2000 AD Prog Slog

Friday, January 18, 2008

Prog 366

Poor old Messimo Bellardinelli. Imagine having to follow Mike McMahon’s stunning artwork on Slaine. You can’t. It’s impossible. I think even God pencils inked by Jesus would have felt like a disappointment after that. However, Dragonheist features some of my favourite artwork by Bellardinelli. There’s something intricate and lively about his work here. It’s certainly worth a look at in its own right rather than being resented for not being by McMahon. (I’m talking to you, sixteen year old Paul Rainey.)

In Dragonheist, Slaine and Ukko arrive in Wales where they meet Nest for the first time. A male dragon is roaming the local area and eating people, particularly relatives of Kicva, poor cow . Slaine and Ukko have decided to steal one of Nest’s farmed dragons intending to fly it home.

Script robot Pat Mills is the driving force behind the consistently high quality of Slaine since it began thirty-six progs ago. Mills’ strength has always been in the conception of a strip but in the past I haven’t always felt that he’s acted on the solid foundation that he works so hard to create. This isn’t the case with Slaine. Here he matches John Wagner and Alan Grant’s work in its tightness and timing of script but there’s also satisfying detail. Dragonheist, for example, manages to be evocative because of the thought put into the rationalisation of dragon biology. The flammable venom that they generate, the bones in their throats that they rub together to ignite it, the diamond skulls and the way that they see; it all helps to make an entertaining story feel all the more substantial.

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  • I had (have?) quite the opposite feelings regarding McMahon's work on Slaine. I hated it - and I still strongly dislike it. I *think* it came after some rock-solid Dredd work, where McMahon (to my mind) had finally thrown off the stylistic shackles of initially having to emulate Ezquerra. Notable was his uncompromising use of large slabs of black, with little shading. Perhaps Slaine was his opportunity to turn this on its head again? At first sight I thought, lazy sod can't even be arsed to block his blacks in now - then I thought, does he think this is being coloured in? ;) I can see it differently now - his actual layout and caricaturing skills developed strongly with Slaine. However, I still hate the final rendering.

    Comparing McMahon's Slaine to, say, Frank Miller's Ronin is worthwhile. Both creators were at a point where they were trying something new. Aside from that though they're like apples and oranges. What Miller fails to do at this time is boost his figure-work game to the level attained by McMahon. Miller's attempts at 'cartoon' anatomy weren't pleasantly naive, they just looked incompetent. To be frank (ahem) that's a criticism I'd still level at him. Of course, where Miller succeeds as a creator is the fact that he writes/scripts the yarns - and Ronin was such a good one too.

    By Blogger Ken Davidson, at 6:39 pm  

  • I've never encountered someone who hates McMahon's work on Slaine before but it makes sense as people I know who like it are like me; they adore it. If people love something then there are usually others that hate it. The solid blacks thing - I knew someone who claimed to have owned original art from Slaine and, according to him, the scratchy effect was down to the paper he chose to work on. He felt that the affect was appropriate, I guess, and stayed with it. On Miller - I mentioned 300 only because I had mentioned it before when talking about a Dredd Annual that McMahon had painted. There, he seemed to use a similar page layout that Miller later uses in 300. I thought of 300 again reading Slaine because the layouts, themes and physiques reminded me of it. I agree though; Ronin is good. Cheers Ken.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 5:52 pm  

  • I think that what is so special about Sky Chariots compared to other comic art then and now is that there is a completely different perspective taken in the story's telling. The layout of the pages is exceptional but also the magical realism of the animals and the landscape really starts to stand out when looked at again, making the strip almost 4 dimensional. We actually see how the characters and their actions affect the landscape around them.

    I've never seen another comic with this level of "depth of perception".

    By Blogger garageman, at 7:59 pm  

  • Yeah. Everything he draws is a character; the people, the animals, even the trees for God's sake.

    By Blogger Paul Rainey, at 9:38 pm  

  • I agree McMahon's the better Slaine artist, but Belardinelli does more beautiful women. His Nest is a babe. I seem to remember all his women were gorgeous, and i know he did erotic Italian comics before working on 2000AD.

    I don;t get what garageman says about 'depth of perception'. In fact, Sky Chariots is just the opposite - the scratchy style makes everything seem on the same surface. My girlfriend, an artist, says reckons its hard to look at.

    DR and Quinch story is the best in this prog. Plots involving mountains of oranges, how did that get past the publishers. Great line in the Judge Dredd story: "I dunno Dave! It's like a guy can't take his orangutan for a quiet drink no more without being hassled by the law."

    Paul, in prog 365, can you make any sense of Marlon's speech on the 4th page of DR and Quinch? I wondered if its a speech from one of Brando's films. I know its not supposed to be comprehensible, but i wonder if its based on something real.


    By Blogger Simon C, at 12:57 am  

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