Profile: Comic book and animation artists in Scotland
An overview of comic and graphic novel authors and artists
Henry Northmore looks at the country’s comics heroes from Hollywood superstars to local indies
We’ve always loved comics in Scotland. DC Thomson ruled the roost in kids comics, launching The Dandy and The Beano in the 1930s. ‘Sales peaked at 1.92m a week in the 50s, that’s about 100m copies in a year,’ says former Dandy editor Morris Heggie. DC Thomson was also the breeding ground for the talent that would go on to set up groundbreaking sci-fi anthology 2000AD; John Wagner, Pat Mills and Alan Grant all started at the Dundee publishing house.
However, when it comes to superheroes, two of the biggest writers in the world, Grant Morrison (who was recently awarded an MBE for 'services to film and literature') at DC and Mark Millar at Marvel, are both from the Glasgow area. Through titles such as The Invisibles, Animal Man and Doom Patrol, Morrison brought a new surreal intelligence to the medium, while he continued to subvert the form with his distinctive take on Batman & Robin, All Star Superman and JLA. ‘Americans are developing a sense of irony,’ says Morrison, ‘so they are turning to Scottish stuff which seems to be filled with black humour. Sort of Clockwork Orange ultra-violence but always with a smirk on its face.’
Millar thinks it’s a question of attitude. ‘People say it’s our education, but I think it’s probably that we have less reverence for authority figures in general, and less reverence for pop culture icons,’ he says. ‘Americans might be so delighted to be writing these characters that they’re scared to take risks, whereas we are a nation of risk-takers.’
Millar started at 2000AD but went on to write Spider-Man, Ultimate X-Men, Fantastic Four and his own Wanted and Kick-Ass. Add artists Frank Quitely (New X-Men/All Star Superman), Eddie Campbell (From Hell) and Gary Erskine (Judge Dredd/Dan Dare) and Scotland punches well above its weight.
There’s also a thriving underground comics scene, much of which centres on the creative hub that is Glasgow’s Hope Street Studios that offers arts, colourists and illustrators studio space. Metaphrog, home to Louis and Strange Weather Lately, is another independent success story also based in Glasgow.
There may not be as much money involved, but the small-press scene is alive and kicking – artists and writers such as Iain Laurie, Curt Sibling, Craig Collins, Garry McLaughlin, Jon G Miller and many more are all producing interesting unique work that is well worth tracking down.