Brett Ewins RIP

February 19th, 2015

With the very sad recent news that Brett Ewins passed away at the too-young age of 59, gone to join Thrax, Mad Tommy and the rest of Bad.Co, the Mindless Ones would like to honour the man through his art.

Brett Ewins’ work  is emblematic of the wild, highly energised and idiosyncratic art that sprung out of the British comic art renaissance of the 1980′s. From 2000AD to the groundbreaking Strange Days, and then on to Deadline, Ewins was at the forefront of cutting edge,exciting comics and his post-Ditko new-wave line-work was never anything other than thrilling. As others have pointed out, without Ewins you don’t have Jamie Hewlett, Philip Bond and a whole generation of artists who grew up vibing on his jagged lines, bold design and cool-as-fuck characters. In Kano alone he created one of the most iconic, terrifying and awesome comics characters, and in Johnny Nemo he showed you just how damn stylish we should expect our comics heroes to look.

But that’s enough from me. Let’s let the art speak for itself. Know this: the world just lost one great damn artist and one who had a real and tangible impact on this reader’s life. For the better.

Rest in peace Brett.

 

Come on, are you kidding? Where else were we going to start? Bad Company is one of the greatest war comics ever. Full stop.

 

And listen. If we’re talking Bad Co. there’s no way we’re not talking about Thrax, the only stone cold motherfucker not to be scared of Kano. It’s the little things about Thrax – the new wave hair, the scarf…he’s just so damn cool. Plus: What the fuck was his problem? What happened to him to make him Thrax?

Special mention should go to Jim McCarthy’s loose and wild inks on this series. Ewins collaborated excellently with others throughout his career – Steve Dillon and Brendan McCarthy for example – but it was with J McCarthy that the real alchemy happened.

 

A totally iconic image of Mega City 1′s finest here. Aside from Bolland’s original Debbie Harry presentation of Judge Anderson, Ewins’ version is what I think of when I think about her (which is realistically probably too often). This image is pretty much burned into my brain.

This image captures the steel appeal of Anderson and it showcases Ewins’ genius at depicting grotesques and deformed nasties. What more do you need?

 

You can’t leave out Joe though, can you? Ewins was always great at depicting Dredd, but where he really excelled was in nailing the weirdness of the average Mega City 1 denizens. He really helped define the look of the gonzo metropolis, bringing a bezerk high fashion sense to it’s inhabitants – Flock of Seagulls haircuts, kneepads and skinny ties, with blue lipgloss and  jagged jewellery. Perfect accompaniment to the unyielding anti-fashion of everyone’s favourite fascist cop.

Ewins also put in some sterling work with one of 2000AD’s core characters, Rogue Trooper. The strip had an embarrassment of talent attached to it, including Dave Gibbons, Cam Kennedy, Steve Dillon and Colin Wilson. Ewins more than held his own and brought a gnarly vibrancy and punk energy to the iconic war strip. He also brought a heavy Vietnam War vibe to it, something that would be exacerbated in his career-defining work on Bad Co.

 

Ewins also defined the look for 2000AD’s erstwhile alien editor, at least for this Squaxx. This was Tharg the swinging alien batchelor, all jumpsuits, shoulder-pads and moon-boots.

Ewins and Brendan McCarthy had a long established and fruitful working relationship – their work routinely absorbed each other’s styles and morphed together into wild new shapes. It was sometimes hard to work out where one ended and the other began. Early on in the days of 2000AD their work stood out with it’s heavy textured design and weird energy. They brought a well needed undergound comics aesthetic to the nascent weekly that dragged it away from the staid style of the British boys comics of the preceding decades and helped define the anarchic look and feel of the comic in the coming years.

 

And that creative partnership began here, with Sometime Stories. Two art-school skinheads pouring their all into bizarro freeform comics. The New Psychedelic Underground began here.

 

It was with Strange Days that their creative partnership really left it’s mark for the ages, in cahoots with the louche sardonic surrealism of Peter Milligan’s writing.

This short-lived anthology was so far ahead of it’s time, that it’s ripples are still being felt now. A vibrant,  funny and instantly iconic comic bursting with energy, style and practically dripping in new-psychedelic glamour.  Plus it introduced the world to the icy, ultra-nihilistic and cooler-than-you PI Johnny Nemo.

