Art

Kevin O’Neill 1953 – 2022

Everybody at 2000 AD is devastated to study of the demise of artist Kevin O’Neill.

Phrases like “distinctive” and “genius” should not unusual within the pantheon 2000 AD creators, however nobody deserves it greater than O’Neill, whose revolutionary, iconoclastic, idiosyncratic, ingenious, visionary and provocative work nonetheless has the capability to shock and awe, even many years after its first publication.

His co-creator Ro-Busters, The ABC Warriors, Nemesis the Wizard, Metalzoic and Marshal Regulation with Pat Mills and League of Extraordinary Gents with Alan Moore, O’Neill was one of the necessary and distinctive British comics artists ever to provide. From the towering Gothic bacchanals of Nemesis to anarchic, sharp and emotionally brutal work League, O’Neill’s artwork was the scourge of conservative publishers and was blacklisted by the US Comics Code Authority for being “questionable”. There are so few artists – even at 2000 AD – who had been so uncompromising of their fashion, a mode so visceral, so excessive, so particular person. And, even now, you merely can not mistake O’Neill’s work for anybody else’s.

Born in 1953 in a working-class council property within the south London suburb of Eltham to an English father and an Irish mom, O’Neill was an avid reader of the British devoted. Beano and The Dandy earlier than being launched by a college good friend CRAZY journal, whose panels filled with anarchic, satirical humor, visible gags and comedian grotesques would have a profound affect on his work.

Compelled to show down affords of locations at artwork colleges in London after his father took early retirement, O’Neill grew to become an workplace boy at IPC below the wing of artwork editor Janet Shepheard, who would go on to create the enduring unique brand for Choose Dredd. “I handed out cleaning soap and towels to the writer as soon as per week, hung out flipping by means of previous volumes of comics and progressively making minor artwork and lettering corrections and pasting reprints of Billy Bunter strips,” he advised George Khoury True British. — Jan was a great trainer, even when strict. She additionally advised me as I used to be trying by means of my samples that it will be ten years earlier than I used to be adequate to work as knowledgeable artist – and he or she was proper!

After a number of years of freelancing, O’Neill returned to IPC and ultimately grew to become assistant artwork editor at 2000 AD, the brand new science fiction comedian developed by Pat Mills. Together with Shepheard and designer Doug Church, O’Neill helped outline the early look of this new title, its sharp, feverish strains, postmodern design sensibility and depraved humorousness giving it a recent, spiky, iconoclastic look that talked about second amid the simultaneous rise of punk and its DIY zine scene.

Most significantly, pissed off that the creators weren’t getting the eye they deserved, O’Neill was instrumental in 2000 AD adopting credit score packing containers that, for the primary time, named the inventive groups on every particular person strip, together with letters. Just about exceptional within the tight-knit world of British comics, the place publishers have at all times feared writers and artists being poached by competitors, O’Neill satisfied censorious senior editor Bob Bartholomew that the packing containers had been merely experimental. They’ve stayed ever since.

Along with designing Choose Dredd’s obsequious robo-servant, Walter the Wobot, O’Neill designed the principle characters in Ro-Bustersa strip a few robotic rescue crew – “a global inhumane rescue” – for which Pat Mills wrote starlordtogether with characters comparable to Ro-Jaws, Hammerstein, and Mek-Quake, who continued to be a part of the favored The ABC Warriors tape after starlord merged with 2000 AD.

His different work for 2000 AD they included parodies such because the anarchic and scatological tackle Godzilla – Bonjo from Past the Stars – and the Flash Gordon parody Sprint Respectable. Man!a novel sci-fi horror story co-written by editor Steve MacManus was later copied by the movie’s makers. {Hardware}the producers ultimately agreeing to credit score and pay the creators.

However it was after he left the IPC – following a row over violence in Harlem Heroes sequel, “Inferno” — and turning into a full-time artist, O’Neill’s distinctive expertise actually got here into its personal.

Nemesis The Wizard was a cloven-hoofed, magic-wielding alien freedom fighter who battled the xenophobic and fascist interplanetary empire of the bigoted human chief Torquemada, whose mission is to cleanse the galaxy of “deviant” alien races. With its mixture of brutal satire and anti-establishment rage, Nemesis rapidly grew to become one of the common recurring characters within the 2000 AD. Mills and O’Neill’s Catholic upbringing produced a band seething with iconoclastic rage.

Underneath O’Neill’s pen, Earth was remodeled into “Termight,” a dystopian hellish planet hollowed out by gravity-defying tube highways and stalactite condo blocks like one thing out of a medieval nightmare, however sprinkled with extra humor and element. based mostly on a Heath Robinson drawing; Nemesis and Torquemada dueled amid Gothic towers, throughout penis-shaped bridges (later altered so frivolously to keep away from editorial censorship), by means of time and area, and at last to the top of the world.

