Olly MacNamee writes,
With a new comic strip, Counterfeit Girl, debuting in the 2000th edition of 2000AD and written by Peter Milligan, artist Rufus Dayglo found the time to speak with Bleeding Cool about this new strip, his recent and very personal work on Bad Company as well as what the future holds for him.
Olly MacNamee: 2000AD celebrates its 40th anniversary next year. What was your earliest and fondest memories of reading 2000AD as a kid?
Rufus Dayglo: Like many I expect, I came to 2000AD through the film Star Wars. When my dad took me to see the film, there wasn’t yet any toys, books or comics related to it, but there was 2000AD! I was obsessed with Flesh, the dinosaur story, and Ramon Sola’s grisly and visceral art! I’d sit and draw T-Rexs and spaceships. Later on it was all about Mick McMahon’s Judge Dredd, and Carlos’ (Esquerra) Strontium Dog. I loved all the more cartoony and European artists (not intentionally, I just loved the ‘scrappier’ looking art, it felt more exciting than the cleaner American and British house styles). My happiest memory was having my 2000AD annual signed by Mick, Brian (Bolland), and John Wagner at Forbidden Planet. they’d put up Micky’s original art from the annual for display on the walls above the comics. It was a revelation.
I realised then and there that I wanted to work on this comic book when I was older.
OM: What was your favourite strip or character?
RD: Like so many people, as the comic developed evolved, my love for different characters and artists changed too. To begin with it was Ramon Sola on ‘Flesh’ and Mach Zero. Mick McMahon on Judge Dredd, Robusters, ABC Warriors and then his masterpiece, Slaine. His art is still my marker by which I judge things. In the mid 80s it was Brett Ewins on Bad Company. His story blew me away. I loved the film Platoon, and Darkie’s Mob (the old comic strip in Battle), and Brett, Peter and Jim made the perfect sci-fi version! I met Brett at the first comics show I ever attended and he took the time to speak to me about making art, and did me a little sketch on a flyer.
OM: And, as an artist, how did you break into the galaxy’s greatest comic?
RD: After I left school, I did my own fanzines with friends, then managed to get a job working in animation. I continued to do fanzines for the fun of it after work, often working all night, knowing comics was what I really wanted to do. I had family responsibilities, so I ended up taking a long time to come back to my first love, comics. I finally quit my job, and sent in samples to 2000AD (I should have done that the other way around, ha ha) and happily Tharg gave me a Future Shock to do. After that there were other bits and pieces, and finally I was trusted to do more complete self contained stories.
OM: Ahead of your new strip, Counterfeit Girl, you previously teamed up with Peter Milligan on a new Bad Company strip last year. This was something of a personal venture for you, Jim McCarthy and Peter, right? A tribute to mentor and friend, Brett Ewins?
RD: The Bad Company series was a long time coming. Brett and I had originally intended to do a prequel to Bad Company back in 2004 (the pages and character designs are in the collected Bad Company – First Casualties trade paper back). Sadly, his health took a turn for the worse so it was shelved. Fast forward to Thought Bubble Comics Festival in 2013 and I happily found myself having a drink with Peter Milligan and I again, presumptuously, suggested a new Bad Company series. My plan had been that Brett would help design it, and we’d be jointly credited as artists. Brett was delighted. It took a little while to set up as Peter had work commitments, and I’d moved to Berlin, but finally we were due to start and on the very first day, Brett died. So, it turned into a tribute, not a collaboration.
Brett had been a great friend to me, we’d worked on some Johnny Nemo together, and developed various projects of Brett’s as potential series ideas. I’d spend days around his house in Hanwell drawing, listening to Eno and Bowie, and discussing everything from music, his days at Art School, his involvement in the Skinhead and Punk scene in London, and Deadline, the magazine he set up with Steve Dillon and Tom Astor. He loved discussing philosophy, talking about Buddhism, and any other esoteric subject that took his fancy.
So with Bad Company – First Casualties we tried to bring it back to what it started; as a war story. I designed the character Golgotha Joe after Brett, so it was wonderful to have him join the reformed Bad Company. It seemed extremely fitting.
OM: How did Counterfeit Girl come about? This is an all new strip introduced in the anniversary 2000th prog. Was it as a result of your collaboration on Bad Company with Peter?
RD: Counterfeit Girl was a story Peter pitched to the Mighty One and kindly asked me to submit art for. After a few stumbling attempts Tharg approved my designs and happily assigned me to work on it!
I love working with Peter; I’m a huge fan of his work, and have followed his storytelling since I was a kid. Now we can work on series as mates, which is really incredible. Peter is incredibly well read, and I love all the crazy esoteric ideas he has. he truly is unique. He embodies all that’s great about 2000AD to me, innovative, witty, forward thinking, and razor sharp. It was so wonderful to launch it in Prog 2000, alongside the mainstays of 2000AD. I thought it was extremely forward thinking of the Mighty One, celebrating the anniversary, and launching new thrills upon his beloved terrans!
