Thursday, March 6, 2008

44. Fetishizing the Megazine

February 1997: Meanwhile, in the Megazine, editor David Bishop has found a sensible solution to reader complaints that there's too much reprint in their Meg. For five months, the comic was 52 pages, with 21 pages of reprints. Now, the magazine loses eight pages entirely, and the 44 page comic only contains 7 pages of reprints alongside three new stories. As I've mentioned before, there has had to be a great deal of trimming and rewriting to reformat episodes into configurations that change every few months. For example, both the final story for Janus: Psi Division and the first story for Holocaust 12 had their twelve-page episodes cut in half and run over twice as many issues as intended. But now comes a spectacular Judge Dredd adventure called "Fetish," and it's reworked in the opposite direction.

"Fetish," a moody epic which begins with four citizens murdered by a sorceror operating from somewhere in Africa, is scripted by John Smith and painted by Siku. It was planned, I believe, as seven 12-page episodes, but hammered by Bishop into five 17-page episodes. This actually works very well for the comic's lineup. Dredd is represented by a 17-page lead story and a 7-page backup feature (in this case, an episode of the 1990 Wagner/Ezquerra epic "Necropolis"), and the other strips, set elsewhere in Dredd's world and continuity, are Missionary Man by Gordon Rennie and Marc Wigmore and The Inspectre by Kevin Walker, Jim Campbell and Charles Gillespie. So the comic may be a little thinner than it had been in 1996, but the lineup is nevertheless very strong.

You'll have to trust me on this, as the Megazine's current dimensions are a little larger than my scanner, but Siku's work on "Fetish" is simply excellent. He uses double-page spreads incredibly well, and occasionally divides the comic page into a series of vertical panels, rather than a number of tiers. The paper's certainly not good enough to show off his remarkable painting in the vivid colors he had in mind, but we certainly see his intent, and so I've increased the contrast a little on these scans. Mega City-One's purples and grays are contrasted sharply with the bright blues and oranges of Africa, and it looks fantastic. His pacing is really great, especially as he alternates his panel layout so effectively. Siku's anatomy is already causing a little trouble, however. His work is very stylized; above Dredd's shoulders you basically see a chin in a helmet. Siku will contribute regularly to Judge Dredd and to other series over the next seven years, and occasionally court controversy as his stylization gets a little crazy, but for now he's a solid contributor with a lot of promise.

Next time... Tharg comes back, and he's ticked off!

(Originally published 3/6/08 at LiveJournal.)

1 comment:

Ian Hewitt said...

I have always loved JD: Fetish. Reading your blog post reminded me I hadn't read it for some time, so I pulled down my Hamlyn GN and enjoyed it this evening (unfortunately the cover fell off as I did so).

You're right that it is a great story. I'm not a big fan of John Smith, but I do like Devlin Waugh, and Smith manages to restrain himself when working in the Dreddverse, at least enough that readers can still follow the plot.

How do you like the portrayal of Africa? I enjoyed your earlier post on the stereotypical portrayals that non-Meg Judges usually receive. I thought that Simba City (which I don't remember seeing since?) was more restrained than in other examples.

What interested me, was that despite Judge Shaka's description of Pan-Africa as a wasteland raped by war, industry and famine it looks like nothing of the kind.

Siku's art shows us a green and verdant, lush wilderness complete with hippo's, zebras and chimps.

A far cry from the extinction of the Cursed Earth, the devastation north of Brit Cit, the polluted oceans of the Black Atlantic and the destroyed Sov countryside. Even Devlin appears to be vacationing in the beautiful African outdoors (and he's a vampire!)

Siku's art is very memorable, however. Who else can place the mouth two-thirds of the way up the face and still get away with it?