Today’s Fri-llustrator is one of my all time heroes. Of all the British comic strip illustrators I admire, my favourite is Mick McMahon. He has everything I look for in an strip illustrator – great draughtsmanship, storytelling, panel composition, design, imagination, style and above all, attitude. I had the great fortune of meeting Mr. McM quite a few times in the heady days of the mid-80’s when I briefly worked for Titan Books. I remember one day, I was struggling to place a masthead on a cover as the cover artist had drawn important detail in the area where the book title needed to go. Mick McMahon walks through the door, he sees me frowning deeply and asks what the problem is. I tell him. “That’s the problem with (artist name withheld)” he said, “the first thing I do before I do anything is to stick the logo up the top, THEN I start drawing”. I was reminded of this story when I saw this cover he drew for Judge Dredd magazine (pictured below). Not only has he allowed space for the masthead top left, but he’s also left space for other cover lines. And look at the overall compositon – not for Mr. McM to draw a bog-standard cover of Dredd in some corny pose, but instead, an extreme close up with falling figures to illustrate the story inside.
Throughout his 30-odd year career, his style has evolved constantly, going from the 2000AD-requested Carlos Ezquerra imitation to a flatter, angular look then to a more organic look today. He also produced different takes on this like his work for Slaine, where his scratchy pen work looked scratchier because he didn’t completely fill the solid areas of black. It really suited the content and somehow made Slaine look more dirty and tough, although he once told me that he only drew it like that “to wind his Editor up”.
For me though, my favourite style of his is the angular one. That style, combined with his terrific panel composition, makes for some of the most powerful strip imagery I have ever seen, as evidenced by this panel set from Batman (below) and is the kind of strip illustration I adore. It makes for great robots, too (see top illustration).
And here’s an example of his more organic, almost Jean Giraud (Moebius) style of work for Judge Dredd.
I feel that he isn’t as lionised as he should be and is a far bigger talent than the world gives him credit for. Although those in the know rate and respect him highly. I remember back in 1982, Frank Miller came over to talk to the Society of Strip Illustrators and when Mr Miller was asked who he wanted to meet while he was in England, he replied “Mick McMahon”. Currently, Mr McMahon is working on a new Tank Girl book, which should be out sometime this year, so keep your eyes peeled for that.
Mick McMahon, I salute you.
All images © 2009 Mick McMahon/Respective clients.