Rian Hughes is one of those elusive comic artists who is incredibly good at what he does, but obviously better at different types of graphic work, and so gets stolen into other parts of the industry. He has much time for comics, and in person is very like his artwork; he is suave, stylish, unique in a very British way, and one imagines that he could be at ease working with Harry Beck as he is with Grant Morrison, and he has indeed worked with Transport for London.
His work has turned up in a variety of places; he is a designer, typographer, and comic artist, and has his own design company.
In comics, Rian Hughes is the master of the ray gun and rocket. He can capture a futuristic science fictional style that is very unique.
His use of single colour is very strong, blue in The Science Service, a superb science fictional view of a Britain of the future, the monorail being an especial favourite image, yellow for the lighted cities.
Without doubt though, the seminal work in this collection is DARE. This was an incredible work twenty-one years ago and still today is strong, and actually very relevant. Set in a horrendously imagined world of the future, it is in actual fact a massive satire of the 1980s, a decade which was in no way positive for many people and where many felt the politics of the time was ignoring the average person. It is as apt in today’s Britain looking at over 900,000 young people out of work as it was then.
The story is very sad and poignant, and a very clever use of the Pilot of the Future. Revolver was an offshoot of the British political comic for mature readers, Crisis, from the stables of 2000AD and despite only running for seven issues, this story was at the heart of the comic.
Dare is an older, invalided man, disenchanted to a degree with life, and meanwhile the modern future Britain is a corrupt rotten place, with spin and propaganda as important to the government as it is now. The British North/South divide is much worse than anyone would think, racism is rife, with Treens being the target of much ire, resulting in them dealing in drugs and taking control of inner cities. The PM, Gloria Monday, is a grim parody of Margaret Thatcher, although there is much behind this portrayal, and instead of her being purely just evil, she is a puppet for the Mekon.
It’s great eye-opening stuff, as Dare is manipulated and used and subsequently educated about the true plight of Britain; he is then destroyed, but he is the type of character who doesn’t know or understand surrender, and lacks the ability to do so.
The strong angles used in the characters highlights the powerful colouring but most of all the incredible style that manages to capture what undoubtedly feels like a natural progression from the classic imagery of Dan Dare from the 1950′s Eagle, the architecture, weapons, vehicles, trains, The Space Fleet headquarters.
Really and Truly, another set of stories written by Grant Morrison and which is visually very exciting, follows two very groovy girls who have the most stylish car in comicdom, and are on a drug-fuelled road trip mission to deliver drugs. They are joined by bizarre passengers and pursued by even weirder characters. It’s very like Hunter S Thompson meeting the Prodigy in a strange and twisted reflection of the early nineties drug scene.
The Chandler story Goldfish is also an incredibly well drawn and excellent read as one might expect from an adaption of such a well known and solid writer, and then there are all the wonderful extras, the sketches, covers and designs. It’s an excellent collection, worth it just for Dare, but with so much more.
Hughes is an artist who I wish was in more comics, and it’s a shame to think that this collection is the total of his comics work, aside from some 2000AD Twisted Tales, but only for the fan.