Lawless 2022: In Conversation With Brian Bolland

by Olly MacNamee

It may have been the first panel of the Sunday, but it was a packed room nonetheless for the chance to get to meet and hear Brian Bolland wax lyrical about his life in comics. A man who hasn’t done too many – if any – comic conventions in recent years, this was a real treat not just for the hardcore 2000 AD fans gathered in beautiful, sunny Bristol for the weekend, but a treat for anyone with a love for comic book art and hosted by the ever congenial Leonard Sultana (aka An Englishman in San Diego) who got the ball rolling with the most obvious question: why was Bolland back on the convention circuit again? To which he gave the honest answer that in the past he used such invitations to see the world. But more importantly he was at this specific 2000 AD focussed event because he knew a lot of the creators for his days at 2000 AD and it was his chance to reconnect. It seems these days he lives a rather idyllic and quiet life in Suffolk. And, he still finds it odd that he is met with adulation outside of this normal down to earth domestic life of mowing the lawn and everyday household chores.

Quizzed about his early work and Bolland admitted to a work ethic that was more care-free, a time when he he was less precious about the detail in his artwork. And while he doesn’t read comics regularly anymore, he still picks up 2000 AD to check in with the art and various styles on offer weekly, to keep his finger on the pulse. Although one artist Bolland does keeps up with is the American cartoonist, Jim Woodring.

While Bollandi s not a regular comic book reader anymore, he did speak about his passionate for DC Comics as a kid and proudly shared with the audience that he had complete runs of many Silver Age comics such as Green Lantern and Showcase. He also mentioned how much he loved Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol, which led him, he confessed, to asking DC Comics to have him create the covers for the trade paperback collections. Although, when doing covers Bolland is mainly ruled by nostalgia. For example he has recently done covers for the UK’s Steel Claw collections.

Batman covers? People are constantly rotating at DC Comics (or shown the door), but Bolland still gets phone call. 

Bolland, as many know, works completely digital. But, what you may not know is that it was Dave Gibbons who first introduced him to Photoshop back in ’97. That and the first digital colours were swamping Bolland’s line, so he decided he needed to learn Photoshop to do his own colours and preserve the artwork. He still uses a Wacom table rather than a Cintiq, which is a much harder process if you ask me. Anyone who’s ever used one can vouch for this. 

Bolland’s work schedule? A self-claimed disorganised person who won’t get out of bed until after 10.30am, with Friday being “admin day” and mowing the lawn. He half jokes that his housework takes precedence. In the early day he would work through the night to meet a deadline and still does work until 1 a.m. most nights.

Another nugget of information, answering a question from the awe-stuck audience, was that his very early work was signed as Bollo because he and David Gibbons were collectively known as Gibbo and Bollo. But, he soon changed that.

The Dark Judges? even now Bolland relates that he picked up a sheep skull that influenced the look of Judge Mortis, but Wagner claimed he sent him a sheep skull. That skull that Bolland found? Still in his studio to this day. But, he was certain he was behind the famous ‘Gaze into the face of Dredd’ panel of Dredd punching through Judge Fear’s helmet. A panel, we were told, was on John Wagner’s business card, apparently.

Back in the late ‘80s Forbidden Planet bought the majority of pages of Bolland’s artwork for £70 a page. At the time people weren’t collecting original art pages, so Bolland thought he had a good deal. And, at the time, it probably was. And while this art goes for silly money these days, a bit of him still feels proud of this, even though he doesn’t collect original artwork himself. Although he does have his own work on his walls. He sees “no value” in original art. But, he did eventually admit to have some Alex Toth art that was given to him once.

Any sequential art projects on the drawing board? The Actress and the Bishop – a fourteen page story that’s current online and to be published in the foreseeable future perhaps. But, that’s yer lot. And that was our lot before we all, as one, scurried to queue up at Bolland’s table to get our various comic books signed.

Judge Dredd by Brian Bolland Apex Edition is out now from 2000 AD

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