Art For Art’s Sake #143: Ian Kennedy R.I.P.

by Richard Bruton

On 5th February 2022, the comics world lost a legend. Ian Kennedy, one of the longest-serving and most talented of British comic artists passed away at the age of 89 – and the whole world of comics was so much poorer for it.

Ian Kennedy pictured in 2015 – Photo from this excellent Down The Tubes interview with Ian

Every week we give you Art For Art’s Sake, a celebration of all that’s damn good in the world of comic art. Except this week we’re giving it over to the brilliance of Ian Kennedy, one of Britain’s best for the last 70+ years.

Ian Kennedy‘s been a legend in comics since the ’50s, he was one of those artists who just did the work, week in and week out, creating magnificence for whatever the hell he was working on. He’d work and work and work, creating beautiful things for a deadline, influencing and amazing multiple generations of comic fans, many of which who wouldn’t actually learn who he was until many years later.

He was so incredibly talented – and any brief look at his work will undoubtedly tell you that – he created incredible things to order, and just happened to be one of the nicest men in Brit comics to boot.

A classic Ian Kennedy cover for 2000 AD Prog 446 from 1985

Sadly, I never met Ian and that’s something I just know made my life a damn sight less than it could have been. As a quick example of what I mean, there’s a lovely story of Ian being asked by Steve Tanner (of Time Bomb Comics) for his first Birmingham comic convention in 2015. Ian took some convincing to turn up, not for the usual comics diva reasons but simply because he was concerned that he’d be a drag on the con – after all, who wants to come and see an old artist he thought. Steve, thankfully, manages to convince Ian that it’s definitely worth it and he shows up…

Here’s some of what Steve had to say on finding out Ian had passed

“When I was putting together the first Birmingham Comics Festival his name was the first one on my list of dream guests to contact, and through editor Calum Laird I did. I remember our first conversation over the phone, hearing this soft-spoken gentleman being ever so surprised I was inviting him to a convention outside of his native Scotland because, astonishingly, nobody ever had.

After that first appearance in Birmingham, and perhaps realising how much admiration and affection so many had for him, it was wonderful to then see Ian embracing the convention circuit with relish. For me, it meant that I could regularly catch up with him; that, and his occasional calls to me made for no other reason than to see how I was meant that he became more than an artistic hero – he became a friend.

There was no ego with Ian, everyone who met him found him unfailingly polite, and someone who carried his remarkable talent with astonishing humility.”

Wildcat – 1988

You see, that was Ian Kennedy and that’s why I’m so sad that I never met one of the great comics artists who just sounds like a wonderful man who just happened to be an artistic genius. If you were a fan of Ian Kennedy and were lucky enough to meet him, he never disappointed you.

Ian Kennedy’s career spanned more than seven decades, so many comics, so many publishers. Probably best known for his work on DC Thomson’s Commando, where he produced more than 1,600 covers, his beautifully detailed yet always exciting and dynamic artwork also graced the covers and pages of the likes of Eagle, 2000AD, Lion, and Warlord amongst many others.

Making incredible art to the end – Ian Kennedy’s cover to Commando #5507, released January 2022

Born in Dundee in 1932, it was a childhood during the war that sparked Ian’s abiding love of aviation that persisted throughout his long and glorious career, beginning with DC Thomson immediately on leaving school. Switching to freelance in 1954, his career took off (forgive the pun) with work for practically every publisher and most of the titles.

He continued working far into his semi-retirement and had certainly found great joy in the last few years in meeting his fans and seeing just what his work meant to them.

A sad loss to comics, but an incredible body of work remains.

Ian Kennedy, 22 September 1932 – 5 February 1922

Photo from The Sunday Post – interview

But enough from me, this is Art For Art’s Sake, so let’s let Ian Kennedy‘s magnificent artwork shine through…

If you’re after a perfect introduction to his work, look no further than War Picture Library – Ian Kennedy – Battle of Britain, The Art of Ian Kennedy, and it’s definitely worth tracking down Tiger McTaggart – Red Dagger.

 

A few from 2000 AD & Starlord

2000 AD Prog 1961 from 2015

Ro-Busters: Midpoint – Starlord, 1978
Ro-Busters: Farnborough Droid Show – Starlord, 1978

The new Dan Dare in Eagle:

And of course… Commando:

1989 Commando annual
Commando 813 Jack’s Private War
Commando 5403 – another beautiful piece from 2021

From War Picture Library – Ian Kennedy – Battle of Britain

Various beautiful pieces, commissions, odds, and more…

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