O’Neill was ultimately compelled to depart the sequence because of monetary pressures, however returned to attract the ultimate episode of Nemesis in Prog 2000.

He additionally labored on the dysfunction Choose Dredd tales like The Regulation In keeping with Dredd” and “Varks”, earlier than co-creating Metalzoic with Mills. Revealed as a colour DC graphic novel in 1986 and later serialized in black and white in 2000 AD Progs 483-492, this extremely acclaimed sequence pitted robotic apes in opposition to robotic mammoths on a future Earth with solely two human characters, and produced the memorable cowl for Prog 485 with the loopy Armageddon asserting ‘I operated alone BRAIN!’.

A part of the appeal of his work was the jokes and self-deprecating humor he sprinkled all through his pages, impressed by the work of his favourite. Loopy journal cartoonists. Usually behind deadlines and struggling financially, he portrayed himself Nemesis like a bent monk, chained to his desk whereas being chastised by the spirit of Torquemada: “You’re taking too lengthy on the lit edges, brother Kevin!” Your bestiary should be completed this century!

When DC Comics started searching for British artists in early 1984, O’Neill was amongst what grew to become referred to as the “British Invasion”, however the 1986 twelve-page story. Tales of the Inexperienced Lantern Corps Annual, led to self-appointed US comics moralists at The Comedian Code Authority condemning his wholesale fashion as “objectionable”. It was later printed as an annual with out the stamp of authority, however regardless of a kind of ethical victory, O’Neill’s work by no means entered the mainstream of American comics, though he labored on Lobo, Weird, Dying Race 2020 and the malevolent entity referred to as Batmite with Alan Grant.

Nonetheless, his wider status rests on two bands that suited him and inspired his iconoclastic fashion.

Pat Mills’ fiery satire of superheroes, Marshal Regulation, adopted an ultraviolent, government-sanctioned superhero killer. First revealed by Epic Comics in 1987, the character briefly transitioned to Poisonous!, a creator-owned title that launched in 1991 earlier than shifting to Darkish Horse Comics. This heady combine of maximum graphic violence, intercourse and brutality and a deep vein of darkish humor continues to be intoxicating and represents the anarchist wing of British superhero deconstruction within the Eighties and 90s.

Was League of Extraordinary Gents, written by Alan Moore, which sealed O’Neill’s fame and legacy. Set in 1898 in an England the place the nice characters of Victorian journey fiction really exist, League grew to become wildly common (regardless of the poor and ill-received Hollywood adaptation) largely to O’Neill’s artwork. After drawing the duvet on Moore’s first foray into music, a single launched by “Sinister Geese”, O’Neill contributed covers to his Titan collections. 2000 AD “Future shocks” however with League their strengths strengthened one another in an expansive, hyper-detailed and typically enigmatic collision of phrases, artwork and design. “Partly due to Kevin’s artwork, we are able to pack comedy, horror and pathos into a couple of pages,” Moore stated in The extraordinary works of Alan Moore. — Usually in a single web page, typically in a single panel. The emotional vary that Kevin’s paintings brings to the story is implausible. It is likely one of the foremost property of League.’

After the sequence ended, O’Neill loved a return to 2000 AD earlier this yr when he and Garth Ennis revived the notorious “Youngsters Rule OK” strip from Motion, 2000 ADhis controversial predecessor, for Fight motion particular and his closing work, the comeback of “Bonjo From Past The Stars”, will probably be revealed in 2000 AD for Christmas.

Sort and extremely beneficiant together with his time, O’Neill possessed a heat that belied the ferocious anger and gleeful violence of his work, with him wielding the pen like a scalpel and creating artwork that possesses a deep magnificence made up of tough, sharp edges.

“I suppose I’ve a form of parallel life,” he stated at Barbelith web site. “I haven’t got any buddies from the suburbs in any respect.” I am actually good buddies with a band referred to as Rockbitch and I’ve a variety of buddies and occult buddies who work within the intercourse trade. I suppose my benign smiling face is likely to be hiding a horrible secret life!

His artwork provoked and adjusted, provoked and delighted, it was the anarchic, gleeful humor of British comics twisted and twisted to breaking level, rendered in a mode that was grotesque and delightful on the similar time. “I might like to see all of the comedian artwork simplified right into a horrible model fashion,” he as soon as stated. “What a nightmare imaginative and prescient, the world having an enormous and innocent dream.”

His demise is a monumental loss to comics. Really distinctive, actually a genius, O’Neill made artwork as nobody else may or would; we had been richer for having identified him and poorer for having misplaced him.

Our deepest condolences to his household, buddies, colleagues and all who had been indirectly touched by the magic of Kevin O’Neill.

The bestiary is lastly completed. Relaxation properly brother Kevin.

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