many, draws a Wagner/Grant joke as funny as he does. Smith draws such a variety of body types and faces that I would say that he is a major contributor to humanising the strip. And later still, when he starts to produce colour work for the comic, it is just great to look at. It’s the straight lines, tight vanishing points, zanily positioned bodies and ugly faces that make Smith such a great art robot.

Ron Smith; code for joy.

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  • Exactly the same thing happened when I re-read a load of Dredd last year. Never was a fan of Smith at the time but now appreciate his genius.

    I think Otto Sump was his finest hour.

    By Blogger Pete Ashton, at 4:41 pm  

  • Indeed, Pete. No one draws an ugly like Ron Smith :-)

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 10:02 am  

  • Yep, your words express my feelings for Ron Smith perfectly. As a kid, frustration that it wasn't Bolland or McMahon (or Brendan McCarthy, or Brett Ewins, or Ian Gibson, or Colin Wilson... eh, you get my point). But re-reading Dredd in those groovy COMPLETE CASE FILES, I now realise why Smith got the jobs he did. And regret being such a punk kid.

    By Blogger Mark, at 10:15 am  

  • I can't add anything but to concur with everything said here. The Man Smith's sheer weight of material for Dredd makes him stand out, but consider for a moment all of the daily strips he did for the Star. If you look at the later stuff you'll see the Definitive Dredd. (And that's coming from someone who rates Brendan McCarthy's wacky Dredd as a close second!)

    By Blogger Ken Davidson, at 4:15 pm  

  • When was it that Ron Smith first appeared in 2000AD? Was it during the Day the Law Died? Was blown away by the detail in his work and the way he drew the city. He made it look so cool.
    I remember his work from when I was younger when he worked for DC Thomson. Loved Nick Jolly the Flying Highwayman from Hotspur (and superhero King Cobra?) . Also his Code-Name Warlord strips in Warlord.
    His characters/art always seemed so full of life.

    By Blogger Crow, at 1:07 am  

  • Hi Mark. I'm glad we agree. I regualrly check out and enjoy your blog but have been too shy to comment so far :-)

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 12:20 pm  

  • Ken, McCarthy is one of the definitives, I think. There are a lot of artists later who never got the spirit of the character. McCarthy always did.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 12:21 pm  

  • Crow, I think it was The Day the Law Died. You obviously have a greater knowledge of UK comics than me. I guess we'll all be watching BBC4 tonight.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 12:22 pm  

  • Yeah, I was another ungrateful little shit, who felt Smith to be a bit inferior, although at the time I remember thinking that he shone on a handful of strips, particularly the OttoSump/Ugly strips and my favourite Smith of all time (upcoming) the Blood of Satanus (I think?) strips which were dark and thoroughly nasty, and satisfied my need for lots of black ink.

    By Blogger mat_tait, at 9:49 pm  

  • I gave Blood of Satanus a special mention earlier in the Slog. His art on that was brooding and I even liked it as a kid.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 12:41 pm  

  • oh yeah, beg pardon. It was quite a few progs back now wasn't it...

    By Blogger mat_tait, at 12:58 pm  

  • Possibly because I didn't start reading until later, Ron Smith has always been the artist I most closely associate with the whole look of Dredd's world. He's great at busy crowd scenes and absolutely nobody draws a mob of crazy looking muties like Ron.

    By Blogger Peter, at 7:49 pm  

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