 

First in Strange Days, then his own comic, and finally in the pages of Deadline, Nemo tore New London a brand new asshole. Milligan & Ewins took the hardboiled PI genre to an absurd level, and replaced shadowy post-war tropes with bright, design-heavy retro-futurism. Johnny was a New Wave Teddy Boy with a nasty attitude who literally didn’t give a fuck. You want your antihero he’s right here.

Listen.

 

Speaking of retro-futurism, Skreemer was Ewins’ biggest shot at the US mainstream, although to do so he and Peter Milligan, along with Steve Dillon chose to go with a bleak sci-fi gangster story that eschewed glamour and glitz for brutality and betrayal, and told the bitter story of a man who knows when he’s going to die wrestling with the tides and eddies of history. It was dense, literary and brazenly uncommercial. And it looked fantastic, with eye-poppingly stylish covers and a finely realised neo-gangster aesthetic. Caught somewhere between Sergio Leone and Moebius with the ever present lashings of New Wave and Teddy boy fashions rubbing up against the grime. A commercial flop, but a critical darling, these 6 issues regularly pop up in the bargain bins of comic shops, and they demand to be taken home with you. Anything else would be a crime.

 

 

Back with Johnny again, as we come to Deadline, one of Brett’s most impressive contributions to the evolution of the British comics scene. Co-created and edited by him and Steve Dillon, Deadline attempted to forge a link between comics and music, and present an anthology that was unbound by the usual restrictions. Deadline surfed the zeitgeist of the early 90′s bringing a healthy dose of youthful hedonism and swaggering attitude to the comics scene. Deadline felt like a comic that you could read in front of a girl without embarrassment, or leave lying around a party without feeling like a dork.

It also fostered precocious emerging comics talent and introduced the wider world to Jamie Hewlett, Alan Martin, Philip Bond, D’israeli, Nick Abadzis, Rachel Ball, Evan Dorkin and many many more.

Cheers Brett! It was a noble folly and a blast while it lasted.

 

I’m throwing this one in just because it was the first 2000AD annual I got, and it demonstrates everything I love about the man and his work, Bright, stylish and iconic.

 

Finally, we get Ewins’ packet art for those fabled snacks, SPACE RAIDERS! The pickled onion flavour were legendary amongst kids and stoners alike for being the very finest form of munchie fodder, and it turns out that the iconic artwork was by none other than the man Ewins. I can’t tell you how happy that made me to find out. I mean absolutely no disrespect by ending this piece with this…it’s a genuine testament to his fun, stylish and appealing art. Plus, think of how many kids must have come into contact with his work through this?

So let’s leave it there. Brett – you were great, and you’ll be missed. When you see Thrax, ask him for me what his problem was and where he got his scarf would you?

Oh alright then, let’s have one more:

 

 

Brett Ewins: 1955 -2015

7 Responses to “Brett Ewins RIP”

  1. Yawn Says:

    Best tribute to a great artist! Ewins was pure pop magic. So sad to hear he’s shuffled off.

  2. Matthew Craig Says:

    Perfect.

    //\Oo/\\

  3. Thrills Says:

    This is a braw tribute, aye.

    Didn’t realise he did the Space Raiders image, but it totally makes sense. Iconic space-punx!

    I’ll always have a special fondness for Veto Skreemer and his huge furry coat. Ewins really knew to design a character.

  4. Thrills Says:

    ‘knew how’, sorry.

  5. The Beast Must Die Says:

    When I think back to my school note books I realise that they were littered with Ewins homages – the guns, boots and particular way he would draw gun shot bursts. He really *was* 2000AD to me at a certain point.

  6. tam Says:

    For some reason I hadn’t realised quite how many of my favorite comics he’d been involved with until I read this. It’s pretty amazing that he worked just as effectively with a ‘realistic’ artist like Steve Dillon as he did with the out-there psychadelia of Brendan McCarthy. And Bad Company, especially the first part was a stunning artistic highpoint.
    Really, really sad news.

  7. Karlos Says:

    Great tribute. Absolutely spot on.

    He was pure punk rock – a phenomenal, visceral, edgy artist.

    Another of my childhood heroes gone.

    God, please let him be at peace now.

    Thanks for everything, Brett.

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