Welcome to part 2 of my extended look at the work of Captain Britain’s number one scribe and artist Alan Davis, using as a reference Two Morrow Publishings book Modern Masters: Alan Davis.
If you want to read the first part of my look at this amazing book which covers Alan’s early influences, how he got a job at Marvel UK and his thoughts on redesigning Captain Britain’s costume then click here. But now onto part 2.
When we left Alan he was just starting work drawing Captain Britain with writer Dave Thorpe on stories for Marvel Super-Heroes, here is a very honest quote about how he got on.
” In the first instance I felt very out of my depth , I really didn’t know what I was doing. That’s why Paul ( Neary, Marvel UK editor,) was so crucial. ”
It wasn’t long before Alan and Dave fell out over a story which was never published, in which Captain Britain was going to go over to Northern Ireland and get caught up in the political situation there. Alan explains he expected to lose his job being the new boy but Marvel UK baulked at placing Captain Britain in a sensitive real world situation so asked Thorpe to rewrite it. Alan explains why the rewrite didn’t work.
” Belfast became Fablest, Protestants became Rottenpasts and the Catholics became Coalitch. The Rottenpasts were orange growers and Coalitch were potato growers. This is when I got angry because I was insulted that anyone might think I couldn’t see through something so transparent. ”
Then Alan admits things could have taken a bad turn for his fledgling career.
” I was quite prepared to walk away and never work in comics again than draw the story the way it was. ”
Thorpe was quickly given his marching orders and replaced with Alan Moore and Davis not only drew Captain Britain for him but also found time to draw some issues of Marvelman or as he came to be known Miracleman. Here Davis explains the difference between how he approached the art on both.
” On Captain Britain I knew where the story was going and where it had come from and there was often a certain amount of negotiation on the script. But with Marvelman I would always defer to Alan … (who) had choreographed a deliberate pace and rhythm between the text and the art. ”
Alan also reveals how he coped with the more ” wordy, ” Captain Britain that Moore was scripting.
” My most significant influence on Captain Britain grew from my concerns about the density of incidence and volume of text… My solution was to turn an artboard on its side and divide it into two slightly larger than print size pages. This allowed me to spread the art and more importantly the text across twice the area.”
Alan’s artistic talents on Cap and Marvelman didn’t go unnoticed and soon he had a call from UK sci-fi anthology 2000AD asking if he wanted some work, as ironically they were losing key talent such as Bolland, Gibbons and O’Neill to American comics. Alan’s first work for them was a significant turning point in his life as he explains.
” The first job they gave me was Harry 20 on the Highrock… It’s essentially Escape from Alcatraz in outer space. Now the crucial thing was that by accepting this job I would have enough work to afford to give up the day job. ”
Alan’s co-artist on Harry20 dropped out so he ended up drawing the entire story and it is all the stronger for it I believe, if you haven’t read it hunt down a copy it’s a damn fine escape yarn with stunning early Davis art.
Even after quitting the day job Alan still wasn’t sure that he could make it.
” I was scared to death . I started working in comics about four months after my son Thomas was born. By the time I started working at 2000AD my daughter Pauline had been born so I was no longer the free spirit, I had responsibilities. ”
However working again with Alan Moore Davis was about to start work on some of his and Moore’s finest ever work , the two alien delinquents known as D.R. and Quinch. Alan says this about his influences for one of my favourite Moore Davis collaborations.
” I’d seen Animal House and thought it was based on that in a generic sort of way and after having been dubbed the gritty realistic artist I conversely wanted to prove I could draw other styles of art…. I was trying to do something which was grotesque big foot cartooning in the tradition of Leo Baxendale’s Grimly Feendish.”
Alan then looks back at D.R. and Quinch and his other early work and strangely comments.
“I wonder what was going through my head I thought I was doing the best I could but now I look at it and think it’s incompetent. ”
So on that bombshell we’ll leave part 2 of this look at Alan Davis early work here , don’t be put off by Davis’ criticism of his early art, D.R. and Quinch contains some of his greatest early pencils as does Harry20 on the Highrock and both are worth adding to your collection if you have never read them. Marvelman or Miracleman as it came to be known remains out of print due to complicated legal argy bargy but the entire run can be picked up off Ebay and if you have the cash and want to read some of Alan Moore’s best ever superhero stories with some great Davis art seek them out.
Join me in the next week or two when I dig out more treasure about the career of Alan Davis and don’t forget to come back on Monday for a special anniversary post.