OM: This weird, wired world of counterfeit identities seems to be right up your street artistically? How much freedom did you have creating their future world and the characters within it? It’s a very claustrophobic world. Hard to hide in, I imagine.
RD: It was an absolute gift. I had complete freedom; Peter’s scripts are wonderfully concise, he trusts his collaborators to do what they do best: create a world around his story. I’d lived in Tokyo as a kid, and also gone to Hong Kong, where I’d seen Kowloon walled city, a crazy neon series of alleys with no natural light, buildings that had merged creating a nest of chaos. I wanted our world to be an even more claustrophobic version of this. As a Londoner, I’ve always been aware of that lack of personal space; sometimes the only place you can go into is your own head, so this is its logical conclusion. You can’t even hide in your own identity/head in this world. I wanted a world of artificial colour, artificial light.
OM: And, colourist Dom Regan, certainly seems to only add to the vibrance but crowded, acid-induced landscape of this world?
RD: Yes, Dominic has been perfect for this series. I can’t tell you how happy I am to be working with him! I’ve long been a fan of his work, and when this series came up, I approached him about colouring Counterfeit Girl. His work has a European, colourful approach and he uses deeply discordant colour palettes. We discussed what I was hoping to achieve, and he’s added immeasurably to it. I was really bored with most sci-fi colouring in films and comics; it’s all so monotone, desaturated, and dull. That’s fine for some things, but It’s become so standard. I wanted this series to be a world of advertising of nasty day-glo colours where your eye gets no rest. I tried to design the city so it protrudes from all angles; pipes, steam, and pyramids hanging from the sky like stalactites and Dominic has outdone himself.
OM: Counterfeit Girl, while a new strip, seems to embody everything great about 2000AD, another rebel-rousing anti-hero ready to take on the bigger evils of this world; in this case, The Albion Corporation. For you, what are the main themes being played to the story of Counterfeit Girl?
RD: Counterfeit Girl has been so much fun to do. The great thing about 2000AD is there is room for all sorts of stories, crime (Judge Dredd), War (Rogue Trooper), and with Counterfeit Girl we have a great character taking on the corporate world, something a lot of people feel overwhelmed by today. Counterfeit Girl has a really cinematic story line, with some great twists, she’s an underdog and one who plans on going down fighting. It’s great to have a new strong character, someone who I think in time will sit alongside her 2000AD stablemates very happily! Hopefully we will come back and do more of Counterfeit Girl.
OM: I can certainly see some elements of Brett Ewins, and even Brendan McCarthy in Counterfeit Girl. This as intention, I imagine? Another way of paying homage to these great artists and the legacy of 2000AD? Looking back at the legacy, while also looking toward the future of the comic?
RD: It wasn’t intentional, but they are two of my biggest influences. Brett, Brendan and Peter’s work in Strange Days is some of my favourite comics work ever created. I wanted to invoke that sense of fun. I certainly didn’t try and ape the look, as they’ve already done that. I’d highly suggest finding yourself copies of Strange Days; they are incredible (Brendan and Peter’s work is collected in their Milligan and McCarthy collection).
OM: And, if you were to pinpoint what 2000AD legacy was, what do you feel it is?
RD: 2000AD started off as an upstart and has now become the mainstay of British comics. It’s launched the career of so many artists and writers, and equally it is also our Alma Mater, and it’s always an honour to return to it.
American comics have continually been revitalised by the talent that 2000AD has nurtured and developed. Within 2000AD’s pages we have the scope and opportunity to create things that American editor and publishers would pale away from.
2000AD has managed to keep going as it combines the best of what it does, with innovative work taking chances on new talents. It’s a complete anomaly and one I, and all the other creators at 2000AD are very proud of.
OM: And, what next for you? Any creator owned stories that are itching away at the back of your fertile mind? I see The Last Gang In Town is out as a tpb.
RD: Happily I’ll have some more 2000AD announcements to make in the new year. I’ve got a few potential projects in the works with the Galaxy’s greatest! I’m also looking to launch my own characters, Big Time Charlie, and Solid Gold Death Mask on Patreon in the New Year, and hopefully collaborate again with writer Simon Oliver (Who wrote the Last Gang In Town for DC/Vertigo). You’ll be able to find out more on my website, comics, illustration and design. Join the mailing list for advance info on new projects, and exclusive sketches and content!
Counterfeit Girl is currently running in 2000AD, while The Last Gang In Town is available as a trade paperback in all good comic book shops and the usual places online too.
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