After various bits of news over the last few days, it became official news that we’ve lost another of the true greats of comics, as we sadly have to report the unexpected passing of Garry Leach on 26th March, aged just 67.
(Garry Leach – Photo by Steve Cook)
Truly a beloved artist as well as a genius artistically, Garry Leach’s artwork was instantly recognisable, no matter where it was seen. But for generations of comic fans, it’s his work on the Marvelman reinvention in Warrior Magazine, written by Alan Moore that first comes to mind when you mention his name.
But of course, his long career, in and out of comics, was so much more than just Marvelman. There was, of course, Warpsmith, again for Warrior and later A1, perhaps one of the most visually beautiful and detailed strips you’ll ever see. Or a long list of strips at 2000 AD, including The VCs, Judge Dredd, Dan Dare, and more. Then there was Atomeka Press, set up by Leach and Dave Elliott, whose A1 title is still up there as one of the finest anthology titles ever published.
Born in 1954, Leach’s career took him to 2000 AD before moving on to Dez Skinn’s Quality Communications as art director in the early ’80s and artist on the revival of Marvelman, from 1982, written by Alan Moore.
Leach’s artwork was meticulous, inspired, with a beautiful brushstroke and ever so solid inking style, but that commitment to perfection meant that he was hardly the fastest of artists, something that led to his replacement on Marvelman by Alan Davis, although Leach remained with the series, inking Davis’ first few episodes to give a sense of transition. And it’s not surprising that Marvelman is Leach’s best-known artwork, the solidity of his art, his perfect realism, combined with the litheness of his characters gave Marvelman a look like nothing else.
It was during the Warrior years that Moore and Leach created Warpsmith, both as part of Marvelman and as a standalone, incredibly beautiful strip in its own right, featuring first in Warrior and latterly, in A1, published from 1988 onwards by Leach and Dave Elliott‘s Atomeka Press in 1988.
Similarly, Leach also gave us the likes of Zirk, a character he obviously loved, although perhaps it was more the chance to draw beautiful women that he loved.
Sadly, Leach’s time in the ’90s saw Leach drawn away from comics for advertising and illustration, but there was a return in the late ’90s to ink both John McCrea on Hitman and Chris Weston‘s work for Marvel and DC, as well as creating the look and feel of Warren Ellis‘ Global Frequency series, followed by various colouring, inking, and editing work over the last couple of decades.
One thing that’s come through loud and clear in the heartfelt, heartbroken tributes coming out from so many comic artists, writers, editors, and fans of Garry Leach is the nature of the man, with plentiful tales of his willingness to help others, taking time to support, mentor, and help out other artists, no matter what stage of their career they were at.
He was a great, great artist and a wonderful man, our thoughts go to his family and friends.
There are so many tributes out there, but here are snippets of just four that I saw that seemed to epitomise a spirit…
Tim Pilcher – ‘I guess it’s now public knowledge that one of my oldest comic friends, Garry Leach, passed away at the weekend. Not sure I have the words to do him justice at the moment but he, along with Steve Dillon, were my artistic heroes long before I ever met them.’
‘You always got the unvarnished brutal honesty with Garry. He defended his friends passionately and decimated his enemies mercilessly. There’s so much I could say about him, but simply he was humble, talented, modest, funny, and passionate. The world will be poorer without him.‘
Mark Stafford – ‘He was a veteran and mentor of sorts, in an utterly unfussy and open fashion – a man who knew what white plaka and ruling pens were, how paper was graded and plane cameras worked and how stupid and heartless the comics industry could get. Conversations with Garry usually involved me putting forward some hopelessly naïve opinion about how things should work and him countering ‘well, actually…’ in that custard cat voice and telling us all some tale of publisher malfeasance that would have us open jawed or laughing. Or both.’
‘Top bloke. I always regretted that there weren’t more afternoons misspent with him and Una in the Hermits Cave when i lived in that neck of the woods, and now the chance to rectify that has passed with him. He will be sorely missed by so so many. Condolences to all that knew and loved him. Fuck it. xx’
Will Simpson – ‘I don’t know how to deal with this. My grounding has quaked. On Saturday the 26th one of the Monoliths of my life died, just like that, the end and life carries on. Garry was my friend, my mentor, my inspiration, a deity of art for 40 years, the fates cut the thread and my heart is emptied.’
‘He was a genius of art, any of his doodle sheets were of more artistic value than so many other’s complete works, he was honourable, honest, fiercely devoted to his friends, consistently helpful and kind… and I’m so pissed off that he’s dead. He changed my life. He was the best of humans. I will miss him forever. I guess his imagination will run free now and God help the All Girl Amazon Attack Battalion, ‘cause Zirk’s on his way.’
‘I imagine many of us have Garry stories and here’s one of mine; When I was putting my Masters of British comic art book together Garry was the first person I wrote to to get scans of his artwork, and in typical fashion he was the absolute last person to send anything in- 18 months later! I told him that the main reason I wanted to write the book was to shine a light on the many great talents who deserved to be better known, and that he was the person I was thinking of most of all. He simply couldn’t believe it, no matter how much I tried to convince him, and felt I must be joking, but it was true. I wanted him to take his rightful place as one of the greats of British comics, alongside Bellamy, Embleton, Bolland, Burns and McMahon. To my mind he’s already there, I hope he realised how talented he really was.’
RIP Garry Leach, 19 September 1954 – 26 March 2022